The key ingredients for a good campaign action….

Getting the ‘target’ and ‘ask’ right in your action is fundamentally important if you want to have a successful campaign, so here are some thoughts about what should go into a ‘good’ action.
It’s not often that cry out in frustration at a campaign action but I did this week when a colleague forwarded me this action from Stop the Traffik, a campaign which aims to bring an end to human trafficking worldwide.
Now I’ve tried to avoid highlight ‘bad’ campaigning on this blog, preferring to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity that’s been demonstrated by many campaigns, but I wanted to mention this one as an example of ‘not so good’ practice.

Why? Because I’m saddened that a campaign with such a great aim hasn’t done its homework to identify the most effective things to be asking an MP to do and had instead come up with a ‘shopping list’ that I fear will mean most will choose to ignore the action.
I’m not suggesting that every action that it written from now on needs to be the length of an essay. Indeed many of the actions that organisations like Avaaz and ONE ask me to support are often little more than a sentence or two long, but that’s in part because the web or email copy that accompanies it sets out a clear rationale for why I should be supporting the action and are supported by evidence of extensive policy expertise.
Now I know that many campaigns are run by a small staff teams who are juggling multiple priorities (and I’ve made suggestions before about how that shouldn’t hold you back and that lots of campaigners would love to help out) but getting the target and ask right in your action is fundamentally important if you want to have a successful campaign.
For me a good action should have the following components.
1 – Be specific – To a named individual not an ambiguous group like ‘world leaders’ or similar,  this post from futuremediachange.com explains why its a bad idea. It needs to be targeted to the person who can make the change that you want to see happen. Sometimes this will be the Prime Minister or President but often it won’t be.. Indeed I’d argue that when campaigns make more use of different or unexpected target it has the potential to wield more influence than when it focuses on a ‘usual suspect’.
2 – Be achievable – Now by this I’m not saying that we should compromise our asks to make the politically palatable, if you want to ‘stop climate change’ or ‘put an end to world poverty’ continue to include that it your action.
But do ask what’s the one or two things that you want your target to do that will lead to the bigger goal. What’s the step or steps that they can take to achiever your ask? The challenge for the writer of the action is to help the person taking the action understand how achieving the immediate ‘ask’ will make the big goal move a step closer.
3 – Be informed – Linked to the above. Spend some time thinking about routes to influence on your target, who are the people that they really listen to and at the end of it don’t be afraid to change the person you’re focusing your action towards. Equally find out what your target can actually do and if you’ve got a menu of options then choose the one that your intelligence tells you will be most effective at this moment.
4 – Be measurable – How are you going to be able to know if you’ve achieved what you’re asking your target to do. Good asks should have something in them that can be measured to show if it’s been successful. It could be doing something by a date, or increasing support by a certain %, or including certain language in a piece of legislation. Include that and the report back to that took action when you’re successful.
At the end, I find that it’s help to ask, does my action pass the ‘Elevator Test’. It’s a simple rule taken from the world of marketing. Imagine that the person you’re targeting walks into a lift with you. Suddenly you find yourself with 15 seconds to make your ‘pitch’. Are you able to explain what you want them to do succinctly enough that when they walk out they’re able to turn to their advisor or aide and instruct them to do it.
What tips do you have to ensure effective actions? 
NB – If you’re reading this from Stop the Traffik, please consider this constructive criticism, and get in touch as I’d be very happy to have a chat about how you could sharpen your asks.

Great campaigning resources

Looks like it’s a day for lists of useful guides on campaigning.
Firstly I came across this list that Mark Parker, a campaign organiser in Southwark  has put together of books to read on activism on his Southwark Organising blog.
Secondly, it’s the last day of  The Right Ethos resource tweeting marathon! For the last month they’ve been sharing ‘a series of 30 daily guides covering campaigning, policy & parliamentary’ via their twitter account.  It’s a really useful list full of some great resources, many of them come from the work of the NCVO Campaigning Effectiveness programme, but they’ve also linked to some interesting resources from the US and beyond.
The full Right Ethos list is below;
[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”spreadsheet/pub” query=”hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0ArsF-z0r3hFfdGhhQXQ4UU9PdzNnX2NTcDNTRlp6bEE&output=html&widget=true” width=”500″ height=”600″ /] What resources, books or guides would you add? 

Five for Friday…..29th July

Slowing down for the summer? Here is a round of up of interesting articles on campaigning to read this Friday.
1. Hands Up Digital with some excellent advice about how charities can get more out of Facebook.
2. Stephen Pound MP has a few issues with 38 Degrees and  the curse of the automated e-mail, while in Washington campaigners managed to overload the Congress system with calls and emails.
3. The Guardian invites some experts to ponder on how we can measure social impact.
4. ConservativeHome asks MPs and journalists which media platforms have the most impact.
5. The Right Ethos is tweeting recommendations of different guides covering campaigning, policy and advocacy for the next month.
Finally, some good advice….(h/t @gavinthomson)

Summer Reading….

