Why reporting back matters….

A couple of timely reminders about why feeding back on the success (or otherwise) of our campaigns is so important.
Firstly, the findings of a substantive piece of research on ‘Understanding public attitudes to aid and development’ from the thinktanks ODI and IPPR.
As the Campaigns Totals work that I’ve carried out over the last few years shows, the development sector in the UK has some of the most active campaigning departments generated hundreds of thousands of actions every year. In light of that, the findings from a number of focus groups across the country on what people thought about development and aid are important.
While the report is reflecting on all the communications that have come from the sector of which campaigning is only part, the researchers found a new trend that highlights the importance of sharing stories of success, including in our campaigning is as important in helping to demonstrate that we are making a difference, even if the direct causality is hard to show.
But something polling and surveys have not highlighted to date is the extent to which some of the communications and fundraising images NGOs and governments use may have contributed to public scepticism – the repeated use of images that show people living in desperate need has created an impression that very little has changed over the past few decades.
The researchers goes onto suggest that;
The dissatisfaction expressed with the more simple narratives often communicated today – and the relatively undeveloped understanding they have fostered – should provide food for thought for policymakers and those engaged in advocacy on these issues
While the challenges from the report need to be taken on by more than just those involved in advocacy campaigning within the development sector, I think it presents a clear challenge for any sector of the danger of repeatedly asking people to take action without actively feeding back on the impact that their actions have had can have.
Secondly, was anoter great email from the team at SumOfUs.org.
Sadly I can’t find a copy of the email on the web anywhere, but the message which was entitled ‘OFFICIAL REPORT-BACK: April-June‘ was an excellent example, taking me through the 6 or so key campaigns that SumOfUs.org had been behind over the last few months and summarising the impact that the movement has had.
It was an impressive and empowering read, honest as to the reasons why some of the campaigns hadn’t succeeded but also clear about the difference action had made. I’ve pasted the first few paragraphs below;
Our tiny team (just 5 people!) can’t take on these corporations on our own. But when the whole SumOfUs.org community — over 680,000 conscientious consumers around the world — comes together, corporations sit up and take notice, and magical things can happen.
All told, we’ve taken an astounding 2,655,793 actions since our inception just six months ago. And lately we’ve won some big campaigns — like driving out more than half of all corporate funding for the climate-denying Heartland Institute.
So, read on below and see more of what we’ve accomplished together!
It’s a great example of how to do feedback well, and given the findings of the IPPR/ODI report a timely reminder of the importance of doing it.

Getting the most from your time as a volunteer

School’s out for the summer for university students, and some will be heading into volunteering roles and internships with campaigning organisations across the UK and beyond.
Doing a number of short-term internships or volunteering roles is one of the most common 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 in the organisation I work for over the years, and as such come up with my 8 top tips for getting the most out of your time as a volunteer 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 volunteer or 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.

While I've been away.

I’ve been in self-imposed blog exile for the last couple of months.
A combination of running a small part of an election campaign, two trips to the US for work, participation in an amazing action learning process hosted by the Common Cause team and a number of other commitments have meant that I haven’t been able to blog.
Here are a few things that caught my eye while I’ve been away;
1. Avaaz 2.0 – The global campaigning movement has launched a platform for its own members to develop and run their own actions. It’s still in beta mode at the moment but I’m sure that will change in the coming months. Also Change.org has launched its own UK platform with some great coverage. I’ve written before about how I really like the model that Change.org uses providing campaign organisers to help increase the impact of online petitions created by members. I hope that both will be successful.
2. Right Angle – The platform aims to be ‘a grassroots community. We exist to stand up for ordinary families – Britain’s silent majority’ and is supported by a number of Conservative MPs.  So far, they’ve not had the same impact that 38 Degrees had in their first few month, although they were able to generate over 100,000 people to join their Facebook campaign against cutting fuel duty, so it’ll be interesting to see how the grow over the summer.
3. Twitter – It’s been great to see organisations engage with twitter in more and more innovative ways, two particularly impressed me. The Twobby of Parliament by members of the Care and Support Alliance, and the development of this tool by ONE which allows users to send messages to David Cameron on food security.
credit - www.fairsay.com4. People’s Pledge – This sneaked under the radar , but I think the ability of an organisation to mobilise 14,000+ people in a constituency to vote for a local referendum on membership of the European Union is an impressive feat. With the introduction of the Localism bill, I wonder if we’re going to see more of this community level campaigning that leads to local ballots on issues.
5. The next Make Poverty History – It was confirmed that development organisations are coming together to launch another ‘Make Poverty History’ style campaign in 2013. I’m sure this will be huge in the next 12 months, and I’m hoping that all those involved read this about lessons learnt and ensure that the next campaign is designed to avoid them.
6. KONY 2012 – I wrote before my blogging break about why the video had such a phenomenal response when it was first released, however the campaign wasn’t able to sustain the initial interest with the ‘Cover the Night’ event in late April failing to take off in the way they’d originally hoped.
7. US Election – Lots more great articles about different techniques and tools being employed in the campaign. I’d highly recommend every campaigner keeps an eye on the articles by Sasha Issenberg over at Slate, which I’ve found to be the most insightful into the approaches the campaigns are taking.
Life is returning to normality, so I plan to write some more on these topics and others in the coming weeks, as well as share the initial results I’m getting in government departments about the number of actions they’ve received in the last 12 months.

