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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