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Joey Tabone
Joey Tabone, CEO of the Prince of Wales's charity Start
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CAMPAIGN HERO: Joey Tabone, Chief Executive of the Prince of Wales's charity Start

Matilda Lee

12th August, 2011

The new head of the Prince's green living charity speaks to the Ecologist about ways of engaging individuals and the benefits of corporate partnerships

What has been your most successful campaign to date?

Start, a sustainability initiative inspired by The Prince of Wales, has by far been the most successful project I have worked on in my 20 odd years of behaviour change work. Start is all about simple steps that people can take to live more sustainably and this year we have had focused on growing, eating and transport as some of our key themes. Through a forest garden installation at Clarence House, we welcomed over 12,000 people recently and encouraged them to think about where food comes from, how it gets to our tables and why this is important both to our well-being and to the planet. We also had a go at a pop-up restaurant in the beautiful and unique surrounds of Lancaster House - we enticed, had fun and played with the concepts of sustainable eating through a great space with great locally sourced and British cuisine. And it all ended with an eco-car rally supported by Revolve and Bridgestone.

Start is all about involving the public in activities that entertain while informing. It's not rocket science. It is engaging, enjoyable, a little quirky while conveying an easy sustainable living message. This year we also appeared at a series of agricultural shows in collaboration with some of our key partners such as Virgin Money, B&Q and M&S - great exposure to the masses and as we learnt a great way to reach kids. Our next big presence will be Start at Kew in the Royal Botanic Gardens over the August bank holiday weekend. We are taking over a gorgeous section - smack bang in the middle of the gardens - between Kew Palace and the Orangery. It will be simply fab with a great line up of people on centre stage, entertainment, loads of things for kids to get involved in - a great place to get the Start experience.

What has been your least successful campaign to date?

Probably not the least successful but surely the most challenging was the Carbon Reduction campaign I worked on in Australia as part of the Australian Government Greenhouse Gas Abatement Programme. This was a $400 million programme that attempted to engage industry, governments and the community in carbon reduction strategies. This covered all things from CSR to improved industrial processes, travel behaviour change and methane capture and storage. It was sort of a catch all carbon programme at a time when we really had difficulty measuring and reporting, let alone reducing.

What gets you out of bed when you're at your lowest?

Knowing that through our work, our activism, our passion, a bit of background knowledge and a heap of collective motivation - we might just be able to support enough people to make a difference - and I am not talking about a hard core carbon reduction difference but rather support people to think and act through their hearts, minds and everyday actions. And maybe get them to use informed understanding when they next go to the voting booth.

Corporations: work with them or against them?

Start is supported by some great corporate partnerships - without which we couldn't exist or reach the people we do. We reckon that through their powerful brands and marketing strength we can help deliver an important change in the way we go about our lives, what we do and perhaps how we do it. I reckon this gives us a great platform to reach people and work through trusted organisations. I have worked with the big guys both here and in Australia. And I realised long ago that it is best to work with them rather than against them - as Kylie says, better the devil you know!

What is the best way to motivate people?

Show them what is possible, what others are already doing and to be open and honest about what works and what doesn't. Above all, it is important to be positive and to celebrate successes. There is no use going about saying the end is nigh or you have been a bad bad boy, but rather demonstrate the art of the possible - and be engaging, realistic and show what is achievable.

What is the best way of reaching politicians?

There are loads of ways to engage our politicians. This can be simply getting involved in local activities - Boris-type love-ins, know what is going on around your neighbourhood is the best place to start. If you are wanting to go further, letter writing and helping raise issues through campaigns is best. My philosophy has always been to work with those that are elected to represent us, challenge them, of course but make it constructive. Going to them with solutions to problems is always a good start. Gathering support for issues ahead of time and getting the facts together is a good strategy..

What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?

In my views campaigns are least effective when they terribly negative or confrontational. This tends to scare people away. When I think back all those years to the HIV/AIDS campaigns, those that were really negative tended to be least effective. Those that celebrated safe sex, supported a healthier sex worker industry and spoke openly about safer drug use, were the most effective. The negative grim reaper type campaigns or those that demonised sex workers an drug users do a lot more harm than good.

Most important thing government could do this year?

Commence action on overhauling the tax system in favour of a lower carbon economy - but maybe I am showing a bias to Australia here!

Most important thing individuals could do this year?

Start taking simple steps to more sustainable living, of course!

What makes a good campaigner?

Someone who is in it for the long haul. Someone who is informed, stays true to their convictions and has the ability to encourage, enthuse and excite.

What (other) campaign has caught your attention recently?

The LoveLife advertising campaign by a well know food retailer. Catching, colourful and a little quirky. Might even get people reading the packaging to find out where their food comes from.

Who is your campaign hero (past or present)?

Easy, Australian Senator, Bob Brown.

Further information:

Start UK

 

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