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, […]

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 […]

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, […]

Developing activists: different models

US academic Hahrie Han was over in the UK last week and whilst she was here she presented a lecture, hosted by Westminster University. The lecture drew on her book ‘How Organizations Develop Activists’ in which she draws a distinction between mobilising and organising strategies. I would definitely recommend reading the book. (There are also […]

How to succeed

Leaving aside various other complications, you might say that you can judge a campaign a success if there is evidence of: A successful outcome A meaningful positive contribution to the outcome by the organisation/group/network whose campaign it is Questions of contribution are important but if you can’t assess whether a campaign has been successful, then […]

Disadvantage: the long view

I don’t want to get too embroiled in post-election analysis, but I do think the result brings into sharp focus some key strategic questions for activists and campaigners in the UK. I’m drawing here on the theory of social construction in policy design (which I think is highly relevantm, and hopefully more interesting than it […]

Why change a winning formula?

Well, you could ask Tesco that question. Or Vince Vaughn. In both cases, it appears that the seeds of their downfall were sown in the supposed glory days, even though it may not have been obvious at the time. (Though with Vince Vaughn, anyone who sat through Couples Retreat might say that it was in […]

Mobilising vs organising

In this post I’ve had a go at summarising some key points and drawing some conclusions and implications from Hahrie Han’s ‘How Organizations Develop Activists’. The book is based on case studies of two US organisations’ engagement with, and support to, local activists. There’s a lot more in the book, but hopefully there are some […]

Stay sprightly and keep your eye on the ball

This is a guest post by Jeremy Smith. It’s the second in a series (of probably two) posts on metaphors for campaigning. The first one, campaigning as poker, is here.     According to Jonathan Wilson in Inverting the Pyramid: the History of Football Tactics, the defining feature of modern football is the tactic of […]

The Pit and the Pendulum. And the gothic horror of an issue out of control.

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Pit and the Pendulum”, three agonising tortures are inflicted on the narrator: a descending pendulum, a grotesque pit, and a dungeon with the walls closing in. These horrors were brought to mind recently by a couple of incidents that, in different ways, shed some light into the policy dynamics that play […]

Evaluator says evaluation is a waste of time, never works again

The history of our knowledge about, and understanding of, the world can be summarised (amongst other ways) as follows: Speculation. Plausibility. Certainty. Uncertainty. Unknowability. Aristotle suggested that stones fall to earth because they are trying to get back to their home. Fire travels upwards because it lives in the heavens. He invented logic and was […]