The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is running it’s annual People Power Conference tomorrow. It looks like a fascinating line up of speakers. Sadly I can’t make it in person although I’ll be doing my best to follow via twitter. One of the sessions that stands out to me is the panel debate on ‘The Legacy of Make Poverty History‘, it was one of the first campaigns that I worked on professionally, so I’m interested in what the panel have to say about how we can still learn from the campaign.
The Foundation have managed to organise an impressive line-up of speakers who were involved in the original campaign, including;
Adrian Lovett, now European Director of ONE but working at Oxfam during 2005.
Glen Tarman, Head of Advocacy at BOND, but working for the Trade Justice Movement during the campaign
Kirsty McNeill, Founder of Themba Consultancy, formerly one of Gordon Brown’s speech writers and working at the Stop AIDS Campaign in 2005).
If I was able to attend here at the questions I’d be asking;
1. If we’d had the research and thinking done by the Common Cause team around the role of frames and values in campaigning available to use back in 2004 what might we have done differently?
2. Have we done enough to capture the learning from the campaign and share it with others across civil society? To my knowledge there has only been one significant academic study of the campaign by Nick Sireau. Do we need to be doing more to encourage academics to study our campaigns to help us increase our understanding of what works?
3. Make Poverty History was one of the first campaigns that effectively utilised email as a tool for action, building an email list of hundreds of thousands of individuals. How much should campaign movements like 38 Degrees and Avaaz thank Make Poverty History for demonstrating the effectiveness of this campaign target? How much impact did the e-mail actions actually have?
4. Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs that the campaign worked because ‘Bob, Bono and the NGO alliance had mounted an effective campaign…by demonstrating the breadth of public support for action on Africa. It was done cleverly, with them always giving enough praise to the leaders to encourage them’. I’d be interested in knowing if the panel agrees with the statement and if we need to do more to praise and encourage our targets?
Now in its fourth week, the OccupyLondon protests outside of St Paul’s Cathedral have been able to keep their cause in the media for such a sustained period of time, something many other campaigns fail to do.
While this was certainly helped by the mess that the Church of England made over it decision to close the Cathedral in the first week of the protest, I’m sure that the name recognition of the protest across the UK will be high.
Combine that with the rise of Occupy movements across the world, I’m in Washington DC this week and passed an OccupyDC in the city today, I think it’s legitimate to say that we’re seeing the birthing of a new campaigning movement, and with its emergence, a challenge to some of the assumptions about campaign structures that have guided more traditional organisations. 1 – Campaigns Needs Leaders
The OccupyLondon protests have spokesman but not leaders; they’ve adopted a non-hierarchical which means that decisions are made by a General Assembly which gathers each and every day to reach agreement by consensus. So far, even the media haven’t been able to bestow the title of ‘leader’ upon an individual associated with the protest.
The approach they’re taking of course isn’t an entirely new one, it’s been used by other campaigning movements, like Climate Camp, in recent years but it brings into focus one of the key questions I think that campaigns are facing at the moment, do campaigns need leaders?
Some would argue that a strong central leader or leaders is essential to a campaign’s success, for example Ann Pettifor who lead the Jubilee Debt Campaign writes in Cutting the Diamond‘Contrary to the views of many in not-for-profit organisations, I believe that sound leadership is fundamental to successful public advocacy ’
Going on to contrast the Jubilee 2000 campaign which had a tight hierarchical leadership structure with a single clear message, to that of the climate change movement, which is made up of ‘thousands of small and large well-meaning organisations stumbled leaderless, disunited, and without a clear achievable ‘ask’ into the United Nations Copenhagen process’.
At the moment OccupyLondon are demonstrating that it’s possible to take a different approach and run a high-profile campaign. If this public profile can be sustained without a smaller group of identifiable leaders coming to the public conscience it could be seen as another blow for those who hold the position that campaigns can only succeed with a strong leader (or leaders) at their heart. 2 – Campaigns Need Clear and Concise Asks
One of the things I found striking from the first few days of the protest, was the lack of an apparent clear set of campaign asks coming out from the protesters, indeed a number of media outlets had to resort to pieces speculating on ‘what do the campaigners want’.
After a couple of days this statement was released from the General Assembly, but it still lacks the ‘elevator pitch’ that many campaigns rest upon, but is this needed?
