by Catherine Brunelle, Write for Rights Support Team
Amnesty Canada campaigner Hilary Homes has seen many events during her work with Amnesty activists. As we approach Amnesty International’s biggest global activism day of the year, Write for Rights on International Human Rights Day, December 10, we’ve asked her to share some favourite organizing takeaways. Haven’t signed up yet? Join Write for Rights at writeathon.ca!
1. Hold your event in a fun public space
Partner with a coffee shop or library! Or hold it in a university campus common space, an art gallery, or at the market. Think of spaces that naturally have a lot of people. It’s an easy way to boost your numbers!
- Grab people’s attention with food! Have volunteers on hand to invite people to join you. Play Write for Rights videos and the success slideshow to increase engagement. Create Write for Rights lanterns for a warm, welcoming environment.
- Keep in mind that some locations are transient – as in, people there won’t have time to stop. Avoid those spots.
2. Brand the heck outta that event!
“Oh look, it’s Amnesty!” That’s what you want people to say when they see your event. Amnesty’s signature bright yellow colour has immediate recognition. If you have Amnesty t-shirts, be sure to wear them. If you have a pull up poster, bring it along! Props get attention too – so be creative for Write for Rights. Maybe someone has a giant pencil they can lend.
Check out our online shop for free and not-free Amnesty stuff for your event, including a FREE Write for Rights kit!
3. Use your space
Take time to consider your space – how can you best set it up? Have some stations for letter writing, and stations for petition signatures. This way, whether a person has 10 minutes or 2 seconds, they can easily support Write for Rights.
When letter-writers arrive at your event, don’t leave them to wander and get lost. Put up posters and direction signs so folks can find you. (bonus tip: make the signs Amnesty yellow!) Have someone near the door to welcome people as they come, and help them get started writing letters.
Make sure it’s obvious where people can leave their letters when they’re done. Consider decorated “mailboxes” – one domestic and one international!
4. Make it easy
Make it easy to write for rights! Have addressed envelopes ready. Make sure there are plenty of Amnesty pens available. Create print-outs of the cases so people can read about who they are supporting. Have letter-writing tips and sample letters available. And finally, get your petitions ready for those who only have time for a quick signature. If possible, set up a few laptops or tablets to allow people to sign online versions of the actions.
5. Have a kids’ station
This idea won’t work for everyone, but if you can have a place for parents and children can both get involved – go for it! A kids’ station can be simple: paper, pencils and crayons. Add a few stickers and you’re on a roll! Every Write for Rights letter-writing case includes an option for sending a solidarity message to an individual or community, which is perfect for kids. They can create cards or drawings to send directly to people we’re standing with on Human Rights Day. For example, we’re writing for and to Burmese student activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung, who loves animals and would likely appreciate drawings of animals from young letter-writers.
6. Take pictures
Pictures are essential because they show the power of people taking action for change together. Also, it shows your community how they can get involved. Here are some tips for taking pictures:
- Assign a “photo-taker” – Okay, we’re not photographers, but we can take photos. Whoever feels most comfortable snapping shots gets the job!
- Have a subject – a picture that is focused on a ‘subject’ (a group of smiling people, a pen, a hand writing, a person holding their letter, etc.) will look good. Whatever you subject make sure it is within the center, or just slightly to the right or left of the center, of the picture.
- Faces are best – take pictures of people smiling and looking at the camera, not just hunched over writing letters. Be sure to get their names, and always ask permission to photograph the individual when you are capturing their face.
- When sharing online, use the hashtag – Always tag your photos with #write4rights or #W4R
7. Create a Facebook event
Facebook is great for spreading news about an event – BUT FIRST, that event needs to exist in this platform. It’s simple to create a Facebook event, and have all the details of the event available. You can use this to invite friends and family, and encourage them to invite others as well. Plus, during the event and afterwards, people can share their photos easily on the event page!
8. Get out of your corner
Mix with others in your space. Bring along some Amnesty swag, and give it away during the event. You can’t go wrong offering pens during a writeathon! Bring along stickers or tattoos people can take after writing a letter. Or maybe a button for their bag? If you need supplies, be sure to order them well in advance of December 10 for Write for Rights.
9. Build it up
If you were selling tickets for your Write for Rights event, how would you publicize in advance? Those strategies will work for building up your presence on the day. Contact your local paper or television station to share about the writing event. Feature a Write for Rights case a day on your blogs or Facebook page. Poster the local libraries and telephone poles with news of the event. Spice up your social media profile pics with a special Write for Rights overlay! We’d also love to hear your ideas for getting the word out!
10. Mix it up!
Letter writing is great – but it can be quiet. Can you invite a musician to play along as people gather to write? Or maybe there’s a great spoken work poet in your area you could invite out? What about your local radio station – maybe they’re interested in coming out for the event. Is your event at a school or university? Ask the debate team along, or the pep squad, or the school band.
Keep people motivated to write with the success slideshow and videos in the background. Keep a visible tally of the letters generated at your event – and update your guests on the global total (found at writeathon.ca) as you go!