Reflections from campaigning in Brussels

Last week I spent a fantastic three days with campaigners from across Europe in Brussels calling on the MEPs and representatives of Member States to help to unearth the truth. We were calling on them to pass legislation that would require all oil, gas and mining companies registered in Europe to be open about the payments they pay for access to these valuable resources to governments.

The group outside the Danish Embassy to the EU
It was the culmination of months of campaigning across Europe and we had a hugely productive time together, meeting with dozens of MEPs, handing over 10,000 actions to representatives of the Danish Government who currently hold the Presidency of the EU and holding a well-attended briefing in the Parliament.
I came back with lots of great memories and some reflections on campaigning towards the Brussels based institutions;
1 – Time – I was struck how much time many of the MEPs gave to the campaigners they were being lobbied by. Meetings of up to an hour happened on a number of occasions and it struck me that the pace of the debate is perhaps slower and more deliberative, coupled with the fact that MEPs are perhaps not as bombarded casework requests that they have time to invest into the issues that they’re interested in, which is predominately shown through their involvement in the different committees and groups.
I also got the impressions that although the political groupings were important they were far less controlling than in the Westminster system where the ‘whip’ is used to ensure MPs vote the right way and as such a space for discussion and agreements amongst those MEPs with similar political views as opposed to rigid voting blocs.
2 – Complexity – The European institutions are very confusing and eyes will often quickly glaze over when you start to explain the difference between the Council of Ministers and the Commission, but its worth investing the time in understanding how they’re meant to work and also the dynamics of how they actually work. I found reading this guide from BOND hugely useful. There are a huge number of opportunities for campaigners to utilise to push their issues.
3 – Importance – In the UK perhaps we’re guilty of disregard MEPs as having limited influence in comparison to MPs but the reality is that they have a significant amount of influence on certain issues. For example, if our campaigning is successful the legislation that we’re asking for will be implemented in all member states, achieving the same using a country by country would take much longer. On issues where the European Union has exclusive or shared competency we shouldn’t overlook the importance of engaging with Europe.
4- Absence – Many of the MEPs that we meet with remarked how much they valued hearing the views of civil society on this issue we were campaigning on as they’d already been lobbied by business groups. I heard one estimate that Brussels is home to 15,000 – 30,000 lobbyists, most of whom are employed by corporate interests, and that clearly presents a challenge for civil society which is likely to be unable to match that level of personal resource!
However, I didn’t get the sense that most MEPs have come under similar campaigning influence to their counterparts based in national capitals, as I walked around I saw lots of posters publishing the European Citizens Initiative (see my post on it here), which I sense is one way that the Commission hopes to engage citizen and civil society, but I also wonder if as organisation we need to be doing more. Perhaps it’s also time to create a pan-European equivalent of 38 Degrees focusing on activities in Brussels?
5 – Being European – Our campaigning was successful because we were able to build a partnership with colleagues from across Europe at the outset of our campaign, it meant that our supporters were lobbying in Brussels alongside campaigners from Portugal, Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus we were able to handover campaign actions from 22 member states. As UK campaigners I think we need to be doing more to help create these partnerships where they don’t exist.
6 – Using constituents to drive attendance. We were involved in hosting a very successful briefing event in the Parliament on Wednesday, with one civil society representative saying that the 15+ MEPs in attendance was unusual. I think this happened in part by asking our supporters to message their MEPs and invite them to come along to the meeting. It’s a tactic that I’ve seen used before in the UK and one that worked well in Brussels as well.
Have you been involved in campaigning in Brussels? If so, what insight would you share? If you haven’t, what are the barriers that stop you? 

