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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Much SMARTer

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in How Change Happens, Planning | 1 comment

Fifteen years ago I was a big proponent of campaigns having SMART objectives; these days very much less so. It’s good to inject some discipline into campaign planning processes, and to build from a good sense of the likely change dynamics, and to make sure your ambitions are not woefully misplaced. But SMARTifying campaigns can be a great way to crush aspiration. It makes it easy for any kind of transformational change to get dismissed as fanciful. Anything difficult to get thrown out. Clear objectives are important for accountability. But...

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Everything we know about everyone being wrong about everything is wrong, and other lessons from the Referendum

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in How Change Happens, Planning, Strategy | 0 comments

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...

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Demonstrating, or not, public concern

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in How Change Happens, Strategy, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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,...

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Developing activists: different models

Posted by on Apr 6, 2016 in How Change Happens, Power, Strategy, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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...

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Natural causes

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in How Change Happens, Power | 1 comment

There are mixed views about the Today Programme in my house. As a result, whilst I generally try to avoid it, I sometimes end up hearing parts of it. And this accounts for the misfortune that befell me last week: I got to hear John Humphrys conducting an interview about the junior doctors’ strike. The line he pursued was, basically, what if someone dies as a result of lack of cover during the strike? I expect there are journalistic merits to this line of questioning but I found it irksome. It seemed to be more about springing a trap than...

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How to succeed

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Results Agenda, Strategy, The Campaigning Sector, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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...

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