Rachel Mander works for Hope for the Future and delivered some training on political engagement at a recent Wild Christian event. Root & Branchcaught up with her to find out more.
Rachel, can you explain what Hope for the Future is?
Hope for the Future (hftf.org.uk) is a charity which was set up by a group of Yorkshire churches ahead of the 2015 general election, with the aim of helping churches build relationships with their local politicians – specifically around climate change. It now has multiple project areas, but the focus is always to equip and resource citizens to be able to effectively approach their local politicians about climate issues.
Tell us more about your specific role.
As Church Outreach Officer, I see church members going through the process of political engagement with us, and coming out overflowing with enthusiasm and confidence. I’ve recently been writing a report on some of our church work, and undertaking a series of interviews. The best part has been hearing people tell me that they never thought they’d be able to have a productive conversation with an MP – but now they can’t wait for the next opportunity!
Many people are sceptical about political engagement and may have negative experiences of trying to contact their MPs. What would you say to them?
My top tips would be:
- Be collaborative and not unintentionally antagonistic when approaching your MP.
- Be prepared. With some research, you can get to know your MP (their voting record and their main concerns) even before you meet them.
- Be ready to build relationships.
- Take a chance!People forget that politicians are just people.
- Get in touch with us at Hope for the Future. We have the experience, knowledge and capacity to provide hands-on support which will make sure your engagement with your local politicians is positive and effective.
What’s Hope for the Future’s current focus?
I am working on getting church members in every constituency to meet with their MP to voice their support for stronger climate policies, and to let MPs know what they can do in their parliamentary capacity to ensure the success of COP26. This is crucial and relevant whether the summit goes ahead in Glasgow in November or is postponed into 2021. Whenever it happens, it’s a huge opportunity for the UK to show leadership on environmental issues.
I only have church contacts in 50 constituencies at the moment, so there’s a way to go! I would love to hear from people who could be supported through the process of meeting with their MP. The best way to do this is by emailing me at email@example.com