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How to become a pressure group member 

Have you ever signed a street petition, written a letter to your MP or taken part in a demonstration? Or do you find yourself shouting at the TV but never take any other action to express you feelings? For almost every cause there is a pressure group, campaigning to bring the issues to the attention of the wider public and influence change. Adding your voice to a campaign is a great way to get involved and lend your support.

On this page:

What does the role involve?
What will I get out of this?
What will I be expected to give back?
What skills do I need?
How do I get involved?

What does the role involve?

Individuals and groups can support a pressure group by simply adding their name to a petition or by making a donation to the cost of a campaign. At the other end of the scale, individuals can devote large amounts of their time and energy to participating in a campaign. For example the women who lived at Greenham Common during the 1980s to protest against nuclear weapons, or the environmentalists who occupy trees or tunnel underground to disrupt the building of roads and other major developments that are feared to be harmful to the environment. Of course, in between these extremes are many other opportunities for individuals to get involved with campaigns, such as helping to organise a petition, joining a march or writing to local and national politicians.

There are five main ways that pressure groups try to achieve their aims:

  • influencing public opinion. For example by producing literature, running street stalls and raising the profile of issues through the media
  • getting people who are sympathetic to their views elected to local and national government. For example, the people of Bearsden and Strathkelvin felt so strongly about the closure of Stobhill Hospital that they elected an independent MSP whose sole policy was to prevent the closure of the local hospital
  • influencing mainstream political parties to adopt their ideas as policy. Opposition parties often welcome contributions from pressure groups as they lack the support in policy development provided to the party of government by the civil service
  • campaigning for or against a Bill that is going through parliament or a local authority policy, by trying to influence politicians in private with briefings and putting pressure on politicians in public with high profile campaigns that encourage constituents to ask their representatives to vote in a certain way
  • keeping in constant touch and providing briefings for the officials and civil servants who generate, frame, draft and implement policy
     

    What will I get out of this?

    The satisfaction of knowing that you are taking action on something that you feel passionately about. Pressure groups also have a good record of successfully achieving their objectives. Policies only work if they can be implemented with sufficient support. Politicians wishing to avoid the consequences of introducing unpopular ideas (such as the Poll Tax) need to consult widely and either win approval or at least avoid the active disapproval of well-organised groups and communities.

    Pressure groups are also a vital way to mobilise support on LGBT issues by complementing official consultation processes and getting the attention of the public and decision-makers. They are particularly vital in situations where LGBT people and groups are marginalised from mainstream processes.

     

    What will I be expected to give back?

    Your enthusiasm! You can spend as much time as you like, from a few minutes filling in a petition online to a day attending a protest march.

     

    What skills do I need?

    You do not require any particular skills, although organisations welcome people who can lobby politicians or speak confidently and eloquently in public. Your enthusiasm and passion are the most important qualities.

     

    How do I get involved?

    For small and local campaigns, introduce yourself to the organisers and offer your help, giving details of the time and skills you have available. For larger organisations it is best to join the group that best represents your views. Once signed up, you will be given information on activity happening in your area and national campaigns that need support.

    Useful Contacts

    Amnesty International is a worldwide voluntary movement of people who campaign for human rights.

    Amnesty International Scotland
    6 Castle Street
    Edinburgh
    EH2 3AT

    tel: 0131 466 6200
    email: scotland@amnesty.org.uk
    web: www.amnesty.org.uk

    Greenpeace is an independent non-profit global campaigning organisation that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and their causes.

    Greenpeace
    Canonbury Villas
    London
    N1 2PN

    tel: 020 7865 8100
    email: info@uk.greenpeace.org
    web: www.greenpeace.org


    Oxfam campaigns nationally and internationally to end poverty and injustice.

    Oxfam in Scotland
    207 Bath Street
    Glasgow
    G2 4HZ

    tel: 0845 900 5678
    email: scotland@oxfam.org.uk
    web: www.oxfam.org.uk

    The Poverty Alliance aims to combat poverty by effecting change in the policies, practices and beliefs of communities, policy makers, professionals and the general public.

    Poverty Alliance
    162 Buchanan Street
    Glasgow
    G1 2LL

    tel: 0141 353 0400
    email: admin@povertyalliance.org
    web: www.povertyalliance.org

    OneWorld is the world's fastest-growing civil society network online, supporting people’s media to help build a more just global society.

    OneWorld International Foundation
    2nd Floor
    River House
    143-145 Farringdon Road
    London
    EC1R 3AB

    tel: 020 7239 1400
    email: foundation@oneworld.net
    web: www.oneworld.net

    Equality Network campaigns for human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland.

    Equality Network
    22 Forth Street
    Edinburgh
    EH1 3LH

    tel: 07020 933 952
    email: en@equality-network.org
    web: www.equality-network.org

    Press for Change is a political lobbying and educational organisation, which campaigns to achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transgender people in the UK, through legislation and social change.

    Press for Change
    BM Network
    London
    WC1N 3XX

    email: letters@pfc.org.uk
    web: www.pfc.org.uk

    Beyond Barriers (UK) accept no responsibility for the content of external sites.

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