More book recommendations for campaigners

If you’re a campaigner looking for some books to add to your Christmas list here of some of the recommendations of the best books that I’ve enjoyed in the second half of 2018 – and as I start I want to acknowledge that as putting this list together I’ve read too many books written by men.
I’d also suggest that you have a look over at this list that I put together in the summer – if I was doing a top 10 books of the year I’d definitely be adding New Power and Twitter vs Tear Gas onto the list.

  1. How To Read A Protest – using two protests that happened over four decades apart, LA Kauffman looks at what the March on Washington in 196? and the Women’s March in 2017, can teach us about the role of demonstrations and protest in causing change. As campaigners we should be looking to learn from history – this short but inspiring read does just that.
  2. The Fixer – Bradley Tusk is the political strategists behind the campaigns start-ups like Uber have run. I’ve written before about some of the interesting approaches they take to converting app users into apptivists, and in this book which is part autobiography, part political playbook he unpacks the approach that many corporates take to winning change. You might not agree with the changes they’re pushing for but if you want to learn how they do it this book takes you inside.
  3. Death of the Gods – there is a blog post I need to write about the new sources of hidden power that are increasingly influencing the campaign landscape (think about the power of the group that set the Facebook moderation policy or the influence of thinktanks linked to 55 Tufton Street). Carl Miller does a great job at exploring the new actors in the global power grab. In many ways it doesn’t make for comfortable reading but it helps to think about where power might sit in years to come. It’s a great build on The People vs Tech.
  4. Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg – this is a true story that reads like a thriller, as Ben Stewart tells the inside story of the Greenpeace Arctic 30. It’s a page-turner about the campaign to secure the release of the campaigners, a sobering reminder of the sacrifice that the group of the activist was willing to take to highlight the risks of drilling for oil in the Arctic circle and the suppression of dissent in Russia.
  5. Re: Imagining Change – drawing on the lessons the experts at the Centre for Story-based Strategy have learned from 20 years of building campaigns that win change narrative, it’s a really practical read with lots of great advice about how to frame your campaign to win – and let’s be honest most campaigners don’t spend enough time thinking about the role of shifting or re-framing a narrative to win change.
  6. All Out War – sure, everyone is tired of talking and reading about Brexit, but Tim Shipman has the inside story of the 2016 referendum campaign, and it’s an account that I do think all campaigners should plan to read. There are lots of lessons in it for on message discipline matters, using narrative over numbers, trying new tactics and getting out of your bubble to understand your audience.
  7. Engines of Liberty – another book from across the pond, but David Cole is the legal director of the ACLU (an organisation that has been getting lots of kudos this year for its approach to defending the US constitution while Donald Trump is President), the book takes a deep dive of three successful movements in the US over the last 30 years, and looks at the role of citizen activism to influence change. There is a heavy focus on how campaigns can use legal means to win change, but also lots of smart advice about how to avoid campaigning pitfalls.


Help! Where should I set up my petition?

From time to time I get people asking which platform they should use to set up their campaign petition – it’s a fair request as a quick search will pull up a number of different options for a petition starter.
So which do you chose?
For me there are few questions to ask when deciding on which platform to use;
1. Does the platform let you communicate with those who’ve signed your petition? It’s great that people are signing, but as your campaign develops you might want to get in touch with them again – to ask them to take another action for you, or feedback on the success you’ve had.
2. What support can the platform provide you? Some of the sites you can choose to host your petition on are able to sometimes provide extra support to you – that could include help getting media coverage or meeting with the person you’re targetting with your campaign.
3. Can the platform help promote your campaign to others? Growing your petitions is going to be important, can the platform you’re hosting your petition on help with that, or will the only traffic to your petition be whatever you can generate?
4. Who owns the data from your petition? Some of the platforms are run by campaigning organisations so they might share other campaigns with them, others by companies looking to potentially sell data with others. Neither approach is right or wrong, but it can be helpful to make sure you’re happy with where you’re hosting your petition
5. Does the platform offer any other functionality? Are you just able to set up a petition to a single target, or are you able to engage multiple targets with your action – or let people select their local MP. That can make a big difference in your approach and effectiveness.
Based on this I’d recommend considering the following platforms;  as the worlds biggest petition site you’ll find petitions for almost everything on the site – which you might consider a downside as you’ll find petitions on the site for and against most topics. But being big comes with some advantages – they’ve developed some really cool tools to help get your petition started, some very smart was of pushing your petition to others if it’s gathering momentum and you can also explore how you can raise money to support your campaign as well.
Change is run as a B-corp, which is a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. and that means they’ve got a small staff team in the UK that can sometimes support petition starters – they have a real knack for getting great media coverage for some campaigns.
38 Degrees – alongside the member-led campaigns that 38 Degrees run, you can host your own petition on Campaigns By You ( You’ll get access to many of the same tools that the campaigner at the organisation use, and they’ve got a dedicated team to support those petitions that are growing – providing support and sometimes sharing them with a wider group of individuals from their list.
There are some limits on how often you can contact those who’ve signed up your petition – not a bad thing as people don’t want to be messaged too often, but the interface is really easy. A great site to approach if you’re campaign is about a local issue in the UK – I’ve seen some excellent campaigns win on Campaigns By You when targetting local authorities.
Care2 – the folk behind The Petition Site (full disclosure – I’ve worked with Care2 in the past in my professional work) is another social enterprise committed to helping build a community of change makers, with a more explicit focus on standing with ‘humanitarians, animal lovers, feminists, rabble-rousers, nature-buffs, creatives, the naturally curious, and people who really love to do the right thing’  and as a result of that, the petitions they select feel more curated than on
Care 2 is US-based, and you notice that on your first visit to, but they have a small team in the UK dedicated to supporting petition starters, again can provide many of the same resources as 38 Degrees and, plus access to a big network of people who are keen to sign your petition if it starts to grow. They’ve also got some ace tools and guides in their Activist University.
And I’d urge you to think carefully about using;
Parliament Petition Site the knowledge that getting 10,000 signatures will get a response from Government a goal to get you going can be enticing – but the site lacks much of the functionality of those I’ve recommended above, and it’s hard to build your movement if you’re not able to communicate with it.
Obviously, it’s also only possible to petition Parliament, so the focus is clearly limited – and once you get a response from Government it’s hard to do much, plus when your campaign is over there is no access to that data to move people on to another issue. I’d also caution against similar functions that many Councils have – just because they are ‘official’ it doesn’t always make them the most effective to use.
iPetition – I don’t know much about the company behind this site – Angle Three Associates – and there isn’t much to be found from a quick search of the US equivalent of Companies House. So I suspect, their main focus is collecting data which can be sold on. The site has some of the same functionality as the other sites I’ve recommended, but nothing close to the support you’ll get from them.
And finally, if you’re looking for some smart people writing about how to make the most of your petition, then I recommend a read of this.

Summer Viewing – 5 great campaigning films on Netflix

It’s the summer holidays, so I’m going to take some time off from blogging – normal service will return in early September – but if you’re looking for some campaign inspiration here are 5 great campaigning films on Netflix.

1 – Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower – a brilliant film following Joshua Wong, one of the organisers behind the Umbrella Revolution, that saw young people in Hong Kong mobilise when the Chinese Communist Party reneged on its promise of autonomy to the territory. It’s a brilliant portrait of courage, and an insight into a movement that hasn’t got as much coverage as others in the UK.
2 – The Square – another insider look at the Tahir Square revolution in Egypt. It rightly got lots of critical acclaim when it first came out, and while it’s a few years old it’s still a fascinating look inside a movement that gripped the world’s imagination back in 2011.

3 – The Final Year – a fascinating look inside the foreign policy work of the final year of the Obama White House. While it’s easy to warch this film and reminisce about a different political time, it’s also a really interesting look at how decisions get made inside a government, and the interactions with other governments, the media and political opposition. If you’re looking for something at the opposite end, then Mitt is a look inside the failed 2012 campaign of Mitt Romney, but again gives a great inside account of how political campaigns run.
4 – 13th – one of a number of excellent documentaries available on Netflix, 13th explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States, while Nobody Speaks looks at the role of the free press, along with many others in the documentary category.
5 – Reporting Trump’s First Year – The Fourth Estate – not on Netflix, but this excellent 4 part Storyville documentary which goes inside the New York Times newsroom is worth catching while it’s still available on the BBC iPlayer. It’s a great look at how political journalism operates and some of the challenges of breaking news in an era of Twitter. If it’s not available, I’d also recommend Page One – Inside the New York Times.

