Thinking outside the 'Campaigns Target' box…

Two excellent examples of campaigns ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to who they’re targeting with their actions show that we don’t always have to go after the ‘usual suspects’.
First up is Greenpeace, who recently emailed supporters to ask them to support an action being organised by Liberate Tate campaign toward Tate boss, Nicholas Serota.
At first glance it might not appear an obvious choice, but as the email to supporters explains ‘BP is one oil giant whose logo is splashed all over galleries and exhibition halls like the Tate. By using its profits to sponsor the arts, BP hopes to cover up the horrendous damage it’s doing to the climate and the environment‘.
So it makes a great alternative target for their ongoing to highlight the influence of the oil industry. I’ve noticed this is an approach that Greenpeace employ regularly, another example is the campaign they ran towards VW earlier in the year, and its easy to see  how focusing on targets like the Tate helps stop them always targeting the same small group of oil companies who are already likely to be resistant to campaign action but sensitive to changing perceptions of their brand.
Secondly, the Global Poverty Project, who used the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Pert, Australia as a target for their ‘End of Polio‘ campaign.
The CHOGM meeting, which happens every 2 years, is often rightly overlooked by campaigners, by the team at the Global Poverty Project appear to have capitalised on the increased scrutiny of the effectiveness of these meetings to score a great campaign win. Their success has shown that with the right campaign ask, can present an attractive ‘win’ for the host government which is keen to demonstrate the investment of time and money that goes into hosting the event actually got things done.
For me three common themes unite these two actions;
1. An imagination – The Tate Gallery or the CHOGM conference might not feel like the places that changes are likely to happen, but with a little bit of imagination it is easy to see how they can become useful campaign targets.
They work because the organisations involved have clearly been prepared to spend time ‘thinking outside the box’ and no doubt investing a significant amount of staff time at really pushing into their routes to influence mapping. A good reminder of the importance of spending real-time in the process of campaign planning.
2. A clear overall campaign direction – The use of the Tate as a target works for Greenpeace, its not simply a case of appearing to pick on the Gallery because its part of a bigger campaign to highlight how ‘BP and other oil giants hope to gloss over their environmentally destructive activities, scrubbing clean BP’s public image’. I’m compelled to take the action because I can see how it contributes to a bigger campaign goal. For the GPP, success at the CHOGM meeting isn’t the end of the campaign, but a launch to call for further action from leaders to help eradicate the disease.
3. Being prepared to take the risk – Both campaigns could have failed. Leaders at CHOGM could have said they weren’t interested in pledging money, while the response from the Tate remains to be seen, but that hasn’t stopped the organisations behind the campaigns making the most of the opportunity.
What other creative targets have you seen organisations focus their campaigns on? 

5 thoughts on “Thinking outside the 'Campaigns Target' box…”

  1. Hi Tom – thanks for the compliment, much appreciated.
    I’m the Co-Founder at the Global Poverty Project, and led on this campaign with our amazing team.
    A quick insight that might be of interest to people – we identified polio as a campaign opportunity 2 years ago. A bit over 1 year ago, we made the decision to put some serious staff time into it, doing the leg work to understand how CHOGM worked, and who we’d need to influence to do what.
    It took some serious background work across a broad range of stakeholders. We started getting it on the Australian government’s radar back in January with some conversations, and from then on had a consistent focus on polio as an example of potential smart-investment out of CHOGM – across our public communications, lobbying meetings, our submission to the Independent Review of the Australian Aid Program.
    We got plenty of strange looks at first – people asking why we’d bother pushing a marginal health issue at a marginal leaders meeting – but for us, that was the beauty. By being the first (and in many ways only) mover, we avoided the usual pitfalls that surround campaigning on major events.
    I or one of the team would happily put together a guest post or answer any questions for the thoughtful campaigner if you’re interested – there’s plenty that worked, but also lots of lessons out of the campaign for us.

  2. Hi Tom
    To echo Simon, thanks for mentioning The End of Polio Campaign in your blog. I was the manager of the campaign on the ground here in Australia.
    Working out the best way to influence CHOGM was not easy and took many conversations and meetings with various stakeholders to plan out the best approach. It was worth allocating staff time to research this. Indeed, I spent most of my first few months in the job meeting relevant CHOGM officials and figuring out the various avenues that led to the agenda. Many NGOs I spoke with were quite dismissive of the view that CHOGM could be used as a platform to get some tangible outcomes. When they suddenly realised the potential (as we suspected they would), it was too late for many!
    There also seemed to be an assumption that if there was an opportunity to influence the CHOGM agenda that Govt. would direct NGOs on how to do this. While there were government civil society consultations (which we ourselves were part of), one needs to be more proactive than merely waiting to be consulted. You need to seek out the opportunities rather than simply respond to calls for submissions. Again, to do this properly, you need to spend time scoping out what these oppourtunities actually are.
    On this note, I remember one NGO rep having a go at govt. officials for not giving them sufficient information on how to influence the CHOGM agenda. But surely this is as much the responsibility of civil society than it is govt?
    From my perspective though, the key to the campaign’s success was having a compelling narrative built around a clear and achievable ask. I think it is this that got Govt. buy-in from the outset (long before we had announced the concert or much else of the campaign!).
    Happy to provide further details on what worked and what didn’t!

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