With so many of our regular climate action efforts and campaigns now on hold because of coronavirus, the SECA Steering Group has been thinking how we can make best use of this lockdown period.  Since meeting in person is ruled out we figured now would be a good time to try out Friends of the Earth’s free networking platform, Slack.

This won’t be for everyone, since many people’s minds are understandably elsewhere.  But if you have time on your hands, and want to stay in touch and share ideas with other SECA members, why not sign up and give it a go?

What is Slack?

Slack is an online messaging platform that allows groups to chat amongst themselves, and link up with other climate activists across the country.  It’s an alternative to using email, WhatsApp or Facebook and has quite a few advantages over them once you get the hang of using it.

Using Slack involves downloading the software on your phone and/or laptop.  So it is yet another app to contend with (you may feel you have enough already!).  But it is very user friendly, and is much better for facilitating team conversations than Facebook or WhatsApp.  It also means your email won’t get clogged up with random messages.

FOE has adopted Slack within their organisation and are generously offering it free of charge to Climate Action Groups across the country.  SECA is already affiliated, so we can use it, and Brenda Pollack, FOE’s South East Coordinator, is keen we try it out.

The invitation applies to anyone who is on the SECA mailing list.  But there’s no reason you couldn’t share this invite with other members of your local group who might be interested.

How to get started

You can find out all about it by checking out FOE’s guidance page on Getting Started with Slack.  This includes an excellent video and information sheet that walks you through it all.  FOE also run regular webinars on how to make the most of Slack (you can find about these on the #announcements channel).  The next one is on April 2nd.

Here’s the essentials on how to get started:

  • Go to the FOE page on Getting Started with Slack
  • Watch the video first to get a feel for how it works, and decide if you want to give it a try.
  • Click on the link at the bottom of the page where it says ‘Join Slack’ (if that doesn’t work use this one)
  • Create an account, which involves verifying your email and setting your user name.
  • Download the software from your app store and log in (if you’re prompted to enter your workspace, it’s takeclimateaction.slack.com)
  • Set up your profile – it would be good if you mention which local climate group(s) you are part of and say a bit about yourself. Photos are also helpful!
  • Set your preferences – you can choose how often you get pinged with notifications, or turn this off entirely if you prefer.
  • You’re ready to go!

Making use of Slack

Slack is organised into a whole series of ‘channels’ where different groups are communicating.  You’ll be automatically added to two of these when you sign up (#campaign-updates, #general-discussion). You can pick which others to join.

We suggest you:

  • Sign up to the #south-east-networking channel, which was set up by Brenda Pollack and connects up Climate Action Groups in the area.  This will be an ideal place for swapping ideas among SECA members.
  • Do a post to say hello and introduce yourself when you join the channel so others know you’ve arrived!

You might also like to sign up to:

  • The #group-organisers channel, if you coordinate a local climate group, as this will link you up with counterparts across the country, many of them grappling with the same issues as you.

Signing up to a channel means you can look back at previous conversation threads to get a feel for what’s being discussed.  You can always choose to leave the channel if it’s not relevant to you.

And you can always start a new channel if you feel there’s a need for it.  For example you might want to create one for your own local member group if you feel there’s a demand for it.  Just  make sure you’re not duplicating one that’s already there.  If in doubt, check with Brenda Pollack for advice (see below).

A few tips on etiquette

Slack works best if you follow a few common sense guidelines:

  • Feel free to start your own threads on issues you want to talk about.
  • Be positive and constructive in your posts and comments.
  • If you want to comment on someone else’s post, make sure you use the thread option rather than accidentally starting a new post. That way discussions about a topic will be collected in one place.  You click the speech bubble icon to the right of the post to do this, rather than just typing in the Message box.
  • Use emojis to add your reactions to posts and show you’ve seen them.
  • Get into the habit of checking Slack fairly regularly if you are going to use it.
  • Don’t double up by sending the same messages to people by email just in case they haven’t seen Slack. It works best if the whole group ‘dives in’ and gets in the habit of using Slack.

And one practical tip – it’s easy to press send by mistake when you hit return. If you want it insert a line break you press shift return.  The good news is that you can edit and delete posts once they’ve gone up, so all is not lost!

Getting help

  • SECA member Liz Thorns has offered to play a role as a SECA community helper on Slack, so feel free to send a direct message to her if you have any questions. Message her at: @Liz Thorns
  • Brenda Pollack will also be happy to respond to any question on how your group can make best use of Slack, and take advantage of the many Friends of the Earth resources for climate action groups. Message her at: @BrendaPollack-staff
  • Tom Wright is the overall FOE Slack guru and is happy to answer any technical questions. Message him at: @Tom Wright – Staff

Good luck!  We’re hoping that Slack will take off as a communication mechanism among SECA members, helping to connect us all up so we can share challenges and questions, and pass on tips and inspiration.

Do give it a go!

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