Greenpeace have launched a fantastic new campaign today (Tuesday) – ‘Volkswagen. The Dark Side’ targeting car manufacture VW to ‘turn away from the Dark Side and give our planet a chance’.
It’s been going less than 12 hours, but already they’ve had over 38,000 people send a message to VW bosses, over 10,000 likes on their Facebook page, #vwdarkside has been trending in London for much of the days and thousands have viewed their excellent video spoof of hugely popular VW Star Wars film.
Here are the five reasons why I think it’s been a fantastic campaign launch.
1 – An inspired location – Old Street has also been trending all day as well. Why? It was the location that Greenpeace chose to launch the campaign. No VW garage in sight just the home of Silicon Roundabout and undoubtably more tweeters than any part of London. Dot a few Stormtroopers around the place and you’ve got lots of digitally connected people talking about your campaign on twitter.
2 – A competitive edge – The campaign doesn’t simply want you to send a message to the VW CEO, it wants you to recruit more friends (or Jedi’s) to join the campaign. You’re given your own training page and the more friends who join, take action on your recommendation or view your special page the more points you get, which helps you unlock new characters from Star Wars. The element of competition is inspired, and has meant that its been passed on a huge number of times.
3 – A everyday brand – No doubt a multitude of other targets who could leverage the changes that Greenpeace would like to see, but VW are a globally recognisable brand and one who have tried to build a green image. Thus they make ideal targets. Moreover the launch is showing that the decisions that need to be made to stop climate change are, in part in the hands of companies like VW. The campaign also makes a direct pitch to those who drive VWs in the sign-up page, a really nice touch.
4 – A great message – This isn’t simply a ‘aren’t VW really horrible and nasty’ campaign, rather a campaign to persuade VW to play its part in helping to save the world. The language that the website uses it’s all about encouraging VW to stop ‘using its influence to prevent us getting the laws we need to protect our planet and boost our economy’.
5 – Everyone loves Star Wars – With over 40 million views, the original VW advert has been hugely popular so by basing a campaign on this Greenpeace is already tapping into popular culture. It’s also a huge amount of fun and its impressive how Greenpeace have carried the Star Wars theme through every element of the launch (for example their policy report is entitled ‘The Dark Side of Volkswagen’ and is introduced by R2D2!).
What do you think? Are you as enthused about the campaign launch as I am? Have you seen it all before?
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DFID have provided more information about the actions that they’ve recieved in the last 12 months.
Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 142,636
Breakdown by topic and organisation:
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View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 15 June 2011 and has been sorted by number of actions received and is presented as it was received from DFID.
More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here. A number of readers have asked about campaign totals from the FCO, Treasury and other departments. I’ve now had initial responses from most departments but in some incidences I’ve had to go back for further clarification. I hope to post the totals from Treasury, Department of Business and Department of Communities and Local Government in the next week. Other departments might take longer.
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I really enjoyed my time in the US last week, it was great to spend time with some inspiring advocates and get an insight into the campaigning landscape in the US. Clearly the US is a very big country and I was only able to visit Washington and New York (a little like just spending time in London and Brussels if you visited Europe) so these are just a few advocacy related observations from my time in those cities.
1. Advertising everywhere. On the Metro (see photo below supporting Corn Growers), in front yards and in the papers I was amazed at the amount of advertising in support of different public policy positions. It seems that a combinations of campaigns with deep financial pockets and media laws that make it easier for campaigning organisations to advertise have made this an attractive tactic to use. I’d be interested to see some figures on the effectiveness of this as a tactic, my concern would be that it risks becoming ‘background noise’ because it’s used so much.
2. The strength of community organising. I got to learn about some amazing examples of community organising on the issue of Environmental Justice at a conference in New York. Organisations like New York Faith and Justice or UPROSE are doing some amazing grassroots work, mobilising communities often in economically disadvantaged areas and seeing campaign success with local government, for example getting the City Council in New York to clean up disused industrial areas. It felt to me that their was a far more vibrant community of grassroots organisations than we have here making use of all the layers of government (city, district, state and federal level) that exist in the US in a far more effective way than I’ve observed in the UK.
