An Inconvenient Truth — An Inconvenient Call to Action

I was among the ten people (all 35+) who spent a recent Sunday afternoon seeing An Inconvenient Truth, and swallowing the graphically-powerful, and surprisingly moving, presentation of the global warming challenges we face. Yep, that’s ten people. And I live in a community renowned for its political awareness and activism.

At the end of the movie, pre-credits, everyone got up to leave. I was looking for a call to action, but saw none. A few of us glanced at the credits on the way out, and stopped in our tracks. The call to action (a list of ten or so ways to action), was interlaced in the credits. Get this…one credit, one call to action, one credit, one call to action. Believe me, no one but the most dogged watcher would try to interpret how to take action.

LESSON ONE: Make it easy for your audience.

Anyway, I am dogged, so I hung on and got the URL of the movie site (, which was easy to memorize. Then, headed out into the sun.

Later on, I realized how frustrated I was. I understand that the film had to remain non-partisan to ensure the broadest audience possible. But I was stuck. I had been moved both intellectually and emotionally, but there was no way for the folks behind the film, or other environmental groups, to capture my engagement as an activist, volunteer or speaker.

LESSON TWO: When you succeed in engaging your audiences, harness their motivation to act, immediately. Otherwise, you lose them.

I was thrilled to see an announcement, just a few days later, that a few families in the community  were sponsoring a free showing for junior high and high school students. And even happier today when I got a community-wide email announcement that the film’s director (who’s filming his next flick locally) will be at the post-film Q&A session.

Extending access to the film and enticing folks to come with the opportunity to meet the director, provoking thought and conversation via the Q&A is just the right strategy to build interest and inspire activists. Other community-based organizations across the country have taken this on themselves, with significant effort and expense. So why not take this national? Why didn’t the filmmakers and producers partner with one or more environmental groups to educate and organize around the film? Other community-based organizations across the country have taken this on themselves, with significant effort and expense. Great opportunity. lost.

LESSON THREE: Partner with subject experts and existing networks.

Today, when I visited the website, I did have the option to Take Action (although this category was buried smack in the middle of the menu). Whew. But when I clicked through to What You Can Do, and Become Active, I was faced with laundry lists of possible activities. Please, make this easier for me to digest and select my course of action. (Ditto LESSON ONE)

I persisted and dug into the blog, where I eventually found the opportunity I wanted. Join the Cause will explode the distribution of the Climate Project slideshow (the core of the movie) by training hundreds of facilitators across the country, starting in fall 2006. “Utilizing solid scientific data and user-friendly media tools, these trained individuals will become grassroots messengers to spread the word and inspire a call to action.”

Finally, a grassroots strategy. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely many people will take the time to find this opportunity on the site. It’s new, it’s the first opportunity of its kind — why not a link right from the film home page? (Ditto LESSON ONE)

I’ll keep you posted on An Inconvenient Truth‘s communications and organizing strategies, and would like to hear about your impressions, and related activities in your community.

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Nancy Schwartz in Advocacy, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy, Unique Approaches | 1 comment

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