Reflections on my Daily Mail diet

Regular readers of this blog will know that over the last week I’ve been on a Daily Mail diet.
After realising that I’m living in a bit of ‘media bubble’ getting my news and opinion from very different places from most of my supporters, I’ve been focusing on getting my news from the one most read newspapers amongst the supporters of my organisation. I wrote more about why I thought this was important to do.
So for the last week I’ve been buying the Daily Mail alongside my regular paper of choice (The Guardian) and in the process trying to better understand how the paper approaches issues and stories, and think how I might be able to get my campaigning into the Daily Mail, and in front of thousands of my organisations supporters who read it every day.
1 – Daily Mail readers need to be treated with respect – The response of others to my diet has almost been as interesting as reading the paper itself. A number of people have in effect said ‘why are you bothering with the Daily Mail readers they’re never going to be convinced‘ and while most of the editorial positions that the Daily Mail take aren’t the same as mine with 4 million daily readers its lots of people to write off as being closed to my campaign message. We need to respect those who read the paper even if we reject the papers views.
2 – It’s all about people – Most of the main stories this week have focused have had a strong focus on the individuals at the heart of them. Most of the stories go into considerable depth, so any organisation that’s looking to get it issues in the Daily Mail will need to ensure it’s got some really strong and compelling case studies to go alongside any campaign recommendations.
3 – The Mail loves polls, surveys and putting money back in the pocket of its readers – Alongside the focus on people, I was struck at how many stories were based on the results of polls, surveys and research that had some strong and compelling empirical evidence behind it. A large number of the stories cite academic research as the basis for their stories, so perhaps this presents an opportunity for campaigners to ensure their research has compelling and accessible headline numbers to accompany it.
4 – The consumer is always right – Interesting the one campaigning organisation that seems to get regular mentions is Which?, the consumer charity, perhaps it’s because it’s able to speak to the Mail’s concern about getting good value for its readers. I was struck by how few other campaigning organisations got mentioned during the week.
5 – It’s got lots of pages dedicated to comment – This surprised me but the average weekly edition seems to have around 8 pages dedicated to coverage. You get a number of pages of columnists and editorial pieces, along with a number of commentary pieces by the papers staff. That’s lots of writers looking for stories to write about what’s happening, and I’m sure presents an opportunity for campaigns.
6 – I need to do this more often – This whole exercise of thinking about where I get my media from has been really interesting and challenging. I’ve come away convinced that I need to step outside my media bubble more often.
As a colleague pointed out to me this week, the algorithms being Google, Facebook and Twitter are all designed to expose me to more people who think share similar views/contacts/opinions to me, so I need to become more active at stepping outside the bubble (this book looks interesting on this topic).  It’s a challenge I’d encourage other campaigning colleagues to take up.

Five for Friday….KONY 2012 Special

The Kony 2012 phenomenon is still going (and growing), it’s the officially the most viral video ever.
So this weeks ‘Five for Friday’ is dedicated to some great articles reflecting on KONY 2012 that you should be reading.
1. SocialFlow have done some brilliant work looking at how online networks helped to share the campaign and then the impact of tweeting by ‘culturemakers’, while Forbes looks at who’s watching the film. Answer – they’re 13 – 17 year old females watching it on their mobile phone.
2. Jason Mogus asks Why your non-profit won’t make a KONY 2012. It’s a very perceptive look at many of the blockages that more traditional NGOs would face if they wanted to repeat the success of KONY.
3. This is a brilliant deconstruction of why the film is so successful using lessons from persuasive techniques used by marketeers.
4. Both Weldon Kennedy and Daniel Solomon look at why the messaging and narrative of the film are so compelling. Lots of really useful lessons here for all communicators. The Mobilisation Lab also asks why the campaign hooks viewers in.
5. Ross Bailey shares his reflections and reminds us that Invisible Children didn’t get here overnight.

Why has Kony 2012 been so successful?

