5 What does good look like? Key activities

I’d like to suggest some key areas of activity to help you build momentum for your campaign. I haven’t been able to use all of these activities on all of my campaigns, but I have aspired to use them. So what are they?

  • Supporters: you take your message out to your supporters both volunteers and staff, ideally face to face but also then with written updates, to enthuse them and keep them enthused but also to gain their feedback. This takes up lots of your time but is vital to ensure that your home base is with you.
  • Allies: you take out your message to other organisations you feel may be minded to support you. Initially that may be some of your existing partners, but over time you will be looking for surprising allies to show the wider support in society for your issue. The fascinating element here is exploring how you can communicate your issue to find common ground with these new allies so that they feel moved to start raising this issue in their own way. This work can be never ending as there are always new allies to cultivate, but you use these new allies as evidence of growing support for your issue.
  • Media: you look for every opportunity to raise your issue in the media. You are not content with just one-off coverage, but you are constantly looking for ways to get your issue on the radar. You do that by proactive media work but also by reactive media work offering comment on topical stories and by letters to the editor. You seek coverage both from your own organisation but also you work to ensure that there is coverage from other organisations too. You develop and hone your media skills by accepting every invitation to do media interviews so that you both spread the word and become ever more effective in your communications.
  • Social media: you use your social media accounts to show the growing momentum and interest in your campaign. In addition your blog takes people on the journey with you – you openly share your theory of change and invite comments and challenge. Your on-line presence breathes energy and momentum, and in particular you relish the use of video to inject that passion into your communications both from you and your allies.

And next week I will suggest some more key activities to build momentum for your campaign …..

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4 What does good look like? Building momentum

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.

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3 What does good look like? The foundation

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.

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2 What does good look like? Introduction

When I was at the Red Cross, I remember that they had a project on what a good local Red Cross area looked like; now while it is easy to ridicule such an initiative, I always thought that it was a compelling concept. To help you plan and build for the future what does it look like when you reach a ‘good’ stage in your development? And I Iike the use of the word ‘good’ instead of words like ‘outstanding’ or ‘exceptional’ – those can all come later. At this stage as you are building – what does good look like? What should we be aspiring to?

Well to try to answer this question of what good looks like in campaigning in the next few blog posts. I am going to look backwards at the times in my working life when I have felt that I was on a roll with a campaign. Times when I felt that the campaign was flying or in words that I Iike to use – my campaign had ‘developed legs’.

Now I’ll be quick to add that my whole career sadly has not been filled with these moments! I have written extensively in the past about the obstacles to effective campaigning, many coming internally as well as externally. But there have been enough moments for me to tentatively suggest what good campaigning might begin to look and feel like.

These are just my own reflections and I’ll be fascinated to hear other people’s reflections. But I haven’t seen any attempt to describe what good looks like, so I am, perhaps foolishly, going to give it a go.

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Campaigning – what does good look like?

One of my reflections having published my most recent book on campaigning last year is that I wonder if I should have added an extra chapter on what good looks like in campaigning? My 12 stage approach is designed to get people up and running in their campaigning, but what does it look and feel like when you are actually up and running with a campaign?

Over my next few blog posts I am going to explore this idea of what good might look like in campaigning….. so do watch this space!

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Campaigning takes time

Earlier this month the British Government announced that First Aid is going to be included in the school curriculum in England from 2020. This is huge news and could save thousands of lives in the future.

But this breakthrough made me reflect that campaigning takes time. This campaign was started by the British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance way before I joined the Red Cross and continued after I had left.

It was a campaign with a very simple message: not enough children had the chance to learn basic life saving skills and we wanted to see a generation of life savers come out of England’s schools. And it was a message that was very hard to disagree with – but nevertheless only one in five schools in England taught First Aid.

So this message was pushed persistently by this coalition of charities using opportunities such as Government consultations and Private Members’ Bills as a way of keeping interest in this issue bubbling. And finally this month the Government agreed.

This was a relatively uncontroversial message and it still took over 8 years of pushing to get a breakthrough. I think that this campaign offers a sobering message for the voluntary sector: campaigning for change takes time. Even non-controversial things can take time. More controversial things will take even longer.

But if you are serious about the change you want to see, you do need to commit for the long term. I see a growing trend in the sector towards short-term campaigns. You run an issue for 6 months or so and then move onto the next one. This is not how change happens – you need to commit to the long-term to get real change not just transitory headlines.

I remember working at Oxfam in the late 90’s on the issue of debt owed by developing countries but being very conscious that people had been campaigning on this issue for decades before. Campaigning for real change takes time – and if you are serious about getting change you do need to commit for the long-term.

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Great new report on social power

Last week the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (where I am an associate) launched a new report as the culmination of the Social Change project – Social Power: how civil society can ‘Play Big’ and truly create change.

I’ve seen many of these reports come and go over the years about how civil society can push for change, but this report is actually useful to people doing just that! I really like their Twelve Habits of Successful Change-Makers, and their thoughts on what is holding civil society back and how civil society can be strengthened.

I am going to use some of this stuff in future, and I highly recommend that you take a look at this practical and helpful report.

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World Cafe

I’m just back from running a workshop in Thailand where we were seeking to review a global campaign and discuss next steps with 40 people present. How can you do meaningful planning with so many people?

We used the World Cafe method – I’ve used this approach in a number of locations around the world and it is a great way of involving a lot of people in small discussions that build towards a cohesive picture of all the discussions. If you haven’t come across it before it is well worth checking out, and is a great way to feed in a number of views into campaign planning.

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Burning desire to campaign

I’ve just finished two assignments in Bulgaria and Thailand. Both workshops worked really well and whilst they were focussed on totally different issues, I think that their common element was that the participants all had a burning desire to campaign for change.

I’ve been running advocacy campaign training around the world over the past decade and a key consistent message from me has been the importance of having a burning desire to see change. And I see that at play now in my work for NGOs around the world. Where there is a real desire to tackle a problem and promote a solution, I find that my work takes off and people respond really well to my approach to campaigning. But when there is not that desire – maybe people have been told that they need to campaign – it just never seems to work!

And a tell take sign is when it comes to issue selection. People ready to campaign have no problem listing their concerns; their challenge is often selecting one issue to focus on for their campaigning. When people struggle to list their problems, they are clearly not ready, or even need, to campaign.

If you’ve got that burning desire for change – then you are ready to campaign. And I hope you find the resources on my website help you to get going!

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Practitioners not advocates

I’ve just come back from Sofia where I was running an advocacy workshop for the Romani Early Years Network (REYN), which has members supporting Roma communities in 11 countries across Europe.

I was struck during the first session at their insistence that the people in the room were practitioners not advocates. Yet over the course of the workshop their passion and experience on the issue just shone through. As we began to cover some basic campaigning tools such as the elevator pitch, it became very clear that they were also excellent advocates on their issue.

I have often come across a view around the world that advocacy campaigning is done by experts in advocacy campaigning. My experience in Sofia has only served to re-enforce my alternative view that the best advocacy campaigners are people with experience on their issue and a real burning desire for change.

I was delighted by the positive and enthusiastic response at this workshop. When I reflected on this response, I did conclude that I did not do anything differently, but what was notable at this workshop was the burning desire held by the participants for change on their issue.

You can offer all of the advocacy campaign tools in the world – but to make real progress you also need a burning desire for change. Put practical campaign tools together with a burning desire for change, and I think you are really onto something!

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