Organising during Lockdown – some reflections from the last year

It’s about a year since we all went into lockdown here in the UK – an anniversary that coincides with about the same period of time we’ve been putting organising at the heart of our campaigning approach at Save the Children UK. 

As I wrote last January, the addition of organising alongside campaigning in our organogram was about a deliberate intention to move ourselves as Save the Children to focus much more on building the power of others in our campaigning approach – than simply focusing on mobilisation that perhaps we’d most comfortably focused on for much of the last decade. 

And no sooner that we got started, many of the plans and intentions that we had for our organising work had to adapt – as it was clearly not going to be possible that a vision of getting out and about to meet with those who wanted to connect with our cause, or traveling up and down the country to build leaders, all had to move online.

So as we’ve come to the end of a year of lockdown – it’s been a useful moment to take a step back and reflect on our organising journey over the last 12 months, and ask what I’ve learned from that.

So what’s worked and not worked? 

1. It’s put organising as the first thing on the list – We started last year with a couple of organising programmes going, but we now have so much more- a new programme now piloting working with students, some amazing work with parent campaigners – building on the brilliant Mums on a Mission community – which is at the heart of our work on UK child poverty, exploring work with diaspora communities after a number of years of ad-hoc work, and a more active network of Campaign Champions – our core organising role for those who want to stand with us for child rights that at any point in my time at Save the Children.

It feels like the decision to put organising at the heart of our work, has I think helped to remind us that this is core to the campaigning we’re looking to do – something to think about first, not something to add on. 

2. It’s transformed our engagement – driven by lockdown, but going digitial has totally changed who from our networks has been able to get involved. Before lockdown, despite recognising it, we were frankly too London centric.

Training days would typically happen near our London offices, but by moving everything to digital has removed that overnight – and as we’ve all grown more used to catching up with friends and family on digital platforms- so attendance at many of our online sessions has ballooned. 

But that’s not been without challenges, for some of those we’ve been working with, especially through our parent’s campaigning programme, access to digital devices or data has been a barrier, and we’ve not been as quick as we can be to resolve that. 

3. We’ve seen the community grow and leaders develop –  If the heart of what we’re trying to do is ‘build power’ through the leadership of others, then across the year I’ve seen lots of that starting to happen – individuals want to step up and take on responsibility.

But it’s also interesting that when I talk with colleagues I think that people still find the idea of being a ‘leader’ as something that fits a little uncomfortably, that they’re excited to be invited to step up to do the work and to given space to develop, but not sure about the label we put on that. 

4. It’s (obviously) been tough to do none of this ‘in person’ – sure we’ve seen lots of benefits from being able to digital, but there is still something that’s lost from not being able to have a chat over a cup of tea in the fringes of a meeting, or being able to celebrate with a high-5 or simillar.

The future might be more online, but it’s not going to be able to replace the fact that growing leaders is about connecting in person. 

5. It’s allowed decision-makers to decide who they want to meet with – we’ve had some amazing doors open for us in the last 12 months, with more people getting involved and taking to Zoom to meet with their MPs or directly with officials, but the big change has been that it’s further allowed decision makers to be the gatekeeper on who they do and don’t meet with – and that depends on both the interest in the topic or often just how organised their office is.

Gone have been many of the more informal spaces that you can use, or the formal mechanisms like pitching up in Westminster to ‘green card’ your MP. In the long run I’m not sure this healthy for how we engage with our decision makers – as I suspect they won’t be enthusiastic about returning to how it used to be.

The same for media, now little happens in the studio, it’s much easier to get a leader you’ve been working with to share what they’re doing as opposed to someone from our organisation who can easily get to a ISDN line. 

6. You can’t stop telling the story – often, in conversation, one of my team will share the most amazing story of what one of our volunteer leaders has done, but it’s been really interesting how hard it’s been to translate that into indicators to share with the rest of the organisation – it’s amazing how strong the muscle memory is, pulling you in the ‘comfortable’ direction of what you’ve always done.

I’ve learned this year, that you can’t just make the pivot and then hope that everyone will behind what you’re doing. You’ve got to keep finding the stories of leaders, sharing those stories, putting them into context for others, reminding everyone why you’re doing this and explaining how this approach. Building power takes time, and often we can be impatient for quick results. 

Who knows what the next 12 months are going to hold – hopefully, we’ll soon be able to get out and about again, building an organising approach that allows us to mix the benefits we’ve seen from lockdown, but bringing in-person relationships back into the heart of what we’re doing. I’ll report back next March with some more reflections.

How do we measure if we're having an impact?

NoteI wrote this post on the excellent report when it first came out in March 2020, but posting it got delayed by lockdown, and since then sadly MobLab has had to close down – but although the context for some of our campaigning has changed, the themes in it feel as important as ever.

