Uplift is a community of people who speak truth to power. We take thousands of actions every day on hundreds of different campaigns: for our climate, homes, healthcare, equality and other social issues that affect our everyday lives.
The problems we face – as people trying to make the world a better place – are complicated. When the problems piled up in 2020, when our feelings of isolation grew, we knew that our solutions needed to be bigger, bolder and more creative.We knew that connection was the key to holding our community together as we faced some of the biggest challenges many of us have ever experienced.
That’s why in 2020 Uplift ran a free 10 week campaigning skills course called UpSkill. It covered a range of skills, from messaging your campaign to doing deep community organising. Most importantly, it gave us a chance to come together as Uplift members, people with a fire in our bellies, who feel compelled to take action and fight for a better world, to connect our own stories, experiences and causes. After all, we fight for ‘people’ powered change. Upskill connected us as people, sharing all the joy, pain, and determination that drives us to connect and weave a tapestry of collective power. Power that can challenge the institutions, corporations and our government.
So, what did we cover?
The first week was an hour long answer to the question: ‘What is Digital Campaigning?’ Uplift Executive Director Siobhan O’Donoghue talked through the strategies that make change: from petitions to protests. The second session was an introduction to the technology that powers digital campaigns – platforms that enable all of us to take our power back and make our voices heard.
The following sessions covered the language we need to persuade people that change is possible, the best tips and tricks for making sure political decision makers hear our calls and ways to organise in our communities. We brought in special guests, from politicians across the political spectrum to grassroots community organisers.
All through various stages of lockdown, we tuned in to a Zoom call for one hour a week and learned from those guests – and each other. The most powerful session covered our Stories of Self. Hearing what makes Uplift members tick, and speaking frankly about why we’re passionate about our various causes was incredibly inspiring and dare I say, uplifting.
Uplift members come from all walks of life, and from up and down the country. UpSkillers joined the course from Cork to Donegal to Belfast. We are healthcare workers, students, writers, lawyers, musicians and so much more. We connected our stories and our struggles, and we became stronger for it.
‘Campaign’ is a small word that means a lot – it’s an action word that covers everything from knocking on doors, signing petitions, meeting politicians, talking to the media and making banners. It can be protesting loudly on the street, and quietly funding an important tactic. Together, we learned campaigning skills. But some of our best moments were in Zoom breakout rooms, an interesting experience from an Uplift member, or a joke we were able to share.
The most powerful driver of change in Ireland isn’t money or influence – it’s empowered and organised people connecting with the people around us, in our communities, challenging the way things have always been, being bold enough to have a vision for a better future. Sometimes it can be lonely to be this person if you don’t have a community to lean into – making it so important that we connect.
There are 330,000 Uplift members. And while just a handful of us did UpSkill, we can all connect our stories and struggles too. We’re more than the petitions, emails, surveys and campaign tactics. We’re a community of people with fires in our bellies, bold visions for the future and the belief that together, we can build the world we want to live in.
UpSkill will run again – and we hope to see you there.