Potential Campaign Strategy for Bukit Brown
What would a potential campaign strategy to save Bukit Brown look like? Here’s some thoughts:
1) Prepare a proposal reframing Bukit Brown away from a cemetery
The government already has development plans for Bukit Brown, including the current road construction and future housing development. To potentially reverse the decision already made, the alternative option must be of equal or higher value than existing plans (not necessary in monetary terms). In Singapore’s context, positioning or framing Bukit Brown as a cemetery is not persuasive enough.
One possible idea is to reframe Bukit Brown as Singapore’s first outdoor museum (inspired by Skansen, the popular open-air museum in Sweden – http://www.skansen.se/en). A proposal could be prepared to explain the value of turning Bukit Brown into an outdoor museum, which would provide insights on Singapore’s past heritage and natural history in an open-air natural setting. Visitors can explore the tombs of Singapore’s prominent pioneers, which would be combined with stories, customs, crafts, physical buildings, structures and objects that are relevant to understanding our past pre-1965. Biological diversity, especially live native plants and animals, or preserved species found in the past, could be highlighted in the outdoor museum. The outdoor museum would be an unique place for Singaporeans and visitors to understand more about pre-1965 Singapore.
The above idea is only one potential idea and it is up to the campaign participants to come up with the ideas for preserving Bukit Brown in the proposal. Whatever the final ideas proposed, a written formal document highlighting the reasons for preserving Bukit Brown, combined with facts and figures, is necessary for engaging the government and as a tool for further discussion and negotiation. The proposal would be sent to the Prime Minister, all Ministers and MPs, and the relevant government agencies.
2) Consolidate efforts by various groups into a single platform and issue a call-to-action
A campaign website is needed and should be used as the “home base” linking to Facebook and other social media tools such as Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, and vice versa. The campaign objective is to 1) explain about the proposal and why preserve Bukit Brown, 2) unite all supporters and actively engage them, 3) show the government that there is strong support for the proposal, and 4) to archive all stories, photos, videos on Bukit Brown.
There are several existing Facebook Groups and Pages on Bukit Brown, which are doing great work. However, it would be good to consolidate efforts by the various people and have just a single platform to explain the proposal, provide the latest info and events, and engage all stakeholders. This helps to avoid confusion for supporters and to avoid diluting the numbers or duplicating efforts. It is important to note that for campaigning purposes, always use a FB Page and not a Group. The FB Page is better for engaging supporters and for analyzing statistics on usage. If resources are available, manage FB and Twitter accounts separately. If not, just link Twitter to FB, and let FB update the Twitter account automatically.
It is important to decide on the call-to-action for supporters. It should be easy and simple for supporters to show their support for the proposal. The call-to-action could be ‘liking’ the page and signing a petition, which should be posted prominently on the website. The numbers would be presented to the relevant government officials on a regular or monthly basis to show them that there is public support for the proposal. It is also necessary to encourage supporters to write in to their MPs and the media on the proposal. A written letter to the relevant Minister or MP would be best. It would help if a letter template and the MP email contacts are made easily available on the website.
3) Engage and communicate with stakeholders both online and offline
All stakeholders whether government, businesses, organisations and the public should be engaged actively online and offline. There should be one email for enquiries. Always link online and offline together, one can’t do without the other.
All offline events should mention the call-to-action and about spreading the word. A special walk involving ‘connectors’ who are people who know lots of people or have a significant online influence, should be organised to let them appreciate the value of Bukit Brown, and hopefully they would help spread the word further. Regular public walks must be organised to keep the momentum and interest going. Event info should be clear and directions or meeting points given. Maps of Bukit Brown should be prominent and easily accessible on the website.
Online engagement through FB should be on a daily basis, involving 80% content relevant to the campaign, and 20% fun and interesting content not necessary relevant to Bukit Brown. Make use of photos, videos, questions and polls to engage FB supporters. It is necessary to just trial and error, and see what works, and change accordingly and be flexible. Reply to every FB comment where possible, remove spam posts immediately, and tag government FB pages when necessary. Always post long articles on the website and place link on FB. Don’t write essays on the FB status updates, it’s only for short sentences. If you have a lot to write, use Notes.