The team at Mobilisation Lab has done a huge service to the campaigning community, by bringing together the ‘Measuring People Power in 2020’ report that has surveyed 500+ changemakers to look at the metrics that they’re using in their campaigning, and it’s an important read for any campaign leader.

(full disclosure – I was involved in the advisory group for the report)

It’s full of takeaways but for me, one that it’s got me thinking about is how it’s time for us to drop the vanity metrics and really push into finding measures that capture the depth of our work.

We’ve known for years the limits of vanity metrics – which look at list size or page views – and focus on the breadth of activity happening, but can often have little bearing on the depth of our advocacy or the impact it’s happening,

But the report finds that most of us are still using them, with 91% of respondents saying they use them, and importantly for leaders, that as senior management we might be perpetuating this by suggesting an ongoing interest in focusing on them.

The report finds that others perceive there is only a moderate or small amount of support for measuring people power from senior leaders.

So if we’re to change that, we’ll need to be part of leading it. 

Now I know from my own personal experience, leading campaigning and organising work at Save the Children UK that’s it’s easy to get enthralled with vanity metrics – they’re easy to report on, stand up against similar figures that are presented by other colleagues and make you feel good when explaining them to the CEO – who doesn’t want to be able to report that the number of campaigners you’ve had sign your latest petition. 

But they’re limiting the story that we can tell about what it takes to create change and prevent us from doing the hard work that’s needed to find new measures of people power – of course, I’d love to be able to say that the report has found a single unifying metric that we can all use to explain the impact of our campaigning but we don’t have that.

So where do we go next?

‘The holy grail of people power is a measurement that captures (a) the breadth of a campaign or organization’s reach, (b) the depth of sustained supporter engagement and leadership, and (c) the impact these factors have on achieving the mission’.

Well helpfully the report has some thoughts about what we can do differently, and how we might be able to start to search for people power metrics that help to reflect the ‘The holy grail of people power is a measurement that captures (a) the breadth of a campaign or organization’s reach, (b) the depth of sustained supporter engagement and leadership, and (c) the impact these factors have on achieving the mission’.

1. We need to talk about power in our measurement – the focus of our work as campaigners is about change, a good day is when the work you’re doing comes together to win change, but how many of our metrics reflect this. Are they rooted in an understanding of power as something that is dynamic, that changes, and that needs to reflect the theories of change that we’re using? Are we adapting our measures to how our campaigns are seeing how change will happen?  

2. Look outside our organisations to learn from others – the report highlights how some organisation are experimenting with different approach to measuring people power, focusing more on the depth and impact of their movements, for example Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands on how they’ve moved to focus on measuring the leadership capacity within their movement.

Or some interesting literature coming out of academia looking at the evidence for the approaches that work – the report is full of useful snippets of insight from academics, for example, this work that finds that volume of contact might not be the most important way of influencing decision-makers, but the quality of contacts is. 

3. Make it playful and fun – there is a brilliant quote in the report from Rachel Collinson who says ‘a measure is good if it is precise, practical and playful’. That resonates as it’s easy to see our conversations on measurement feel like a chore at the end of the process, but how as leaders do we ensure that we supporting the creation of measures that bring joy to the process, as well as reflection. How do we draw from others who are using behaviour insight to create ways of capturing information and using measures that are fun.

4. Celebrate what we’re already doing – I’m sure many organsiations have already moved beyond vanity metrics, but when the report says that one in five recipients aren’t aware of any promising people power metric – perhaps we’ve not good at sharing what we’re doing. We perhaps feel a little fragile about sharing until their perfect, but as leaders how do we share our ‘work in progress’.

For example, I’m working on a project at the moment that’s looking to build local campaigning infrastructure using a composite metric to measure group health, in another area of our work we’re looking more at how we can measure the number of ‘youth-led’ advocacy initiatives, and with our fundraising colleagues, we’re looking at a lifetime value metric that tries to properly quantify the contribution that our supporters make via their campaigning action. It might not feel groundbreaking, but perhaps helpful to talk about more.  

(If anyone’s interested and based in the UK I’d be up for convening a session where we all bring our current ‘works in progress’ then get in touch via Twitter)

So lots to think about, and the report helps to start of more of a conversation about how we talk about and measure what’s working and not working. 

