Giving your natural supporters the tools to articulate that support publicly and confidently can encourage others to be supportive too.
Whenever you submit a planning application for any new infrastructure - whether it’s a wind or solar farm, a new road or rail freight terminal, fracking site, affordable housing or a recycling centre - it’s a given that you can expect your plans to meet with some resistance among communities that could be affected by them.
As we’ve pointed out before, it’s human nature to be concerned about anything that introduces change, or even just the threat of it, into a community or a familiar landscape.
But there will be people that are inclined to support your plans, and others that are quickly persuaded of their merits and are decidedly supportive from early on. The only trouble is they are unlikely to be sufficiently motivated to say so without some encouragement.
One of the biggest barriers to speaking out in favour of controversial developments is the fear of being attacked by organised campaign groups and their members. Overcoming this isn’t easy, and is perhaps best addressed in the short-term by giving supporters a ‘safe space’ in which to discuss your proposals with peers in a grown-up manner and where any online forms of confrontation can be speedily nipped-in-the bud by a moderator.
However, it’s also about not having the confidence to speak out, and that’s much more easily dealt with.
When you encounter people that indicate they are inclined to support your proposals or that they already do, it’s a good idea to empower them with the knowledge and tools needed to confidently share that support with others. That could include providing briefing sessions to small groups, written literature and, where appropriate, site tours.
Supporters want to be able to talk with some authority about your plans to their friends, families and colleagues. They need reassuring that they’ve got their facts right and aren’t going to say something that’s glaringly wrong and that could make them look foolish.
By being sensitive to this need to feel as though they understand your plans well enough to talk openly about them, you’ll empower them to publicly articulate that support. In turn, your supporters will empower others by showing them the way.
If you’ve not seen it before, watch this 3 minute YouTube film about starting a movement. See how the leader gives the first follower the confidence to join in, and how that motivates others to do the same.
There’s no doubt that people who are already inclined to support your plans will be more willing to do so, and talk openly about it, if they see others already being supportive.