James’ Story For Change
When I was a little and learning how to play football, I can remember a friend’s dad saying something along the lines of, “James, don’t look at the ball, look up at where you want the ball to go, kick it and you’ll hit your target.”
At the time, this advice made almost no sense to me. I was convinced a successful shot or pass was dictated by where your feet connected with the ball, the wind, the tension and angle of your leg. I never did work out how to kick a ball, I found it overwhelming. Fast forward thirty years and I twigged the same idea works when you’re surfing. Don’t focus too heavily on the moment you’re in and think more about where you’re going. If you apply this principle and put your eyes further down the line, your surfing will improve.
This same principle underpins the Final Straw Cornwall campaign. Let’s not think so much about the overwhelming problems of plastic in our oceans that we do nothing, rather, let’s focus on one simple goal in the future – making Cornwall the first single-use plastic straw free county in the UK. Having this clear vision will create momentum, which will in turn create change.
The Final Straw Cornwall is in part powered by the Stories For Change project at Idenna. Stories For Change was set up as a tool for the Idenna team to help us all grow and thrive. Specifically what this means is that each of the team is given a couple of days of Idenna’s time to work on projects which inspire them. This is not a superficial, lightweight or hippy whim, but a serious effort to sharpen the sword and tap into a more primal form of creativity. It’s about giving the team time to shoot from the hip and pursue creative outcomes using their instinct, intuition and passion. Stellar content is often a consequence of a brave thought process, and Stories For Change facilitates a naturally brave and creative approach.
The big idea with The Final Straw Cornwall was to create a campaign that mobilises a broader cross section of the community on a key environmental issue; we wanted to broaden the conversation about plastic in our oceans. Straws were singled out as a brilliant example of a seemingly innocuous item that serves as a powerful example of something incredibly wasteful. They cost time and money to create, yet, will be used on average for fifteen minutes before being discarded as litter. Straws then take up to two hundred years to decompose.
Giving up single-use plastic straws – who can argue with that? To create an even more compelling campaign, we wanted to make it measurable so to do this, we made it local to Cornwall. That way, we could tap into the pride we all have for the county and evaluate how we are doing i.e. how many restaurants are making the switch away from single-use plastic straws? With these key ingredients locked in, we came up with the Final Straw Cornwall and we were away.
So what have I learnt so far? Before I get into it, it’s worth pointing out that we have been working on this campaign as a team (Pat, Jo, Josie, James Strawbridge, Ali, Tim, Mary Val, myself and a growing number of volunteers) and I can’t speak for everyone so these are just my thoughts and observations. It’s a really powerful thing to have a vision on an audacious goal. It’s exciting and palpable. Idenna work on all sorts of campaigns and to make Cornwall single-use plastic straw free is an unusual goal. Having an unusual goal throws up some unusual opportunities. Being the client and having an uninhibited license to make decisions in real time allows for some exciting and opportunistic campaigning.
I could go on. There are lots of little observations I could make about this campaign but I believe that this is the most salient. “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” is an old Ogilvy quote. Here’s the context; when you are working in an agency, there is a temptation to drift into the thought process – “If I wasn’t confined to this awkward brief, we could do something amazing.” In this project, we haven’t had one. We created the brief ourselves so we had masses of freedom. This freedom has, at times, created an environment where we have drifted from ideas into conversations and actions without any structure. This in itself has cost us time.
The Final Straw Cornwall is an exciting, fun and, so far, very successful campaign that has made enormous ground but we can always do better – it will definitely benefit from more structure – but we’re launched and cooking on gas. So what now? I am going to write a super tight brief for the next phase. Chance favours the prepared mind and we are preparing ourselves for a very exciting few months campaigning. Already, I have learnt so much from The Final Straw Cornwall and I’m very excited about what Stories For Change will bring to the next chapter of the Idenna Story.