3. QR Codes While you occasionally see these funny black and white patterns, which can be used in conjunction with a smart-phone to send you to a website for more information, in magazines in the UK they were a lot more prevalent in the US. With the growing use of smart-phones I can see how they could be used as an excellent tool in campaign literature to help bridge the digital/paper divide. I suspect we’ll see campaigning organisations use them soon.
4. How healthy are the grasstops? I heard this phrase the ‘Grasstops’ used on a number of occasions, it’s used to describe those organisations that are just involved in lobbying and influencing in DC or towards other legislators but don’t have any support from a membership base (the grassroots). It appears to be a fastly with hundred of organisations with names that include ‘Institute‘, ‘Centres for….‘ or ‘Association of‘ in them.
Walking around DC you quickly spot people with badges representing them of to meet with politicians and officials, but my question is where these groups draw their legitimacy from, even when they’re advocating for more ‘progressive’ causes. It appears to me that some of the most exciting advocacy networks are those that have been able to combine effective ‘grasstops’ engagement with support from an active ‘grassroots’. One that impressed me considerably was Bread for the World, a faith-based movement to end hunger.
5. The influence of Foundations. I’ve blogged on a number of papers on various topics coming out of various US Foundations in the last week. It’s very evident that they’re powerful financial backers of many of the campaigns and from that they are producing lots of interesting and exciting research on issues such as M+E and assessing impact (this is an interesting study on just that). I need to do more research to find the key foundations and networks, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the website of organisations like New Organising Institute, Institute for Sustainable Communities and others who are putting out some great materials.
Have you been to the US recently or are you based in the US? What are your observations on the advocacy scene in the States?
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American’s love the concept of leadership. Go into any bookshop and you’ll find shelves dedicated to the subject, attend a conference and you can guarantee that the word ‘leader’ will have been used a dozen times before the lunch break.
So perhaps it’s no surprise to find that it’s our colleagues in the US who have been thinking about leadership models and advocacy.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities – Advocacy and Leadership Centre has produced ‘Leadership Roles within an Advocacy Movement’, a short and readable paper in which they identify 11 different types of leadership needed within a movement arguing that ‘a movement must have a plurality of leaders, filling a cabinet of distinct, yet complementary, leadership roles. By utilizing a diverse cabinet of leaders, a movement develops a powerful dynamic that strengthens and emboldens, bringing the movement closer to optimum gains and successes’.
The list looks like this;
Visionaries who raise the view of the possible
Strategists who chart the vision and achieve what’s attainable
Statespersons who elevate the cause in the minds of both the public and decision-makers
Experts who wield knowledge to back up the movement’s positions
Outside Sparkplugs who goad and energize, fiercely holding those in power to account
Inside Advocates who understand how to turn power structures and established rules and procedures to advantage
Strategic Communicators who deploy the rhetoric to intensify and direct public passion toward the movement’s objectives
Movement Builders who generate optimism and good will, infecting others with dedication to the common good
Generalists who anchor a movement, grounded in years of experience
Historians who uphold a movement’s memory, collecting and conveying its stories
Cultural Activists who pair movements with powerful cultural forces
I don’t disagree with any of these but wonder if they’ve missed out a couple of key leadership approaches;
Pioneer – Someone who pushes the movement to make use of new tools and tactics. Most recently they would have been engaged with making the most of digital tools to further our campaigning, but throughout the history of campaigning we’ve had individual leaders who have been prepared to push into making use of new tools and tactics. This is different from the ‘visionary’ because they’re defined by the tactics they use.
Administrator – Too often forgotten but every campaign needs a solid and dependable administrator. This is not simply a service function, but a leadership function, someone who is their to ensure that the organisation of the campaign keeps pace with the growth of the energy behind a campaign issue. Too often campaigns fail because they don’t have the material resources or the structure to sustain them.
