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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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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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...

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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...

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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 summaries of, and reflections on, the book here and here, and my summary is here.) In the highly distilled version, Hahrie Han’s research explores different ways that organisations conceptualise the role of, and seek to develop, activist...

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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 any insights about contribution are essentially made without any kind of context. The obvious reponse is that you can judge success by asking, ‘were the campaign objectives achieved or not?’ And on the face of it, that seems a...

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