Everyday democracy: ‘what can I do?’ (10:10)

Avery Underwood

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

10:10 is far from your average campaign. As Leo Murray (Director of Strategy) explains, even their earliest beginnings were an “unusual way” to get started. It all began with a climate change documentary, which was released in cinemas and sparked considerable public interest and debate: The Age of Stupid. The film is set in 2055, when the last man standing looks back on a series of real contemporary news clips of climate change stories signposting the warning signs and wonders why the world failed to take necessary action. What’s left is a world which has been ruined by climate change. The film is fatalistic and offers the viewers no solutions – but it manages to bring home the urgency of climate change. In 2009, when cinema goers were left with a feeling of “well, what can we do now”, the directors noticed that this was a massive opportunity for uniting people behind a campaign.  

Whilst the film was still showing in cinemas, the promotions team began seeking out speakers from local environmental campaigns to attend the film screening and hold a public discussion after the show. They realised they had an opportunity to engage members of the public who didn’t identify with bigger environmental groups such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but were in principle keen to act themselves. This sparked the idea for a campaign based around a 10% cut in emissions in 2010 (hence their name).  This was in line with some work by a think tank – the Public Interest Research Center – which had mapped out what an equitable omissions trajectory would look like for a rich industrialised nation like Britain. They came up with an average of 10% emissions cuts, year on year. But a 10% annual cut in emissions at first seemed too ambitious for society as a whole. However, at a lower level, with individuals, households, companies, hospitals getting on board, it began to seem doable.

The initiative started out on a voluntary basis -, anyone could commit to it. Franny Armstrong, director of The Age of Stupid energised the first backers and managed to get both the Guardian and the Sun to support the initiative together – the first time the two media platforms had ever worked together on a campaign. However, this alliance was short-lived: it was that summer that the Guardian broke their story about the phone-hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch. The Sun pulled out two days before the launch. However, 10:10 still had the Guardian firmly on board and the paper supported the project through their editorials. In retrospect, if Leo Murray and Max Wakefield (10:10 Lead Campaigner) had known that they would focus in the early phase on Guardian readers, they might have made it more radical. Nonetheless, perhaps the more inclusive approach did ensure that the campaign reached out beyond the usual suspects.

10:10 was initially created as a time-limited campaign, with a period of reporting and press coverage, with the expectation that the project would then draw to a close. However, environmental funding doesn’t always work like that. Many funders expected to see three-year plans, and so the campaign continued and became an organisation. Leo Murray described it as an idiosyncratic start. But the campaigners soon found that the campaign was fulfilling a need which was not being met at that time. There was a real demand for practical, positive, collective action which did not simply focus on “getting angry and writing letters to politicians”. This was “not collectivism and not activism in the way that people picture in their heads”, but was also not just a consumer-focused campaigning organisation.

As for what everyday democracy means to 10:10, the campaign’s primary focus is public participation and climate solutions. This means getting the public to engage with climate change, through achievable, inventive ways to cut their emissions and come together around practical community campaigns.Their work seeks to empower communities by using their platform to get ideas, work out practical details and also have their projects promoted and disseminated by the campaign. Much of their work focuses not only on energy sources and cutting carbon emissions, but also on designing more democratic decision-making systems in order to implement changes. Better forms of organisation can mean better outcomes – one is example is public ownership of assets which generate and distribute energy, a solution which can benefit us all. A similar project is 10:10’s Solar Schools Campaign –  a campaign which aimed to bring solar energy into schools. The campaign lasted for 5 years and had a huge impact, reducing barriers to schools’ access to renewable energy and helping hundreds both generate their own energy and cut their emissions. In 10 years’ time we may well look back on this approach on opening up a new national conversation about how energy is produced, funded and used.

One of the key ways in which the public can get active with 10:10 is through financial support for their projects. However, Max was quick to make the distinction between participation through funding and being able to make decisions. If a person believes in a particular project and can donate to it, it has more momentum and can grow and be taken to its full potential. Solar Schools, for example, was run entirely on donations, but now many of these projects are self-sustaining. Whilst this support doesn’t necessarily mean the funder has the ability to influence the direction of the campaign, it does help the project get off the ground. As Leo explained, “it’s a structural feature of the landscape, which is rewarding capital with agency.  The wider public drives the agenda, that means giving people not just the ability to percolate, but actual agency over the process”.

10:10 doesn’t just work with energy; currently they have a campaign with the National Flood Forum, as well as the community and local flood action group in Wolverley, Worcestershire to plant trees to build natural flood defences. Campaigns such as this help unite the community around a worthy cause – an idea that is s central to 10:10’s conception of everyday democracy.

Public participation is crucial for combating climate change, so everyday democracy is essential. Leo acknowledged that the overwhelming nature of the problem means that people look at it and think “Well what can I do?”. Psychologists have identified one of the factors inhibiting people from engaging with climate change is that they see their actions as insignificant and feel as if they have no agency. One of the things 10:10 is trying to do is bring back this sense of agency by taking concrete, collective steps to tackle emissions.

Internally, 10:10 has a flat management structure. Two years ago the team got rid of the CEO role and, within the team of 15 people, there is now a semi-hierarchical structure. There is a senior leadership team which shares out the responsibilities of a chief executive between them, and makes important decisions. They have a rotating lead director who deals with the board, and has the deciding vote if the team were divided or someone were missing. 10:10 have as little hierarchy as possible and which will satisfy their board of trustees, but they have also taken action to minimize internal power gradients. They’ve implemented a 1:3 pay ratio, so no one within the organization will earn over a third of the lowest paid full-time employee and they have no unpaid internships. 10:10 seeks to provide an inclusive atmosphere so that anybody in the team, regardless of their position, can make proposals for new initiatives. Each idea goes through a formal process and, if deemed workable, the staff member who proposed it is given the go-ahead to work on the proposition and the fundraising team will try and source funding to get it kicked off. 10:10’s argument is that they don’t need a CEO or a hierarchical management structure for a small organization which is primarily focused on delivering their mission. Leo explains that hierarchical structures are useful only when the boss is the one that makes all the money, and when they need to keep everyone else on task. The main motive for working  for an organization like 10:10 is that you are fundamentally concerned about climate change, rather than pocketing the highest paycheck. The team operates on the basis of high levels of trust, believing that people will focus and complete their work without a high level of management.

When asked about the biggest environmental environmental issue today, climate change was the top priority – “climate change is the mission. Turtles eating plastic bags is really sad, but it’s absurd that that is the focus.” As Leo sees it, we are in the midst of an existential crisis, a view which is supported by most climate scientists. This is also the unsettling truth behind the biodiversity crash – the earth losing species at a frightening rate. But this is where 10:10’s mission becomes so vital: get people to engage with climate change, and understand that everybody has a responsibility and the ability to implement changes in their day to day life and take creative and collective steps to cutting down on carbon.


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