One area of work I have been thinking a lot about recently is how you can best support people to campaign once you have offered them some initial training on campaigning tools.
Earlier this year I worked with the Czech-based INGO, People in Need (PIN) and their partners on a pan-European campaign to mobilise young people to take action on climate change. The proposal had three stages: raising awareness of the campaign; supporting people with training on campaigning and climate change science; and offering on-going support to make their campaigning a reality. The first two stages, even with some innovative methods, were relatively straightforward. The stage we all struggled with was the final stage on the on-going support.
Once you have enthused someone and given them the basic tools to campaign, how can you then best support them to campaign?
One of the pieces of work I am most proud of is an assignment to support NGOs working in Ethiopia. I went out to Addis Ababa to run an initial workshop, but then I was able to have regular Skype conversations with the planning group over the next 12 months before my next trip to Addis. I just loved seeing how they grappled with the different tools from the workshop and sought to apply them to their own national context. And in particular it was fascinating to see how they developed their theory of change or future story, and how they challenged each other to assess the logic of each stage of their plan.
I think my only input after the workshop was to encourage them to apply the tools from the workshop, to ask questions and to challenge them. Campaigning can sound so simple in a training workshop. But when you get back to the office and are faced with all of the external and internal realities, it can become much more complex and difficult to develop campaign momentum.
So while I think some initial input is helpful in encouraging campaigning, just as helpful is the offer of on-going support – a regular check-in on the campaign. Asking what have we done, if we have got stuck, why are we stuck and what do we need to do as a result? I think coaching can be a very powerful support for campaigning, as can be a peer group, in creating a safe space to take stock and review your campaign.
As I develop my work supporting campaigning for change around the world, I am ever more keen to sustain contact with people as they strive to push their campaign forward.