What the data can tell us

In his book Analytic Activism, Dave Karpf looks at how information from digital media feeds into decisions about tactics, strategy and power. The book sets out how data is, and could be, used at these different levels – 1/ Tactics Data can be particularly useful when considering tactical choices. Developing your approaches through testing is better than relying on intuition, which is often wrong. But even at this level, it’s still easy to focus on the wrong metrics. Measures such as supporter base size, or numbers taking action, can be deceptive, and may not tell you what you actually...

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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...

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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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More is less

In the Ramones documentary, End of The Century, there’s an interview with Johnny about working with producer Phil Spector. Talking about recording the opening chord to ‘Rock’n’Roll High School’ he says, about Spector, “he spent 12 hours listening to it over and over again … [in the end] the chord came out sounding ok, but 12 hours’ worth ain’t really worth it”. I felt a bit the same not so long ago when – as part of some advocacy evaluation work I was doing for an international NGO – I read through their reporting documents. Just taking one year’s reporting –...

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