Blog

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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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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