Summer is here and I’m hopeful of a few ‘quieter’ weeks which will allow me to leave the office at 5 and spend some time reading in the evening (it won’t happen but I can dream).
But what should campaigners be reading this summer?
I asked friends on twitter for some recommendations and here is my crowd-sourced list of what they suggested.
1. Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s been around for a few years but it’s still one of the best books about how to make your communications more effective. I’ve read it twice and I was delighted that it was suggested by @JessDay.
2. Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. Clearly good as it was suggested by both @JessDay and @rossb82.
3. Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World by Tina Rosenberg. Suggested by @CasperTK the book explore the power of groups to motivate positive changes.
4. The Common Cause Handbook by PIRC. A really helpful look at the role that values and frames, which is something that every campaigner should be considering. Suggested by @martinhall81 and @GlenTarman.
If you enjoy Common Cause, you might also find Finding Frames: New ways to engage the UK public in global poverty by Andrew Darnton & Martin Kirk (suggested by@sullyserena) which looks at frames and values from the perspective of international development sector of interest.
5. Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett. For an insight into what caused the financial crisis that is still impacting the political and economic landscape many of our campaigns operate in. Suggested by @timsowula.
6. The Social Animal by David Brooks. A really interesting look at the wealth of scientific research about the mind and the impact it has on the decisions we make. One to read while considering the implications for our activism. Suggested by me.
Updated on 23/7 with a few more recommendations….
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit which charts the rise of a non violent movement united around campaign struggles in the 1980s and 90s. Recommended by @lucypearceox who also had some other excellent suggestions.
How to Win Campaigns by Chris Rose which has just had a new edition published and is possibly the best ‘how to’ guide on campaigning in the UK. Recommended by @hughmouser
In the Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action by Katrina Sheils by Katrina Shields which is described by a reviewer on amazon as ‘Filled with useful, helpful ideas and activities on planning, envisioning, sustainability, avoiding burnout, and more’. Recommend by @NCVOForesight
Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. Recommended by @emmataggart who says ‘provokes thought about how to use online tools (there’s more to it than sending an email!)’.
Saved: How an English Village Fought for Its Future… and Won by David Hewson. A case study in how an English village fought for survival and won. Recommended by @LABatSMK
Waging Nonviolent Struggle by Gene Sharp. A classic and part inspiration for the Arab Spring, useful for all campaigners. Recommended by @paulhilder who also suggested his own excellent ‘Contentious citizens: Civil society’s role in campaigning for social change’ which is a really good overview of progressive campaigns in recent times and some useful reflections for the future.
MP Keith Simpson also has a list of recommendations for politicians for the summer. Some that might be of interest include Everyday Life in British Government by R. A. W. Rhodes and The Cameron-Clegg Government: Coalition Politics in an Age of Austerity edited by Simon Lee.
What would you recommend?

Five for Friday…15th July

Here is my semi-regular round up of interesting articles on campaigning and advocacy….
1. Harmit Kambo reminds us that ‘one of the most important challenges to injustice is to simply ‘bear witness’ to it’
2. Untangling the Web has an interesting interview with Karina Brisby, Head of Interactive Campaigns at Oxfam. While NCVO asks how charities will use technology in 5 years time.
3. Campaigning and influencing must always be at the top of the agenda argues Brian Lamb. While research by NCVO reports the views of trustees about how involved in campaigning charities should get.
4. Gavin Thomson has an interesting reflection on the value of different email address (does anyone have any data on this?). The Manifesto Club worry that the opportunity to use the humble leaflet as a campaign tool is being lost.
5. The On Think Tanks blog asks if those involved in developing policy in think tanks (and NGOs) can learn anything from the intelligence services!
What else have you read that you’d add?
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Learning from the 'Countdown to Copenhagen' campaign

Evaluation might be the last step in the advocacy cycle, but from my experience it’s often the one that we’re quickest to overlook, moving onto the next campaign as opposed  to spending time reflecting on what’s happened.
It’s great to see Christian Aid make an evaluation of their ‘Countdown to Copenhagen’ campaign available online for others to learn from, as well as a management response to it.
It is an interesting (and short) read which gives an insight into the campaigning that the organisation did in the run up to the critical climate talks in December 2009.
It’s full of useful lessons for any campaign, and I hope it might encourage other agencies to make similar documents available. Here are the 5 things that I’m taking away;
1 – External moments need to be seen as commas in a campaign as opposed to full-stops. The evaluation makes a number of references for the need for the COP meeting in Copenhagen to be seen as a key moment in the ‘trajectory of the campaign‘ as opposed to the end of it. A good reminder that we can become too focused on an external moment and overlook the longer process of change that will be needed whatever the outcome of it.
2 – Involvement and participation of partners takes time. The report rightly recognises the way that the campaign looked to engage southern partners, saying ‘Christian Aid is clearly close to southern advocacy groups and networks and more ‘true’ to their approach and position than others‘ but also acknowledges the time that it can take to ensure effective participation from southern partners and allies which mean that time needs to be built-in to do this otherwise this engagement doesn’t become meaningful.
3 – Building in space for learning. It’s often the case in a busy campaign that it can be hard to feel that you have the space to think about what’s happening  in the external environment. The evaluation suggests that time needs to be protected to ‘allow for reflection to take place‘ and ensuring the tools are in place to capture progress and achievement. A good reminder for anyone who hasn’t taken the time to review where their campaign is at recently.
4 – Know your core audience – The evaluation asks why the campaign ‘under-utilised church constituencies‘. I don’t know the reasons this decision was taken, but it seems to me this might have been a missed opportunity for an organisation that draws its support primarily from churchgoers. For me, it’s a reminder of being sure of the core audiences that your organisation can reach.
5 – Seeing the global – The report has lots of praise for the work that Christian Aid did with allies in EU recognising that ‘Countdown to Copenhagen was a unique advocacy initiative at the European level in terms of both the scale and sustained nature of joint working amongst Aprodev’ and encouraging a broader focus looking towards the US and others. A lesson in the rapidly changing nature of global decision-making and the need to be much more proactive at looking beyond the UK in the alliances we build.
What have you learnt from this evaluation? Have you seen other organisations make evaluations available online?
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