Tips for organizing a teach-in: System Change Not Climate Change

System Change Not Climate Change

Tips for organizing a teach-in

The System Change! Not Climate Change project is about raising awareness and transforming awareness into action. We encourage Council of Canadians chapters and other groups and organizations to host teach-ins. The work we do mobilizing in communities across Canada before and during climate talks builds the pressure that can influence decision making.

The UN climate negotiations, meant to provide international leadership addressing one of the most serious crises humanity has ever faced, are perilously off course and little progress is expected in Durban. The Canadian government, driven by economic interests in the tar sands, continues to do more harm than good in ensuring a healthy planet for generations to come. While the climate talks likely won’t produce the meaningful actions our planet needs to halt and reverse the effects of climate change, they are a forum for dialogue about what needs to happen and opportunity to demand better. Meanwhile, we can help build a broad-based movement for climate justice by taking action together and showing our government that we want system change, not climate change!  We can work together towards change with our family, our friends and community starting with building the power and knowledge within our communities.

What is a System Change! Not Climate Change teach-in?

Teach-ins bring people together to share knowledge and information, have discussions and plan actions to address the growing effects of climate change. They can be held in a variety of settings including workplaces, classrooms, community centres, at conferences and even in your living room.  While there is no set, or right way to plan a teach-in, System Change is a tool you can use, featuring free and accessible videos that provide insightful information on system change and climate justice topics and compelling stories of people taking action in their communities. We invite you to use these videos to educate, engage and inspire.

With the checklist provided below, we’ve suggested some steps for organizing a community-based teach-in. There are also resources and action toolkits available here to get you started on local climate justice actions. You can also use teach-ins to support an existing campaign by screening videos that support and build on your local efforts.

Community-based teach-in checklist

Here are some useful steps for organizing a teach-in that brings people together in a community setting

Assemble a team of volunteers:  Four volunteers are a good starting point for organizing a community-based teach-in. These volunteers can come from Council of Canadians chapters, student, environmental or social justice groups, or union locals. Volunteers can work together by taking on organizing tasks such as event logistics, promotion, programming and coordinating refreshments.

Choose a date and location: The Council of Canadians is encouraging teach-ins between September and December  2011, in the lead up to the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Finding a good venue is a key decision! A good venue should be easy for people to get to, have projection equipment and a decent sound system. If your location has reliable internet access, you can screen the videos directly from Video files will also be available to download onto your computer.

Register your teach-in or event: Once you have a date, time and venue set, let others know it is happening by registering your teach-in. With events happening across the country, we can show how the movement for climate justice is building across Canada!

Raise some funds: The costs of organizing a teach-in will depend on the choices you make. Potential costs include venue rental, renting equipment to watch the videos (if it isn’t available at the venue, or can’t be borrowed), and promotional costs such as printing posters and refreshments. Providing locally produced baked treats and fair trade coffee and refreshments is a great way to connect the event to one of the themes brought forward in the system change project – that supporting local agriculture and food systems is an important solution to the climate crisis!

Consider local sponsors: Whether your event is sponsored by a Council of Canadians chapter, local environment or social justice group, worship or elders society or union local (no big corporate sponsors please!), seeking out sponsors can be a helpful for organizing a teach-in. Sponsors can provide lots of support, from volunteers to promotion as well as contributions to potential teach-in costs.

Develop a teach-in program: After the logistics of money, venue and volunteers are sorted out it’s time to figure out the format of your teach-in. A simple and easy way to host a teach-in is to screen three to five videos from, followed by questions and discussion. You could also consider featuring a local speaker on a topic relevant to system change, climate justice or the UN climate talks. Check out the side-menu for additional resources for organizing teach-ins, such as sample questions and activity ideas.

Choose your videos: We host more than 20 videos you can screen at the teach-in. The videos range from shorter five minute messages that help frame the climate crisis we face, to longer 10-13 minute videos on key “system change” topics.

Teach-in promotion and outreach:  Posters, invitations to email lists, leaflets and event announcements in community newspapers are all good ways to spread the word about your teach-in. See the side-menu for a template teach-in poster.

Plan for a next step!  Set a time for a follow up meeting after the teach-in, or include it in your teach-in. Make sure to collect people’s email addresses and advertise a next meeting time. Use this meeting to discuss what climate justice actions you can take locally. There may be an ongoing community-based campaign you can support, or a national campaign you can take action on.