I was also thinking about the idea of adding in a ‘visualiser/designer‘. Someone who use creative tools to help communicate the essence of the campaign. Someone who harness the notion that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, but I’m not sure if this is more a branch off from the ‘strategic communicator’ role than a stand alone approach.
What do you think? What else has been missed out? Are my additions justified?
Someone who wants to take their campaign to the next level?
Someone who’d benefit from bespoke programme of support, tailored around your needs, to help you with your campaign.
Working on the issue of Consumer Action, Environment, Social Justice in London, Social and Economic Justice and Transport or fit the following criteria you’re an international campaigner, local Campaigner, aged 14-18 or aged 60+.
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Charles Secrett has an article on the Guardian website today which concludes by saying ‘Today’s activists regard once radical organisations as part of the NGO establishment: out-of-touch, ineffective and bureaucratic. The wheel has turned full circle. It is time to rethink and reorganise again’.
Secrett who was executive director of Friends of the Earth (FoE) in the 1990s uses his article, written to mark the organisations 40th birthday, to argue that Greenpeace and FoE are “conservative and unimaginative” and their “ambition is lacking through the fear of being seen to be too political”
I’m sure the article will get passed around campaigning organisations in the coming days and will lead to some interesting debates across desks. That’s something to welcome.
Here are a few brief thoughts on some of the comments that Secrett makes.
I agree with the suggestion that we’ve lost some of our creativity in the sector and that perhaps we’ve become over reliant on sending campaign postcards or emails to our campaign targets, rather than exploring more creative forms of action. Secrett writes that ‘Street theatre, consumer boycotts, marches and rallies, backed by authoritative analysis and political campaigning, underpinned strategy’ in the early days of FoE.
It’s good to read the article and be reminded of the way that FoE and others made use of legal channels and other tactics in their earlier campaigning. From this the challenge comes about the need to have a discussion not just about how we use a broader range of tools and tactics, but also how we think more creatively about the targets that we focus on.
I disagree with the assertion that Secrett is making that ‘managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers outnumber campaigners and researchers’ in our organisations is a wholly bad thing. Why? It’s because it overlooks how vital they can be to running an effective campaign. A good communicator can help to craft a campaigning message that has real impact with a new group that’s currently unengaged, while an effective administrator is the person that plays a pivotal in organising to get activists together.
From my experience many of those ‘managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers’ have started careers working for NGOs, so they can use the skills and experiences they have to increase the impact of our campaigning. They can be as much a ‘campaigner’ as those who have the word ‘campaign’ in a job title.
I agree that at times some of the larger NGOs haven’t been as agile as they should be. I’ve written about this before and argued that one of the main things that we can learn from movements such as 38 Degrees is that being first to market matters more than ever before.
I disagree with the inference that the higher-levels of activism that built FoE and Greenpeace are the only ones that matter when it comes to policy change. One of the main contributions that organisations like FoE, Greenpeace and WWF have made is that they’ve taken activism from a small group of individuals to a much broader community of activist. We need to accept that not everyone wants to be involved in direct action, but our strength can come from being part of a movement. Sure, we need to continue to debate the most effective tools to use but I think we should find a way that as many as possible can engage.
I agree that we need to think more about how to counter corporate PR. In part, this is a product of the success of our activism which means that companies and other institutions have felt the need as Secrett says ‘employ legions of PR firms to keep campaigners at bay, and support climate deniers and free market optimists to muddy the waters of public opinion’. I don’t think we’ve done enough to understand the extent of these links and the impact that they’ve had on the debate.
No doubt, this is a debate that is going to continue in the coming days. Secrett has highlighted some important challenges, but his article fails to acknowledge a number of things. The role of organisations like FoE and Greenpeace in creating global movements around these issues, the importance of evidence based research to ground our policy recommendations, the changing nature of the media and the way many organisations have innovated around digital media.
