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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More is less

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Evaluation, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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...

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Disadvantage: the long view

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in How Change Happens, Strategy, The Campaigning Sector | 0 comments

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 perhaps sounds). Taking a long view, one question this theory tries to address is (paraphrased), why some groups end up as the consistent beneficiaries of policy making whilst others are routinely shafted by it. In...

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Why change a winning formula?

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Complexity, How Change Happens, Strategy, The Campaigning Sector | 1 comment

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 fact pretty likely.) Which goes to show that there’s no such thing as a best strategy, it’s always context-related. Which is where fitness landscapes come in. Borrowed from evolutionary theory, fitness landscapes are a way of visually...

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How far to the horizon?

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in How Change Happens, Planning | 0 comments

There are, as usual, a whole load of useful insights in Tom Baker’s latest blogpost. But I was particularly struck by the first two lessons he offers about campaigning around aid, essentially that: Things can move very quickly, with key shifts happening from moment to moment Meaningful change tends to happen over the long term (in the campaign cited, 30 years plus) This reminded me a little bit of an argument I’ve made over the years, that campaign planning tends to focus on exactly the wrong timescales. Plans typically focus on the...

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