A mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in How Change Happens, Planning, Strategy | 0 comments

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...

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You Gotta Have A Dream: five reflections on Occupy

Posted by on Dec 6, 2017 in Evaluation, How Change Happens, Power | 0 comments

1/ Framing ‘we’ broadly I saw (punk band) The Damned at the Lyceum in 1981. During the set, the guitarist, Captain Sensible, took time to criticise (fellow punks) The Clash for selling out. As it goes, a year later Captain Sensible himself was on Top Of The Pops performing (i.e. miming to) his hit cover of ‘Happy Talk’ from South Pacific. Which goes to show that the whole selling out thing can end up a bit of a minefield. But at the time, the Captain was just articulating a fairly well widespread view that The Clash’s latest album...

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Everyone must be aware of everything

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 in How Change Happens, Planning, Strategy | 0 comments

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...

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So What?

Posted by on Aug 31, 2017 in How Change Happens | 0 comments

I went to hear Angela Davis at the Southbank earlier in the year. I’ve been thinking a lot since about what she said about taking the long view, and seeing our role in context: “We are creating the terrain for something that may happen 50 years from now … And, you know, oftentimes, when I say this, people become depressed, because they are saying, ‘well, maybe I won’t be around 50 years from now’. But so what? What difference does that make? … We cannot measure the work we are doing by our own selves … “I would like to...

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Don’t f**k with the formula

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in How Change Happens, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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 Love’s famously bad advice to him at the time (at least apocryphally) was “Don’t fuck with the formula”. Don’t move away from what works, i.e. in their case (formulaic) songs about girls, surfing and...

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Closing the strong and stable door after the horse has bolted

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in How Change Happens, Planning, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Well we’ve been here before I think. Not exactly here, but there’s a pattern. Pretty much everyone was wrong about what would happen before this election – as they were before the 2015 election, the Brexit referendum, Trump. Then afterwards, (often the same) people start offering explanations for why things turned out the way they did. And we hold onto those explanations until the next time we’re all wrong. I don’t want to be too critical. I rely on much of this analysis to try and get my bearings. And analyse wrongly all the...

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What the data can tell us

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Evaluation, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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...

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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

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in How Change Happens, Planning | 0 comments

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...

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Bending the arc of the moral universe

Posted by on Jan 30, 2017 in How Change Happens | 2 comments

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...

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Post tooth

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in How Change Happens, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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...

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