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The Planet

Chapters and Groups Engage Members, Respond to Bush Administration

Smokestacks, Impacts, & Talkbacks: Terry Andre, right, and other members of California's Loma Prieta Chapter, share a laugh at an Engaging Our Members gathering.
On April 18, in Chicago, the Sierra Club kicked off "Engaging Our Members," a new model for getting members talking and mobilizing them to respond to the Bush administration’s attacks on environmental protection. It’s a different approach — not the usual business meeting or slide show where a few people do most of the talking, but small groups of three to four people talking and listening to each other, and tying their personal experiences to public policy.

The Chicago kickoff meeting, a training on how to facilitate this new approach, brought together 35 of the Club’s best organizers as a follow-up to the National Purpose Local Action project, a joint effort with Harvard researchers to study the Club’s effectiveness. Participants in the National Purpose study identified outreach to Club members as a common weakness. Engaging Our Members is devoted to addressing that, and focusing on specific, personal impacts of Bush administration policies, like the difficulty asthma sufferers have on smoggy days.

The Virginia Chapter held the first Engaging Our Members community gathering, and many chapters and groups have followed, including the Illinois, Loma Prieta (California), and Maine chapters. One enthusiastic participant said, "I didn’t know what I was going to say to my neighbors about the Bush administration’s record. Now I do!"

Engaging Our Members team leader Rafael Reyes says the Club aims to hold more than 200 community gatherings this summer.

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