7 challenges facing today's campaigner….

I got the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of other campaigners a few weeks ago to think about some of the challenges that large campaigning organisations are facing.

Walking into the day, I came up with my list of the 7 biggest challenges on my mind at the moment – I’d be interested in how they compare to what you’re seeing;

1. Where is the real ‘New Power’ – there is rightly interest in the principles of New Power that Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms have outlined in their book, and of course many of the movements that we’re seeing get traction at the moment are because they’re able to harness ‘new power’, but reading Carl Miller’s ‘The Death of the Gods‘ got me thinking about some new sources of power that are perhaps far less benevolent – criminal networks, hackers, fake news factories and government-run disinformation campaigns.

If power has three forms –  visible, hidden and invisible – do we need to be spending more time considering the invisible form of new power that are increasingly shaping much of the political landscape we’re campaigning in? Do we need to reconsider the targets that we’ve traditionally focused our campaigning towards are struggling to respond to, if so how do we approach campaigning towards these institutions?

2. Can we hold the center ground?  In a world where echo chambers exist is much of our campaigning actually further entrenching polarisation – it’s a theme that is brilliantly explored in this post by Ali Goldsworthy and Rob Blackie.

This is a really hard challenge – on one hand it’s the knowledge that many of the most successful changes have come about because they’ve been able to build coalitions that sit across apparent divides, but on the other, the knowledge that to generate action and activism, we need to focus on creating jeopardy and opponents in our messaging to ensure that a campaign stands out.

Throw that into a world of echo chambers where it can be harder and harder to mix with those who hold different opinions, so our views and approaches are never challenged so do we lose a sense of where the center ground even is?

3. Demonstrating value and impact – it’s easy to argue that it’s not possible to measure the impact of campaigning, that it’s more of an art than a science, but in a time when many organisations are having to consider how best to use the increasingly finite resources that they have how do we demonstrate the value and impact of campaigning to ensure it gets the resourcing that it’s required within an organisation, or provide space for projects to be piloted and grow slowly to demonstrate impact before going to ‘scale’.

4. Breaking out of our ‘cut and paste’ approach – I’ve got big ambition and ideas about what we might want to do differently in our campaigning, but as I’ve written about before moving to a new approach is often easy to say than do. I see how we can fall into the trap of ‘cutting and pasting’ from our previous campaigns, reusing the tactics that we know work, because implementing them is easier and safer than trying a new approach. How do we create the space to innovate with new ideas and approaches.

5. Building a leadership pipeline all the way to the top – I’m proud of how organisations like Campaign Bootcamp have rightly focused on growing the number of people who are able to access brilliant campaign training and put it to work to create – and after 14 camps it’s brilliant to see the community that has formed, but do we also need to focus at the other end of the leadership pipeline? To ensure that we have campaigners who are equipped to step into executive leadership positions across NGOs and other organisations. I’d argue that the number of senior leaders in the charity sector who come from a ‘campaigning’ background is still low. Is there more that needs to be done to equip campaigners to be lead organisations?

6. Are we actually guilty of astroturfing? – it’s easy to sit smugly thinking that we couldn’t be responsible for astroturfing – the concept in campaigning where the impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists, and while no campaigning organisation would go out and deliberately take an astroturfing approach,  do we have the depth of support for our issues that we often claim?

7. Taking cybersecurity seriously – I’ll be honest that I’ve been fairly ambivalent about the importance of thinking about cyber-security as a campaigner, but with all the focus on GDPR in the last 12 months it’s made me think much more about the importance we need to attribute to it, but the challenge is how to develop approaches quickly enough to adapt to the latest trends and tools, but also ensure that we’re rightly taking the right steps to protect the data of our supporters.

GDPR – what is it and why should campaigners care about it?

