Change the future story

I’ve recently been working ‘in’ Sierra Leone, and I recently met up with colleagues, who urgently told me that they needed to change the future story.

We’ve been working well together discussing a common approach to advocacy campaigning, and agreeing our key messages in terms of problem and solution. We had also begun to discuss the first steps of their future story โ€“ how they were going to begin to build momentum for change on their issue. We had the beginnings of a plan, and they seem motivated by both having a clear message underpinned by evidence but also a sense of the early steps that they needed to undertake to develop their advocacy campaign.

At a recent meeting, I was greeted with an urgent request that they needed to change the future story. They were almost apologetic in feeling that having spent so long developing the future story, it was clearly wrong to have to change it so soon having constructed it. My response to their apology was that there was absolutely no need for apology, if anything it was fantastic that they’d been engaging in the outside world, and as a result of their external engagement, they had seen that they needed to make changes to the future story.

I have written before about how important it is in terms of developing a campaign of having both a clear message but also a robust future story which is rooted in the reality of your external environment. But I’ve also written before about the importance of that infamous military quote “no battleplan ever survives the first contact with the enemy.” So the worst thing that you can do in developing an advocacy campaign, is to agree your future story โ€“ the key sequence of events that you will take to help to bring about change โ€“ and then to stick with it regardless.

You do need to be flexible, and based upon the reality of your engagement with the outside world, you always need to be ready to review your future story, reflect on your learning, and then as a result change the future story. Campaigning has to be seen as a dynamic activity responding to the realities of your external environment to increase the chances of success. It is all about planning, doing, learning, and then changing your plan.


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