7 campaigns that have impressed me in 2017

Christmas is a time for lists, so over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few of mine as another year of campaigning comes to a conclusion. To kick off I wanted to share a few of the campaigns that have caught my eye in 2017.
This isn’t an awards list (there are other places you can go to recognise award-winning campaigning) and the criteria for inclusion is just that I’ve spotted (or someone else did) and I think they’ve got some interesting learning for all campaigners behind them;
1. Momentum – Whatever your views on the movement that has been the engine behind Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, and then his almost election as Prime Minister back in June, the way the campaign has harnessed the energy behind Corbyn and deployed it effectively are outstanding.
Their lean approach, embracing initiatives like Grime for Corbyn, working with developers, activists and designers to apps like ‘Carpool’ and push out some of the most creative content on social media around the election has helped to transform UK politics. Even Conservative politicians have written admiringly about what Momentum is able to deliver.
2. Greenpeace – as the nation has been gripped by Blue Planet 2, Greenpeace has once again been able to deliver another brilliant campaign that’s got people talking about the amount of plastic we’re dumping into our oceans and creating space for a wider conversation about we can all be doing to reduce our waste. The focus on Coca-Cola, a well-known brand which is sensitive to criticism, has once again worked captured the imagination, alongside brilliant content like this film. And while Coke might still be holding out – although experience will suggest that Greenpeace rarely fail when they have a target in their sights – the wider conversation is already shifting with Government on the introduction of a bottle deposit return scheme and other companies looking to take a step to reduce the amount of plastic waste they’re producing.
3. Stop Funding Hate – While this campaign might have started in 2006, is consistent drip feed of wins has ensured it’s stayed in the public consciousness throughout the year, able to respond to continued stories of hate and division. The campaign approach is simple, focus on those companies who advertise in the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express, and get them to agree to stop paying for adverts. With companies like Lego, Body Shop, Paperchase and others agreeing to stop placing adverts in the papers the campaign effectively uses social media to create a storm that appears to shift opinion. And you know that you’re having an impact when the papers you’re targetting start to use column inches to attack you.
4. Indivisible – the election of Donald Trump has, perhaps unsurprisingly, led to the proliferation of campaigns to resist his agenda. Foremost amongst these has been Indivisible which started as a Google Doc guide about what those who resisted Donald Trumps agenda could do, but has quickly turned into a whole movement of individuals across the US, inspired to recreate the influence of the Tea Party, and rooted in what Congressional staffers know works, contacts from local electors.
A year later over 2 million people have downloaded the guide, over 5,000 groups have formed and they held tens of thousands of events. Quite a success, but another dividend of the continued campaigning to protect Obamacare, challenge the Muslim Ban, stop the tax cut, and beyond has led to a proliferation in cool tech that helps activist, like ResistBot which faxes your Congressperson from a text or 5Calls which  provides you with the 5 most important phone calls you can make from the comfort of your laptop.
5. Amnesty Football Welcome – there are a couple of campaigns that I’ve spotted this year that have looked to use the power of sport, and especially Football. Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign seems to go from the strength to strength, becoming a fixture on the agenda of all Premier League clubs each November. But it was Amnesty Football Welcomes campaign back in April that I really love. Recognising the national passion for football, and the long history many clubs have in involving refugees in their team, the campaign aimed to make that link as part of Amnesty’s wider ‘I Welcome’ campaign. Really smart approach to a sometimes challenging topic.
6. Stop Adani – I have to be honest I wasn’t aware of this campaign until I asked others for recommendations, but as Jason Mogus says few campaigns have gone from ‘almost completely losing, to almost completely winning, in just under a year’. The campaign which is about stopping a huge open coal mine in Queensland, Australia, was credited by the Economist as almost certainly swinging the result of the recent state elections, and as Jason writes in this excellent post the approach was tight theory of change – build a movement, stop the money then shift the politics. A reminder at the end of an exhausting year of campaigning that anything is possible if you have a strong, clear and effective theory of change.
7. Scrap the Cap – It’s been a year of change in UK politics, but with Brexit dominating the discussion it’s been hard to see many campaigns on other issues cut through. But one that has clearly been successful is the Royal College of Nursing Scrap the Cap campaign was one that’s managed to shift the current government agenda, with a commitment in October by the government to remove the 1% pay cap on NHS workers. The campaign has looked to harness a really nice mix of tactics all involving NHS workers, using social media and focusing on local meeting with MPs of all parties.

What campaigns have inspired or impressed you in 2017? Comment below to join the conversation.

