So there I am, walking to my first MEP meeting in the EU parliament. I take a moment to appreciate this dream come true. I had considered attending «Sciences Po » (Political Science https://www.sciencespo.fr/) when I was a teenager, having always enjoyed standing for my values, but backed off in fear of getting emotionally overwhelmed in this very codified universe. Life happened, and 20 years later, I end up in Brussels with a Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) team from all over Europe.
We came to attend the CAN Europe general assembly and jumped on the opportunity to try to meet a couple of MEPs. It had been a bit of a last minute thing, our EU regional coordinator, James, throwing it in the arena at our weekly call 2 weeks ago. To give you some background, CCL is a volunteer and non partisan citizen organisation created in 2007 in the US to build political will for a livable world. It has since then spread its wings wildly to over 500 working groups, in 50 countries with 145 000 volunteers. With a successful policy outcome in Canada where our solution has been adopted (and re-elected).
In Europe, some national CCL teams have been efficient at building capacity over years, but it has only been about 6 months since we started to coordinate at a European level. You can imagine that as a newly composed team- all volunteers with different time constraints, geographies and languages-, organisation requires time and effort.
So here we are in Brussels in early November, meeting in person for the very first time. This is already a highlight. Technology is a great asset for expanding strategy and work at a distance, but nothing replaces the human connection. None of us had prior opportunity to lobby at European level, though some of us have had prior national experience. In my case, I had done a couple of lobby meetings when i first joined CCL in Panama a few years ago.
It turns out we not only manage to arrange a couple of meetings, we get a whopping eight meetings confirmed ! We can hardly believe it. After the first couple of seconds of : « uh-oh, what did we get ourselves into » (hello, fear of under-achievement), we set our strategy and practise. Thankfully, the only presentation we are able to attend on the Political Engagement Day training by CAN Europe gives us a very useful overview of how the EU political dynamic operates.
Our first meeting goes so well, that we are recommended internally by the MEP to meet a political advisor from the party and they arrange a meeting for us the next day. From there it’s been a roller coaster of useful insights and positive learning process for our team. We gain perspective on patterns of interests and concerns between different parties. We find ways to articulate fluid discussion with up to 6 of us that had never even met a couple of days ago. As citizens, we are able to express our concerns about climate change and more importantly, present our Climate Income solution.
And you know what ? It has been received with such warmth and overwhelming enthusiasm that it took us by surprise. I am glad we we opened this window of opportunity and savoured as a team the incredible taste of unexpected fast-forward results. We realise of course that it is only the beginning and that relationships build over time, followed-through actions and commitment. Still, the way this has accelerated and exceeded expectations has been, to date, one of my most intensely positive human experiences.
It gives me a deep faith that I am doing the right things, and it encourages me to keep on jumping out of my comfort zone to follow what I feel is the right direction. Immense gratitude to the rest of the team, that not only played as a team, but also genuinely cared for and after each other. I am confident this approach, based on building from common values and trust is the way forward. I will definitely be an ambassador for this empowering methodology in our society, because it really ticks all of my boxes.