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...

read more

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...

read more

Post tooth

As her milk teeth fell out, my daughter got into protracted correspondence with the tooth fairy. The requests for robust evidence of the fairy’s existence ratcheted up and the responses became increasingly unconvincing. Meanwhile, her cousins – motivated by a devout need to obliterate false idols – told her that Father Christmas didn’t exist. Plus, through a series of misunderstandings, it transpired that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real either. So, early on, all that was behind her. Unencumbered, she went off to school to have a load of facts shovelled into her. And that’s...

read more

Much SMARTer

Fifteen years ago I was a big proponent of campaigns having SMART objectives; these days very much less so. It’s good to inject some discipline into campaign planning processes, and to build from a good sense of the likely change dynamics, and to make sure your ambitions are not woefully misplaced. But SMARTifying campaigns can be a great way to crush aspiration. It makes it easy for any kind of transformational change to get dismissed as fanciful. Anything difficult to get thrown out. Clear objectives are important for accountability. But SMART campaign objectives encourage a false sense...

read more

Everything we know about everyone being wrong about everything is wrong, and other lessons from the Referendum

Some thoughts on possible lessons for campaigners from Brexit:   Facts aren’t the terrain on which to base communications campaigns Efforts by the Remain camp to rebut the nefarious ‘£350m per week to Brussels’ claim fell on particularly stony ground. The thing about £350m is that it encapsulated a wider sentiment, illuminating an existing concern. The fact that it wasn’t true wasn’t really the issue. It was the concern that was the thing. (And saying in response ‘it’s a big number but just not as much as that’ didn’t alleviate or even address that concern.) Numbers...

read more

Demonstrating, or not, public concern

In this post I expand on the discussion in the latest episode in my new podcast in which I interview Esther Foreman from the Social Change Agency about email campaigning.   It’s a bit more nuanced than this, but, essentially, in the podcast Esther is quite disparaging about email campaigning, and I egg her on, like Bill Grundy did with the Sex Pistols. Esther has written some more about it here. The thing I wanted to reflect a bit more on here is the soundness, or not, of the underlying strategic logic of the approach. As campaigners, we try to alter the balance of forces that decision...

read more