Motivating New Zealand “not easy” – GDC Councillor Manu Caddie

We all know someone in our town or neighborhood that never ceases giving to the community and working towards making it a better place. In Gisborne, we all know GDC Councillor Manu Caddie.

Manu Caddie is a motivator. He gets muscle behind causes and bums on seats when they’re needed. Having worked as a councillor for several years, and continually playing an active role in aiding less economically rewarded communities to prosper, he has found that Kiwis are not the easiest crowd to motivate. Go to countries with a more emotional population like Brazil or even the US, and a sizable following can be amassed behind a cause relatively easily using messages that resonate with the population. We have always been a passive and relaxed nation, and it seems like we are only becoming more that way.

“30 years ago there seems to have been a greater commitment to activism in the general population,” said Manu.

“Coming out of the protect movements of the 60s and alternative lifestyles in the 70s, the anti-nuclear and Springbok issues galvanized a critical mass that seems hard to mobilize today.”

That is not to say we have lost our patriotism, but maybe that we are more reserved in how we express it. With the connected state that more and more of us are living in, contributing to causes is becoming easier and easier, and is giving us the opportunity to keep it completely anonymous.

“With the internet and clicktivism, it is arguably easier to generate thousands of submissions to Government or ‘signatures’ on a petition, but something like the “Keep Our Assets” campaign against state asset sales took a huge amount of resource to succeed. Having said that, the Foreshore & Seabed legislation and Mining on Schedule 4 Conservation Land resulted in tens of thousands marching in the streets.”

Easier may mean a faster response and greater numbers, but it certainly does not mean quality supporters. When we don’t have to make an effort to participate, research has shown that we are less likely to continue participating.

“But then we all go back to our busy lives and there seems to be very little mass movements of committed people. The unions really struggle and perhaps opposition political parties have the infrastructure to organize better, and are motivating people. Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam, etc. all seem to struggle to do anything beyond a single issue campaign for a short period.”

Take The Pakeha Party for example. In about a week, they had close to 50,000 likes on their Facebook fan page, and were (arguably) on their way to becoming a legitimate political party in New Zealand. They were featured on all the major and even minor news sources. The Prime Minister weighed in on it, and likes and donations were collected very quickly. Just over a month later, no one is talking about it. Since the cause has stopped gaining support, the page has dilapidated into what seems to be a personal blog filled with racist slurs, hate messages, and trivial arguments.

The internet can work wonders when we need to make a change in New Zealand. If it is used correctly, social media can be as a weapon of mass construction. Recent statistics by First Digital NZ indicated that 84% of kiwis between 15 and 24 years of age use Facebook. With that kind of potential demographic reach, Manu has recognized the available opportunity to communicate messages to our future leaders.

“I did start to create my own memes based on a particular statement or fact I have found somewhere – often with a provocative image or contrary juxtaposition of another statement or image. That gets people’s attention and can help inform, challenge, and be a call to action. Providing something people can do about an issue is really important and people always want to do something when they see an injustice or situation that needs addressing – so combining the information on the situation with easy-to-do action ideas is really important. With the information overload we all have (multiplied by social media) it’s important people make a commitment to act.”

Manu is yet to be convinced that investing considerable time and resources into social media has an effective positive outcome.

When running IMC campaigns, backing up opinions with facts is the key to achieving any kind of success. At least that’s what we’re taught in marketing. A good message targeted at the wrong demographic and psychographic group can disintegrate very quickly instead of building a positive response around it. Manu has observed the exact opposite.

“I’d like to say it is essential – but then I think of how ‘successful’ campaigns like the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Don Brash’s Orewa speech and the referendum on repeal of Section 59 (Child Discipline) have been and it seems evidence is not necessary at all! Different strategies are required for different contexts. In a public forum [when you’re] arguing technical points and facts with industry, I’d say evidence is essential. But a campaign like the ‘It’s Not OK’ family violence campaign did not use much ‘evidence’ in its messages. It probably used evidence of effective social marketing to inform its campaign, but didn’t use domestic violence stats as much as it used emotional appeals for people to do the right thing and help friends and family who need to break the cycle of violence… and they got good results from that campaign.”

Perhaps it is the values that we, as Kiwis, hold on to that provide the greatest insights into the core mindset of the New Zealand public. Outside observers have described us as a nation that appreciates the underdog. Caddie’s suggestions are not far from the same.

“I think Kiwis have a strong sense of fairness. Our tradition of egalitarianism, standing up to larger powers, and everyone deserving the chance to reach their potential, tends to motivate us – from the suffragettes to Treaty settlements. So a strong moral position still has appeal to a lot of New Zealanders. Doing the right thing, even if it makes us unpopular or it costs something, can appeal to a good proportion of the population.”

 

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