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How to stop your campaign falling off a cliff…

As campaigners, we can be like Wile.E.Coyote running so quickly that we ignore the impending cliff.

With summits on what replaces the Millenium Development Goals and another on Climate Change in Paris in December, plus a General Election, it’s fair to say that 2015 is a huge year for anyone campaigning on development.

Lots of brilliant campaigning is taking place, but when you’ve adopted a focus on a number of key moments, how do you avoid loosing the momentum and energy once that key summit has happened, or if negotiations don’t go your way.

Ensuring that your campaign is prepared not to ‘fall off a cliff’ is easy to overlook in the busyness of activities.

Here are a few thoughts on how to avoid that happening;

1. Acknowledge the risk – Be aware that the process that you’re trying to influence might not deliver all that you want it to. Things outside of your control happen that you can’t foresee. I’m amazed at the number of campaigns that haven’t given any thought to ‘what next’.

2. Commit resources – It doesn’t need to be much, but ensure you’ve held back some resource to ensure you’re ready for the day or week after. I remember in 2005, the plan for Make Poverty History was to focus on aid and debt up until the G8 summit and then move to focus on trade justice ahead of a WTO meeting in December, but after we’d put all our energies into mobilising 250,000 people to pressure the G8 in Scotland we didn’t have many people around to help plan for the next big push.

3. Build something that will last beyond – Campaigns moments come and go, but too few campaigns focus on building the infrastructure needed to win again and again. Be it re-energising local groups, building public support or raising understanding amongst decision makers ensure that your campaign is creating the conditions to ensure your next campaign is more likely to succeed.

4. Be honest with your campaigners about what’s going to happen and what happened – Let’s be frank. Make Povery History or Stop Climate Chaos might not have been the strap lines for campaigns. The framing suggested the possibility of something wasn’t achievable in a year or two. So let your campaigners know its a critical moment for action, the ‘crisistunity‘ is after all a great way of getting people to take action, but be honest if it hasn’t succeeded or there is more to do.

5. Map out possible scenarios – Take some time out of running your campaign to explore what might happen. Think through a few scenarios, some ‘what if’ options with a plan of what you’d do to respond to them.  Scenario planning is an approach used by many to work out how they’ll respond before it happens (and what worked/didn’t work) but I don’ think widely adopted in the campaigning sector. Put your plan through its paces before the big moment.

6. Take time out yourself – There are no wins from burn out. Even in the busiest times we need you to be ready for the next campaign. If you’re in the heat of a campaign, it’s not your responsibility to plan for what next as well, although you probably want to make sure someone is thinking about it. So book time off after the big moment your working towards and time out in the weeks leading up to it.

7. Plan to evaluate – Sure, you’re busy, you have no time to reflect on what’s working, but the best learnings are, in my experience in the busyness of the moments, make sure you capture them. The Intense Period Debrief is a great way to approach this as a team.

8. Don’t stop at the announcement – Success. You’ve got the decision you’ve long been campaigning for. Congratulations but remember inplementation doesn’t automatically happen. Dial down your campaigns by all means, but keep following the process.

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