We’re living in highly divisive times, with growing political discontent and frustration at a lack of action on pertinent issues relating to social justice - and more urgently our environmental crisis. At the same time, the landscape in which we live is radically different too. As a generation, we are glued to our phones and our outrage, anger and action is often channeled into these devices.
In this climate, I’ve recently found myself asking: are we simply expressing our outrage through a post, a share, or a like, rather than writing to politicians, donating money, or engaging in grassroots activist movements? And by doing so, are we part of the ‘problem’ - allowing major forces to ignore our dissent and carry on with business as usual?
For me personally, the last few years have been an exploration into understanding how I can best use my talents to drive meaningful change. I know that first and foremost our power is best channeled through voting, but what if - as many now say, the politics needed to address our crisis simply doesn’t exist? How can we rise up and make our voices heard?
I am a child of the 90s who grew up in peaceful New Zealand and until The Women’s March hit Amsterdam I had never joined a ‘real life’ protest. I have to say it felt good; donning a Pussy Hat and joining thousands of others yelling “Pussy Bites Back” - expressing my outrage at what a Trump administration could mean for the rights of marginalized people everywhere. (Spoiler alert: It didn't work. The result has been devastating).
In 2019, I joined Extinction Rebellion and participated in their volunteer comms team. I found myself standing at the sidelines of many acts of civil disobedience, and successfully avoiding being arrested myself while sending the media team live updates to use for press releases and social media outreach.
Then, in September, I co-initiated a summit on the climate crisis in Amsterdam held at Patagonia called Creatives for Climate. What was meant to be a one-off event to bring the best minds together in the creative industry to create a plan of action has become something bigger.
On the back of this event, 22 agencies declared a climate emergency and hundreds of creatives signed up to receive open briefs. So far we've sent four briefs in collaboration with activist groups and created nearly 200 executions. We didn't meant to start a movement, but everyone keeps asking us: what's next?
I have a lot of learning still to do - and I am honoured to be moderating the launch of a book titled “Branded Protest” on January 24th at Pakhuis De Zwijger, which reflects on a range of protest movements - including Pussy Riot, The Arab Spring, Brexit, The Umbrella Uprising, Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter to learn about how - through the use of strategic communications - activist groups all over the world have been able to unite and mobilize people to drive change.
The book authors, Ingeborg Bloem and Klaus Kempenaars, acknowledge an uneasiness between the words “protest” and “branding”, but they maintain its importance - and I do too. As the book says: “It is our basic human nature for our social species to assemble into groups and then identify with the identity of that group.”
Simply put: if you really want to change things, it’s no use yelling into a vacuum or isolating others with your messaging. You have to make your movement exciting, accessible, and dare I say it - cool.
The questions I am looking forward to being answered at this event are:
- How can you give many voices a visual and verbal form with which to identify?
- How can you apply the right branding tools to influence public opinion, provoke debate, and drive change?
- Drawing from some of the world’s most successful cases, what can we learn to take forward today?
I look forward to learning more about how to drive impactful change alongside speakers from Amnesty International and Extinction Rebellion - and key Creatives for Climate collaborator Mark Aink.
Well done Ingeborg and Klaus for bringing this fantastic book to life. A must attend talkshow for entrepreneurs, designers, social designers, grassroots organizers, activists, NGO affiliates and anyone interested in the visual story behind the movements that are (re-)shaping our world.
If you'd like to join the conversation on January 24th sign up here: https://dezwijger.nl/programma/branded-protest