A New Year comes and I am trying out a new blog. I am fascinated at how many cases of injustice I come across in my work and how so often there is little or no change happening. My new blog injustice – but why? seeks to highlight such cases of injustice and asks why is there this injustice and change is not happening? Do let me know what you think of it.
Tagged with: change
I recently ran an advocacy workshop in Pakistan. Having identified our priority issue, we then set about developing our message and working on the opposition messages on our issue. In two groups, we then began to develop a theory of change on our issue.
I was intrigued to see that the two groups took very different approaches to how they saw change happening: one group assumed activity had to start at provincial level to begin the change process; the other group assumed activity had to start at the district level and work upwards to influence the provincial level.
We then had a robust discussion in the full group and slowly a consensus emerged that what was really needed was for activity to be undertaken at both district and provincial level simultaneously.
I then witnessed two very skilled facilitators work with the whole group to begin to build a new theory of change merging both approaches. I was very struck by one of the facilitators’ approach. He used a great form of words for each stage of the theory of change. He would start by saying “can we agree that..” and then would offer a suggestion. It was a great way to frame the discussion, keep moving things forward but also to invite additional comments, suggestions and challenges. His form of words worked a treat, and, despite the strong views held on both sides of the debate, they were able to forge a consensus theory of change with broad support from the whole group.
He didn’t impose his views, but offered thoughts and asked if they could agree with them. It allowed a good debate, but also an agreed way forward from the whole group. I’ll certainly use his words when I’m next developing a theory of change ….
A key challenge in the voluntary sector, where our mission is all about change and where campaigning is so vital to this mission, is how do we, in traditional organisational structures, allow this enabling environment for campaigning?
One key answer to this challenge must be clarity on what good looks like in campaigning, being able to compare where you are now with what good looks like, and then discussing what needs to change to encourage campaigning in the organisation.
I hope this perspective encourages debate in voluntary organisations so that we can unleash the latent campaigning energy in so many places. And I stand ready to do what I can to make that possible!
Tagged with: campaigning
And there is one missing ingredient here – your theory of change. I remember doing a workshop in Sofia recently, and I did a session on the importance of having a theory of change. Later that day I was talking to a workshop participant; she told me that her heart had sunk when she heard me begin talking about a theory of change. She told me that she had heard so much useless information on this subject that she had rejected this concept as having any use to campaigners.
But she then kindly said that my simple approach to theory of change in campaigning had made her think again. Basically your theory of change is your compelling story of how you see change happening on your issue. I think the key ingredients for a successful campaign are a combination of a clear message (problem + solution) together with your theory of change (or your compelling story for the future development of your campaign). For more information check out the momentum page on this website.
I relish meeting a campaigner who has both a clear message for their campaign and a robust story of how this change is going to come about – these are essential elements for any good campaign.
For me that is what campaigning is all about – that is what good looks like. It is not just about having a plan or providing regular updates. It is a living, breathing series of connected activities in the outside world all designed to build support and momentum for your issue. It requires you to leave your office and your computer. It needs you to speak to people, to listen to people, to travel widely, to be prepared to work at inconvenient times – all so that you can build support for your issue.
When you are working like that you will know that you are campaigning. This is not just a job or an activity. This is a mission. A mission to build support for your issue using both time honoured methods as well as the latest technology to build support.
When you are working like that you find that it energises you. Despite it being exhausting, you will want to do more. You will need to find ways to protect yourself from being burned out, but if self-managed well, you will be enriched by this way of working. But when you find you are being prevented from working in this way you will inevitably feel frustrated. Yet this memory of what it did feel like when you were on a roll will help you to stay motivated and keep going. That is campaigning!
Tagged with: campaigning
So in conclusion: you have your foundation of a clear message with compelling evidence for your campaign. You are then totally focussed on building support both internally and externally for your issue.
You take every opportunity to:
engage with your supporters; to develop new allies and sustain existing allies; have sustained media coverage on your issue both yourself and through your allies; build your online presence to amplify your activities and sustain connections; speak in public to engage with people directly with your message and are prepared to travel widely; engage with politicians of all parties and reflect on their feedback to strengthen your message; engage directly and indirectly with your campaign target; and look to support people with lived experience of your issue to undertake all of these activities themselves.
Tagged with: campaigning
And here are some more key areas of activity to help you build momentum for your campaign….
- Public speaking: you accept every offer to speak in public on your issue. You see every external opportunity as a chance to enthuse more people and get them taking action to build more momentum. While you embrace an on-line presence, you also relish the ability to meet people directly. You are prepared to travel and show your support for people around the country who are using their time in support of the campaign. But you also show your readiness to engage with people who are less supportive and welcome the challenge to your campaign, which you see will only strengthen your campaign messaging.
- Politicians: you take every opportunity to engage with politicians of all parties on your issue at what ever level your campaign is focused on. You place a high priority on such encounters, but always ensure that you do your homework first so that you understand where they may be coming from, and endeavour to make your pitch in the most engaging way for them whilst staying true to your campaign message.
- Campaign target: you seek to engage directly and indirectly with the target of your campaign to ensure they are aware of your issue and to understand their position on your issue.
- People with lived experience of your issue:and I have left the most important element until last. All of these activities are great but if you can be working to give people with a lived experience the opportunity themselves to engage authentically in these activities that is the highest point of campaigning.
So what does all of this mean for campaigning?
But then what do you do with this clear message and compelling evidence of the problem? Well I think you then look to build momentum and support for your campaign. Having secured your campaign foundation, you then look to get it rolling and build interest – and get other people and groups talking about your issue.
For me this is where campaigning gets really interesting, but it can also be quite hard to spring off from your foundation into this momentum building stage. Indeed I have seen many people get paralysed at the foundation stage and never really move on to build momentum.
In my next blog post I will explore some key areas of activity to help you build momentum for your campaign.
To start off I think that a clear message is vital: embracing both a problem and a solution. Whenever I have been running a campaign, which has really been on a roll, there has been a very clear message or elevator pitch that not only my colleagues and I have been using, but all people supportive of the campaign. There was no ambiguity at all about the message; indeed I like to talk about the importance of an absence of ambiguity in campaign messages.
I also think that a clear understanding of the problem is vital. Now I have launched some campaigns with no clear evidence just a sense of outrage, but we have always then gone onto collect the evidence to justify and energise our campaign. The more that I have built evidence for campaigning, the more that I have liked the macro/ micro approach; whereby I mean you collect both big picture statistics (ie: the number of people destitute) as well as the individual human stories (ie: individual people’s own account of being destitute). I feel that this combination can be compelling for effective campaigning.