What parts of Secrett’s article do you agree or disagree with?
I’m in the US this week linking up with various advocacy organisations, so I’m going to use the posts this week to highlight some the interesting work that’s coming out of the US about planning and evaluating advocacy.
Much of it has been driven by a desire by some of the large foundations (who are major donors to the work of US charities) to develop an approach that helps them to asses the quality of the applications they receive from organisations.
The first resource I’d flag up is ‘Campaigning For Change; Learning from the United States’. I’ve read it twice now and I have to confess to still not understood it all, but that’s not because it’s badly written, but simply because of the complexity and breadth of the topic it’s trying to address. Proving if you’re campaign is making a difference.
But I’m going to persevere because I think so much of the insight and the models it shares will be invaluable to UK campaigning. I know that I’ve lost count of all the times that I’ve been asked the question ‘is your campaign making a difference’ and then struggled to answer it, and I think this tool could help to answer that. The report shares lessons about how US organisations have used a ‘Theory of Change’ model to inform their advocacy planning over a number of years.
A Theory of Change (TOC) can be defined as ‘laying out what specific changes a group wants to see in the world and how and why a group expects its actions to lead to those changes’
A TOC is built on the basics of the Logic Model, but encourages organisation to develop an understanding of what is required for change to take place and what strategies will be used along the way, and to think about the links about how the activities undertaken and the end goals based on insight from political and social thinking. The main elements are;
1 – Stating a clear aim
The TOC encourage you to start with a clear aim, which should be seen as the overall purpose of the campaign, the change a organisaiton wishes to see and the impact it wants to make.
2 – Mapping activities to achieve your campaign aim
Examining what activities will bring about the campaign aim, and being clear how they link to the end goal you’re looking to achieve. At this point it’s about considering activities, like a creating the political will for change or developing of alliances as opposed to considering the detailed tactics (holding a march, running an advertising campaign, etc).
3 – Outcomes and how to get there – Using ‘so that’ chains
This stage of the process is about being clear about how each of the activities will link together, it encourages the use of ‘So That’ chains to check the validity of a set of specific assumptions by looking at the logical links between the different steps of the campaign. This allows you to link specific activities with the expected effect or outcome in the journey towards the desired result, and provides a space to challenge the assumptions that you might make.
4 – Understanding how social change happens
Central to TOC is an understanding of what strategies bring about what types of social change. Ensuring that the types of activities being undertaken match the overall strategy being pursued is important. The paper draws out a number of different reasons for how change happens based on academic studies and approaches. This can be used for the basis of a diagrammatic strategy to show the journey that you believe your campaign will undertake.
5 – Capacity of the organisation to achieve change
By doing the above, a TOC can help to illustrate the elements that an organisation will need to ensure they have the capacity to carry out their strategy.
6 – Evaluation built into the model
By articulating the change desired and the anticipated process that you’ll undertake to achieve it, you’re able to evaluate throughout the process, and also provide a space to question if the assumptions that were made are correct or not.
It’s hard to summarise the model in a few hundred words, so I’d strongly encourage you to read the report, or look at the Brian Lamb’s presentation at the NCVO Campaigning effectiveness conference.
Part of me really likes this approach;
- It ensures that assumptions about the value of a specific tactic or approach are discussed and understood by all involved.
- Requires organisations to consider how they understand about what brings about social change, especially important when trying to communicate about the rationale behind the tactics that have been selected in a large organisation, where not everyone is an advocacy specialist.
- Challenges a ‘one size fits all’ approach to deciding on campaign tactics because they’ve always been used.
- It puts evaluation at the heart of the process, so it’s easier to monitor the ‘impact’ that the advocacy is having.
But I’ve also got a few reservations about it;
- The model isn’t the easiest to get your head around which might turn some away from looking to use it. I hope that NCVO are considering offering further training about implementing it.
