O.A.Ps = Overlooked Activist Potential

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.

Campaigns Total – No 10 and Office of Deputy PM

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
Biggest campaign:
Number 10 – Tearfund – Millennium Development Goals – 28,001
Office of Deputy Prime Minister – Unknown source – News International – 12,077
Breakdowns by topic and organisation:
Number 10
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdEVpMlJ0elJINmxyQzN5bXVSYjRIc2c&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”500″ /] Office of Deputy Prime Minister
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdDNFMjlTOXFjdnhvNnI1a3doSTE2cFE&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”150″ /] 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)

Campaign Totals – DECC

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 136,819

Number of letters: 256
Number of postcards: 18,504
Number of petition signatures: 581
Number of emails: 117,478
Biggest campaign: Avvaz.Org – Europe: trees not Tricks / UK must lead on forests – 24,286 emails (although its interesting to note that the Avvaz website indicates that over 76,000 messages were sent. UPDATE – apparently that’s for the whole of the EU not simply the UK)
Breakdown by topic and organisation:

[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdEpsTjlpTnVyOGdJTnJIbnlKbG0tY1E&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”600″ /] The breakdown has been adapted from multiple spreadsheets received from DECC, to download all the information provided click here. To view the breakdown spreadsheet in google docs click here.
Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 2 June 2011 and is adapted from a list of information provided by Department of Energy and Climate Change.
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Five for Friday…

Here are five great articles I’ve read in the last few weeks that are worth reading…..
1.Why is the new Oxfam campaign called ‘GROW’? The importance of framing – Duncan Green reveals the process that Oxfam went through to name its new campaign, and why the ‘normal language of activism – justice, rights, end this, stop that?’ is seen as harsh and off-putting by those who might otherwise be sympathetic to our campaigns.
2. Does insult-based NGO advocacy work? – Richard Gowan at Global Dashboard questions the approach of some NGOs.
3. Building Critical Mass for #Fatullayev – in the week that Amnesty International celebrates its 50th birthday, Rob Sharp on the role of twitter in securing the release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in Azerbaijan.
4. Down to the letter – from the CAFOD policy blog last month. Some excellent insight into how to make letters to government truly effective.
5. Greenpeace Italy get a message across during the Italian FA Cup final – another to add to the list of great campaign stunts?
What else have you read that you’d add?

Campaign Totals – Department for Transport

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 19,240 (although in the response the Department said approx. 18,000)

Number of letters: 5,025
Number of petition signatures: 1,200
Number of emails: 13,015
Biggest campaign: Greenpeace – Stop fuels from oil sands being used in the EU – 5,650 emails
The Department of Transport was keen to stress in its reply that ‘no complete record is kept centrally of all the campaign correspondence received by the Department for Transport’ going on to state that ‘furthermore, it may well be that, where multiple copies of the same letter/e-mail were received from multiple recipients, not every copy will have been retained‘.
Concluding that ‘from adding up the figures for each of the individual campaigns (please be advised that this is not necessarily an exhaustive list), it is possible to calculate that at least 18,000 items of campaign correspondence were received in total during the year in question. However, the actual total is likely to have been higher’ which it is because my calculations show they listed over 19,000 actions.
Breakdown by topic and organisation:
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdGZsaDRqdTQ1eElsWFJHdU1TQXNjaHc&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”400″ /] View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 27 May 2011 and is adapted from a list of information provided by Department of Transport.
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)

How Oxfam let key activists know about its new campaign first

Oxfam are due to launch a new global campaign tomorrow (June 1st – although it seems that the BBC have jumped the gun by reporting on it a day early), and we’re promised that we should be prepared for a ‘impending wonk, campaign, celeb and media fest around Oxfam’s campaign launch tomorrow. Biggest thing ever; simultaneous launches in 45 countries; bigger (at least in ambition) than Make Poverty History or Make Trade Fair’
While it’ll be interesting to watch how the campaign develops and the tactics they use, especially with so many countries involved, as a campaigner I’ve also been interested in following the way that Oxfam GB have already soft launched the campaign to key activists around the country.
For example a colleague forwarded me an invite to a supporter phone briefing the activism team hosted on May 17th. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of such a call, but it seems like a really inspired and practical idea. The call involved speakers from the Oxfam GB’s Campaigns and Policy team, alongside representatives from the Events team with practical suggestions about what people could do.
Looking at the Cover It Live conversation from the call it looks like those who participated had a really lively conversation. For me, using such an innovative tool has a number of advantages;

  • It builds a sense of ownership – For those invited to be part of the call to allows them to feel that they’re the first to know, that they’ve got a responsibility to promote the campaigns to their own networks when it goes live.
  • It equips people and provides a space to ask the difficult questions – It’s easy to launch a new campaign with the accompanying policy report, but the reality is that most activists don’t have time to sit down immediately to read and digest it. A call like this allows the opportunity for supporters to feel like they’ve had the opportunity to ask before they’re hearing about it on the news.
  • It builds loyalty – by breaking down the divide between staff and supporters, especially by actively asking for suggestions and ideas, it makes Team Oxfam bigger. They also actively encouraged those on the call to join a group on their ‘enabler‘ site to keep the conversation going.
In the past, the cost of hosting such a call would have been prohibitive but here are a few ways that other campaigns looking to try the idea could do it for almost nothing;
  • PowWowNow is a free conference call service, which can facilitate ‘event calls’ for up to 300 people.
  • Cover It Live is an excellent interface for facilitating live discussion between a group. It’s free and you can use it to display images, carry out polls and can even include live video from a webcam if you’re prepared to pay a little extra.
What other free technology exists that could enhance a call like this? Have you seen other organisations use similar tools to keep key supporters informed? 

Campaign Totals – Department of Health

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 18,704

Number of postal correspondence: 15,201
Number of emails: 3,508
Biggest campaign: Association of Convenience Shops (ACS) – Tobacco Display Ban – 6,684
The Department of Health indicated that ‘to identify which items of postal correspondence were letters and postcards would incur disproportionate cost
Breakdown by topic and organisation:
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdHdfaTZQTUc4ektPZGZtOVdIVFl4S1E&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”300″ /] View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 27 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Department of Health.
More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.
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Campaign Totals – Home Office

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 8,402
Number of postcards: 613
Number of emails: 7,789
Biggest campaign: Change.Org – Protesting about a loophole in the law allowing for importation of juvenile primates – 805
The Identity and Passport Service also received 253 actions in the year. No figures were provided by UK Border Agency
Breakdown by topic and organisation:
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdFpVV0l5V2lqUVBibUMwTlNtUmZManc&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”200″ /] View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Home Office.
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)

Campaign Totals – Department of Education


Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 4,718
Number of letters: 900
Number of emails: 3,818
Biggest campaign: Sustainable Schools Alliance – Campaign asking the Government to support schools and put sustainability teaching at the heart of its education strategy – 1,234
Breakdown by topic and organisation:
[googleapps domain=”spreadsheets” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdFlmTy1wNExDY0hHTlcwd0FURFhBbVE&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”300″ /] View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Department of Education.
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)

Campaign Totals – Export Credit Guarantee Department

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 1,208
Number of emails: 1,208
Biggest campaign: Jubilee Debt Campaign – Reform of the Export Credits Guarantee Department – 1,208
The Export Credits Guarantee Department indicated that it ‘does not hold information relating to correspondence received by methods of delivery other than email‘.
Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Export Credits Guarantee Department. 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)