Greenpeace Greece has integrated mobilisation into their work with a new digital mobilisation department. Executive Director Nikos Charalambides paved the way for its creation during the financial crisis and the department reports directly to him. Mobilisation decisions and project approvals don’t go through usual program department process, and instead get unique support and freedom to innovate. We spoke with Nikos about his decision to create this flexibility for the team and we spoke with team members about how its working.

Globally there’s a transition happening for Greenpeace offices with regards to mobilisation – in terms of how much it is integrated into the organization. Where would you say you are on that spectrum?
Activists and Greenpeace staff outside of the dairy company's headquarters.

Activists and Greenpeace staff outside of the dairy company’s headquarters.

Nikos: We were not one of the first offices to jump into integration, but we had to incorporate it fast because of the financial crisis. We went through a change management process, started to break down internal walls and silos and to empower everybody at the same time. This was before having a concrete strategy for online-offline mobilisation. We had to be much more agile and adaptable. For other offices, they decided after years of thinking, whereas we had to do it really fast. We have been through big changes in our office and it was a top-down decision to heavily invest in mobilisation as a unique tool to grow our supporter base and raise money. Through integration, there was lots of space for online staff to put ideas on the table and share in shaping the strategy.

Why did you decide to position this team directly under you?

Nikos: We created the digital mobilisation unit with staff who were skilled at online, data, fundraising, and in their extra time had been doing digital work anyway. We needed to bypass the program structure and get a very fast process for approval. We have a complete program approach otherwise, [in which departments plan together, submit plans for approval by department directors and through senior management] with directors receiving proposals from cross-departmental project teams, but that can be a slow process. So instead we had the digital mobilisation unit report directly to the the executive director. The digital director has to have a full picture of what’s ahead, and online staff are already engaged in the program work. It sounds great, but it’s not easy all the time – we’re trying to integrate things that are not working at the same speed and pace. There has to be a high level of trust between SMT to do this.

Overall, the numbers are impressive. Here are Digital Mobilisation Unit and mobilisation metrics so far:

  • 266% increase in online donations
  • 87% increase in email list subscribers
  • 99% increase in phone list
  • 11% increase in social media followers
  • 8% is our digital national reach (3% increase)
  • Monthly average earned online media references rose 143%
  • Facebook conversion rate up 33,36%
  • Twitter conversion rate increased 23%
What is the biggest challenge so far?

Nikos: Everyone wants to have mobilisation in their campaign. When we first formed the unit, in the first stage, everyone thought ‘what the hell is that?’ Then, we started delivering. In the second stage, it worked. Everyone wanted it, and now we have a prioritization and capacity problem. Mobilisation is allowing us to reach a bigger audience, to mobilise thousands of people on the streets or raise money through different techniques.

We need mobilisation integrated in the campaign planning so that we don’t just repeat what we’ve done in the past.

How has integration impacted campaign work?

Dimitris Ibrahim, Campaigns Coordinator: In some cases it has been extremely successful. The agriculture campaign was focused on a big dairy company, asking it to invest in local animal feed instead of GMOs. At the end of the campaign, we created an NVDA where the company had to face its audience. Then, it wasn’t the company against Greenpeace. It was the company against 50,000 people we’d mobilised. Integrating the mobilisation into campaign planning is useful for achieving campaign objectives. There has been interest in repeating that same event scenario, but it was developed for that specific campaign. We need mobilisation integrated in the campaign planning so that we don’t just repeat what we’ve done in the past.

Cyberfarmer Beans in Greece

Greenpeace Greece tested crowdsourcing support from “cyberfarmers” to plant beans as an alternative to pesticide-heavy soybean animal feeds. This is the first crop.

Nikos: A successful example of integrating campaign planning with mobilisation was the commitment of the largest dairy producer in Greece to stop using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its cattle feed within a year, replacing GMOs with natural protein plants grown by local farmers. This was a result of a very integrated planning process. A core team was created for this campaign (with one representative from every department) and set the cross-department objectives as well as the roll-out plan. Through an online petition we started building a community of people (that reached 50.000 sign ups), asking also for their phone numbers because we had in mind that soon we would ask for their help to escalate the pressure. Our plan was to do a high profile Greenpeace action outside the company (which was repeatedly ignoring our demand), combing it with real-time pressure from the people. The minute we started the action, our volunteers from the office started calling the online community asking them to start calling the company, demanding to respond to our action. After 10 hours and a barrage of calls, the company made a public commitment to replace the soy with Greek animal plants by the end of 2013. (Read more about that success story.)

How has campaign strategy development changed since you formed this new department?

Veronici Garyfallou, Digital Fundraising & Mobilisation Manager: At first we started by doing projects on our own, separate from campaigns. We took campaigns from GPI that had set campaign strategies. Now we are creating core strategy pieces together: we write together what we should do to mobilise people.

Traditionally we would have campaigns give us direction, we all bow on our knees to campaigns, but that’s not how it works any more.

Dimitris: The campaigner comes with a campaign strategy backbone and milestones of 6 and 9 months. Then resources are allocated and a person from each department is added to a core campaign team. The objective-setting of the campaign is by the whole group, so that its not just campaign objectives: we have mobilisation objectives and objectives for each department along with evaluation criteria. Traditionally we would have campaigns give us direction, we all bow on our knees to campaigns, but that’s not how it works any more.

Who runs cross-department projects and how are they run?

Dimitris: Project leaders are mostly middle managers and campaigners and we create a group that is equally representing one department each. The project leader reports back weekly to either the program team or executive director and they get instant feedback. They raise a flag if there’s something not working, if we need to fix or abandon a project. The evaluation is self-initiated from the project team and we have a common set of criteria that need to be fielded by any project on the table.

What are those project criteria?

Nikos: Boldness, fundraise-ability, ability to mobilise the broader public and keep them engaged. We decided not to get drugged by the crisis and things of national importance, and we are always asking how we can have projects that translate the global programme to our current circumstances.

How about data? What has changed about the way you use data?

Nikos: We’ve combined online and offline data, and our approach has challenged the internal culture by providing transparency. We needed to link data to something we all understand: why is it important for people to stay online longer? How do we need to change our online stories so often and why… everyone started to understand through data sharing. With better data sharing we can all see what works and what doesn’t. For the first time, we’re openly sharing failures. To me – one of the unique things we’ve brought to our organizational culture – is that we’re open about our failures and we share stories about them – actions and projects that didn’t work. Failing is a learning process.

Will this structure  (with this unit directly under the Executive Director) continue?

Nikos: Yes! From SMT, the excitement of online work in the office, and that everyone wants to get online staff to work on their thing. We can’t be killing the space for innovation – we need a fast process to move quickly if there is online potential for a project, and if not, we move it to something else.

But we are a rare case – we are sticking to the global programme – we aren’t using the financial crisis as an excuse to switch to local campaigns or humanitarian campaigns. We are still working on coal, energy efficiency, fisheries policy, GMOs, so there are a lot of lessons learned for how to adopt global program to your country. Our campaigns are showing an impressive level of continuity or stubbornness, so we’re not jumping from topic to topic every few months. This gives us stability and lets us build steps of each campaign on a solid pathway. You can’t expect all campaign projects to be equally engaging and empowering. And there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for integration. This structure wouldn’t work in Germany. We are small, flexible, and adaptable.

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