The Kony 2012 campaign is everywhere….if you haven’t heard about it you soon will!
Since releasing their latest campaign film just days ago it’s had millions of views (the statistics on the Vimeo dashboard show the way that views of the film have grown and grown since its release on Monday), been trending worldwide all day on Twitter and was filling up my Facebook wall last night, although many of these are comments which are rightly questioning the approach of the organisation and the campaign.
In short, the campaign is about introducing the ‘world worst war criminal’ the leader of the Lord Resistance Army Joseph Kony, and calling for the US to provide troops to help arrest him in Uganda and bring him to trial at the International Criminal Court.
Both the message and organisation are proving controversial, as a development advocate I agree with many of the concerns about the approach the campaign has taken, not least as this blog describes it that ‘they take up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more intelligent advocacy’ that will lead to long-term peace in Northern Uganda and the portrayal of the solution as being delivered by an outsider alone.
But regardless, as a campaigner I also have to admire the effectiveness with which they’ve got out the message out in such a short period of time, and reflect on how I might be able to use similar approach to get what I hope to be more intelligent advocacy solutions. Here are my thoughts on why I think they’ve done so well.
1. Built and nurtured a community – I’ve not really been aware of the work of Invisible Children until today, but it seems that over the last few years they’ve been slowly building a huge online community on Facebook, with a million+ people ‘liking’ the campaign over the years as the result of showing previous films on campuses across the US, presumably much of the traction that the campaign has got is because many of these supporters have been sharing it. Cheap but effective mobilisation in action.
2. Demand the engagement of the viewer – There is a line at the very start of the film that says ‘the next 27 minutes are an experiment, but in order for it to work you have to pay attention’. At 29 minutes the film is very long and you’d expect to get board quickly, but the presentation is very engaging, well produced, fast-moving and doesn’t feel like it’s dragging at. It’s got many (all) of the elements of what a good campaign film should include, a story, a call to action and it’s emotive.
3. Communicated its theory of change clearly – It’s evident how the campaign thinks that change is going to come about and this is explained to the viewer. For them its all about demonstrating public support for action to a small group of political leaders, which interestingly doesn’t include President Obama. You may or may not agree with this approach but it’s simple and clearly communicated throughout the film.
I like the idea of influencing 20 ‘culturemakers’ who they identify as being able to spread awareness of the issues. I’ve not really seen this done in such a systematic way before, and it’ll be interesting to see how these ‘culturemakers’ will respond to the call in the coming days, presumably some of them have already indicated their support for the campaign.
4. Made it clear what they need you to do – The call to action at the end of the film is to do more than send a message to the selected targets, but it’s also an invitation be involved in making Kony known. The campaign is building on the knowledge that it’s an election year in the US and focusing on a night of action in April where supporters. It’s a bigger and bolder action, asking you to buy a kit full of posters and resource and make Kony know. It’s also again shows the high value that the campaign on individuals as multipliers of the message.
5. Put creativity and social action at the heart of the organisation – It’s interesting that the organisation isn’t one that was started by humanitarian professionals, but instead by filmmakers who were moved to respond on their first trip to Uganda back in 2003. They describe their mission as ‘using film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity’. You can see this approach is evident throughout the film, and it’s different to what you might expect from a more traditional NGO.
Thoughts? Comments? What have you learn’t from the success of the Kony 2012 campaign?

What did we really learn from Make Poverty History?

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is running it’s annual People Power Conference tomorrow. It looks like a fascinating line up of speakers. Sadly I can’t make it in person although I’ll be doing my best to follow via twitter.
One of the sessions that stands out to me is the panel debate on ‘The Legacy of Make Poverty History‘, it was one of the first campaigns that I worked on professionally, so I’m interested in what the panel have to say about how we can still learn from the campaign.
The Foundation have managed to organise an impressive line-up of speakers who were involved in the original campaign, including;

If I was able to attend here at the questions I’d be asking;
1. If we’d had the research and thinking done by the Common Cause team around the role of frames and values in campaigning available to use back in 2004 what might we have done differently?
2. Have we done enough to capture the learning from the campaign and share it with others across civil society? To my knowledge there has only been one significant academic study of the campaign by Nick Sireau. Do we need to be doing more to encourage academics to study our campaigns to help us increase our understanding of what works?
3. Make Poverty History was one of the first campaigns that effectively utilised email as a tool for action, building an email list of hundreds of thousands of individuals. How much should campaign movements like 38 Degrees and Avaaz thank Make Poverty History for demonstrating the effectiveness of this campaign target? How much impact did the e-mail actions actually have?
4. Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs that the campaign worked because ‘Bob, Bono and the NGO alliance had mounted an effective campaign…by demonstrating the breadth of public support for action on Africa. It was done cleverly, with them always giving enough praise to the leaders to encourage them’. I’d be interested in knowing if the panel agrees with the statement and if we need to do more to praise and encourage our targets?