I’ll confess as a campaigner thinking about data and data regulation, isn’t one of the most exciting parts of my work.
But, the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation to give it its full title, are important EU wide changes that will impact all organisations, including charities and campaigning organisations, who hold data about members of the public. And with the GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, it’s worth spending a few moments engaging understanding what it is and what it could mean.
Important disclaimer – the points below are drawn from reading a number of really helpful guides to the GDPR. I’m not a GDPR/data expert, so please check in with someone who is if you have specific questions. 
Here are 7 things that you should know;
1. It covers all communications – lots of recent regulations have focused on fundraising practices, most prominently through the ‘opt-out’ from the Fundraising Regulator, but the GDPR affects anything that involves processing an individual’s personal data, which includes who can receive your campaigning communications or information held by volunteer campaign groups.
2. It’s not a moment to panic – We already have lots of guidance and regulation about how data is processed and held, so many of the GDPR changes are an ‘evolution, not a revolution‘. Plus there is still lots of time to make sure that you’re compliant, and loads of people are providing helpful advice – my big recommended starting point is to look over the IoF report, which, although written for fundraisers has lots of practical advice, as does this NCVO guidance.
3. It is about clear consent – At the heart of the GDPR is being able to show that consent to use someone’s data has been ‘freely given, specific, informed and an unambiguous indication through a statement or clear affirmative action, such as actively ticking a box’. So it means that there has to be a clear ‘opt in’ to getting further communciations. The guidance suggests that pre-ticked boxes aren’t appropriate, and you’ll need to be able to show how the consent has been given if someone asks. You also need to have explicit consent if you plan to share the data with third-party providers.
4. Review the information you currently hold – ahead of the GDPR coming in you need to be reviewing what data you hold. So now is the time to make sure you’ve looked at all those extra spreadsheets and lists you might have with personal data in, and also make sure you’re aware of the changes that the GDPR brings to communicating with under 16s.
5. Power over information – The GDPR gives individuals more power over the information you hold on them, including being able to ask to have their personal data deleted from your database, being able to request what information you hold on someone through a ‘subject access request’ (there is a campaign tactic in this as well I think) or to be rectified if it’s not correct.  Again it’s thinking about what that means for the information you hold.
6. Work with others within your organisation – if your organisation has someone who is responsible for your database if you’re not already, it’s time to talk with them about what they’re doing and how you can help. If your data management approach is shared across different teams make sure you’re starting to talk together.
But either way, start to check in with others, and also make sure that you’re drawing your board or senior management. Although they might not do the work of implementing the guidance, the risk of not being compliant means they need to be aware, not least as the fines from the Information Commissioner for data breaches are much higher.
7. Share with others outside your organisation – Some of the most ways that organisation have found to grow and build campaigning lists will have to change under the GDPR, but that shouldn’t mean that growing your list, re-engaging lapsed supporters or supporting local groups isn’t possible. Organisations sharing approaches that are working and compliant will be really useful in ensuring that this is regulation that stifles campaigning.
Still looking for more on the GDPR? Then I’d recommend a read of GDPR: The essentials for fundraising organisations by the IoF and How to prepare for GDPR and data protection reform by NCVO. The official ICO guidance is here.

