‘Bureaucratising’ campaigning

Another trend that I have observed especially in larger organisations is an increasing bureaucratisation of advocacy campaigns, by which I mean the campaign is almost suffocated by internal requests for plans, updates and monitoring.

Don’t get me wrong; the advocacy campaigner should be alert to his or her accountability and be eager to show the value that investing in advocacy campaigns is making as part of the organisation’s mission. I am not arguing for complete freedom or a lack of accountability.

But my concern focuses on where that desire for accountability and reporting loses all sense of perspective in terms of what is requested. These requests may take the form of excessive reporting formats and monitoring forms, where increasing time can be spent on reporting and not doing. These requests can also be more reactive to external changes; so where an action is not in the plan, a detailed report is requested to justify this new action.

There is a balance to be struck here. Advocacy campaigners need to be held to account. But they also need the freedom of manoeuvre to exploit changes in the external world for the campaign’s advantage.

Again a pressure to bureaucratise an advocacy campaign might suggest a lack of understanding and a nervousness about the activity. If one were to fully embrace advocacy campaigning, one would require a reporting process and a system for agreeing action changes, but these would all be light touch and the expectation would be that the campaign would continue to shift and change tack in response to the outside world. This pressure would again suggest to me that there was a need for more education in the organisation to improve the understanding of campaigning. So how can you cope with this obstacle to campaigning?

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