Alberto Alemanno is an academic and an advocate for citizen lobbying and this book fits in well with both of those narratives. The content is well-researched and comprehensive without losing focus on the main purpose: how to lobby as a citizen.
I admit I was a bit impatient about getting to the lobbying part, which doesn’t get addressed until the 30% mark of the book. The theory is important, however, and since I quickly waned in my interest after finding out what lobbying is and how to do it — with some specific and concise examples and a handy instruction section — I can appreciate the effort that went into the first part of the book.
The instructions on how to lobby are clear and accessible and dispel the notion that only a few well-placed people or corporations in society can take part in this type of activity.
One of the latest lobbying actions Alemanno took part in was trying to get glyphosates banned through the EU. The chemical that has been linked to health concerns was renewed for five years through parliament but it could have been renewed for fifteen years. Citizen lobbying has helped in limiting the renewal to a much smaller space of time.
After years of campaigning by NGOs and citizens about its alleged harmful health effects, demonstrated by the four million signatures collected by the European Citizen Initiative (ECI) ‘Stop Glyphosate’ supported by WeMove and Avaaz, no decision-maker could turn a blind eye to such concerns.
Alemanno writes about lobbying the EU but there are legitimate avenues for citizens to have their voices heard in local arenas too and instructions can be found for those as well. When efforts are harnessed in the right way we can all make change happen to a certain extent. Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society reveals various routes other than through the traditional forms such as voting. This is called citizen-lobbying and through these years of austerity it’s a nice start to be given directions about how to help.
One example in the UK is the Petitions Committee that provides a mechanism for people’s opinions to be heard. If a petition receives 10,000 signatures, Government will provide a response; if it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be debated in parliament. So far there have been 44 responses and two debates in parliament.
This book feels like a positive addition to our times, which aims to empower when all around feels like a disempowering exercise to benefit corporations and those already in power. A small read for a greater purpose.
[Also see this book review on the LSE blogs]
Lobbying for Change by Alberto Alemanno available through The Hive (which benefits local bookshops)