Up all night – questions about the direction of campaigning

Occasionally I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night (tip here – if you ever find yourself in the same situation put on Radio 5, you’ll get to experience Up All Night, one of the best shows on the radio) and I find it’s (sometimes) the time to consider some the big questions about campaigning.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few events where I’ve been able to wrestle with some of the big questions that Campaigners are facing into. It kicked off  at a discussion as part of the Sheila McKenchnie Foundation Social Change Project, then I got to hang out with some of the team at The Good Lab, before finishing up at CharityComms post-election event for campaigns leaders.
So lots of good conversations, but what are the big questions about campaigning that are keeping me awake at night? Here are a few I’d suggest from listening to conversations in the last few weeks;
1. What’s the future of digital campaigning? We’ve all dived in wholeheartedly to embrace the opportunities that digital campaigning provides to win change and increase our supporter base – and seen many successes as a result, but as organisations find it harder to mobilise the numbers needed to win change, while acquiring new supporters is proving harder to do for many – impacted I think by the wider conversation about charity preferences.  So if the future isn’t in list growth and petition inflation is starting to fatigue many of our targets, then what is the future approach? How do we harness a digital first approach to ensure we have real impact. How do we embrace the way that digital has transformed and democratised campaigning for so many?
2. What does true collaboration look like? We all know that unusual coalitions secure change, and many of us are actively working with others in our campaigns. But given the scale of the challenges that we face, and the limited resources that we have, do we need to consider deeper forms of collaboration? That could be around building shared tools, or finding shared narratives that we can all use beyond single issues. But beyond that what does collaboration look? What’s the role for bigger and more well resourced campaigning organisations to support individuals and movements that are being established?
3. Do we even know the edge of our bubbles? We are increasingly more data driver in our campaigning. We segment based on what you’ve done previously and we aim to target individuals we believe are most likely to take, but are there limited to being data driven, and does it just keep us in our bubble without realising what’s happening outside it. How do we rediscover the skills of listening and adapting to what the external world is telling us. Everyone marveled, for a time, at what Kony 2012 achieved, but that was because they’d sharpened their message by getting out at the coal face and giving hundreds of talks to their target audience of young people.
4. Do we worry enough about our opponents? It’s perhaps a result of how much campaigning has been professionalised, but how munch time are we actually thinking and anticipating our opponents? If the root of the word campaigning comes from the military concept of ‘taking the field’ – as troops moved from the safety of a town or fort into a field for battle – do we need to grow more confident about defining and naming our opposition? Is it OK to put no limits on who is on ‘our side’ and see campaigning as simply a skill like IT programming, or do we need to be clearer on calling out who our opponents are? In politics, opposition research is a key part of any professional operation, but while we devote resources to define our power mapping, should we do more to understand what making our opponents tick?
5. Are charities the best vehicles to deliver social change? I was struck by a comment at one of the sessions about how we need to do more to create organisations that are able to bring about change. Do our structures and approaches actually prevent us for responding in the ways that we need to?
As Naveed from Results observesRecent mobilisations channelling public concern have been far more organic; not leaderless or disorganised, but working perfectly well without a top-down structure. Successful movements allow people to do their own thing, based on a central idea or goal that fires their imagination, but doesn’t tell them what to do. Look at the way people came together around the Manchester terrorist attack, the Women’s Marches, Black Lives Matter, or the Refugees Welcome movement. Only in the latter have NGOs played any kind of a role, and it seems that we haven’t yet properly woken up to the reality of how people organise around causes today.
And if we do have a role to play, and I think we do, how do we adapt to respond to the times we’re in and the approaches we’re finding are successful.
6. Where does change happen in the new political context? If we’re likely to see a period of political uncertainty, with a Parliament focused almost exclusively on Brexit, and all of the parties having their own internal challenges, how do we adapt as campaigners? Is now the time to invest in long-term attitudinal work that needs to be undertaken, ensuring support among politically key groups. In Parliament, should we continue to look to build support from across parties, or utilise the tiny majority that the Government has to play parties off against each other?
Just a few questions I’m grappling with – what are the questions about campaigning that are keeping you awake?