12 campaign reads for Christmas

I’m starting to get ready for Christmas, so I wanted to share a few of the articles that I’ve read this year in a reading list for anyone looking for some campaign reading across the holiday period;
1 -Stop Raising Awareness Already – one of many great articles from SSIR. This one challenges us to adopt a more strategic approach to public interest communications.
2 – Why the Conservatives lost – 2017 saw an unexpected election and an even more unexpected result. This 3 part series from Mark Wallace looks at where they went wrong. I shared a few learnings here.
3 -Protest and persist: why giving up hope is not an option – a beautiful and much-needed essay on change from Rebecca Solnit, and this has some important lessons about building resilience as campaigners in hard times.
4 – How do I know I’m making a difference – Kate Norgrove wrote some brilliant blogs at the end of her time leading campaigns at Water Aid looking to address that question.
5 – Is this the beginning of the end of the charity sector – it’s hard to pick my top reads from ACEVO at 30 series, but this one from Danny Sriskandarajah is especially good to read.
6 – The Three Types of Leaders Who Create Radical Change – are you an agitator, innovator, or orchestrator?
7 – I supported 500 online campaigns for 500 days — This is what I learnt by being the ultimate slacktivist – I love a challenge like this, or this from Glyn Thomas.
8 – Creative Coalitions – a handbook for change from Crisis Action is one of the most helpful resources I’ve read all year. More here.
9 – Newspapers Lost Their Monopoly On The Political News Agenda – Buzzfeed has done some brilliant pieces this year about how the media landscape is changing. It’s a topic I need to come back to write about more in 2018.
10 – Telling people ‘you’re wrong’ doesn’t work – I’ve really enjoyed reading Nicky Hawkins writing this year about how we need to get our message to work.
11 – 13 things I learned from six years at the Guardian – lots of applicable lessons in this for campaigners.
12 -Beyond Command-and-Control Campaigns – the Networked Change report was one of the best things I read in 2017, so this case study of how to apply it from IDPC is really interesting.
and adding in 13 – Want Gun Control? Learn From the N.R.A – the always excellent on Hahrie Han on learning from our opponents.
And finally, this will probably be my last post in 2017, so a huge thank you to everyone who has read, commented on or shared a post I’ve written this year. It’s been a record-breaking year on the blog, and a special thank you to all those who’ve encouraged me to keep writing this year, it’s much appreciated. 

A Summer Reading List

Summer is here, so I’m going to take a brief break from blogging during August. I’ll be back in September, but if you’re looking for some great content to keep you thinking over the coming month, here are some recommendations of some ace books, blogs and podcasts to keep you busy.
Books I’ve enjoyed;
1. Hegemony How-to: A Roadmap for Radicals – Jonathan Smucker’s honest look at why movements too often fail, and what we can do to avoid being closed groups. One of those books you find yourself nodding at as you read + highlighting sections of it!
2. The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough – Alex Evans has written a really enjoyable read about the need for us to rediscover the power of stories and myths to inspire change.
3. Analytic Activism – David Karpf looks inside Move On, Avaaz and other online campaign platforms approach. It’s one of the most accessible academic books I’ve read, and full of useful learning. Good podcast with David here if you’ve not got time to read the book.
4. Radical Candor – I took a while to get into this, but have been recommending Kim Scott’s book on how to give and receive feedback as a manager, but found it really helpful for anyone managing a team.
5. The Talent Lab: The secret to finding, creating and sustaining success – a really interesting look into the drivers behind the success of the GB Olympic team. As I suggested in my post on what we can learn from Chris Froome there are lots of lessons for campaigners to reflect upon from winners.
Books I’ve had recommended to me which I’ll be reading in the coming months;
1. This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century by Mark + Paul Engler
2. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit
3. How to Resist by Matthew Bolton
4. Carpe Diem Regained by Roman Krznaric
5. Get Up! Stand Up!: Personal journeys towards social justice by Mark Heywood
6. No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein
Some long reads I’d recommend;
1. Barack Obama on how to bring about change.
2. Stop Raising Awareness Already
3. Protest and persist: why giving up hope is not an option
If you’re not the read type then here are some ace podcasts to add to this list;
1. Advocacy Iceberg
2. Candidate Confidential
3. Freakonomics Radio
And if you’re able to get to London, then here is an exhibition to check out;
1. People Power: Fighting for Peace at the Imperial War Museum
Finally, you need to add the following blogs to your reading list;
1. Analytical Activism by Alice Fuller
2. The Good Campaigner by Emily Armistead
3. The Social Change Agency
4. Jim Coe

Packing for the journey ahead – links from Campaigning Forum talk

I’m really excited to be in Oxford today, speaking at the Campaigning Forum (formerly the eCampaigning Forum), the annual gathering of campaigners from across UK and beyond. I’m going be speaking on ‘Packing for the journey ahead – 7 essentials campaigners need to have to journey into the future’.
In the talk, I’m planning on looking back at the last year, and look ahead at what are the tools, tactics and approaches that as campaigners we need to pack for the journey ahead and ask how do we ensure that our campaigns can continue to be relevant in 2017 and beyond. I’m going to reflect on how we prepare in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.
Below I’ve posted links to some of the articles, campaigns, studies and resources that I’ve been reflecting on as I’ve been preparing.
On my packing list are;

And finally, a reminder;

Five for Friday – President Obama Special Edition

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I’m a big fan of President Obama – so today isn’t going to be a good day.
I’ve spent some of the last fortnight working my way through some of his final speeches, and through it they’ve reminded me of some powerful lessons for campaigners.
So as he steps down from being President, I’ve put together a special Five for Friday with some quotes and speeches;
1 – That change can start anywhere – from the ‘Fired Up, Ready to Go’ story.

If one voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world”

2 – Respect, Empower, Includethe organising philosophy of the campaign.

And we trusted our volunteers with a simple set of organizing principles: Respect people. Empower people. Include people. Listen to people. Find out what’s on their minds. Find out what’s moving them. So that this wasn’t a top-down affair, but this was a bottom-up affair. And people could come up with their own ideas about how to get people involved and what to emphasize and how to organize themselves. And together, we created a movement for change that couldn’t be denied

3 – That campaigning can get you to the table but you need to work with politicians to deliver policy change – from his answer to a question about community organising at a Town Hall in London.

One of the things I caution young people about, though, that I don’t think is effective is once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention and shined a spotlight, and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can’t just keep on yelling at them. And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position.
The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room, and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved. You, then, have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable, that can institutionalize the changes you seek, and to engage the other side, and occasionally to take half a loaf that will advance the gains that you seek, understanding that there’s going to be more work to do, but this is what is achievable at this moment.
And too often what I see is wonderful activism that highlights a problem, but then people feel so passionately and are so invested in the purity of their position that they never take that next step and say, okay, well, now I got to sit down and try to actually get something done.

4 – That our movements inspire others to take action – from his speech in Selma to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. They saw what John Lewis had done. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

5 – Change happens when ordinary people get involved – from his final speech in Chicago last week.

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organising… up. Dive in. Stay at it.

Books I've enjoyed this year – some recommendations for campaigners

It’s the time of year when people are looking for ideas for Christmas gifts. So here are a few recommendations from things I’ve read over the last 12 months for campaigners looking to add something else to under the tree.
How Change Happens – Duncan Green’s long trailed book answers a critical question that all campaigners need to grapple with – how does change happen. It’s a really good read, and as I wrote here I really enjoyed some of the challenges that Duncan puts out to those of us who work in campaigning. Change doesn’t happen in a linear way, and we need to adjust our thinking and approach to respond to this.
51q0wasfl-_sx319_bo1204203200_Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything –  I need to do a bulk purchase of this to pass onto my team. It’s simply a brilliant book written by Becky Bond and Zack Exley who were the brains behind the ‘distributed organising approach’ that took Bernie Sanders so far in the Democratic primary in the US .
It’s short, at around 150 pages, unpacking how the approach was so successful with lots of stories to make the pages wizz by. Bernie Sanders clearly built something very unique so the 22 rules in this book. It’s oozing with wisdom and insight. A MUST READ. 
Blueprint for Revolution – I loved this from Srdja Popvic, the Serbian activist who led the movement to overthrow Slobodan Milošević and has shared his skills around the world since. It’s part autobiography, but also part playbook  for anyone involved in campaigning. It’s an easy and enjoyable read, with Popvic mixing a range of stories from his personal experience with lessons from history. My review of the book is here.
The Inevitable – this isn’t a book about campaigning, but the themes that Kevin Kelly explores in his book which looks at the themes which will shape technology over the next 30 years are totally relevant to anyone who wants to. I put the book down feeling a mixture of emotions, excited about what the future will look like for campaigning but also daunted about what the trends driving us towards. This is one of the best books I’ve come across to looking into the future. It’s not an easy read but a worthwhile read.
516x8yhzmfl-_sx335_bo1204203200_Ireland says Yes: The Inside Story of How the Vote for Marriage Equality Was Won – I had the privilege of hosting Gráinne Healy at the Bond Conference in March. Her insider account of the campaign for equal marriage in Ireland is brilliant.
As I said to CharityComms – it’s a page-turning account of a referendum campaign which successfully integrated brilliant messaging, powerful messengers and creative tactics to win.
If the story of the Irish referendum inspires you, I’d also really recommend Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundit sand Won which focuses on the equal marriage campaign in the US.
Looking ahead, I’m also super excited about 2 books coming out in early 2017. The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough by Alex Evans  and Analytic Activism: Digital Listening and the New Political Strategy by David Karpf.
They’re definitely on my wish list for early 2017. What else should I be adding? 