This was a theme that Adrian Lovett, Director of ONE in Europe picked up upon in an excellent debate on The World Tonight last month, when he suggested that ‘the two things that a campaign needs is that its got to describe the destination that it want to get to, the world the campaigns want to create in as vivid as way as possible, but if that’s hard to get to some of the steps along the way’. For me, it doesn’t feel as the OccupyLondon movement has that at present, and I wonder if that’s hindering the movement growing.
I’m struck for example that movements like 38 Degrees don’t appear to have mobilised their supporters behind it, despite many of the aims of the movement being in keeping with its ‘progressive agenda’. Is this because they’re not able to reduce the demands of the movement to a concise and communicable few lines that will translate well into an email? What do you think? Do you agree that campaigns need leaders? Does OccupyLondon need a clear ask to succeed? Update – Third Sector has an article about how charities could learn from the OccupyLondon communication approach.
The Robin Hood Tax campaign has used a range of new and innovative tactics that other campaign coalitions could learn from.
I suspect that you’ll be hearing a lot about the Robin Hood Tax in the coming week. The campaign has a great opportunity to succeed when G20 leaders meeting in France at the start of November, while the ongoing #OccupyLSE protests have increased the level of debate about what’s stopping the UK government implementing the tax.
I’ve highlighted before that the campaign has produced some fantastic campaign videos, but a few other tactics that I’ve seen the campaign use stand out. Innovation Day – Back in the summer, the organisers behind the campaign opened up the planning process to anyone who wanted to come along and attend its Innovation Day. The day was hosted in London and facilitated by a team involved in the campaign. It’s great to see a campaign ‘open-source’ its planning process in this way, inviting supporters to help to shape the direction and contribute their ideas. The day ended up producing two ‘concepts’ that supporters were invited to provide further feedback on and get involved in. I’m not sure what happened next, but it’d be good to see more invite committed supporters to get involved like this. Fundraising for adverts – The campaign isn’t the first to invite supporters to make small contributions towards advertising or other campaign activities, but by using it the Robin Hood Tax campaign has highlighted a growing trend by campaigning organisations – asking for small donations for specific items of spending.
You can see the strengths in the idea with PayPal it’s easy for people to donate, and micro donations of £1-£3 don’t feel like an enormous cost to an individual. My only concern with this approach is that is doesn’t help to communicate the less visible costs of a campaign (producing a policy report, paying for staff, etc). We need to ensure that we’re encouraging people to commit to long-term support for campaigning organisations as well. Gone after the vested interest – Often in campaigning I think we’re guilty of not spending enough time thinking about the forces and organisations who don’t want our campaigns to succeed. We campaign under a belief that if our arguments are ‘right’ then we’ll succeed. The RHT campaign was clearly aware this wouldn’t be the case when it came to heavy resistances from the financial sector, and it’s been good to see how the Robin Hood Tax hasn’t been afraid to highlight the ideological and financial links between the current government and the bankers. Exemplary use of a experts – Bill Nighy has been an inspired choice as a spokesperson for the campaign. He’s been active in the campaign for the last year, appears on TV to talk about why we need a RHT, writes op-ed pieces and turns up at events. Unlike other celebrities he appears committed for the long-haul of the campaign.
It’s also been good to see how the campaign has used Economists, like getting over 1,000 to sign a letter ahead to G20 financial minister and more recently Jeffery Sachs writing to the UK Chancellor, to counter the financial voices that say that a FTT can’t work. What else has impressed you about the Robin Hood Tax campaign? What hasn’t worked so well?
A new report provide some important lessons about what works when it comes to campaigning in coalition.
Make Poverty History, The Treatment Action Campaign, Jubilee 2000, The Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA). All campaign coalitions that have been active in the last 10 years or so, but what lessons can we draw from them for current and future coalition campaigning? With funding from the Gates Foundation, Brendan Cox has written ‘Campaigning for International Justice – Learning Lessons (1991 – 2001)’ which attempt to do this. It’s a really excellent read and is based on conversations with hundreds of NGO staff, politicians and civil servants to draw out key lessons from coalition campaigning over the last 20 years.
The whole report is packed with useful reflections, some that you’ll agree with, others that you won’t, but as Cox quotes those who want to ‘repeat their successes must first learn from them’ so its worth reading.