Why it's time for campaigners to take digital security seriously…

While my password is more sophisticated than ‘password’ – you might laugh but a recent article by suggested that’s a very common password – I know I’ve not spent enough time thinking about protecting myself online.
But with news of the hacking of the Clinton campaign, an awareness of how much information that I produce is held in ‘the cloud’, and reading stories like this about a sophisticated attempt to create a fake campaign group to hack the IT systems of organisations like Amnesty who had been raising concerns about workers rights in QatarI’ve started to think that I need to consider taking my digital more security more seriously.
As campaigners, we’re often working on issues where there are powerful vested interests that we’re opposing, so making sure that we’re thinking about our data security should be on our to do list. Attending CampaignCon in October it was interesting just how many campaigners at the conference were talking about it as a key concern for the work they’re doing.
For many campaigners, it’s a challenge to get the balance right. We want to collaborate with others which makes platforms like Dropbox and Google Doc invaluable, we need to use social media channels like Twitter and Facebook to get our messages out, and investing in complex cyber security can feel like an unnecessary cost when every penny counts..
It’s easy to think that you only have to worry about your digital security if you’re running some campaign on the arms trade, or in a country with a repressive government. But that’s before you start to investigate the powers that governments have over our data (see the recent Investigatory Powers Bill/Snoopers Charter passed in the UK last) or consider what new laws President Trump might implement and what that would mean for any data held in the ‘cloud’ on a US server.
2017 is the year that cyber and data security need to be every campaigners concern.
If that’s not enough to convince you – at a time when elements of the media are looking for charity scandals making sure that you’re no unwittingly writing a front page story is another reason to revisit those social media permissions.
I’m no expert at how to do this, but I’ve found the following articles really helpful as an introduction to thinking about digital security – but please do add other thoughts in the comment box below.
Step 1 – Start with some light housekeeping – I found this article from Owen Barder really helpful. It’s nothing complicated, but making sure that you’ve got two-step authentication set up, are using a password manager and thinking about where you store key information are some simple and easy steps to take.
Step 2 – Think about encryptionThis is a really helpful guide to thinking about how you can tread more lightly when you’re using the internet. Again, nothing that requires lots of technical expertise, but it’s got some really useful suggestions about how to search in private or use secure message platforms like Signal to share.
Step 3 – Consider a digital detox – If you’re concerned about Google actually knowing more about you that your best friend thanks to your search history, use of Google Maps, etc. Have a look at the Digital Detox that Tactical Tech have launched. Again its’s full of really simple and easy steps you can take to take back control of your digital self
Step 4 – Review your campaigns risk – Clearly every campaign comes with a different level of risk attached to it, but this articles from Mobilisation Lab really helpful. I found thinking about this made me consider what information I’m sharing information with on email or who is on those big mailing lists I’m sharing my latest campaign dilemmas with.
Step 5 – Dive in to find out more – The Tactical Tech Collective is a brilliant place for anyone wanting to learn more about digital security – there Security in a Box project while designed for frontline human rights defenders has lots of practical ideas.
Please do use the comments box to share others thoughts, ideas and resources. 

Fundraising Preference Service – what it could mean for campaigners?

It would be easy to think that the ‘Fundraising Preference Service’ (FPS) isn’t something to worry about as a campaigner – not least when the Government is including anti-advocacy clause in its grant agreements.
But while the focus of the FPS is about regulating fundraising communications, I think it’d be short sighted for campaigners in charities to assume that it won’t affect them as well.
If you’ve not been following in details how the FPS came about, you’ll be aware that last summer there was a number of stories about fundraising practices. As a result Sir Stuart Etherington from NCVO was asked by the government to review the current self-regulation arrangements. One of his recommendations was the Fundraising Preference Service with the idea it being;
“a list of people, and their contact details, who do not wish to be contacted with fundraising communications. Charities can access the list to cross check their own databases against prior to fundraising campaigns. And where members of the public continue to receive fundraising communications despite registering, the Fundraising Preference Service offers a basis for changing the relationship”
Now the creation of a FPS hasn’t been without its critics (see here and here), and until it exists it hard to quantify what impact it will end up having. But it’s happening and a working group formed by NCVO has been created to look at its implementation.
So it’s helpful for campaigners to be thinking about the implications for their communicating with supporters. Here are 3 questions to be asking;
1. Will those who’ve signed up appreciate the different types of charity communications? The FPS proposes a reset button which would mean those who sign up wouldn’t be able to get any more fundraising communications (see Joe Saxton on the challenges of getting the data to work here).  But will those who’ve signed up appreciate the difference between a direct mail asking them to donate to a email to sign a petition. While we might appreciate the difference will many see signing up to the FPS as putting an end to all communications from charities?
Joe Jenkins argues here if we are to have an FPS that is workable it should focus on communications that primary or sole focus are on soliciting financial support so newsletters, campaign asks, etc wouldn’t be affected – good news for campaigners but something that needs to be made clear in the development of the guidance – but my hunch is that the FPS it will lead to charities being more cautious about all mailings that go to supporters (perhaps a good thing). If was being very cynical, I’d suggestion that the existence of the FPS would make it easier in the future to extend the guidance to include all charity communications.
2. What about integrated campaign/fundraising asks? Many campaigners have worked hard with fundraising colleagues to develop integrated campaigns which combine ask people to take campaign actions and donate (see some great examples here). If we take the principle that Joe Jenkins has made about the FPS being focused just on ‘communications that primary or sole focus are on soliciting financial support’ will that means that you can’t include a fundraising PS in a campaigning direct mail, or invite people to donate following an online action they’ve taken? On the other hand as Joe Saxton suggests perhaps it’ll lead to the rise of ‘fugging’ – fundraising under the guide of campaigning.
3. What will be the impact of the new ‘opt in’ legislation? Over the summer, the EU has passed new data protection legislation which will will mean personal data must be ‘freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous’. That won’t just affect fundraising but all charity communications, and while it’s a separate process to the FPS what this will mean for recruiting new campaigners isn’t yet clear. NCVO have a group looking at it and it’s another process to follow.
The work to shape the FPS is underway guided by a group convened by NCVO. As yet I’ve not seen any detailed proposals of what it’ll include, but I’m sure those involved will want to get input from a range of organisations.
So my recommendation. Don’t assume this is someone else’s problem. Start talking to your fundraising colleagues to understand how they’re engaged in the process and ensure that the FPS is shaped in a way that doesn’t inadvertently reduce your ability to communicate with your supporters.