Inside a failing campaign – lessons from the Conservative 2017 election effort

Regular readers will know that I believe you can learn as much from an unsuccessful campaign and you can from a successful one.
Conservative Home editor, Mark Wallace, publishes a three part insider look at why the Conservative campaign failed at the General Election (part 1, part 2 and part 3). It’s a really great set of articles which gets under the bonnet of what did and didn’t work at an operational level – rather than too many post-elections which focus on the personality clashes between competing politicians. As an aside, I’d also recommend Mark’s writing on the referendum campaigns.
Although the articles are written with the intention of trying to change practice in the Conservative Party going forward, there are a number of lessons that I think can be applied whatever issue your working on. I’d strongly recommend that you read at least the first two articles, but here are the takeaway lessons that I’ve taken from the articles;
1 – You can’t fatten a pig on market day – the famous saying of Conservative election guru, Lynton Crosby, as a reminder that successful campaigns take months, sometimes years of meticulous planning. That it takes time to have the right staffing infrastructure in place, message testing done and materials ready to go. It really is a process you can’t rush.
2 – Get the right people on the bus – successful campaigns need the right people, with the right experience, making decisions at the heart of them. Wallace’s articles include numerous about the lack of clarity in decision making, too many people involved at the tops and the fact that many experienced staff had been let go after the 2015 election. You need to have the right skills and experience to win.
3 – Practice open loop listening – Conservative activists on the ground were repeatedly finding that the data selections that they were being given we’re missing often known Conservative voters, but despite feeding that upwards the data selection stayed the same. Those at the center of the campaigns were so sure that their models were correct the ignored what those on the ground were telling them, a classic example of closed loop learning.
4 – Data deteriorates fast – at the end of the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives had over 1.4 millions usable email addresses, but fast forward just 24 months, and the articles suggest that up to much of this data was out of date (as a reference between the 2010 election, when they had collected 500,000, and 2013 when they started planning for 2015, the list had shrunk to 300,000). A reminder that any campaigning organisation needs to be proactive at continuing to collect data.
5 – Distributed v’s Centralised – the campaign was heavily centralised, with a focus on a few core messages – remember ‘Thresea May’s Conservative Party’ and ‘Strong and Stable Leadership’. This meant there was little space in literature for candidates, who often have a much better sense of what messages would work in a community. That lead to big errors, for example literature featuring quotes from The Sun being sent to seats in and around Merseyside where their is a significant anti Sun feeling, but the same approach surely meant the Conservatives missed opportunities for picking up effective local campaign led by candidates.  As a contrast, Ben Pringle has some reflections on how localised campaigns helped the Labour Party
6 – If it ain’t broke don’t change it – Following the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives had found a number of effective approaches working both in individuals constituencies, and how to make the most of working with activists. But many of those approaches were thrown out for 2017. Sure innovation and changing approaches is important, but not at the cost of the basics that have been proven to work.
7 – Message amplification – Wallace reflects on the role that a range of third party organisations and individuals were active at amplifying the messages coming from the Labour Party – the micro-PAC phenomena I’d highlighted in this post – while the same didn’t happen for the Conservatives. A good reminder that the reach of your own social channels, however large, can only get you so far, and you need to build a wider network of support. See more on this over at Political Advertising.
8 – Don’t forget to say thank you – Imagine you’ve just put your life on hold for 8 weeks to run to be a candidate, you’d expect in the days or weeks after election night that you’d get a personal thank you for those who’ve lead the campaign. That didn’t happen for most Conservative candidates, they got a generic email, sent to thousands of other helpers, and that was about it. Not good for motivation!
If you’ve read the articles, what other lessons are you taking from them?

'Mistakes, I've made a few'

‘Mistakes, I’ve made a few’ so goes the song. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can learn from mistakes and failure since the start of the year. Much of it was prompted by reading Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking. In it, he writes

‘a closed loop is where failure doesn’t lead to progress because information on errors and weaknesses is misinterpreted or ignored; an open loop does lead to progress because the feedback is rationally acted upon’

