Campaigning in 2015

What might campaigning look like in 5 years time? NCVO have set out to answer the question in their recent paper ‘Future Focus’.
It’s an interesting paper, and its a useful exercise to take a step back and consider some of the broader trends that influence our campaigning.
The introduction argues that the context for campaigning could change significantly under the next government, as we see a change of government, new MPs and potentially a different culture amongst decision makers towards campaigning. Only time will tell on that.
The paper, produced by NCVO’s ‘Third Sector Foresight’ team then argues that there will be 6 drivers that will change campaigning in the next 5 years. Below I’ve summarised the arguments the paper puts forwards, I hope to add my own reflections in the next few days.

Driver 1 – Growth of consumer activism
We’re seeing a blur between lifestyle choices and what has traditionally been perceived a ‘campaigning’. With people increasingly taking ‘me’ actions, like boycotting products at the expense of ‘we’ actions like demonstrations. The paper argues that in a ‘time poor’ society these are easier to fit into people’s lives.

Driver 2 – More fluid activism
People wish to engage in a broader range of issues, moving regularly from one cause and organisation to another. This means some of the more traditional membership models that campaigning organisations have employed may no longer be viable. People are less likely to feel affiliated to a cause or a political ideology.
Driver 3 – Growth of New Technology
E-campaigning reaches more people, its easier to get involved in, but it also raises the number of people you need to get involved to get noticed (does it? I’d argue if you’re more creative you can still make your point). Moreover the collaborative nature of the web challenges the more traditional hierarchical structures of many campaigning organisations. People organise themselves they don’t need someone to do it for them.
Driver 4 – Professionalisation
The push from funders to make campaigning more effective, means that people are learning a set of skills rather than being compelled by an issue. Some argue this is detracting from the radicalism once found in movement. More funding is now available for campaign training/capacity building.

Driver 5 – Increase in competition and coalitions
The sector is experiencing a growth in single-issue campaigns, and technology makes it easier for more players to get involved. The growth of campaigns like Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ have started to blur public understanding of the issue, and encourages short-term engagement in issues. Trend that the private sector is increasingly collaborating with VSOs (voluntary sector organisations).

Driver 6 – Marginalisation of dissent
More laws and increased surveillance make campaigning harder to do. On the one hand there is a growing awareness that non-violent direct action can get media coverage that can provide a seat at the table, but one the other many organisations adopting a more ‘insider’ approach as the current government has made it easier to influence policy.

2 thoughts on “Campaigning in 2015”

  1. Point number 2 is a particularly important one for existing campaigning organisations.
    I’ve taken part in several campaigns or lobbies in the last year triggered by Twitter, Facebook, email or some other aspect of the internet.
    But it’s not just been that the tools are online ones. It’s also that the campaigns have not come from the established bodies campaigning in that area.
    For example, on Jan Moir’s Mail article it wasn’t any of the equality lobby groups that triggered my action (or those of many others) in complaining to the PCC – it was an assorted, ad hoc group of individuals.
    I think there’s a big danger for many organisations that they are simply too slow to react (taking days to put out a press release rather than minutes to send a tweet) and as a result campaigning on their topics increasingly doesn’t involve them.

  2. I agree (and thanks for taking the time to comment Mark). I guess you could also add campaigning movements like 38degrees and Avaaz to the list.
    They specialise in quickly mobilising people through a range of different social media, and seem to have created structures that facilitate a quick response.

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