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Uber and the future of campaigning

It’s the big battle for London future. No, not the race for the Mayor of London, but between Uber and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) as they’ve battled out for control of the taxi market in the city.
I don’t have a side that I favour in this particular battle (unlike the Mayor of London where I’m firmly on the red side).
I appreciate the investment that cab drivers put into learning The Knowledge, but get frustrated that in 2015 you still find cabs that only take cash. Living outside central London I’ve benefited from the flexibility of Uber, but the traditionalist in me doesn’t want to see the end of the iconic Black Cab.
But I think the approaches that the two sides have taken provide some insights into what direction campaigning might be going.
1 – Welcome to “App-tivism” – corporates campaigning isn’t new, of course its been a feature of newspapers to include a cut out petition for years, but the approach that Uber is taking shows a level of sophistication that we’ve not seen before. They don’t simply ask you to sign the petition, they’re employing some of the best campaign strategists to develop campaign approaches you’d expect to see Greenpeace or 38 Degrees invite you to take.
In New York they’ve been encouraging users to phone decision makers or take advantage of a “DE BLASIO” (after the New York Mayor) to the menu of ride options seen by its New York City users to see what impact his proposed restrictions might have, while I got the email below after an Uber journey I took last week.
As this Harvard Business School article suggests ‘we’re entering a brave new world where the creators of technology platforms can activate billions of users to specific political action of their choosing’. And its not just Uber, this collection shows how Airbnb and others are using the same approach, see more on Apptivists here.
Uber email
2 – Old power needs to adapt – But Uber doesn’t have it all their own way, the influence of the London cabbie as we head towards Mayoral elections next May, means that they’re powerful. Any aspiring candidate for Mayor of London doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of the cabbies, the seen as as trusted messengers by many.
I’ve really enjoyed what Jeremy Heimans has written about old and new power. LTDA are shown that old power can still influence, but how long will that hold? Does LTDA need to adapt and change its approach if it wants to continue to compete with Uber?
3 – Incentives to get you to take action – Unlike most campaigning organisations, Uber has a big advantage to get you to take action, it can provide you with incentives – free journey credit in return for sending an email for example (they’ll already offer to take you to a demonstration for free).
Uber’s strategy to dominate the taxi market is well known, so the cost of a few free journeys in return for the market access they want is a minimal cost. Alex Evan’s has reflected elsewhere about the concept of ‘activism air miles’, but if Uber and others start offering ‘free’ incentives in return for your action will it change the way that others have to respond?
4 – Use the Courts – Uber knows that building political pressure is just one tactic it needs to use to win what it wants, which is why its also devoting its resource to winning rulings in the High Court.
I’ve reflected before that using legal routes is under utilised in campaigning here in the UK, a few organisations like Client Earth have shown how it can effective can be,  but the costs and complexity appear to rule it out for many. With the national political arithmetic unlikely to change in the next few years, exploring new routes like using the courts could be another option for campaigners.

