By Kirsty Costa

Al Gore

In June 2014, I was privileged to become a Climate Reality Leader in Melbourne. Hosted by Al Gore’s Climate Reality organisation, these 3 days of training were transformational for me and possibly for the 500 other participants from over 30 different countries.

Besides Mr Gore himself, one of the things that impressed me about the training was the high calibre of presenters from other organisations. We didn’t hear from ‘just someone’, we heard from presidents, CEOs, heads of boards and the like. This got me thinking about the power of invitation. The quality and experience of the other presenters is because they were invited by Al Gore to attend.

I myself thought twice about attending the training because of my busy work schedule (how crazy is that?) and it was a personal phone call from my friend Adam that quickly changed my mind.

Over 15 Victorian environment organisations gave up single-use plastic as part of Plastic Free July and I’d like to think it was partly because I emailed my friends in other organisations and invited them to participate. As often goes with these things, once a few people said they were “in”, more got on board.

So it turns out that invitation is one of the most powerful weapons in our ‘creating a better world’ artillery…

The person giving the invitation is important.

In his book Changeology, Les Robinson provides evidence that the ‘right inviter’ can significantly increase participation in a change project. Robinson identifies these people as:

  • passionate – because enthusiasm is infectious and comes across as genuine
  • similar – because we better trust those who are similar to us
  • connected – because people who are part of social networks have more influence
  • respected – because the reputation of a person affects the reputation of their invitation
  • powerless – because sometimes invitations from people in power can be misunderstood as orders

There are thousands of examples of how organisations use social networks to spread change. An invitation to participate from a trusted friend or family member is highly valued over an invitation from a stranger. A great example is on Facebook, where people are more likely to ‘Like’ a page if their ‘friend’ recommends it (ohhh the power of that ‘share’ button).

Students inviting students (or their favourite teacher), maths teachers inviting maths teachers, principals inviting principals, parents inviting parents, children inviting their own parents and friends inviting friends are all effective ways to increase engagement in an environmental project or event.
If I have no personal interest in the project or event, I’m more likely to tag along if my friends are participating.

So instead of the staff Sustainability Coordinator or student environment team issuing all the invitations to participate in environmental projects or events, think about how you can tap into the social networks in your community.
Find the right inviters using the criteria above. You’ll be surprised who says, “Yes”.

admit oneWhat an invitation says is important.

When inviting busy people to participate in projects, I often find myself using apologetic language. “Sorry to disturb you…” “Only if you have a minute…” “It won’t take too long….”
But do you know what? Some of the projects that I’ve created ABSOLUTELY ROCK! If I don’t invite people, I’m doing them a disservice because I’m denying them the opportunity to experience something enjoyable, meaningful and positive.

We really need to think about what our invitation is ‘saying’ to others. It needs to be attractive, it needs to be unapologetic and it needs to not pre-empt someone’s reaction about whether they will/won’t participate.

There are lots of ways to issue an invitation but one of the most affective is a phone call or face-to-face chat. Don’t rely on emails or social media to do your inviting for you. In today’s world, we are bombarded by hundreds of invitations a month and the invitation you are giving has to stand out. The element of surprise is really effective – I saw a group of secondary students do a flash mob at one of their school assemblies and hand out flyers for students to attend their first student environment team meeting… they had over 60 people rock up.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the detail of a project, campaign or event that we can forget to pay special attention to the invitation and the inviters. If we can get this right, imagine who we can get to help us change the world!

By CERES Education – Outreach Team|2017-11-06T18:16:15+10:00July 31st, 2014|0 Comments