The book explores why some industries, like airlines, are good at practising open loop learning, while others, like the medical profession, less so – see here for the obligatory Ted Talk to accompany the book.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I can get better at learning ‘open loop lessons’ in my work. Many of the campaigning organisations that I admire at the moment talk about how they have a culture of testing, and a high tolerance for failure, so what can I do to encourage that where I’m working?
It was something I challenged others at ECF to do (and it’s something I’ve blogged about before), so informed by a Chatham House rules session at ECF back in April, and my own reflections on when I’ve not got things right, here are a few reflections on how projects that I’ve been involved in don’t always work out the way they should.
1. The internal excitement bubble – sure they say in a brainstorm that ‘no idea is a bad idea’ but if you’re going to invest significant resources in taking an idea to market, it can pay to do some insight work first. To check that when you take your idea out of your organisational bubble it still a great idea.  I remember the campaign I was involved in when we were sure people would want to stick around and ‘make a weekend’ of the march, so we invested in a range of events. Hardly anyone came along. Something we would have found out if we’d asked a few people about their plans. Great idea in our bubble, less so outside of it!
2. Going to scale too quickly – sometimes good ideas need to take time to grow, you need to start small to learn what’s really going to work and what’s not going to work before you go to scale. I know that I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that we can quickly grow a scheme or idea, but in the attempt lose a huge amount of the goodwill you need for a project to succeed. I can vividly recall one volunteer project when we came up with an elaborate plan involving, but soon found it wasn’t working. A quick pilot of a few months would have easily helped us to iron out the kinks in it, but instead, we squandered a huge amount of goodwill.
3. Less failing, more fizzling out – Perhaps this shouldn’t be talked about in a post on failure, because much of our focus on the failure of a project or idea to get off the ground. But the truth can be that sometimes not knowing when to end something is as much a failure as not getting something started. I can think of a number of projects that we should have closed down rather than just keeping them going with just enough resources to stay afloat but not enough to have the real impact they should.
4. The resource gap – I know I’m guilty of this, especially as a manager where it always feels like you’ve got to make a trade-off between the amount that you can resource a project. But not backing a project with the resource it needs, or worse still ignoring what experienced colleagues are saying about the resourcing needs, in the hope that by sheer determination you can get it over the line.
5. Who wants a project to succeed? – Successful projects need clear owners. I’ve seen many projects squander because they lack someone who feels responsible for delivering. This is especially easy in a big organisation where. Since starting in my new role at Save the Children I’ve really found using a R.A.C.I. to be a useful tool. They help to ensure everyone is clear on who is responsible (the person who is going to make it happen) and accountable (the person who needs to be held to account if doesn’t happen). How I’d wish been introduced to that earlier in my career.
6. A Fresh Pair of Eyes – We’ve all done it, sent an email out with a terrible typo in the subject line, forgotten to add the link in or accidentally over promoted someone in an email. Lots of the mistakes I make are because I’m too close to the topic and thus blinkered to the details. A fresh pair of eyes is what’s needed. But as Jim Coe writes in this post on why we missed the election outcome, the concept could be used more widely, by making sure that we’re involving a wide range of perspectives and approaches, to challenge what might be in front of us but we can’t see because we’re blinded by certainty.
I’m certainly on a journey on all of this, so I’d love any reflections that readers have about how as campaigners we can get better at open loop learning.

After Article 50. Some questions for Remain campaigners

Last Wednesday, Article 50 was triggered, and already the papers are full of headlines about the return of Blue Passports (and worse). It’s getting me wound up.
But over the last week, I’ve found myself on a few occasion lamenting the apparent lack of any effectively organised campaign against ‘hard’ Brexit, and quietly getting frustrated about the March for Europe last Saturday which saw tens of thousands of people on the streets of London, but seemed like a missed opportunity to kick start something.
I don’t know who was behind the March for Europe – it wasn’t Open Britain, the group that’s trying to continue the legacy of the Stronger In campaign – but perhaps that speaks to the disjointed nature of what’s become of the Remain campaign.
So I wanted to offer a few reflections/questions for those involved in the March for Europe. Sorry if it’s a bit of a rant –  I’d welcome comments or feedback about what others reading this think.
What’s the Theory of Change to stop a ‘hard Brexit’? At the heart of every campaign is a theory of change (see this short video for more), which is designed to help you to make the connections between what you’re doing and the change you want to see.
If I’m honest, I’m still not sure what those who organised the march on Saturday wanted to achieve. I realise it was timed to coincide with the issuing of Article 50 and the 60th anniversary of the EU – so perhaps it was simply a show of strength, but it didn’t feel like it had any clear theory of change.
The question I’m asking is will we win the concessions we want in the Brexit negotiations on the streets of Whitehall on a Saturday, or in High Streets across the country? My sense is that we might push back some of the worst of Brexit if we can demonstrate to MPs who voted Remain (especially Conservative ones) that there is a political risk for them to back a ‘hard’ Brexit.
With the Parliamentary arithmetic as it is, those antagonised backbench MPs will be some of the most effective advocates we have for the issues – channelling the anxiety to Number 10 and others, that this will cost votes/seats at the next election. It’s a tactic that we’ve already seen anti-Trump campaigners use effectively on Healthcare in the US, where moderate Republicans felt they couldn’t back (more on that in a moment) as a result of pressure.
Was a demonstration the most appropriate tactic to use at this time? History is a testament to the fact that marches have a role to play in delivering change. But in campaigning, you always have to make decisions about the allocation of scarce resources, and organising marches are resource intensive activities. They require money to pay for stewards, effort and energy to mobilise people to turn up, and much more – they are huge operations.
Sometimes there can be really good reasons to march – I’ve written about some here – and sometimes a march can be about coming together to bear witness or be in solidarity with others – something I felt strongly when I joined the Women’s March following the inauguration of Donald Trump. But did anyone ask if this was the most useful tactic to use given the resources available?
Who was the audience? Looking at the images of the marches I have a concern – it seemed designed only to appeal to those who define themselves as Progressives or New Britain’s – groups that research shows aren’t close to equally a majority of the population. That’s understandable – I looked to buy an EU Flag ahead of the referendum vote – but winning change will need to build a coalition that is bigger than the 48% who voted Remain.
Concessions will need to be secured with the support of those who voted for Brexit and I’m not sure they’re likely to be attracted to a cause which was so vividly wrapping itself in the European flag.
Human nature suggests that telling people that the way they voted was wrong (even if you think they are) isn’t likely to attract others to your cause and as this research shows movements are more likely to win if ‘various classes, ethnicities, ages, genders, geographies and other social categories are represented’.
What happens next to those who came? Across the pond, the election of Donald Trump has led to a similar outpouring of activist energy, so I wonder if there is learning from those behind the Indivisible campaign in the US. They’ve taken the model that the Tea Party used during the first term of Obama’s presidency and turned it on its head, and it’s already having success, for example pushing back the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
There focus is unashamedly local, they realise they won’t win with lots of people putting pressure in the right places, by turning up at the public ‘Town Halls’ that representatives hold, or bombarding Representatives with phone calls – they’re also making some fairly nifty tech for it.
So what is happening next to everyone who marched on Saturday – the last thing that needs to happen is all those people return home thinking they’ve done their bit. Who is creating a UK equivalent of Indivisible to move this from the streets of London?

