Creative tabling ideas for grassroots outreach
By Mark Neely
CCL volunteers use five levers of political will to move Congress forward on climate change. One of those five levers is grassroots outreach—educating and connecting with the community about the challenge of climate change and solutions like Carbon Fee and Dividend. This outreach often happens in the form of tabling at festivals, farmers markets, movie screenings, and other community events.
A recent session of Citizens’ Climate University highlighted some 20 “best practices” tabling techniques gleaned from CCL chapters across the whole country. These artful tools, presented by CCL Volunteer Education and Engagement Coordinator Brett Cease, will help you draw the public in and then keep the interested parties at the table long enough to explain Carbon Fee and Dividend and persuade them to write a letter to Congress right in front of your very eyes. Beyond these, Brett suggests some “advanced formations” (using the metaphor for football strategies) that will help you make the sale for CCL.
Before moving on to such advanced techniques, of course, review the basic tabling resources on CCL Community. What follows below are ideas that supplement those fundamental good practices.
Drawing them in
The number one rule of tabling is to be friendly and look friendly, and that means among other things, you should not sit behind the table and read your cell phone until someone approaches. You should engage the public and not challenge them. Ask them a positive question like, “Can I tell you about the good news about climate change?”
If you get the attention of the children walking by, then their parents are sure to follow. Here you will most likely need some props: for example, a large-size Jenga game is a good choice, perhaps with CCL slogans written on the blocks. The CCL Atlanta chapter created a version of the game with colored blocks, and this helpful graphic sits on the table to explain how burning fossil fuels destabilizes our climate, just as removing blocks destabilizes the Jenga tower. Some parents and other visitors will want to play also, and it’s a great way to engage people in conversation about climate change and our solution.
Materials, props, and games at the ready
The games for kids lead to consideration of materials and props of general use at the table. Offering a homemade cookie after the visitor writes a letter to Congress seems to be almost sure-fire—in one Texas event, it brought in 700 letters!
A scientific experiment can draw the public in and keep them there. Cease offers an example of a simple demonstration of the greenhouse effect using two clear glass containers, two thermometers, and a lightbulb to stand in for the sun (for this display, of course, you will need an electric source). One container has carbonated water and the other tap water, and the one with carbonated water will heat up more rapidly.
“Capes for kids” to dress as “climate heroes” and be photographed at your table can get attention and provide publicity about your event by posting on the web later (with permission, of course). You can put a stack of books about climate change on the table for the public to look through and take pictures of table visitors for use later on the web (again, with their permission).
Art projects offer many possibilities, from “hockey stick” banners to climate-related coloring books to handmade postcards with a climate change message printed on them. You can impress nonpartisanship on children with a “Mascot Mashup” activity, in which various parts of elephants and donkeys can be mixed to produce funny creatures indeed.
While the kids are engaged in an art project, parents and other visitors can write a letter to Congress or learn more about CCL. During the conversation, you might consider using CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend Calculator, which is an engaging, web-based tool that shows how CF&D would affect someone’s household budget.
Advanced table operations
Some tablers have an assembly-line operation, with greeters out front who pass the interested parties on to people at the table who can engage them more closely and at greater length in conversation. Strategic locations for your table can help—for example, next to lines of customers waiting to get their nachos at an outdoor festival. You can even “table” without a table by taking clipboards to conventions, marches, or film festivals. Don’t forget gatherings of interest groups from Ducks Unlimited to Young College Republicans.
Finally, it is vital for making your operations more advanced to debrief as a group afterward and share experiences of what worked. You should be sure to have photographs to extend the life of your event online and on social media. For the people who stopped by your table, you should follow up within 24 hours with thanks and a link to CCL’s introductory call.
If you found tips of interest in this brief summary, be sure to go to the original webinar, which contains many more similarly innovative and creative techniques carefully and specifically described to make your next tabling event even more successful.
Every week, Citizens’ Climate University hosts a live, online learning session to educate and empower climate action volunteers. Browse past lessons in CCL Community, and mark your calendar for upcoming sessions.
Mark Neely is a volunteer in the State College, Pennsylvania, chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.