For me, the most interesting section is ‘Identifying Themes’ where Cox tries to identify some core elements that have helped campaigns to succeed or fail. Here are the 10 or so that struck me the most. 1. Organisations are increasingly keen to demonstrate clear attribution of their impact, as such they become concerned that working in coalition can make it harder to attribute impact to one’s own organisation. This is pushing organisations to consider focusing on more and more niche areas where they can provide ‘impact’ but this overlooks the fact that the most important issues often need grand coalitions to achieve change. 2. INGOs are actually coalitions in themselves. That many of the largest organisations like Oxfam, Save the Children and Amnesty are made up of multiple national chapters and as such getting them to agree on a priority campaign can take a long time in itself, and as a result those INGOs are able to be as flexible as others would require them to be to help form effective coalitions. 3. Unusual coalitions still get noticed. The report cites the example of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign that got Shell on board which added more creadibility than the addition of many NGOs would have had. Cox also highlights the role that faith groups can have in helping to mobilise a more ‘mainstream’ public. 4. Coalition structures follow the ‘last worst experience’. Make Poverty History was set up without a high-profile secretariat to avoid the tensions that many had found in the Jubilee 2000 campaign that had one. Cox argues that the desire to avoid tension and compromise brand profile in a coaltition means that we’re forming a series of ‘lowest common denominator’ collaborations which are reducing their impact. We need to rethink our models of coaltition advocacy. 5. Trust matters. Cox points to the examples of the Treatment Action Campaign and PWYP which he describes as having ‘a close-knit group at the centre of thea campaign’ which meant high levels of trust. at the centre of the campaign. He contrasts this with the GCCA which started out with a small group, but over time saw that broken down as more staff came into the campaign and reduced its functionality. 6. The challenge of the ‘moment’. Cox highlights the challenge of a campaign focusing on a moment, a political opportunity where the campaign comes to a head, but argues that while they provide focus they can provide real challenges of keeping a campaigns momentum going beyond this. 7. Incrementalism can be a successful approach. Cox suggests that incrementalism in a campaign, the belief that a campaign should take a step-by-step approach to achieve its aims, is often the most successful approach. Suggesting that the evidence of the Internaitonal Camaign to Ban Landmines which successful focused on a targeted definition of landmines rather than going for a broader definition of cluster munitions, or the Jubilee 2000 campaign which focused on debt cancellation for specific countries rather than heading calls to focus on the cancellation of all debt. 8. The role for radicals. One of the main tensions in a coalition can be between those who want a incrementaal approach as opposed to a more radical approach. In practice this has often meant the formation of two coalitions but Cox suggests that utilising these differences can be helping to ‘shift the centre of gravity within a political space, and make the demands of the centerist group sound more resaonsable’. 9. Using celebrities. Another point of tension in many campaigns. Cox finds that those campaigns that have gone beyond a ‘photo call’ and invited celebrities to be involved in policy advocacy have often found that they’ve brought alot of strength to a campaign. He cites the use of George Clooney in the Save Darfur Coalition who has testified before Congress in the US as well as lend his ‘brand’ to the campaign. 10. Finding a common approach to evaluation. Their are lots of recommendations at the end of the report, but the one that caught my immagination the most, was a proposal to create a commonly reconised body responsible for high-quality evaluations which would help to improve future campaigns as well as providing reassurance to funders and supporters. So what happens next? All in all a very useful report, but at the end of the report I’m left asking, what happens now? Brendon Cox makes many thoughtful recommendation and highlights some stark truths for the sector but my fear is that now the ink has dried on the report nothing else happens, especially as Cox has recently moved into a new role at Save the Children.
Conference season is upon us and many campaigners will be packing their bags to head off to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
But as Chloe Stables notes in an excellent post about making the most of attending conference they can be ‘expensive, hectic and occasionally frustrating‘ but other options for engaging with MPs do exist.
Back in March, I was involved in organising an event to mark World Water Day, which at the time one colleague musedwas a better use of resources that organising an fringe meeting at Party Conference.
A modest objective of getting 12-15 MPs along was set but in the end we got over 40 MPs came to join in, a great success and far more than we would have got attending a fringe event at conference.
The idea was simple. Invite MPs to join us on and walk 100m with a jerry can on a course we’d set up in Victoria Tower Gardens, it was a symbolic act to remember the fact that many people have to walk up to 6km to get access to something we expect to get from our taps, and we hoped that it would help to build links with Parliamentarians who could act as champions for the issue in the coming year.
You can read more about the event here, but it got me thinking about what some of the elements that made the event a success.
