Obstacle 2 – nervous leadership

Here the campaigners are ready, but the organisation’s leadership is nervous and the campaign stalls. An explicit risk assessment can be a great tool to confront this nervousness and show how you are going to minimise any risks.

The more I do campaigning, the more I think that the people running the campaign should take ownership of all the potential risks; they should list them, confront them and then show how they are going to reduce any likely impact from these potential risks. I think that campaigners should own these risks and not allow other people to own them, and hence then use them to stall or block the campaign.

Any good advocacy campaign strategy should have a risk assessment as an embedded element. Such a risk assessment should list all of the potential risks from the campaign, and then assess with a score the potential impact of this risk and its chance of actually happening. Then the associated action to reduce the likelihood of this risk should be included.

Here’s an example of an advocacy campaign risk assessment:

Risk Likelihood

(1 low – 4 high)


(1 low – 4 high)

Action to reduce the risk
Campaign is embraced by just one political party 2 4 Ensure that there is engagement with all of the political parties
Lack of support from own supporters for campaign 1 3 Ensure regular communication with supporters in run-up to launch and then on-going making sure to respond to any concerns
Attack in the media about campaign 2 4 Develop good network of allies who will be ready to speak out publicly in defence of the campaign


Too often I have seen campaigners put all of their energy into developing a campaign plan and then submit for approval to the senior management team or trustees. And the ensuing feedback asks about risks and asks the campaigners to do more work on risk. What has happened here are that the risks are being seen as being owned by the SMT or trustees; what should be happening is that the campaigners right from the outset should be taking ownership of the risks, not shying away from them and being explicit about how they are going to reduce these risks.

We should be clear that any activity of daily human life has risks; advocacy campaigning is no different. So therefore we should take ownership of these risks, not defer to others and keep the risk assessment under regular review.

Also Brian Lamb’s excellent NCVO campaigns guide for trustees is another great tool to minimize campaigning nervousness.

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