- I’m not clear from the report what about the role and place for considering the external environment is. It seems that the model doesn’t have an obvious space for exploring what’s happening outside of the organisation/campaign. I don’t think we should be putting down the PEST charts yet!
- Will it work for national advocacy campaigns? Most of the models quoted in the report are based on statewide or local public awareness campaign, where the required outcomes and results don’t require the activities
Have you used this model in your advocacy planning? Does using such a tool appeal to you or does the complexity make you switch off?
Older people are an often overlooked but vital group of activists so it’s great to see the Sheila McKechnie Foundation launch the ‘Take Action’ award supported by Age UK to ‘recognise and encourage older campaigners who are aged 60 or over who campaign about issues that matter to them’.
In my own work, I’ve often been inspired by the commitment that some of our older activists have played in our campaigns, so its great to find an opportunity to acknowledge the key role they play.
Here are a few reasons why I think campaigning organisations shouldn’t overlook the valuable role that older campaigners can play;
1. Engaged – From voting to participation in voluntary groups most surveys show that the over 60s are more likely to get involved, so if we’re looking for people who are likely to get involved on a regular basis older people are likely to be a reliable source. Add to that the fact that they vote means that they’re a group that politicians like to listen to because they’re more likely to turn up at the ballot box when it matters.
2 – Well networked in their communities – Many older people have lived in their communities for years and are often active members of community groups, faith communities, etc. So if we’re looking for people who know other people to get involved in our campaigns using the networks that many have could be an effective way of doing just that.
3 – Professional experience – This is a theme that Duncan Green picked up in a post entitled ‘Are Grey Panthers the next big thing in campaigning?‘ at the end of last year. If we’re looking for people who can talk about the importance of health systems in developing countries, should we be looking to get retired nurses and health workers from the UK involved? Will they be able to speak with an authenticity born from years of working in the health sector that others can’t?
4 – Time rich – One of the criticisms of the current debate about ‘clicktivism’ is that it’s campaigning for the time poor. That it’s suited for people who don’t have the time to do anything more than send an e-mail or click ‘like’ on a Facebook page. Many older campaigners have time to devote to other activities, so perhaps they’re the group we should be focusing on to take part in high-level campaign activities.
So how should we respond to working with older campaigners? Here are a few thoughts;
- Build alliances with key gatekeepers – I remember being told once that the government really started to take notice of the Jubilee 2000 Campaign when it started getting messages from local WI groups around the country. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s a useful reminder that coalitions could do well to reach out to and engage similar groups.
- Profile them in our materials – Too often our annual reports have pictures of enthusiastic young people on a demonstration, perhaps it’s time to start to profile some of the activities of our older campaigners.
- Remember to go beyond philanthropy – One of the untold stories in development over the last 20+ years has been the role that the Rotary Club International has played in the fight to eradicate Polio worldwide. Through its branches it raised over $900 millions, but more than that it’s advocated to raise over $8billion from governments, but you probably haven’t heard much about it. A great example of using a network, which has its fair share of older members, not simply to raise money but also advocating for change.
Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011:
Number 10 – 109,674
Office of Deputy Prime Minister – 17,315
Number 10 was unable to provide a breakdown of how the actions were received.
For the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister the totals were as follows;
Number of letters: 2,867
Number of emails: 14,448
Number 10 – Tearfund – Millennium Development Goals – 28,001
Office of Deputy Prime Minister – Unknown source – News International – 12,077
Breakdowns by topic and organisation:
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Office of Deputy Prime Minister
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Both responses included the caveat that information collected about a campaign will be dependent on the judgement of a member of a staff. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 3 June 2011 and is adapted from information provided by Office of Deputy Prime Minister and Number 10. The spreadsheets of information can be downloaded for No 10 and Office of Deputy PM.
More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here. Be first to get the information from other departments by subscribing to the site using the box on the right, adding https://thoughtfulcampaigner.org/ to your RSS feed or following me on twitter (@mrtombaker)