Perhaps they’re nothing new but I wanted to share them to see what insight others have about what works when looking to engage MPs in events in Parliament. 1. Provide a photo opportunity – It’s a cliché but the offer of a photo and a pre-prepared press release undoubtedly encouraged some MPs to join us. We set up a water pump and promised to get the release to them within 3 hours. It was nice to use this as a way of helping the MP demonstrate the interest they had in the issue. 2. Targeted the few not the many – The decision was taken early in the planning not to actively invite all MPs, but to identify and approach a smaller number of influential MPs on the topic, for example those on key select committees or those who’d shown an interest in the issue previously. We hoped that our invitation was more likely to get noticed, and we already had a relationship with some which made it easier to follow up with. 3. Followed up via Twitter – Ahead of the event, we got in touch with those MPs who used twitter to remind them to come down. At least one mentioned that this had made the difference about them attending or not. 4. Used our supporters – We invited our supporters who lived in the constituencies of MPs we had an interest in to attend, but had realistic expectations about the number who’d be able to join us on a Tuesday. We also encouraged them to get in touch and invite their MP along anyhow. Again, a number of MPs mentioned that this was one of the reasons they joined us. 5. Made the most of our contacts – We found that amongst an extended group of colleagues had a number had contact with friends who worked for MPs or who could raise the profile of the event inside Parliament. A few well placed e-mails and calls from them certainly helped to increase the numbers attending. A reminder that sometimes it’s useful to use your personal contacts. 6. Kept the event going for two hours – Allowing MPs a longer window of time to come along seemed to yield dividends in reducing the number of MPs who simply couldn’t join us because of diary clashes. What successful events have you organised with MPs? Is Conference a useful forum to engage with MPs? What have you found works and what hasn’t? Some of this post originally appeared on the NCVO Campaigning Forum.
I work for a large NGO (and always have) so I’m not permitted to attend the ‘Campaigning in a small organisation‘ session that NCVO are running tomorrow (although I might follow it via #F4CCSO), but here are few thoughts that I might pass on if I had the opportunity to do so. What would you add? 1. Don’t skip the planning – It might sound boring/time-consuming/hard to do (*delete as appropriate) but it’s worth the investment of time and energy, and I promise you it’ll mean you’ll have a better campaign at the end of it (I’ve learnt the hard way). Bad campaigning comes from rushing in without pausing to consider what you want to change, who can change it and how you can influence them, so make use of the advocacy cycle as you set out. There are excellent tools available, start here at the NCVO website & don’t be afraid to ask campaigners from other organisations to advise and help you. Campaigning for most is more than a job, it’s a vocation and most campaigners are only too pleased to help (look for example at this example from the Digital Charity group). 2. Capture the stories of success and failure – Become meticulous about recording what’s working and what’s not working so well. Use the stories of success, for example a comment from a local decision maker, feedback from a beneficiary, a campaign victory, etc, to build a case to invest more resources in campaigning. Use the not so good to learn for next time. 3. Small should mean agile – Agility is becoming a precious commodity in campaigning. The power of the internet means that you don’t have to have a massive print budget or a network of thousands of supporters to get notice. As a small organisation, you have an inherent advantage when it comes to making quick decisions, so make the most of it. 4. Don’t under-estimate the power of a coalition – Every organisation, no matter what it’s size, has something to contribute to a coalition. It could be the ability to connect with a specific audience, expertise and insight or links with a specific beneficiary group. Whatever it is, find others working on your issue, diverse groups often get noticed by decision makers. 5. Never stop believing that you can change the world! It’s quoted too often but Margaret Mead was onto something when she said “Never underestimate the power of a small but committed group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has’ What other thoughts would you share with those attending tomorrow?
It’s not often you see a big NGO come out in public and admit that they got something wrong.
So it’s great to see WWF put out a statement today effectively apologising for its lack of public action and clarifying its stance on UK forest sell-off in response to some harsh criticism it’s received in the press this week.
It’s a spat that started in the Guardian on Monday when environmentalist Jonathan Porritt accused major charities, including WWF, RSPB and the National Trust of “collectively betrayed” for their failure to support the grassroots campaign that has grown in the recent weeks to halt the sale of English forests, while Polly Toynbee put the boot in on Tuesday accusing green groups of ‘keeping their heads down over selling off forests’.
Today, WWF have responded with an excellent statement on their website confessing that they should have done more from the start.
Porrit stated “There have been no statements, no mobilisation of its massive membership, no recognition that this is an absolutely critical issue for the future wellbeing of conservation in the UK. Nothing”.
Suggesting that the lack of action had “made themselves look foolish and irrelevant as one of the largest grassroots protests this country has seen for a long time grows and grows without them – indeed, despite them.”