Do we need to change where we get our news from?

I guess I’m like many other professional campaigners when it comes to where I get my news from. My media day looks something like this.
I wake up to BBC Radio 5 (or the Today program if my wife gets to the kitchen first), pick up a copy of The Guardian on my way to work, will take a look on the train at what those I’m following, who overwhelmingly hold left of centre positions, on Twitter are saying.
I will probably have a look at the BBC News or Guardian websites at lunchtime and then scroll through the long list of ‘progressive’ blogs on my RSS feed. When I get home I look forward to the next copy of the Economist or Foreign Affairs coming through the letterbox and I’ll end the day by watching Newsnight.
So this post by Mark Pack about the importance of reading the Daily Mail got me thinking. Am I reading the right news sources or is it time for me to change my media habits?
Most organisations will have spent time researching what their ‘average’ campaigner is like based on information from your database. It’s an invaluable exercise to do as it means whenever your writing copy or developing a campaign you can have someone in mind that is the likely recipient of your hard work.
But do we think enough about the news sources that our ‘average’ campaigner is receiving their information from? Given that as individuals we’re wired to seek data that is compatible with beliefs that we have, do we spend enough time understanding the news media that many of our campaigners are consuming?
The reality is that if I were to draw a Venn diagram between the news media I consume and the ‘average’ campaigner for my organisation you wouldn’t find much in the middle, even less if I’m thinking about key audiences that I might want to bring in to support my campaign. So I’m challenged to change my habits.
As campaigners an awareness of the various monthly circulation or viewership figures that come out are really helpful in getting a better sense of what the majority of the public are reading or viewing. Here’s what the latest figures show.
Newspapers – As Mark Pack points out the Daily Mail claims to have readership of over 4 million people daily, although its circulation figures show it sells just over 2 million copies each day. The latest ABC circulation figures show that The Sun is the biggest selling tabloid and The Daily Telegraph has the highest circulation of the broadsheets. The Guardian and Independent have relatively small circulations. These figures don’t appear to include the free sheet ‘Metro’ that is ready by many commuters on their journey into our major cities.
Magazines – The latest ABC figures show a continued decline in sales of traditional magazines, with TV listings magazines having the highest circulation figures followed by titles such as Now and Closer. What’s interesting is these figures don’t include the massive circulations that free magazines produced by Tesco’s and other supermarkets have. The Tesco magazine goes to over 2 million people, and while circulation doesn’t equal readership it reaches almost as many people than the newspapers with the highest circulations.
Radio – The last set of quarterly figures from Rajar show that Chris Evans is the voice that more people in the country wake up to, pulling in over 8.8 million listeners, with Radio 2 being the best performing station, listened to over 14.2 million people each week.
Social Media – Their aren’t similar figures available for social media, but the Independent this week has come up with ‘The Twitter 100‘ for the UK based on ratings from Peer Index and for blogging this list is instructive.
So next week I’m altering my media habits for 7 days. I’ll be picking up a copy of the Daily Mail alongside my Guardian, heading down to the Supermarket to grab some copies of their free magazines, turning into Radio 2 and following some of the ‘Twitter 100’.
It’s a discipline that I hope will help me to better understand where the majority of the campaigners I’m trying to get to support my campaign are getting their news information and the impact that has on the worldview and the context that they place their ‘activism’ in.
As I read, watch and listen I’m going to be asking myself some questions;

  • How do they tell a story? What level of detail do thy use? What angle do they focus on?
  • How would they communicate my campaign? How much space do they give to related issues?
  • What others topics do they seem to be most concerned about?

As campaigners, we also need to be aware of the news sources that the decision makers that we’re trying to target are reading and listening. On that a few years ago Duncan Green shared some useful insight drawn from research carried out by Oxfam, my sense is that is still fairly accurate, while a recent Freedom of Information request showed which newspapers and magazines were arriving in the offices of different ministers.
What are the key media sources for the campaigners you work with? How do we ensure we don’t get stuck in our own news media bubbles? 

The US Presidential election and the future of campaigning?

