Obstacle 7 – individual agendas taking over
Here campaigning is undermined because individuals have their own agendas and seek opportunities to develop their agendas. This will always be tricky when you are dealing with passionate campaigners, but I think an astute organisation will try to work with those individual passions to energise the wider campaigning effort.
I think that this is always an issue to be mindful of, and I am sure that I have been accused of this behaviour in the past. It is hard when you are a campaigner and feel passionately about certain things, and it will always be tempting to bring your own preferences and agendas to the fore.
I remember at Oxfam when we were running the anti-asylum voucher campaign, I did wonder at certain stages whether this was the right issue or whether this was just an issue that resonated with me. But it just took some travel around the country to meet with refugee community organisations for me to appreciate the devastating impact that this voucher scheme was having on asylum seekers, and this feedback only served to energise me still further.
Years later, campaigning on a related issue at the Red Cross, I remember going to a meeting in Portsmouth, and raising my outstanding concerns about asylum support via a payment card, and I was overwhelmed by the strength of feeling from the volunteers, many of whom were asylum seekers and refugees, about why this system needed to be scrapped and replaced by cash support.
Personal motivation is important in advocacy campaigns; yet it becomes powerful when it is aligned with a powerful mandate from the people directly affected by the issue. For any campaigner, I will always be interested to hear how they talk about their mandate and their legitimacy on their issue. This issue can be our ‘Achilles heel’ as campaigners if we are not clear about our mandate.
A campaign cannot just be fuelled by a personal agenda; yet where personal motivation is connected with a strong mandate that is a powerful combination.
I do also think how an advocacy campaigner stays motivated is important. I like to talk on my training courses about ‘reservoirs of motivation.’ Where does a campaigner go to be re-motivated? One reason that I have sustained my connection with City of Sanctuary is that it has enabled me to sustain my connection with refugees and asylum seekers. It has been this connection with real people suffering from the excesses of Government policy that has served as my ‘reservoir of motivation.’ How do you stay motivated?