There is no doubt that the campaign mounted by 38 degrees and others has gathered a huge amount of momentum in a short time, it’s petition has just gone over the half a million mark.
Perhaps most interestingly, it feels like it’s not only the ‘usual suspects’ who are signing on. A non-campaigning friend of mine posted the link to the petition on Facebook tonight encouraging people to sign, and the Observer reported of the opposition of many land owners last weekend.
So I’m impressed to see the response from WWF today, who write of the statement that ‘It’s fair to say this is a bit overdue as loads of you have asked us what we’re doing about the proposed government sell-off (or long-term leasing) of UK forests’
Going on to explain ‘Not having much of a history working on UK forests, we did most of our work behind the scenes and focused our public firepower on issues like illegal logging via our ‘What Wood You Choose?’ campaign. We are working with peers getting an amendment tabled in the House of Lords and had questions asked in parliament, but to be honest we did precious little in public’ (emphasis mine)
In time it might be right to ask if criticising environmental NGOs in such a public way was the right approach by Porritt? As an unnamed source in the original article says ‘Rule one of clever campaigning is that you don’t criticise members of your team, at least not in public’ and WWF say they’ve been working on this behind the scenes.
But for me this spat has once again highlights some of the challenges that the more ‘traditional’ NGOs need to address in their campaigning. 1. Agility
Movements like 38 degrees are so well placed, because they can respond within hours not days. They lack the restrictions of charitable status and often no desire for a seat at the table in ongoing consultation. Combine this with a phenomenal e-mail network mean that they can be ‘first to market’. The challenge that many ‘traditional’ NGOs face is that they’re not set up to turn around a response in the time that online campaigns like 38 degrees.
No doubt heated discussions have been happening at all the NGOs that Porritt choose to criticise (as you can see implied by the response from WWF), but the very nature of these organisations mean that multiple departments need to be involved and opportunities and risks needs to be carefully calculated, but that whole process takes time, and internal compromises often have to be negotiated. In this digital age waiting even 24 hours to respond or act can be too long. 2 – Collaboration Within a day or so 38 degrees had already collected the first 50,000+ names on its petition, and then you have to ask how much value there is in starting a second competing petition. This for me is the second challenge are traditional NGO prepared to ‘brand’ and ‘profile’ aside and collaborate for the common good when situations like this arise?
Would the NGOs named be prepared to promote the 38 degrees petition assuming they agreed with the essence of what it was calling for?
On this regard I’ve got a huge amount of respect for WWF for saying in their statement ‘To their great credit, 38 Degrees organised a massive public response (sign here if you haven’t already)’ but no doubt that line will cause some anxiety in the organisation as supporters are encouraged to share their valuable data with others.
Collaboration is essential, and to do it well campaigners need to recognise the different roles and approaches needed for effective campaigns.
Save our Forests is no different, surely it’d be of huge value to have organisations with both years of experience in nature conservation joining the campaign and impressive contacts within Parliament to be involved. But to do that requires someone to initiate the collaboration, and in situations like this perhaps it’s not clear who that should be. 3. Accountability Perhaps it wasn’t Porritt’s criticism and the Guardian articles that lead WWF to clarify their position. The statement from WWF certainly indicates that they’ve also been hearing complaints from supporters saying ‘The scale of passion around this issue has led to a lot of emails as to WWF’s role’.
This case seems to be another example of the increasingly complex relationship that organisations have with their supporters. The tools of collaboration and campaigning aren’t just in the hands of a few professionalised campaigners, they’re available to supporters to lobby the organisations they belong to. It also shows that many campaigners are active in more than one campaigning network.
So congratulation on an excellent response from WWF, a response that already seems to be yielding appreciation from supporters with one writing; Thank you. As a WWF member and supporter of the Save Our Forests campaign, I’m very glad you’ve joined the campaign. The statement above is everything we could have hoped for.
Now I’m left wondering if we’ll see the National Trust and RSPB come out with a statement in recent days.
Jonathan Powell’s in his excellent book, The New Machiavelli, shares a great example of how a tactic worked to get action on climate change from the UK goverment. In June 2006, Gordon organised a session with Al Gore and a screening of his climate change film in Number 11 and was terribly upset when no minister would come because it clashed with a meeting of the Cabinet environment committee. We changed the time of the meeting, and the ministers all came to the screening and then went straight on to their postponed meeting. In a fit of post-film euphoria, they agreed to raise the target for the cut in carbon emissions from the 4 million tons we had been contemplating to 10.5 million tons.
