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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Closing the strong and stable door after the horse has bolted

Well we’ve been here before I think. Not exactly here, but there’s a pattern. Pretty much everyone was wrong about what would happen before this election – as they were before the 2015 election, the Brexit referendum, Trump. Then afterwards, (often the same) people start offering explanations for why things turned out the way they did. And we hold onto those explanations until the next time we’re all wrong. I don’t want to be too critical. I rely on much of this analysis to try and get my bearings. And analyse wrongly all the time too. But I can’t help thinking that if...

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We like to think we’re Stevie Wonder; we plan like we’re the Jesus & Mary Chain; but we’re not even the band in Rick’s Bar in Casablanca

In the way we plan, think about and evaluate campaigning, it’s too easy to put ourselves at the centre of everything: It’s your campaign, you’re the change maker. You’re Stevie Wonder. You’re recording ‘Superstition’. You’ve written it. You’ve arranged it. You produce it. You play almost all the instruments on it. You’re in complete control of all aspects of it. Or perhaps it’s not just you, there are some others supporting you. You’re Brian Wilson. You’re recording ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. It’s not just you, but you are in charge of how it’s going to...

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Bending the arc of the moral universe

A bit after the tooth fairy debacle, I took my daughter to see where they held the Putney Debates. She was a bit puzzled at the time (and, to be honest, since as well) why we lugged all the way over to Putney to look at a church. But I thought it would be good to visit somewhere that’s important in the development of ideas of democracy. The quote displayed in the church is from Thomas Rainsborough: “the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he”. Rainsborough was making the case for universal manhood suffrage, speaking on behalf of the Levellers. They got...

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