6 campaign lessons from Obama's rejection of Keystone XL

Climate activists in the US secured a HUGE win last week, when President Obama rejected the building of the Keystone XL pipeline because of it’s impact on climate.
I’ve written before about the campaign and my admiration for, the organisations who have been behind so much of the campaigning. In the last few years, the pipeline has become a focal point for much climate activism in North America and beyond so the Presidents rejection last week is big win.
So what can other campaigns learn from this success? The first 3 lessons come from this brilliant video by co-founder and senior adviser Bill McKibben.

1 – Build a diverse coalition – the first people involved in the campaign were ranchers from Nebraska and First Nations communities in Canada, perhaps not your usual climate activists then came students, scientists and many others. The distributed organising model that uses for its work, which is brilliantly captured in this post, lends itself to involve many different groups building locally as well as in Washington.

2 – Put your body on the line – right from the start of the campaign those involved have used peaceful, non-violent direct action at the heart of their approach. Together thousands of people have risked arrest, creating headlines and helped built a movement. The first period of direct action was deliberately timed when Congress wasn’t sitting to create a story, but since then they’ve kept the issue in the headlines by mobilising groups like the Sierra Club, celebrities, faith leaders, scientists and many others to get involved in non-violent direct action for the first time.
3 – Be creative – From circling the White House with a giant pipeline, to a Cowboy Indian Alliance protest on the National Mall, to the use of Obama’s campaign imagery in its graphics, the campaign has put creativity at the centre, providing lots of memorable images and moments.
I’d add a couple of others;
4 – Provided an abstract issue with a rallying point – Climate campaigning can be complicated with many of the policy solutions hard to mobilise around, but as David Roberts writes Keystone XL provided ‘clear villains, unambiguous markers of success, and local impacts that help draw support from other affected communities and demographics’.
5 – Drew on other movements – Those involved in Stop Keystone XL have a strong sense of where they fit within wider social justice struggles, as a result they’ve encouraged Keystone activists to get involved in Black Lives Matter protests, and invited those involved in the campaign to repeal ‘”don’t ask, don’t tell” in the US military to advise them.
But the final lesson goes to McKibben.
6 – Never Give Up – Remember when the campaign started, many climate activists in the US were bruised by the simultaneous failure to get domestic climate legislation passed (well documented here) and the collapse of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, but the victory against odds is evidence that as Roberts writes ‘social change is nonlinear and devilishly hard to predict’ but yet ‘an important part of the most important fight in the world’.

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How to stop your campaign falling off a cliff…

As campaigners, we can be like Wile.E.Coyote running so quickly that we ignore the impending cliff.
With summits on what replaces the Millenium Development Goals and another on Climate Change in Paris in December, plus a General Election, it’s fair to say that 2015 is a huge year for anyone campaigning on development.
Lots of brilliant campaigning is taking place, but when you’ve adopted a focus on a number of key moments, how do you avoid loosing the momentum and energy once that key summit has happened, or if negotiations don’t go your way.
Ensuring that your campaign is prepared not to ‘fall off a cliff’ is easy to overlook in the busyness of activities.
Here are a few thoughts on how to avoid that happening;

1. Acknowledge the risk – Be aware that the process that you’re trying to influence might not deliver all that you want it to. Things outside of your control happen that you can’t foresee. I’m amazed at the number of campaigns that haven’t given any thought to ‘what next’.
2. Commit resources – It doesn’t need to be much, but ensure you’ve held back some resource to ensure you’re ready for the day or week after. I remember in 2005, the plan for Make Poverty History was to focus on aid and debt up until the G8 summit and then move to focus on trade justice ahead of a WTO meeting in December, but after we’d put all our energies into mobilising 250,000 people to pressure the G8 in Scotland we didn’t have many people around to help plan for the next big push.
3. Build something that will last beyond – Campaigns moments come and go, but too few campaigns focus on building the infrastructure needed to win again and again. Be it re-energising local groups, building public support or raising understanding amongst decision makers ensure that your campaign is creating the conditions to ensure your next campaign is more likely to succeed.
4. Be honest with your campaigners about what’s going to happen and what happened – Let’s be frank. Make Povery History or Stop Climate Chaos might not have been the strap lines for campaigns. The framing suggested the possibility of something wasn’t achievable in a year or two. So let your campaigners know its a critical moment for action, the ‘crisistunity‘ is after all a great way of getting people to take action, but be honest if it hasn’t succeeded or there is more to do.
5. Map out possible scenarios – Take some time out of running your campaign to explore what might happen. Think through a few scenarios, some ‘what if’ options with a plan of what you’d do to respond to them.  Scenario planning is an approach used by many to work out how they’ll respond before it happens (and what worked/didn’t work) but I don’ think widely adopted in the campaigning sector. Put your plan through its paces before the big moment.
6. Take time out yourself – There are no wins from burn out. Even in the busiest times we need you to be ready for the next campaign. If you’re in the heat of a campaign, it’s not your responsibility to plan for what next as well, although you probably want to make sure someone is thinking about it. So book time off after the big moment your working towards and time out in the weeks leading up to it.
7. Plan to evaluate – Sure, you’re busy, you have no time to reflect on what’s working, but the best learnings are, in my experience in the busyness of the moments, make sure you capture them. The Intense Period Debrief is a great way to approach this as a team.
8. Don’t stop at the announcement – Success. You’ve got the decision you’ve long been campaigning for. Congratulations but remember inplementation doesn’t automatically happen. Dial down your campaigns by all means, but keep following the process.

4 things you should know about monitoring and evaluation in campaigning

I keep getting asked questions about monitoring and evaluation in campaigning. I’ve no idea why but here are a few of my reflections on the challenges (and opportunities).
1- It’s as much an art as it is a scienceThis paper is one of my favourite on the topic suggests that “Advocacy requires an approach and a way of thinking about success, failure, progress, and best practices that is very different from the way we approach traditional philanthropic projects such as delivering services or modeling social innovations. It is more subtle and uncertain, less linear, and because it is fundamentally about politics, depends on the outcomes of fights in which good ideas and sound evidence don’t always prevail”.  Simply put trying to apply evaluation approaches from programme work are unlikely to work, as INTRAC suggestsThe reality is that evaluating advocacy is hard. There is no magic bullet and systems”.
2 – What your measuring is often just the tip of the iceberg – Jim Coe has just authored this paper which suggests “the most significant benefits (of campaigning) are often submerged: difficult to measure, to monetise and sometimes even to see. It’s right to anchor advocacy to rigorous assessment. But calculations of value can risk focusing only on the part that is visible, generating misleading information and encouraging poor decision-making”, suggesting, amongst other things, that we should approach advocacy as inherently speculative, as “not all advocacy efforts will pay off, so plan for, and take a long term view of, “aggregate return” on advocacy rather than focusing on individual successes”.
3 – Focus on the transformational as well as the transactional – when you set objectives its easy to focus on the outcomes (transactional) like the number of actions taken, open rate on an email or attendance at event. As this paper suggests your metrics “should capture quantity and quality, numbers and nuance, transactions and transformations” recognising the importance of the impact of your advocacy on transformations “the vital but sometimes “invisible” work. They show how people, organisations, and movements have been altered through the collective efforts”. 
4 – Don’t ignore it – In the busyness of a campaign focusing on monitoring and evaluation can feel like a luxury, but here are some useful tools for quick evaluation. Simply put, any serious campaign should focus on investing in both monitoring and evaluating, while recognising that most of the impact you won’t see until long after your grant/campaign has ended, so its always good to think about going back to review campaigns you’ve run a while back.
I’d also encourage all campaigners to get better at sharing their evaluations. It’s time we had an ‘open evaluation’ movement to unlock and share all the learning across our campaigns to help each other. Feel free to use the comment sections to post links to any in the comment section below.
Looking for more ideas? This report from UNICEF has lots of useful tools and approaches.

