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The Gap Year Blog

Two Years On: What Can We Learn from Extinction Rebellion?

7 May 2020 17:30 PM

Image Credit: Frank Augstein/Associated Press, New York Times, 07/05/20


Whether you support them or not, the Extinction Rebellion movement (XR) has certainly had an impressive impact around the world. It is a testament to their powerful strategy and ability to utilise public space that almost everybody has heard of them.

Founded in the UK in May 2018, the climate group have campaigned powerfully for a systematic change in the way our economy and society operates. They argue that without such a change, we cannot save the planet.

With the climate crisis now regularly making headlines, XR is one of many groups in the last year that has done a brilliant job of making its voice heard, raising awareness about planetary breakdown, and getting the UK (if not the world) talking.

There is much that we can learn from XR both in terms of building a brand as well running an organisation more generally. Regardless of how we apply these techniques in our own lives, here are just a few ways in which XR has successfully built their movement:




One of the most important strategies for success is to leave people in no doubt about who you are and what you want. As we have arguably seen with the most recent UK election, a lack of clarity on key issues can leave people confused and disillusioned.  

According to one PR specialist: ‘If you’re campaigning and you’re NOT clear about what you’re asking for, how can you expect anyone to give it to you? Extinction Rebellion could not have been clearer with a simple three-point manifesto: tell the truth; reduce emissions to zero by 2025; set up a Citizen’s Assembly to oversee changes. We can debate whether or not there is any likelihood of the Government acceding to their demands, but there’s no ambivalence about what they want!’ (Pagefield,)

Essentially, a clarity of vision makes it far easier for people to get onside with your cause. Plus, at the very least, it will get people talking if they disagree with you.




Another thing that Extinction Rebellion has done well is been completely open, honest, and transparent. They’ve made it pretty clear who they are, what they want, and how they intend to go about getting it. For many people, the disruption that was caused by Extinction Rebellion was countered by the fact that they had sympathy for their cause.

It’s impossible to ignore their colourful protests on bridges, roads and buildings, and they are not afraid to use powerful language when talking about their vision for the future.

XR have also shown that it’s important to be prepared in terms of PR. If you are being interviewed, you need to be sure about the message you want to convey as well as prepared to answer the questions that you are likely to be asked. Ultimately, you want to come across as human, likeable, and honest.




If you want people to stick with you and champion your cause, it is crucial that you look after them.

Extinction Rebellion has created a formidable sense of community amongst their followers - from offering a buddy system to their arrest welfare team who are always on hand to help to support those in trouble with the law, looking after each other’s wellbeing is high on the Extinction Rebellion agenda.

This openness allowed them to start to build communities and become highly open as an organisation, which is the perfect way to get more supporters. With XR groups now flourishing over the world, it’s super easy to get involved on both a local and national level. They’ve effectively used social media to create a network of activists, and all you need to join is a bit of enthusiasm and a desire to protect the planet.  




Obviously, it’s no good for an environmental group to leave a load of litter on the street after a meeting. It is this level of accountability that Extinction Rebellion understands well. After all, your actions speak louder than words.

There is much that event organisers can learn from Extinction Rebellion about how to throw an eco-friendly celebration, hence leaving your organisation squeaky clean both in terms of its reputation as well as the site itself.

They’ve also been known to run community meetings on how to make local areas more sustainable, and some of their groups have done a good job of raising the voices of vulnerable people and communities.  


Concluding Thoughts


It would be inaccurate to say that Extinction Rebellion has done everything perfectly, either in terms of how they have portrayed themselves in the media or in their strategy as an organisation.

However, there are also lot of things that they have done right so far – especially in the way that they support their activists.

Regardless of whether you support their cause, you can certainly use some of these strategies to give your organisation a boost this year.


By Ruby Clarkson - Frontier Guest Writer 

Frontier runs terrestrial and marine conservationcommunity and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!