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Speed, Sophistication, Structures and Space – 4 trends that will define the future of campaigning

In my role as Head of Campaigns and Engagement at Bond, I was ask to write about the trends that will impact the campaigning of members over the next 5 years, and what it means for our work to support members to campaign brilliantly. I came up with the following;
1 – Speed
The first campaign I was involved in was Jubilee 2000. I remember the record breaking petition, the sense of excitement as the latest Christian Aid News would come through the letterbox with an update, and the delighted when we heard we had succeeded in getting the G8 to cancel the unpayable debt.
It took the Jubilee 2000 campaign over 2 years to collect the 22 million signatures that formed the record breaking petition handed to G8 leaders. Anyone who collected those signatures will talk of the hours spent collecting petitions in churches, at street stalls and in student unions bars across the UK, winning the signatures one conversation at a time.
Fast forward to today, where it’s possible for a partnership between Guardian and Change.org to generate 250,000 signatures on FGM in 20 days, and many Bond members are able to generate tens of thousands of emails in a matter of days or weeks. Campaigning organisations able to launch a campaign in a matter of moments in respond to the latest event or news headline.
But while campaigning is getting faster, we’re also seeing a rise in slow activism? Organisations like the One Campaign and Tearfund are encouraging supporters to write handwritten letters to MPs around the recent legislation on 0.7% or All We Can encouraging supporters to stitch mini-protest banners ahead of London Fashion Week, part of creative ‘craftavist’ movement, which encourages reflective action that seeks to change the participant as much as it does the world. I think we need both within our movement, and a willingness to learn from both approaches.
2 – Sophistication
We know more about our supporters than we ever have, what actions the like to take, what topics they’re interested in, if and when they’ll open their emails from us, and as a result we can target our campaigns in more and more sophisticated ways. A recent report suggested “neuro-campaigning” following politics and advertising to use a better understanding of how our own brains work to persuade people to take action. With all this evidence, as campaigners we need to continue to invest more and more in testing of our messages and tactics before we share them.
A focus on what tactics to use, shouldn’t mean we overlook the importance of theories of change at the heart of our campaigning, including challenge ourselves to ask if we’re too focused on targeting our campaigning towards MPs, Government Ministers and UN bodies, or if we should follow Action Aid focusing on local councillors, or corporate divestment championed by Share Action and 350.org, or local media like RESULTS.


3 – Structures
As much as we need to build campaigning structures that are fit for a digital era, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of investing in an active and vibrant grassroots network. For me it’s always been the hallmark of our movement, the local activists that collect names on petitions and meet with their MPs.
I want to learn from groups like 38 Degrees, about how they mobilised 10,000+ volunteers as part of the Days of Action on TTIP, or Toys will be Toys, an entirely volunteer led campaign about how they’re successfully joining up offline and online actions.
A focus on structures should not only be about how campaigns are organised, but also about challenging the very structures that perpetuate inequality and poverty. While we should take advantage of opportunities like the recent Private Members Bill on 0.7%, but the danger in focusing on ‘the little big thing’ is that we risk not building public understanding about the root causes of poverty that should be central to our campaigning.
4 – Space
The Lobbying Act or comments by the former Charities Minister that we should ‘stick to knitting’ reinforce to me that we’re seeing a narrowing of the political space campaigning organisations have to advocate. I believe we should feel proud as a sector of the positive impact our campaigning has had on the lives of the communities we work with. We should all fight to protect it.
Before starting at Bond, I helped to found Campaign Bootcamp, a training programme for those looking to start a career in campaigning. We were overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm we found to help us. That experience has shown me the strength of the community we have, committed to work together to share and help each other.
This is an edited version of an article first published in The Networker available here.

