Two New Zealand Activists Leading the Way: Generation Zero and Doing Our Bit

This piece was written for an Advocacy and Activism assignment. If you’ve found it and don’t work for the AUT Communications department, you’ve probably been trawling the web for too long.

Two activist campaigns I admire are the Doing Our Bit campaign to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota and Generation Zero’s campaign to support the passing of the Auckland Unitary Plan. Both are New Zealand campaigns that have embraced social media and modern campaigning techniques. However, each campaign had different goals, audiences and techniques.

With 12,000 eager Facebook fans and a firm grasp of digital campaigning, the youth-run Generation Zero is rising to prominence as the voice for New Zealand’s future. Their focus is to provide solutions for climate change on a national level through smarter public transport, livable cities and shifting from fossil fuels (Generation Zero, 2016). Recently they ran an entirely-digital campaign to support the Auckland Unitary Plan, which was successfully passed this week (Freeman, 2016). The Plan will pave the way for several of Generation Zero’s goals such as “Sky Path”, a walkway across the Harbour Bridge and making Auckland more environmentally-friendly (Generation Zero, 2016). Much of the campaign reflected the insight that many Aucklanders did not understand the Unitary Plan, and therefore were disinterested, despite being impacted by it heavily. Generation Zero sought to explain the plans relevance through their slick online campaign. For the past two weeks they’ve posted daily content bringing out different aspects about the plan. They’ve used slick GIFs

(Generation Zero, 2016)
(Generation Zero, 2016)

They’ve featured in articles across publications:

(Elsen, 2016)

(Maude, 2016)

(Niall, 2016)

They’ve shared frequent content related to the unitary plan:

(Generation Zero, 2016)
(Generation Zero, 2016)

Ultimately, they created interest in a boring, hundred page document and made information about their cause accessible. As a young adult living in Auckland with limited knowledge of the Unitary Plan, I fit perfectly into the campaign’s audience. Like many millennials, I care about the environment, am active online and have a fairly short attention span. However, Generation Zero’s efforts meant the Unitary Plan was all over the social media accounts of people like me and made the information genuinely interesting and topical.

A second campaign I admire is the Doing Our Bit campaign, which aimed to double New Zealand’s refugee quota (Stephens, 2013). This campaign is starkly different to Generation Zero’s, but also demonstrates some excellent practices for modern activism. The Doing Our Bit campaign didn’t have an established organisation behind it, rather it was started by Murdoch Stephens, a concerned New Zealander who had lived in Syria prior to the civil war (Stephens, 2013). Further differences include an issue further from home, a wider audience, longer time period and dealing with a national, rather than local audience. Thus, where Generation Zero’s campaign is an example of creating interest for defined period, Doing Our Bit’s is an example of sustaining interest over multiple years and providing opportunities for individuals to become activists themselves.

Doing Our Bit’s audience spans several generations, thus they’ve used a wider range of techniques to cater to different people. Like Generation Zero, they have a strong social media presence and post regularly. Unlike Generation Zero, they send regular emails, have offline publications and have run more events.

Doing Our Bit’s Facebook page has 10,000 followers. They have a knack for publishing updates and commentary as events happen. At an event I attended, Stephens noted that they are constantly scanning the media for information and are able to mobilise faster than bigger campaigns when bills are passed in parliament or topics related to the crisis go viral on social media.

Within hours of an announcement being made over the quota increase, Doing Our Bit created events in response across New Zealand (Doing Our Bit, 2016)
An email from the campaign the day after the increase. Doing Our Bit responded quickly by mobilising people through events and providing links to information (Doing Our Bit, 2016)

They’ve also produced a easy-to-read book with all the details about the crisis and step-by-step instructions to help. The book can be found online here:

Lastly, they hosted events in main centre across New Zealand to promote the issue and explain how people can help. They’ve used prominent people such as Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy as a speaker to promote the event and provide a more personal approach.

Ultimately, these two campaigns demonstrate excellent approaches for two different types of issues. Generation Zero’s Unitary Plan campaign is an example of how to make information accessible and gain interest for a fixed period of time. It focused on using online techniques and responses. On the contrary, Doing Our Bit is a great example of a campaign that engages a range of people for a longer period of time and provides a way for them to be more involved and become activists themselves.


Doing Our Bit. (2013). Double NZ’s Refugee Quota. Retrieved from Doing Our Bit:

Doing Our Bit. (2016). Doing Our Bit. Retrieved from Facebook.

Elsen, N. (2016, August 8). The Unitary Plan Explaind in GIF Form. Retrieved from The Spinoff:

Freeman, L. (2016, August 15). The Unitary Plan is all but passed. What’s it about again? Here’s an explainer for laggards. Retrieved from The Spinoff:

Generation Zero. (2016). About. Retrieved from Generation Zero:

Generation Zero. (2016). Generation Zero. Retrieved from Facebook.

Niall, T. (2016). Coalition formed to push Unitary Plan. Retrieved from Radio New Zealand:

Stephens, M. (2016). How Can I Help? Retrieved from Drive: