How stunts can amplify your campaign message

Earlier this month, working with the Crack the Crises coalition, I was in Cornwall for the G7. 

Around Falmouth, where the G7 media center was located, at times it felt like you were at a festival of activism, with dozens of causes and campaigns looking to get coverage for their issues, and given the COVID restrictions more so than at previous G7 lots of these were through photo stunts (see a good collection here).

Across the weekend of the summit, as the Crack the Crises coalition, we organised for a blimp of Boris and Joe Biden to float in the Harbour, and for members of the coalition and the local community to hold a Vigil to remember the 3.7 million people globally who had lost their lives due to COVID.

So it got me thinking about the role of and use of stunts as a campaign approach.

Over the weekend of the summit I saw how what I’m calling the ‘summit stunt cycle’ can work itself ou. Given you can’t actually advocate directly to decision-makers at the G7, so much of the influencing that happens during a summit like the G7 through the media – those running the summit, in this case, the UK government, want to use the media to portray the summit as a success – ‘look we’ve got leaders to donate 1 bn vaccines’, while those of us on the outside want to suggest otherwise – ‘a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity‘.

And that’s where stunts can be really helpful.

They provide an opportunity to get the media interested in your message or perspective, by providing a hook for a photo or a conversation with a journalist, which can lead media interviews, which can lead to help set expectations for what ‘success’ from the summit would look like, causing your target to respond – hopefully by raising ambition – and so you get to go round the cycle again.

Perhaps the G7 is a unique summit, but the reality is that photo moments or stunts can be a useful tool for campaigners, so here are 5 top reflections on what makes a successful summit stunt;

1. Be informed by the official agenda – it’s very hard to drive a news cycle at a Summit as so much of it is dominated by what’s on the official agenda – so think about how your stunt can add to that. One organisation, Oxfam, has done this absolutely brilliantly for the last 15 years.

Since 2005, they’ve been taking their Big Heads of G7 leaders to summit after summit and serving up brilliant photo after brilliant photo. So this G7 the focus was going to be focused on vaccines and climate – so that’s what the Oxfam stunts were about. Perfectly providing a picture – and an alternative message – to what the government wanted the message to be.

2. A good stunt is simple – the adage that a ‘picture paints a thousand words’ is so true when it comes to stunts. It can be really easy to over think or overcomplicated – something that sounds great in a brainstorm but doesn’t translate into a stunt. And the reality is that if you build on the ‘summit stunt cycle’ you don’t want to overthink it.

How much did a giant blimp of Boris and Biden actually have to do with vaccines or climate? Not that much, but perhaps it didn’t matter – it said ‘these are the leaders that matter and we need them to do more than just turn up for it to be a successful meeting’

3. Plan to fill the quieter moments – There are hours of coverage at a summit that need to be filled by journalist and broadcasts, perhaps even more so in the days of live blogs and 24-hour news – and only so many photos of leaders on a beach, at a BBQ or around a table.

Don’t plan to do your stunt when it’ll be clashing with leaders press conferences, but do think about early in the morning, or in the evening, when the official agenda is quieter. 

We got the media out on a press boat at 8am and got lots of coverage for the blimp just because nothing else was happening at the Summit. The Vigil we held was at the end of the day and ran on many news channels over the whole night, as it was one of the last images from the summit that day.

4. Be adaptable – this is why I’m so in awe of the Big Heads because they can easily be reused to work for the moment. The dynamics of the summit can change across a weekend, so planning a stunt for the final day which can’t be easily adapted is risking the summit staying on track – having something more adaptable means as the summit goes on your can help to adjust your approach to feed into that summit stunt cycle.

But you also need to accept that not every stunt will get coverage– but as with much campaigning, it’s better to try and not succeed than not try and wish you had.

5. Work together – Good stunts work because they bring everyone together, you need media colleagues to get out and sell it in to the media, you need spokespeople who are preapred to do endless interviews to share the message, you need social media colleagues to push the idea out on your own channels, and you want to work with event experts to make – it’s a perfect example of when campaigners need to be the glue to hold it all.

Campaigning and the Church

It’s been a few years since I worked for a charity directly linked to the church – but because I’ve worked for Christian Aid and Tearfund – and as I’ve always tried to be open that my Christian faith has always been an important part of my motivation as a campaigner – I often get drawn into conversations and discussions by those seeking to understand a little more about how to engage churches in their campaigning.

I’ve had a few of those over the last month, so thought it useful to write a few reflections – that are by necessity, broad, on churches and campaigning – which might be useful to others.

  1. Go behind the ‘church attendance is down’ headline – it is, and that’s not news, the reality is that overall church attendance has fallen dramatically over the last few decades, but behind that overall trend is a much more complicated picture. 

Attendance at some denominations (like Methodist or United Reformed Church) that have often put social justice at the heart of their mission, appears to be declining faster – with some predicting that some denominations will be very small in a few decades if rates of decline continue. 

However there are other pockets of the church where numbers attending are growing – see for example the growth of the Catholic Church in London as an example of this, which has seen growth as a result of immigration into the city, or the continued growth of pentecostal and evangelical churches in urban areas across the country (including some growth in attendance at Church of England services in London – see graph (which is a few years old)).

Resurrection? | The Economist


So the story is more complicated and nuanced than the headlines would have you understand, but often much of that growth is centered in more urban areas, and that’s having an impact on where churches can be engaged in campaigning.

2. Understand the structures you’re navigating – as with any institution, most churches are part of a formal national structure – understanding it will help you to navigate it, but it’s useful to be aware that the overall decline in church attendance is putting pressures on those structures.  

For example, many vicars in the Church of England have multiple congregations or churches that they’re now responsible for. As attendance numbers have fallen, and the resulting impact on budgets – remember churches are mostly reliant on individuals contributions from congregation members, fundraising, and sometimes income that comes from investments or property – so bringing groups of churches together has been a viable financial approach. 

Just keeping the local church going is a rewarding, but often exhausting, vocation for those in local church leadership. It does mean that there isn’t an interest in campaigning or social justic causes, it’s just that the reality of local ministry with its many competing demands. That was before the impact of COVID, and the fact that many congregations haven’t been able to gather in person for much of the last 12 month which no doubt    

3. Don’t assume that just because you’ve got someone at the top involved means it’ll be a success – different churches have different relationships with authority and hierarch – indeed much of church history and the emergence of new denominations is arguably about difference over that, and like any organisation understanding it will help you to navigate it. 

Too often I’ve found colleagues who think that getting a Bishop (a senior role in both the Church of England and Catholic Church) onboard is enough – only to be disappointed. It certainly helps, but it probably doesn’t unlock as much as you might like. Also, be aware that churches often work on long timetables. Want them to get involved in your cause – plan months ahead if you can, and check the church calendar as well – your plan for a really important event on the Easter weekend is probably not going to get a fair consideration! 

4. Churches are about the communities they serve – I don’t have any data for it (although I suspect some readers of this blog would be able to point me towards it), but my hunch would be that during periods where levels of poverty and inequality in the UK are rising, then you’ll see a corresponding increase in the churches setting up projects and activities in the communities that they serve. 

In many communities, local churches (along with other faith groups) are a key player in organising the local food bank, debt advice service, shelter for the homeless, or the local refugee welcome group. Churches are about the community they serve  – but again it can mean the ‘bandwidth’ to connect on other topics or issues can be reduced, or approaches need to be made that connect with what is happening in a community.

5. Don’t be scared of evangelicals– most evangelical churches in the UK aren’t anything like what you might see on TV coming from America. Indeed, I’d argue that one of the stories of the last few decades is how much the evangelical ‘wing’ of the church has rediscovered its interest in social justice and the need for engagement in politics – I say rediscover because many social reformers identified as evangelicals, but that’s a whole theological PhD!

Go into most evangelical churches and you’ll find a commitment to action on the climate, fair trade, poverty, and other issues. You might find you don’t agree on everything – but good campaigning is often about building a coalition that is broader. Approach ready for a conversation to find the common ground, while accepting that there is something that your not going to agree on.

6. Churches like to work together – look around for the existing relationships, they might be through charities or organisations that have a long connection working on an issue – many of the campaigning organisations that we see around us have roots in churches, for example, the Children Society or Trussel Trust were both founded with links to the church.

With each other, often through local platforms like Churches Together groups which have often take a role at organising local election hustings (but like many other bodies in the church struggling to find volunteers), and with other faith groups – through interfaith platforms.

Working through those relationships and partnerships is important so approaching your work with that same emphasis on working together is a important place to start. 

7. The church is made up of people – so like any other charity or organisation, it can experience many of the same challenges and opportunities that other charities and voluntary organisations face. Congregational giving will often be squeezed if the overall economy is shrinking and individuals feel they’ve got to save, and like many charities finding volunteers to replace those who are choosing to step back or retire as they get older is a challenge that many churches also face.

Oh, and don’t expect everyone to hold the same view or opinion – indeed in many churches, you’ll find that the very opposite, a community of individuals united by the same faith, but politely disagreeing on much else.

A toolkit for playing defensive advocacy

A new Prime Minister, a possible General Election and Brexit continues to rumble on.

In our current, politically uncertain times do we need to start to reconsider what campaign success looks like?

That’s why I really enjoyed the latest paper from the team at the Centre for Evaluation Innovation which looks at how to define what successful defensive advocacy looks like (and is summarised in the short video below)

I’ve written before that sometimes campaigners should focus on ‘keeping the keep’ rather than expecting that they can move the ball down the field , so the report ‘When the Best Offense is a Good Defense: Understanding and Measuring Advocacy on the Defense’ provides a really helpful framework for what successful defensive advocacy, which they define as ‘a “win” can mean avoiding a disadvantageous policy or holding the line on past wins’, might look like.

Here at my top takeaways;

  1. Start to reconsider what success looks like – the whole premises of the report is that too often we spend our time focusing on advocacy that leads to how new policy changes that occur, but do we spend enough time. The report reflects that ‘one of the challenges for advocates on the defense is accurately describing and exciting funders about impact that doesn’t necessarily match up well with ingrained ideas of success: i.e. a pronounced and consistent upward trajectory of positive change for certain populations or environments’ but I think that’s also true within our organisations as well. Too often we’ve premised our narrative on progress, rather than highlighting that sometimes ‘holding the line’ is a success in itself.
  2. Understand the reactive approach you need to take – the report highlight that defensive advocacy can take on different approaches to ‘stop making bad stuff happen’, it can include;
    1. Maintaining a past win or preserving the status quo – is defined by advocacy to defend or maintain an existing law, act or policy.
    2. Lessening the blow – focusing on modifying or removing the most disadvantage aspects of a new policy.
    3. Killing the bill – when the focus of advocacy is preventing the adoption of new policies or laws.
  3. The importance of the inside game – having good relationships with those working inside Government or Parliament. They can informally alert you to possible threats before they’re publically known, as it can often easier to stop a proposal or approach being introduced before it is known publically as it’s easier for a target to ‘walk back’ their position without being perceived as having publically lost because of your pressure.
  4. Playing the long game – although most defensive advocacy is often in the moment responding to a threat, others are involved in ‘proactive defense’ – long-term defensive strategies that can focus on;
    1. Pre-emptive defense – building or maintaining capacity so they’re able to react quickly to foreseen defensive needs when a proactive approach is unfeasible.
    2. Long-term restoration – winning back previous losses over time when reactive efforts have failed.
  5. Being prepared – none of this work is possible without advocates having taken the time to think through what will be needed to play defense and built the standing capacity ready to respond as needed – it’s a theme I find myself coming back to, are we doing enough to plan and prepare for these moments, and do we test our processes to ensure we’re able to respond.
  6. Hold ourselves to the same standards – doing defensive advocacy isn’t second-order work, if it’s the approach that is needed, then it needs to be approached with the same thoroughness of thought, analysis of targets and opportunities, and consideration of a theory of change as advocacy that is pushing an agenda forward. The report also has some useful reflections on what tools we can use to evaluate our approaches.

But as I’ve reflected on the report I’ve also has been wondering if ‘offense is the best form of defense’ that our most successful advocacy is when we’re pushing forward a positive vision and agenda, so while we should be equipped with the tools to run defensive advocacy, we shouldn’t lose sight of the need to present a bigger vision in our advocacy.

Top tips for blogging

This week marks four years since I really got into writing this blog regularly, and from time to time I get other campaigners asking me for advice about starting a blog.
So if you’ve made it a resolution for 2019 to start a blog, here is some advice on what I’ve found helpful over the last 48 months.

  1. Be realistic about how often you’re going to post – When I first started I tried to write two or three times a week but frankly it became too much. So select a rhythm that works for you, and try to stick to it. I aim to write about twice a month. That sometimes means I end up writing two blogs, and then having to save one for later in the month, but write when you’ve got an idea to ensure it remains fun.
  2. Write about what interests you – I started writing a blog because I wanted to share what I was reading about campaigning to colleagues, but since then I’ve tried to focus on what I’m seeing, learning and thinking about campaigning, It’s a mix of what I’m doing, what I’m seeing around me and what I’m learning. I’m realistic that there isn’t a huge audience for what I write, but that’s fine with me as writing is a way that I find it useful to collect my thoughts in one place.
  3. Apply the Minimal Viable Product principle to your posts – I often start out a post by writing a few ideas down and build it out from there – I find lists a useful way of ordering my thinking hence the number of listicles I write! I generally have two or three posts that I’m working on at any time, and I’ve decided it’s better to write something and publish than ensure it’s perfect (it probably shows!). I’ve found having a space in my work notebook and Google Doc to scribble down my ideas/thoughts is helpful, and that Ommwriter is brilliant when I need some distraction-free time to finish a post.
  4. Turn other things you write into posts – Draw on what you’re doing for content – lots of my posts start off as notes from an event I’ve been to, an idea I’ve been looking to develop or an email offering some advice or reflections to a colleague (that’s how this post started). If you’re reading a good book why not write about what it’s got you thinking, seen a campaign that inspires you share it with others. Duncan Green has some suggestions here.
  5. Choose the platform that works for you – there are loads of great platforms that you can use for blogging. I’ve really enjoyed how Pete Moorey is using Medium, a platform that looks like it’s super simple to set up, while others use which is the free equivalent of which this blog is hosted on. Personally, I’d get going with blogging before you put too much time into setting up your own website.
  6. Don’t forget to share what you’re writing – it can feel uncomfortable but if you want people to read your posts then you need to tell them you’ve written them, so make sure you’re active sharing on social media – which probably means more than just a single tweet, also consider setting up an email list to share your latest posts with people – I’ve moved to TinyLetter this year.

I’d love to see more and more campaigners take up blogging and write about what they are thinking, learning or doing – if anyone is thinking of starting and wants any more tips or thoughts, then please do get in touch.
Photo Credit used under Creative Commons – Alpha Stock Images –

How to sustain the energy in your campaign

I’m off to chat to the good folk in the campaigns team at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home later today about how to keep the energy going in your campaign. It’s been a really fun question to be thinking about – not least because I can use a cute cat picture to illustrate this blog.
But as I’ve been preparing I’ve been struck that we often spend so much time and effort on planning the launch phase of our campaigns but don’t think about how to sustain the energy and momentum that we need to secure change.
As, George Lakey, said in his London lecture earlier this week, “a campaign, in contrast to a protest, is going at it over and over again, and escalating at the point of vulnerability of your target until you succeed”.
So here are 9 thoughts about sustaining the energy in your campaign;

  1. Think about the moments that people care about not moments you care about – too often we focus our campaigning around pushes that fit our policy calendars. There can be a rationale to that, but why not look at alternative moments that might help to get your campaign noticed in an a different light.
  2. Mind the moment gap – thinking about moments means that we can get caught forgetting what’s going to happen in the gaps. It’s hard to sustain the same level of output for a long period of time, but planning ahead and thinking about how well placed media work, a opinion poll or another approach.
  3. Ask what’s working/what’s needed – if you have allies inside your target, why not ask them what’s working or not working. What tactic could help to make the biggest different at that moment. They might make suggestions that you’ve not thought about or how to open up a new flank in your campaign.
  4. Share, and re-share, great content – shareable content is king, but too often we produce it without thinking about audience insight, or rush to move onto the next great idea without pushing it out enough. In a time when we’re bombarding by so much content, repackaging and reusing content is too often overlooked. The same goes for message discipline, I’m struck by how much time Shelter put into repackaging the same message in their housing campaigns.
  5. Never let a good crisis go to waste – it can be easy to see crisis as moments that you can’t plan for, but I’m not sure that’s true. Most crisis can be anticipated even if the exact timing can’t be pinned down. They’re great opportunities to reach new audiences or create a renewed push behind your policy ask. I thought Which? did this brilliantly around the RyanAir flight cancellations recently – they presumably know that a crisis was going to occur and had the content ready for it. What’s the equivalent for your campaign issue?
  6. Explore allies and alliances – bring in new people to your issue by thinking about how you can take it too new audiences. Too many campaigns try to focus on energising the same group of people to get involved over and over again, but those that are able to reach out to new groups can immediately bring in new energy.
  7. Claim it  – Campaigns with big ambitions can sometimes lose energy and momentum, but like your teacher would have advised you when planning your revision timetable, it’s easier to eat a chocolate elephant a little at a time.
    Breaking down your campaign and building in winnable milestones can really help. We’re running a campaign on the conflict in Yemen at work at the moment. It’s a big problem to solve but by focusing our campaigning on milestones, like getting the UN to list the Saudi led coalition in a key report, has helped to provide milestone win to keep supporters feeling like the actions they are taking are making a difference.
  8. Give it away – provide campaigners with the tools and content to make their own and get out into their communities – it’s a key approach that many distributed campaigns take, allowing the energy and ideas of those closest to a community to engage in a campaign.
  9. Abeyance – while many campaigns are right to keep going, sometime a period of abeyance can be the best approach, a period when a campaign isn’t in public view. We perhaps sometimes forget that it took over 100 years for the campaign to end the Slave Trade to be successful.

What other ideas and lessons do you have about how campaigns can sustain the energy needed to win?

Meet the Lords – lessons for campaigners

For the last few weeks, political geeks like me will have been watching BBC2’s Meet The Lords. It’s the follow-up to the Inside the Commons series from a couple of years ago, but this time focusing on the second chamber.
For campaigners, wherever you stand on reform of the House of Lords, the programme shows why thinking about how you can most effectively influence the second chamber is important in the current political context.
It’s essential viewing, but what clues does the series give us about how best to work with them?
Lords often really are working alone – Peers don’t come accompanied by lots of staff, at best some share a member of staff, but in episode 2 we literally watched Lord Dubs repeatedly answer his own phone to respond to media enquiries as he was pushing his amendment on refugee children
As Esther Foreman points out in her brilliant report ‘Peering In‘, which look at how Peers respond to the campaigning techniques many of us use, this means campaigners need to consider the best approaches. So while we’ve grown used to MPs having staff and increasingly sophisticated mechanisms to respond the same isn’t true of Lords. So you have to question the effectiveness of mass email campaigns towards peers.
For Esther, that means the following when thinking about campaign communications with peers;

  1. Clear, well-written, thoughtful and timely communication.
  2. A personal link between the Peer and the individual/s sending the email. (note – on this allows you to enter a place, topic or birthday to join you with a Peer)
  3. When it is combined with, or pointing to, strong evidence-based policy position or personal stories/ case studies.

But many of them are really know their stuff – if it’s true that MPs are often required to know ‘a lot about a little’ then peers are the opposite. Many of them have extensive experience in different sectors before entering the Lords, including the recent creation of the People’s Peers like Big Issue founder Baron Bird who we followed in Episode 1.
This is a potential goldmine for campaigners as it means you can get a real expert with extensive knowledge of an issue. So as campaigners do your homework and make sure you’re looking for those who have connections to your issues. My bet is that many charities will find former board members or even staff are now sitting on the red benches. Quality engagement with them might be most effective way to reach peers – for example in a previous campaign I was involved in we got supporters to write handwritten letters to selected peers.
They are an independent bunch but they can secure real change – the series follows a few examples of peers pushing specific amendments in bills, for example, Baroness King of Bow who was looking to secure changes for parents that adopt in episode 1. The key to success appears to be able to a) picking on a specific amendment, b) building a compelling case backed up by evidence, c) engaging allies in the Commons and d) pushing on it at every opportunity informally in the tea room and formally in the relevant committees. It’s not glamorous but it can be effective.
Ping Pong doesn’t mean Table Tennis – Instead, it’s the to and fro between the Commons and the Lords when they disagree on something. The series shows how Lords Dubs pushed his amendment and Labour Peers push against reforms to party funding and secured change. The key to winning change here seems to be that you can secure change when a defeat in the Lords enables a group of backbench MPs to push again on an issue. So it’s not a shortcut to good work with MPs but it can help to keep an issue on the agenda or push for concessions from the Government.
You need to rethink partisan politics – The series also highlights the important role that Crossbenchers play, it’d be easy to see this group of peers as just another political party, but instead they are an independent group of Peers who can be persuaded on issue, as we see in episode 1 when they’re being lobbied by MPs. But beyond that, the series shows that many Peers are more willing to break the Whip than in the Commons or look to collaborate across party lines on amendments – which leads to the sight in episode 2 of Green peer Jenny Jones collaborating with a Conservative Lord and property magnet.
But beyond that, the series shows that many Peers are more willing to break the Whip than in the Commons or look to collaborate across party lines on amendments – which leads to the sight in episode 2 of Green peer Jenny Jones collaborating with a Conservative Lord and property magnet.
For those interested in how to influence the Lords, NCVO is running this training in June.

Getting the most from your time as a intern

I’m re-posting some of my favorite and still relevant posts from the archives. This post still feels relevant for those starting internships and volunteer this summer. It also provides me the opportunity to highlight;

  • Applications for the next Campaign Bootcamp are open, including a stack of awesome scholarships that are available to help anyone who wants to come. 
  • I’m looking to recruit a Campaign and Policy Trainee to join the team at Bond. Applications close on Wednesday. It’s a great role, paid at the London Living Wage, for someone looking to make a start working in an exciting team (and with me!)

School’s out for the summer for university students, and some will be heading into summer internships with campaigning organisations across the UK and beyond.
Doing an (hopefully paid) internships is one of the routes for getting a permanent job in campaigning, it’s also a good way of finding out that this perhaps isn’t the career for you.
I’ve been fortunate to have hosted lots of great volunteers, interns and trainees in the organisation I’ve worked in over the years, and as such come up with my 8 top tips for getting the most out of your time as a volunteer/intern with a campaigns team.
1. Be honest – Find out why you’re being asked to do the tasks your being asked to do. Some of them won’t be glamorous, but there should be a good reason for everything you’re being asked to do. Asking lots of questions is one of the best ways of understanding how different tactics and approaches come together to make a campaign.
2. Be clear – Make sure you get the time you need at the start of your time with an organisation to understand what they want you to achieve from your time, and for you to explain what you hope to achieve. If there are certain areas that you’re interested in finding out about more, ask at the start as it’s often possible to arrange something. Be clear what your objectives from the time you’ll be volunteering are.
3. Be in the room – I always try to make an effort to invite volunteers and interns to different meetings that are going on. Some of them are directly related to a project they may be involved with, but often I see them as a good opportunity to learn. If you’re invited to these meeting, GO. You’ll almost certainly get an insight that you wouldn’t have done if you’d just stayed at your desk.
4. Be bold – It can be intimidating being a volunteer or intern, but be bold and if you think that somethings been overlooked in a meeting or if you have a good idea to contribute speak up. Chances are those involved will welcome the new insight that you’re able to bring.
5. Be a networker – Make time to try to get to know others around the organisation, approach people from different teams and ask if you might be able to meet them for lunch to find out more about their work. They’ll probably be happy to share more about it, go with some good question and you’ll come back an hour later with a better picture of how the work you’re doing links with the work of the rest of the organisation.
6. Be a learner – Ask those you’re working with for suggestions of good books, websites, reports and resources. It’s a good way to learn more about the campaigning craft and find out how others do it. Many organisations also have lunchtime sessions with internal/external speakers, go along to these as well.
7. Be cheerful – it sounds so obvious, but bring energy into the office you work in. There is little worse that a volunteer who appears uninterested. Get involved in making the tea or partaking in whatever other office routines you encounter.
8. Give feedback – At the end of your time let those you’ve been working with know what you’ve enjoyed doing, and what you found could do with some more consideration. You’ll be helping out future volunteers/interns.
What advice would you give to those coming to intern for you this summer?
Update – The team at Bright One have also come up with an excellent list of Do’s and Don’ts for an intern.

How trustees can help campaigns thrive

Last week, I was working with some trustees involved in a charity that’s interested in investing more in mobilisation. It’s always fun to get out and about to help organisations looking to get stuck into campaigning.
Towards the end of the session, someone asked about the role a board can play in helping to support the organisations campaigning. I suggested the following;
1. Compliance – Trustees need to be aware of the regulations surrounding charity campaigning. They’re legally responsible for ensuring that charities meet it, so it’s good they know what can and can’t be done. But as I’m always keen to say, being compliant doesn’t mean a charity needs to be silent. The Charity Commission guidance on this clear says that campaigning can be done if it supports an organisation’s charitable activities. Trustees need to speak out when this right is being threatened.
2. Champion – If any organisation has decided to invest in campaigning and mobilisation it needs its trustees to champion this decision internally. Campaigning is about mobilising people to challenge systems and structures that hold power, and sometimes that will come into conflict with other work an organisation is doing (especially if they’re dependent on government funding where ). When hard decision need to be made trustees needs to trust their instincts that investing in campaigning will help their charity achieve its objectives.
3. Patience – Change through campaigning doesn’t always happen immediately, and as I’ve written about before, even when it does happen those impacts might not easily captured in a set of KPIs. Boards need to understand that it might be a few years before the full value of their investment is seen, and also work to ensure the metrics that a board uses doesn’t just look at outputs but also the stories behind the outputs.
4. Contacts – Trustees are often well connected individuals with contacts in media, government or other institutions that can be incredibly useful in helping to deliver campaign victory. Understanding how these can connections can be put to best use can be invaluable.
5. Challenge – It’s not the job of trustees to run the day-to-day operations of a charity, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t taken an interest in the strategy that’s being developed. The best campaign strategies have assumptions tested and challenged to ensure they’re as sharp as they can be, and trustees can often help bring another perspective to the plans. Trustees should also appreciate that good campaigning requires flexibility to respond to changing circumstances.
Campaigners can also support trustees. The composition of board often lags a few years behind the latest thinking in charities, which mean many charity boards still don’t have people with campaign experience on them. Encouraging people that do to join boards would help.

So you've joined the Labour Party – now what?

In the last few weeks many of those I work and campaign alongside have joined the Labour Party. So for readers who aren’t members of the Labour Party (or interested in party politics), please forgive me as I go ‘off topic’.
For those who have joined. Welcome.
I’m glad to be on the same team as you. I hope these notes will be of use, because I was like you just 7 years ago and have had the most amazing time being involved over the last few years. Like you want to see a Labour Government in 2020 because I believe we achieve more in power in one day than we do in a 100 days in opposition.
1 – Remember we are one party – You won’t agree with everything that everybody says all the time, and not everyone voted for Jeremy Corbyn (I didn’t but that doesn’t meant we can’t be friends!). But 99% of people I’ve met within the Party are members for the right reasons (and many of them are still exhausted from an General Election campaign followed by the Leadership election). Like you they have a passion for social justice and a fairer world. More unites us than divides us. So look for the good in everyone you meet.
2 – Get involved now – Don’t leave it until 2019. The media are looking for a story about how Labour is unelectable and the 2016 elections in London, Scotland and in councils across the country will be the first time they get to write that story. It’s easy to join interest groups within the Labour Party, known as Socialist Societies. They can be great ways to meet people who share your interest, but please get involved in your local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) as well.
Bring your skills, energy and experience as a campaigner and get stuck in. I can’t promise that it’ll always be easy, but CLPs are the basic organising unit for Labour and they need people like you in them. It’ll also help you get to know your community, its only through my involvement in Tooting Labour that I’ve had the pleasure to make friends from across my community.
3 – Knock on some doorsFirstly it’ll make you a better campaigner, but it’s also the most effective way we have as a party of getting out . The person who’s taught me the most in the Labour Party has a phrase that is so true ‘friends do things for friends’ and talking to people all year round is a way of doing this.
Sure we need to change the way we run our canvassing, engage in more of a conversations, find ways of empowering local people to take action so we’re doing it with people rather than for them, but disappearing from our communities won’t help people think that the Labour Party is a ‘friend’.
4 – Find the people who inspire you – Some of the people you’re going to meet in your local party aren’t going to be the people you’ll want to bound down to the pub with, but at meetings and events you’re bound to spot people who interest (and perhaps even inspire) you.
Get to know them, as my guess is that they’re the type of person who’ll want to change things, but perhaps because they’re now a Councillor or a CLP Officer they don’t have the time or energy to do that (I remember bounding into my local party in 2010 full of ideas but if I’m honest by 2015 I’d run out of some of that energy to get things done as the pressures of life and helping keeping my local party going got to me). Get to know them, ask them how you can help to change the culture of your CLP, make plans, share ideas, work together. These people want to pass the baton onto you.
5 – Stand for office – Within the next 12 months each CLP will hold elections for its officers – the volunteers who make things happen. Consider standing for office to bring your skills and ideas to help run your local party. If you want to really change things this can be a great place to do it, and if you are successful get to know others in the same position in other constituencies to share ideas.
6 – Change the ways meetings happen – There are some cliches about parts of Labour Party meetings which are fair, but you can help to change the way meetings are held.
Suggest changes to the venue to make it more welcoming, think about the set up – do you have to sit in rows, change the agenda – we used to have the speaker/policy discussion first followed by the business later – it’s amazing how many people don’t complain about the minutes of the last meeting when they want to get home at 9.30pm! Ensure that you find ways for more people, find speakers who’ll be interesting, helping to facilitate discussions in small groups, etc, etc.
Every time you walk away from a meeting because you found it dull those who are happy with the status quo win! Don’t just complain, go with suggestions to change things.
7 – Help outside of London – Historically local parties in London and a few other large cities have been much bigger than in many other areas of the country, so if you’re interested in helping the party win in 2016, go on a road trip to help the party in those marginal seats in the Midlands, Kent, and beyond we need to win in 2020 to form a government.
8 – Believe we can win everywhere – I grew up in Surrey Heath, its an area unlikely to elect a Labour MP anytime soon, but there is a ward that does have 2 Labour Councillors. If you’re in a safe Conservative seat ask around to understand if there are similar wards we used to be active in, and if there are think about getting involved. In the 1990s, the party ran a brilliant programme called ‘Operation Toehold’ which helped the party to start winning in seats that they eventually took in 1997. We need the same now, to show that Labour can win up and down the country.
9 – Get to know your organiser – As my local MP never tires of reminding our meetings, we’re a volunteer party, we don’t have lots of paid campaigners, and most Councillors and Officer do this alongside the ‘day job’, but many CLPs do employee an organiser. They’re often brilliant young campaigners, who are asked to work miracles week-in, week-out for little pay. Get to know your organiser, offer to share your campaigning advice, encourage them, and ask how you can help.
10 – Always have some loose change in your pocket – You’ll soon find that the Labour Party loves a good raffle. It’s because most local parties don’t have huge reserves, so every opportunity to raise a few pounds will help to fund the next newsletter or the organisers salary.
PS – Get in touch if I can help offer any advice. Together we’ll win again.