How to build strong + people powered movements for social change

Thanks to Facebook Memories I’ve rediscovered these ten positive, proactive steps to build a strong, human movements which I first shared a few years ago.
They were written by David Cohen, co-founder of The Advocacy Institute (who died late last year). I find them challenging, inspiring and deeply practical. I’d encourage anyone involved in movement building to journey with them and trying to reflect on them.
They’re wise words for anyone in the business of trying to achieve social change.

1. Remember where you come from, that you are part of something larger. Celebrate your origins and roots.
2. Listen to the insights and experience of people who are affected by the issues and participate in the efforts. They are the real experts – amplify their voices. Keep professional experts “on tap, not on top.”
3. Keep balance in your work and personal life. Work hard, yes. Meet responsibilities, yes. Make an extra effort, yes. But also add humor and rest. Avoid pessimism and martyrdom.
4. Recognise human frailty and accept it. Set the example by not holding yourself – or others – to rigid or impossible standards that drain the organisation’s energy.
5. Motivate others by sharing responsibility, paying attention to others, and encouraging those who make the extra effort. Give praise when it is merited.
6. Model behavior, or set a good example, by fostering cooperation, sharing information with others, and encouraging others’ leadership. Don’t dominate. Leave space for others to share their knowledge and skills.
7. Insist on a calm approach to solving problems. Set real deadlines. Avoid a crisis mentality.
8. Share credit generously within the organisation, sector, and among allies.
9. Be equally civil to those who share your views or tactics, and those who do not. Agree to disagree and do so without personalising disagreements.
10. Recognise that there are incremental steps in the advocacy journey. Celebrate how far a group has come and what it means to the lives of people. New experiences – like meeting with a bureaucrat, politician, or editor – are as much a success as winning a favourable policy. They build confidence and empowerment that, in many ways, are the most profound and lasting changes. Saver them.

Interestingly these positive statements were based on a list written by a 1980s environmental organiser, Byron Kennard entitled ‘Ten Ways to Kill a Citizen Movement‘ – its also worth a read!

Are you all ears? 5 podcasts for campaigners

This year I set myself a challenge to listen to more podcasts.
I love talk radio, but there are only so many times you can listen to ex footballer discuss with other ex-footballers the chances of Man U winning at the weekend on Radio 5 Live!
So here is my list of 5 podcast for campaigners that I’ve enjoyed, but I’d love your suggestions of what else I should be listening to.
1 – The Advocacy Iceberg – a brand new podcast from consultant Jim Coe. Really excited to see Jim kick off this regularly. The first episode on the his work with Rhonda Schlangen on what we should be evaluating is a really good listen for anyone grappling with what to measure. Listen carefully as I’m due to make an appearance on the show in a few weeks time.
2 – The Good Fight – Sadly this podcast from Ben Wikler from has gone quiet in the last few months but I hope it comes back soon (and in the meantime listen to the back catalogue). Ben’s interviews brought some of the most interesting voices from movements across the US and beyond that are winning campaigns.
3 – The Axe Files – my unhealthy obsession with US politics coming out with this suggestion, but David Axelrod (former Obama campaign manager and now at University of Chicago) has a rolodex with anyone who matters in US politics so you can be assured of lots of fascinating insights from those on the inside of making change happen.
4 – NEF Weekly Economics Podcast – Demystifying economics and what the business pages really mean. A helpful listen for anyone who wants to understand macroeconomics and the financial forces that shape much of our
5 – Media Focus – a fortnightly interview with some of the key movers and shakers in media and PR. Lots of relevant content for any campaigner wanting to understand how to get your message into the media. I found the interview with Lyton Crosby especially interesting.
As a bonus, I’ve found the Political Betting Polling Matters podcast a good weekly round up of what’s happening in UK politics.
Over to you, what are the podcasts you’d recommend for campaigners?