11 lessons from #TurnUpSaveLives

Yesterday, I was able to celebrate (with loads of others) a huge campaign victory.
Over the last few months, one of the campaigns that has kept me busy has been #TurnUpSaveLives, a push to enshrine in law our commitment as a country to spend 0.7% of our national income on international development.
It’s been hard work (with lots of spreadsheets), but I’ve been fortunate to work alongside a great team of colleagues from 20+ organisations.
The bill, which was brought to Parliament by a Private Members Bill from Lib Dem MP Michael Moore, has now passed through the House of Lords and should receive Royal Assent before the election. It’s a big win.
I’ve learnt a lot from the campaign, here are a few brief thoughts;
1. A week really is a long time in politics – Days before both the second and third reading, we were still short of the 100 MPs we need to commit to attend, as campaigners it felt like we were running out of time but turns out the MPs are used to making changes to the diaries at the last minute, so a week really is a long time in politics!
2. Movements take time to build – I really enjoyed reading this reflection from Steve Lewis from Results UK, a reminder that the ‘movement’ calling for 0.7% goes back over 30 years, and Steve’s personal memories of a lobby of Parliament in 1984 calling for 0.7%. The votes were the culmination of the campaigning that started over 30 years ago and had grown, often working on other related topics (debt, trade, tax) but coming back when needed to 0.7%.
3. Make sure you know the process – Private Members Bills (PMBs) aren’t like normal bills that are driven by the Government, so understanding the Parliamentary procedure was vital, for example PMBs require you to get at least 100 MPs to attend on a Friday (when most MPs are scheduled to be in their constituencies), have to pass a Money Resolution (where Parliament has to agree to spending money on what’s being proposed), and the outcome of the Second Reading is used to decide the composition of the Bill Committee.
It was vital to use supportive MPs to help us understand what to expect to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity, as well as making use of the helpful Parliament website where you can track the progress of the Bill.
4. Opportunity Cost – For MPs to be in Parliament on a Friday, especially close to the election meant not attending a community event or meeting potential voters. We had to find ways to reduce the opportunity cost for MPs not being in their constituencies, for example we had a Lifesavers gallery where we publicly acknowledged (and thanked via twitter) who was attending, organised a photo moment with a celebrity to help MPs secure local media coverage, and placed a big emphasis on constituents writing or visiting MPs to ask them to attend.
5. Using Twitter – We got #turnupsavelives trending twice on the day of the Third Reading in December, it was thrilling, but looking through the tweets it proved that twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber, with most coming from those who were involved or supportive of the campaign.
However, where we did find twitter useful in the run up to to thank those MPs who had committed to attend or ask those who hadn’t to do so, as well as thanking those that did attend. Encouraging organisations to use their corporate accounts and also those of CEOs or other senior staff worked well, turns out MPs like to be thanked by NGOs. Having access to an in-house designer at Global Poverty Project to quickly turn around images we could share was invaluable.
6. Precedent – Often we’re campaigning were about looking to change somethings, but setting a precedent is one of the most overwhelming reasons not to do something for a politician. We found that early on in the campaign our hope to get parties to whip their MPs into attending was unlikely to happen, Labour doesn’t whip on Private Member’s Bill and didn’t want to set a precedent by doing so for this bill. So finding examples of where a party has done this before is really useful in demonstrating that you’re not asking to set a precedent in supporting your ask.
7 – Don’t forget to say thank you – I remember a MP once complaining to me that after he’d voted for something a campaigning organisation had asked him for the next letter he got was asking for something else. Its easy to forget to say ‘Thank You’ for MPs for voting (and we didn’t do enough after the second reading in September) but come the Third Reading, having a graphic ready to share the names of MPs who’d turned, sending cards from supporters, getting on the phone to key MPs, and writing letters from CEOs ensured we were doing all we could to show our appreciation to MPs who attended the vote.
Enshrining the 0.7% commitment in to law was in the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos for the 2010 General Election. Turn Up Save Lives is the campaign for them to honour the commitment. Today campainers donned festive clothing to sing carols to persuade MPs to stay and honour their commitment to pass the Foreign Aid Law and a few even dressed as East 17 to convince MPs to Stay Another Day, Westminster, London. 03.12.2014.
8. Insider/Outside – The campaign was a great example of how insider and outsider tactics can work together. We needed to be mobilising constituents to email, tweet, call and visit MPs asking them to visit, that helped to create a belief that and a constituency of support, but we also needed to be working the corridors of Westminster, understanding the positions of the different parties, providing the arguments about why we need, getting CEOs to call key MPs to use their influence to make sure we reached enough MPs pledged to attend, etc.
9. Building the right coalition – We didn’t spend lots of agreeing how the coalition was going to work, instead we kept our structures lean and simple forming three groups (one for campaigners, media and public affairs colleagues) with central coordination from Bond. The Turn Up Save Live. We worked to ensure that we tried to get as many organisations involved, including Unions and Faith Leaders. On reflection, we could have done even more to build a unusual coalition in support.
10. Supporters loved it – Lots of organisations reported that the actions they’d invited supporters to take was one of the most popular actions, I think everyone enjoyed the binary nature of the campaign, that your MP was either going to turn up or not, rather than the indirect actions we’re often asking supporters to take appealed to people.
11. Working with Lords is completely different – That’s for another post, but we learnt quickly that the same approach wasn’t going to work. Lords need to be engaged in very different ways.
Want to learn more? I’d be delighted to come and speak to your team based on the learning from the campaign.