Hello. I’m Sara. I’ve been a Green Party member since just after the 2015 General Election and a LYG Committee member since October’s AGM.
With the London elections coming up on May 5th 2016, we’re all thinking about how to get the Green vote out. Speaking to people face to face is widely regarded as the most effective way to engage people, and so it’s a vital part of campaigning.
As a relatively new (but actually Quite Old) Young Green, I’d surprisingly never been canvassing before. Until Saturday, that was. The Hackney Greens, my local group, are spending time every weekend from now until polling day canvassing and so I went along to their door-knocking at the weekend.
I’d had some concerns that, in the interest of full disclosure, had stopped me getting involved before: will people be interested? Will they be super-interested and want to grill me on the minutiae of policy I don’t know all about? Or even (definitely overly cynically!) will I get shouted at, or have doors slammed in my face?
I wasn’t feeling massively confident, but the knowledge that it really is the best way to encourage people to vote – and vote Green – the wedge of leaflets in my Green-issued tote, plus the seasoned campaigner by my side (HI SAMIR, Northeast Assembly Candidate!) calmed any fears I had.
Helpfully I’d also been to a great training event a few weeks ago run by Samir and the Hackney Greens, around how to have meaningful conversations with voters and turn people into supporters. We’re running similar training this week, on Thursday 17th March at 7:30pm – do come along!
After a quick briefing and recap of the training, we set off around a few streets in London Fields, knocking on doors and speaking to people there for an hour and a half (any longer and I was assured I’d be knackered). Samir took the first few houses so I could learn the ropes, and once I felt ready, I started out. While the first couple were daunting, I soon got into the swing of it and started to enjoy myself (the gorgeous sunny weather definitely helped!).
My verdict? Honestly, it was one of the best things I’ve done so far as part of the Green Party. People were overwhelmingly friendly and happy to see us, which I didn’t expect! While a few people were busy, or not interested, not one person was rude, and on the whole we had some really good, positive conversations with people. I think just showing the Green Party is bothered is a really strong message – a few people told us they’d never been canvassed before and that as a result they would look into our policy positions. I found people were very much open to voting Green: even staunch Labour supporters or those buoyed by Corbyn offered their second preferences to us on the doorstep (hurrah – no ‘wasted votes’ this time!).
I’d definitely encourage all Young Greens to get involved in campaigning in their local areas, or at one of our Action Days coming up (the first is in London Fields again on 26th March, info here).
Some tips/observations from me:
Relax. New canvassers will be given training and will never be sent out on their own, and if at any point you feel out of your depth, you can always ask for help. Everyone is just really happy you’re there and grateful for your time!
Most people, realistically, will be out or won’t answer the door (over half). We have leaflets to drop through letterboxes for this precise reason, as it’s still worth letting them know the Greens called round and are present and active in the area.
Listen to people’s concerns. Often I found people really wanted to raise issues they had in their local area to a friendly ear. Active listening (nodding, “hmmm”ing etc) and expanding on their experience with your own (“oh yeah, I know what you mean about housing! I have a friend who’s in a similar situation…”) is a great way to engage with someone and start building that meaningful conversation.
If you’re stumped by a voter’s question, be honest and say so. We had leaflets to give to people and put through letterboxes with the website, some brief info about policy and contact details for people to get more information.
Be calm, friendly and smile! People are actually OK, honest!
By Sara (who is totally going doorknocking again) – @Sara_LYG