It’s the US election season, and suddenly anyone who’s watched an episode or two of the West Wing will become an expert on the best approach to win the 270 Electoral College seats needed, the opportunities presented by the Michigan Primary and the role of Super Delegates in a tight convention.
While predicting the result of the Primary and Presidential race, and while we’re at it I think we’re going to see Santorum push Romney all the way to the convention and Obama will win a second term, is a great conversation starter amongst the political engaged, it’s also a good time to start paying attention if you want to see the future of campaigning.
Why?
1. The election campaign is has a bigger budget than any other. This year President Obama is expected to fundraise over $1 billion and I’d expect the eventual Republican frontrunner won’t be far behind, which means it can develop some of the most powerful tools and employ the best and brightest staff.
2. It’s the most ‘important’ single political campaign in the world to win. The President of the United States is still the world’s most powerful elected official.
3. It’s got huge numbers of people involved. The Obama team already has over 200 staff working full-time in its head office in Chicago, a figure that is likely to increase rapidly in the next month, plus hundreds of thousands of volunteers on the ground ready to be engaged and resourced.
While I accept that election campaigning is different to campaigning to change public policy, and that the campaigns will make use of many of more traditional techniques like TV adverts, that are perhaps less available to public policy campaigns. I believe it’s still interesting to see how the tools used in previous campaigns have often tracked closely to the tools that are now common place in most campaigning organisations.
As Slate notes;
1996 saw the debut of candidate Web pages
2000 was the first time website were used for fundraising.
2004 saw Howard Dean pioneer the use of online tools (like MeetUp) to organise campaign events to link supporters together.
2008 led by the inspiring Obama campaign saw the emergence of socia media as a mass-communication tool, and the most sophisticated use of sites like my.barackobama.com which turned online interest into offline activism.
Add to that the resurgence of the concept of Community Organising fueled in part by the background of the current President but also the way that it was put to work to increase registration and turnout of previous under represented groups. (If you’re interested in learning more about the 2008 campaign I’d highly recommend that you read ‘Race of a Lifetime’ and the ‘Audacity to Win‘.)
So what are the early trends for 2012? Well the overriding one seems to be the most sophisticated use of data.
Slate suggest;
‘From a technological perspective, the 2012 campaign will look to many voters much the same as 2008 did…..this year’s looming innovations in campaign mechanics will be imperceptible to the electorate, and the engineers at Obama’s Chicago headquarters racing to complete Narwhal in time for the fall election season may be at work at one of the most important. If successful, Narwhal would fuse the multiple identities of the engaged citizen—the online activist, the offline voter, the donor, the volunteer—into a single, unified political profile’.
While the Guardian reported this weekend;
‘At the core is a single beating heart – a unified computer database that gathers and refines information on millions of committed and potential Obama voters. The database will allow staff and volunteers at all levels of the campaign – from the top strategists answering directly to Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina to the lowliest canvasser on the doorsteps of Ohio – to unlock knowledge about individual voters and use it to target personalised messages that they hope will mobilise voters where it counts most’
And this sophisticated use of data doesn’t seem to being the sole preserve of the Democratic Party, with Slate reporting in January about how Mitt Romney built a similar database to help him almost win the Iowa Caucus;
‘Romney’s previous Iowa campaign allowed him to stockpile voter data and develop sophisticated systems for interpreting it. It was that data and those interpretations that supported one of the riskiest strategic moves of the campaign thus far: Romney’s seemingly late decision to fight aggressively for his first-place finish in Iowa’
For more on the digital and data tactics that the campaigns are using take a look at this from the Washington Post and this from ABC News.
In the UK, we don’t have anything that comes close to the Presidential Elections. The nearest equivalent is the Mayor of London elections that are happening in May. It’s a highly personalised contest trying to reach one of the biggest single constituencies in the world, and certainly the Ken campaign is making use of some innovative tools;
1. Last week saw the launch of personalised Direct Mail which make of QR codes to invite a response.
2. The  Ken campaign has made a significant investment in using Nation Builder tools to launch ‘Your Ken’ – a community to resource and mobilise its activists which was received with acclaim when it was launched last year.
3. The heavy emphasise on the use of text and email to get the message out to potential voters across London.
I’ll be watching with interesting at how both these elections campaigns make use of new tools and tactics in the coming months, and reflecting on the opportunities they present for campaigning for social change.