Voices for Action

Green Team Michigan: Adapting to Digital Organizing

COVID-19 has affected everyone’s lives in small and large ways – including how we do our jobs. This is also true for our Green Team organizers working in districts across the country to build support for climate action.

The Green Team, a program of EDF Action and NRDC Action Fund, normally holds in-person events, petitions on street corners, phone banks and holds letter-writing parties. Through these events, they build a sense of community.

However, when COVID-19 hit, this was no longer possible. The Green Team had to re-think how they connect with our members and foster that sense of community. They are doing this by making phone calls and texting with our members, and frankly just listening – from being a friendly voice who is bringing a welcome distraction to talking about how COVID-19 is affecting them and their communities.

But our Green Team in Michigan was also thinking about how they turn an in-person panel into a virtual event – giving our members another avenue to learn about the environment and climate change from the comfort of their own home.

Green Team Michigan organizer Tina Catron and volunteer leader Kevin Fisher put their heads together to advertise and execute a digital zoom panel while still bringing the same high quality event to our members.

First, they talked with their panelists: State Senator Mallory McMorrow, Michigan Solar Solutions’ John Jevahirian, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association’s John Freeman and MDP Energy and Environmental Caucus Chair Andrew Nowicki.

The next step was to figure out how to promote the event. Kevin, who is an expert in brand marketing and events, explained that normally Tina and the Green Team’s top volunteers would go to different events and network in-person to promote upcoming panels. However, in the era of COVID-19 this would no longer be an option. Instead, they relied on the Green Team network as well as their own personal networks via text, emails and phone calls. They also engaged with their partner organizations, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action, Michigan Solar Solutions, Citizen Climate Lobby, and Sierra Club in Michigan, to promote the event.

But this wasn’t enough. They also made a video that displayed Tina and Kevin practicing safe social distancing in nature, to generate excitement for the online panel. They were able to put this out on their social media channels – offering the event to folks outside the Green Team circle. And this was so successful that they plan on using this as a tactic moving forward, with both digital and in-person events. Although, they’re already thinking about how to improve the video promotion by having speakers and sponsor organizations participate as well.

The event went off without a hitch, with nearly 50 participants joining the panel from all over Michigan. One big takeaway that Tina and the Green Team learned was the importance of always having a digital component to any event.

After the event, Kevin commented, “Wow that was really successful!” And Tina praised Kevin’s efforts by noting that he “was instrumental, helping to do research and make sure the event ran smoothly.”

This team isn’t stopping there. While people are at home and hungry for digital content, the Green Team in Michigan is exploring new panel ideas to give Green Team volunteers and local supporters a deep dive into specific issues like bird migration, electric vehicles, how working remotely can benefit climate and the environment, and how the degradation of ecosystems can contribute to pandemics.

Green Team organizers and activists are finding ways in this pandemic to connect with their communities and bring the human connection and learning that everyone is craving.