When you spend most of your day sitting in an office, eyes fixed on the computer screen, or stuck in the library trying to understand your essay question (let alone answer it), it can be difficult to think outside the box. As an activist, thinking inside the box provides the fascinating strategy of 'get petition, sign petition, share petition', which, unsurprisingly, doesn't do much for a campaign. So, despite the fact that we have a really exciting banana-based campaign to achieve a robust and historic Arms Trade Treaty, my brain was beginning to feel mushy and flambéed - I've had bananas on the mind for a good while, and try as I might to think of new ideas I had run out of juice. I just couldn't think outside the box. Thankfully, meeting with our fantastic Oxford University Activist Group yesterday was just what was needed to get some ripe ideas (last rubbish banana joke, I promise).
The best part about meeting up in a group, as the Oxford lot proved, is that ideas fly around at such speed that it's hard to scribble them down. After I outlined our basic campaign action (which can be seen in this short video, suggestions on how to make an effective campaign, unique to the group, came in hard and fast. There were plans to get local businesses involved (promoting the campaign with banana milkshakes and smoothies),
put on banana themed events (from club nights to picnics) and to cover the city with personalised bananas. This group is so engaged that they thought of a potential problem with the 'banana saturation'... and then solved it. As we don't want to be wasteful and just leave dozens of rotting bananas around the country, the group suggested getting folks to eat the bananas after they spot them. As a group member, Chris, put it in a
'eureka' moment (of which I am extremely jealous): 'Tweet me, then eat me'. Now that's what I call thinking outside the box.
So now I'm back at my desk with my eyes fixed on the same computer screen. But our meeting yesterday has given me a surge of creative energy and has got me thinking about follow-up ideas and other ways we can make this campaign a great success. The Leeds University Control Arms Group did a brilliant awareness stunt, which is very different to what the Oxford Uni group have planned. This is why meeting in groups is invaluable - you
can bounce off each others' ideas and give your own unique twist to a campaign, and it also gives you great boost to do your best to put an end to the devastation of the illegal arms trade. This year, we can make history by pushing the global community to deliver a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty. As the saying goes, 'together, the ants will conquer the elephant'. In this case, with bananas.
By Janek Seevaratnam, Volunteer Development Officer
If you are an Oxfam group and would like to learn more about the Arms Trade Treaty and how to take action, get in touch with Janek to arrange a presentation: email@example.com