Under Threat – 4 challenges to charities speaking out

I’m still digesting the full implications of the election results, but one (of the many) areas that I’m concerned about, is the space that charities and NGOs will have to speak out under the new government.
Remember those quotes about how charities should ‘stick to the knitting’, well that view just got more prominent in Government.
Now you might expect me to be an advocate for the importance of charities campaigning and I am. But looking across history I can see numerous example of how charities and NGOs have come together to push for change, as Ed Miliband rather eloquently put it during the election campaign;
And that’s the way change has always happened. Through people.
100 years ago, the trade unions joined together and campaigned for workers’ rights and they won.
70 years ago, the working people of our country joined together and campaigned for an NHS and they won.
40 years ago, working women joined together and campaigned to legislate for the principle of equal pay and they won.
20 years ago, the gay and lesbian community of our country joined together and campaigned for equality in law and they won.
And in all these movements and moments, when people asked who will fight this fight? They didn’t wait. They didn’t say it was up to someone else. They said “call on me”.
But one thing that could change over the next 5 years could be the space that charities and NGOs have to campaign. So what are the actual threats? Here are 4 potential challenges that every campaigner here in the UK needs to be concerned about.
1. Adjusting to the Lobbying Act – it’s now highly unlikely to be repealed and while Lord Hodgson is undertaking a review for the government of its impact (something we got thanks for campaigning) which could lead to some small changes, but the Lobbying Act is here to stay and we’ll need to adjust to it in future elections.
2. Reviewing CC9 – this is an important but little known piece of guidance that allows charities to campaign when they’re doing so in line with their charitable purpose. While the exact timetable is yet to be announced, expect it to happen in the next 12 months and don’t expect it to be a review that expands the space we have to campaign. This is going to be a critical fight.
3. Paying to protest – before the election, campaigners saw off a push from the Metropolitan Police to charge climate change campaigner to pay for the policing a peaceful march they were organising in Westminster. With further pressure on police budgets, expect to see the Police push this again. I’ve already heard of at least one event this could effect. While their are massive pressures on police budgets, it’d be a worrying precedent if we’re expected to pay to protest. With the London elections coming up, we need to be pushing for all the candidates to agree that the Metropolitan Police shouldn’t charge us for our right to protest.
4. Reporting on a charity’s total expenditure on campaigning activities – this was consulted on by the Charity Commission last year but they decided not to pursue it. Expect it to come back again, and while it might seem little like a small issue compared to the others above, my concern is that it could a) lead us to a situation like that in Canada where charities can only spend up to 10% of their income on campaigning activities and b) would mean charities have to spend more time to monitor this, potentially putting off smaller organisations from getting involved in advocacy, as they simply don’t have the capacity .
So what can be done about it?

  • Become aware – all these threats are happening around us, become aware of them and start to think about the possible implications for your campaigning. If your on a board of an organisation that campaigns you want to be thinking about what these changes could mean for your organisation.
  • Organise – campaigns are forming to respond to many of these challenge, and we know this works because it was thanks to campaigning on the Lobbying Act that we got some important concessions. Campaigners from a vast range of organisations need to get involved, campaigning on these issues, but its a classic example of a tragedy of the commons, we’re all affected by the changes but its not in any single organisations interest to campaign to stop the changes. If you in London, come along to this meeting on Monday 1st June to find out more about how we can organise together.
  • Be prepared to stand in solidarity – not every campaigning organisation will affected by these changes. If you don’t organise marches, parliamentary lobbies or demonstrations you might not be concerned about pay to protest, but it’s the precedent that should concern us all. First it’s protests, but what next? Hand-ins? Parlimentary petitions? We need solidarity between campaigners on these issues, like we saw last year when concerns were raised about a tweet from Oxfam that led to 70 organisations signing onto a letter in The Times. 

Read, Reflect, Get a Mentor, Plan to Rest – 4 resolutions to make your a better campaigner in 2016

