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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

New models of Activism

This is a guest post by Natasha Adams, Activism Officer at ActionAid UK I’m a bit of a campaign geek. I’ve been involved in campaigning and activism ‘for fun’ pretty much my whole life, and professionally since 2008. I love this stuff. So I was really pleased at the amazing turnout and great learning exchanges […]

To create a republic of virtue you need a big (and flexible) tent

One thing about Robespierre was that he wasn’t really into big tent politics. By 1793, Robespierre and his allies were in the ascendent, flanked by the more radical/rapid Hébertists and the more moderate Dantonists. This governing coalition was already on the narrow side, after a succession of coups and purges. But it proved an uneasy […]

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 […]

Painted Ships, on the move

For months now, I’ve been the Ancient Mariner, stopping various people, who probably generally have better places to be, and recounting a strange and sad story. My tale is that NGOs are in the wrong campaigning space. And also that, far from trying to escape these tyrannous waters, many are languishing there, inert, like painted […]

Keith Joseph smiles and a baby cries

NGOs typically get to campaigning through something like the following evolution: They may start by providing some kind of programme or service, in response to an identified need. They then identify common problems or barriers to effective delivery and so pull together that evidence and use it as a basis for lobbying. Many move beyond discrete […]