A mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville

As campaigners, we have to think all the time about the progress we are making, whether we are on track, and whether or not we need to adapt our strategy and tactics. It’s important to have good information on which to base these judgements. But given the nature of campaigning, however good your information is, you’ve still got to interpret it. Pretty much everything is contested in advocacy. There are always different explanations possible. And campaign progress isn’t linear – so determining if you are on track requires judgement. So it’s about the quality of interpretation as...

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You Gotta Have A Dream: five reflections on Occupy

1/ Framing ‘we’ broadly I saw (punk band) The Damned at the Lyceum in 1981. During the set, the guitarist, Captain Sensible, took time to criticise (fellow punks) The Clash for selling out. As it goes, a year later Captain Sensible himself was on Top Of The Pops performing (i.e. miming to) his hit cover of ‘Happy Talk’ from South Pacific. Which goes to show that the whole selling out thing can end up a bit of a minefield. But at the time, the Captain was just articulating a fairly well widespread view that The Clash’s latest album fell short, musically, of being punk. And I was...

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Everyone must be aware of everything

It’s common still to see campaigns that set objectives and goals around ‘raising awareness’. Here are two reasons I wish this wasn’t such a big part of the campaigning lexicon: 1/ Raising ‘Raising’ is the least problematic part of it. But it’s still not great. For a start, it suggests that awareness is a thing you either have enough of or don’t. And it tends to assume that you have the right amount of awareness whilst other people have defective amounts. It’s true that in many campaigns, something you think is important may be going unobserved or unrecognised, or at least...

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So What?

I went to hear Angela Davis at the Southbank earlier in the year. I’ve been thinking a lot since about what she said about taking the long view, and seeing our role in context: “We are creating the terrain for something that may happen 50 years from now … And, you know, oftentimes, when I say this, people become depressed, because they are saying, ‘well, maybe I won’t be around 50 years from now’. But so what? What difference does that make? … We cannot measure the work we are doing by our own selves … “I would like to think that today we are living the imaginaries of...

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Don’t f**k with the formula

This is cross posted from a series about the state and future of the campaigning sector I’m writing jointly with Esther Foreman, CEO of the Social Change Agency. In 1966, while Brian Wilson was radically innovating, and creating new works of musical genius, other members of the Beach Boys remained sceptical. Fellow band member Mike Love’s famously bad advice to him at the time (at least apocryphally) was “Don’t fuck with the formula”. Don’t move away from what works, i.e. in their case (formulaic) songs about girls, surfing and cars. But then again if the formula’s no longer fit...

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