Originally posted in January 2015 but still relevant for 2016! 
I’m terrible at keeping new year resolutions (if you want a campaigner who takes them very seriously check out Oxfam’s Al Kinley), but I’m a big fan of using the start of a new year to try to build new habits.
So as you get back into the office here are a few thoughts about steps that you could take to be a better campaigner in 20156.
1 – Read. A wise person once said to me that ‘leaders are readers’ its a maxim that’s stuck with me, and is part of the motivation for this blog.
In20156, make time to read about campaigns that are winning, trends that will impact your campaigning (Mobilisation Lab is a good place to start (and hopefully this blog)), what’s going on in politics (as a start sign up for daily emails from Labour List, Conservative Home, Lib Dem Voice plus Times RedBox) and be inspired by campaigners from the past.
But don’t just read things you agree with, take a moment to follow blogs and read newspapers that put alternative perspectives across. Don’t assume that everyone thinks the same as you and your colleagues, they don’t. Believe it or not, you could be a better campaigner by reading the Daily Mail.
2 – Reflect. When I started my new job in July, I penciled in my diary to take the forth Friday afternoon of each month to escape my desk and spend a few hours reflecting on what was working and wasn’t working. It hasn’t happened, although I’m going to try again in20156 with a less ambitious fortnightly lunch slot!
In campaigning, it can often feel like a luxury to take an hour or two to reflect and review on the last week, fortnight or month, but research shows that reflecting on performance actually improves your work. Why not start the year by booking in 30 minutes every 2 weeks to reflect on the following questions;

  • What is your campaign doing well and what should you continue to do?
  • What is your campaign doing ‘okay’ or badly and what can it improve?
  • In what ways has your understanding about the situation deepened or changed?
  • What have your learnt in the last fortnight? What areas are you being stretched in?

3 – Get a mentor. I’ve really valued those who’ve invested time in helping me be a better campaigner. I’ve found meeting with someone on a regular basis, about once every 4 to 6 weeks for an hour or so over coffee, has really helped me in my career. I find a mentor is someones brain I can mine for ideas, someone who can help me see the bigger picture or coach me through a particular challenge I’m facing.
It can feel intimidating trying to identify a mentor, it could be someone more senior in your organisation (probably in a different team), a campaigner you admire or someone working in a related area you’re keen to deepen your experience in. Start out by suggesting you trial it for 3 months and take it from their, you’ll be amazed that people like to say yes when you ask them
4 – Plan to Rest.  You might feel rested after a Christmas break with a few long lie-ins and quiet days, but book your next break now, and make a strategy for how your going to switch off from your work over the next year. We need you to be involved in the work of delivering social change for at least the next 12 years, not just the next 12 month, and sadly too many of us burnout. I love these resources from the team at Plan to Thrive,  I can’t commend this article from Rockwood Leadership enough on how to develop good habits to avoid burnout and I’m a big fan of encouraging everyone to take a retreat.

Looking 'down under' for campaign inspiration

When it comes to Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 21.54.07elections, campaigners in the UK get very excited about the one happening ‘across the pond’ in the US.
I’m one of them, and even 6 months later give me an article on data driven campaigning that helped Obama to win and I’ll be the first to read it.
But is it time for us to stop looking west for campaign inspiration and instead start looking ‘down under’?
The Australian elections might not have the glamour of the US but in many ways the comparisons between our political systems are closer, two main parties but plenty of feisty smaller ones, a constituency system with the leader of the biggest party in Parliament forming a government and an active campaigning sector.
While there are clear differences, most notably in Australia voting is compulsory, any smart campaigner could do worse than follow the soap opera down under for the next 4 weeks ahead of the polls on 7th September to get some clues about how we might plan to influence the 2015 election here in the UK.
Here are 3 things that have already caught my eye in recent days;
GetUp! Live Webcast – The Australian equivalent of 38 Degrees are, as expected, making a big deal of the elections. I’m sure we’ll see lots of new ideas from them in the coming weeks, but I love how they’re starting by hosting a nightly weekly live webcast for their supporters to bring them the latest on what they’re doing and how the community can get involved (you can watch at 9.30am here in the UK).
Learning from failure – The Centre for Australian Progress is playing a key role in coordinating groups and organising war rooms to help bring campaigners together. They’ve already planned to organise a FailShare to bring together groups that have been involved in campaigning around the election to learn from what didn’t work. The appetite to learn from what didn’t work as well as what did is brilliant.
Engaging the grassroots – I’m biased on this, because I’ve been working with groups like Micah Challenge Australia for a number of year, but as well as the exciting and responsive digital campaigning, development groups have been coming together to form ‘Movement to End Poverty‘ with the aim of getting the issue of development aid on the agenda of the parties, focusing on local events as well as petition signatures.
I’ll be keeping an eye out from other campaign lessons from Australia in the coming weeks. Do share what you’re discovering.