This is lazy summer blog posting, but I’ve been meaning for ages (about 6 months) to share a link to this blog post by my friend Nick, who had a go at listing some of the best advocacy campaign ads. In the end he settled on;
In some ways it was one of the first ‘big’ advocacy campaign videos that was trying to reach and engage new audiences by bringing together big name celebs. The concept was simple but powerful, and it was repeated around the world.
If it’d come along a few years later, when more people we’re creating films rather than simply viewing things online (you’d never need to post a link to a 56K dial up video today) it would have spawn lots of imitations. Amazing how much digital media has changed the way we campaign in just 5 years.
John Stewart spoke at the latest CASS Business School Charity Talk event. In a talk entitled ‘Campaigning with Effectiveness and Flair‘.
John is Chief Exec of HACAN, the largest voluntary organisation dedicated to those campaigning on behalf of those affected by aircraft flight paths, and chair of Airport Watch, a broader coalition of organisations campaigning against the issue of airport expansion.
In his talk he unpacked some of the reasons why the campaign was so successful at dominating the discussions and debates around the building of a 3rd runway. I’ve written before about the Heathrow campaign and some of the reasons I think were elements of its success but Stewart provided a first hand account from the inside. The KnowHow NonProfit website, which is linked to CASS Business School, has some excellent resources from the evening (which also includes Brian Lamb’s presentation which I’ll blog about later in the week).
Stewart drew out three main lessons from the campaign and argued that these were also based on things that they’d learnt from previous defeats that HACAN had experienced over Terminals 4 and 5. A good reminder to always learn from campaigns that don’t succeed! Bring together the widest possible coalition In previous campaigns, HACAN had drawn together a small number of residents groups and local authorities around Heathrow but the 3rd runway campaign managed to build a much bigger coalition not just of the usual suspects but a much bigger range of organisations, such an environmental groups, direct action groups alongside MPs, local authorities and residents groups.
Stewart said that this strengthened the campaign enormously, but also introduced new issues (climate change wasn’t a central part of the previous campaigns which had focused more on quality of life issues). Stewart shared the tactics that the coalition had used to keep together what must have been a disparate group of people, including regular face-to-face meetings, which meant that people got to know each other on a personal basis.
You have to admire the campaign for managing to bring together local Conservative councillors to direct action activists from Plane Stupid, but Stewart argued that united around a common aim to stop a 3rd runway was the strength of the coalition. The range of tactics meaning that it made it much difficult for authorities to know how to respond because their tactics couldn’t simply be put into a box or be predicted. Don’t dodge the economic arguments The campaign realised from its previous defeats that it had to engage with the central issue and argument that the government was using to justify building the runway, that the UK economy needed it. In previous campaigns, Stewart implied they’d focus on quality of life arguments that although important to those involved in the campaign didn’t resonate with decision makers who could suggest that these were the arguments of NIMBYs.
Stewart shared how they commissioned independent research on the economic argument, which was undertaken by an independent and respected consultancy firm which the EU also used, so it couldn’t be immediately dismissed by government as a being written by a pro-environment consultant. The campaign found that this report was vital in helping to counter the central arguments of the government, and convincing the opposition parties to get involved . A good lesson to remember the importance of independent research in supporting your campaign asks. Engage in pro-active campaigning
Early on the campaign realised its tactics couldn’t simply be limited to working through the official structures that the process would provide, like official enquiries which was its previous approach. Stewart argued that if these processes were effective at changing things they’d soon change the structures, perhaps a slightly cynical approach but the argument that they don’t favour community campaigns who have little of experience of making quasi-legal arguments is a good one.
Instead the campaign focused their campaigning on what communities are good at doing, talking to each other, and mobilising around more traditional tactics like marches and rallies. This was successfully combined with more traditional lobbying using a cross-party group of MPs, and excellent cheap media activities, like flash-mobs at the opening of terminal 5.
At the end of the presentation, Stewart spoke about how the campaign had worked with direct action groups. He argued that they’d been good for the campaign, and an important part of the campaign mix. While the campaign didn’t want everyone taking direct action, they helped to prevent the campaign from easily being boxed by the government. Listening to Stewart talk about the role of groups like Plane Stupid in the campaign, its clear they have a central role, and its fascinating to see how these groups co-existed and even shared platforms with those with much more conservative approaches to policy change.