Getting support for your ideas
If you think something is wrong or needs done in your area then it's likely that other people may feel the same. To promote a cause, no matter how great or small, you need to convince people that your ideas will work.
Talking to government and politicians
You need to communiciate with the people who make government policy. It is still possible to approach a minister directly, though usually by sending a formal letter in the first instance. However, you can always contact a specific government department to find out information about the topic you are interested in.
Civil servants are directly connected with policy creation and may have expert knowledge of the situation you are trying to change. Ask for information from the appropriate civil servants in the specific department to which your issue relates. If they cannot help directly then they can point you in the right direction.
Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act gives you power under law to request information from government. Each department’s website will have more information on how to request this information. And, the information you want may already be published, so check first.
You should contact your local politicians to let them know about the issue you want to address. It's possible that they may be unaware of the situation.
- MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) (contacts section)
- Local councils in Northern Ireland (contacts section)
- MPs (Members of Parliament) (contacts section)
- Northern Ireland and the World
A formal public consultation is a great way to inform decision-makers within government of your views on a proposed policy. You can find out when a consultation is happening through nidirect, government department websites, council websites, or through the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA).
Every consultation will have the results published in some form. You need to check with the actual government department or council that arranged the consultation to find out where the results will be published and in which format.
Starting or joining a campaign group
You can start by talking to other people in your area to see what they think. There may be a group that is already trying to do something about your issue. And, even if you don’t join another group it’s always best to let them know you exist as they may be able to help.
Joining with others can help to share the time, resources and workload necessary to make your campaign a success. So, talk to as many people as possible, including those with expert knowledge, for example:
- social workers
- Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau (do it online section)
Going public with your campaign
To get the public interested in your campaign you need a strong message that is simple and clear . A well-crafted message presented through the media is a great way to highlight your campaign and put pressure on decision-makers within government.
Give some thought and tailor your message to suit the different types of media because each type of media has specific requirements. For example, your message needs to:
- read easily in newspapers and magazines
- be very visual for television
- sound interesting on radio
Find the most suitable reporters, producers or editors that might be interested in your campaign.
You can find all sorts of background information in libraries. If you need more help librarians are usually trained researchers and can help you track down what you need to know.
Local history archives
Most local libraries will have a local history archive, which should house:
- local newspapers and journals
- books relating to the history of the area
- records of societies and businesses
- old maps, photographs and sometimes letters
- the archive should have all the ordnance survey maps ever created for your area
- Archives for family and local history (leisure, home and community section)
Qualified researchers can be found through universities or from a community body or voluntary organisation. You may find a sympathetic academic who is willing to help your cause with expert knowledge or research.
Some university departments (particularly those with postgraduate research programmes) run outreach programmes. If you can offer them a suitable topic then students will often carry out the research for free.
- Queen's University (contacts section)
- University of Ulster (contacts section)
- St Mary's University College (contacts section)
- Stranmillis University College (contacts section)
- Open University (OU) (contacts section)
Finding information from regulatory bodies
If you are campaigning about a product or a service, it is a good idea to get in touch with the relevant regulatory body. For example, if you are campaigning against an advertisement, you will need to get in touch with the Advertising Standards Authority to get help.
BSI British Standards has information on the development of standards for all products and services from light bulbs to universities. Its website also includes information on technical handbooks, codes of practice, specifications for products, dimensions, product performance and glossaries.
If you want to find out how public money is being spent then contact the Audit Commission.