Brexit – some immediate thoughts for campaigners

It’s been a difficult fortnight.
From the murder of Jo Cox MP, someone I didn’t know personally but had worked with a huge number of my friends and was a tireless champion for many of the causes that matter to me, to the Brexit vote and the ongoing political fallout from it, it’s hard to identify a more difficult couple of weeks in my professional career.
Judging from the news from the last 24 hours it’s not ending yet, but here are a few initial thoughts for campaigners – I suspect these will change in the coming days and weeks!
1. Be intentional about focusing on self care – I sent this to many people I worked with on Friday. We’re in turbulent times and they’ll require us to organise, but we can’t do that without looking after ourselves. We really do need to be in this for the long-run. This is also really good on the topic. Getting together, taking time off from social media, building community are all things that matter more than ever before.
2. Get out of the city and into the country – Many have written eloquently about the implications of the divisions or splits between the parts of the country that voted for Remain and Leave. This polling from Lord Ashcroft is useful to get a sense of the difference in views on a range of issues.
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For all campaigners, if we want to grow support for our issues then we have to do that amoung enough groups to demonstrate their are political gains to be made from backing our issues – to do that will mean getting outside of the big cities. Failure to do so and there is a risk that the issues that we’re campaigning on are seen in the same way that the Remain campaign was, as part of the elite establishment.
At times like this I can’t help but think of the example of Shelter who deliberately sent there teams out and about to marginal seats to test their key messages for their 2015 election housing campaign, or Invisible Children who while found success Kony 2012 but honed their message from years and years of presentations to groups of young people.
Both are examples of campaigns that got the need to understand the way to build support is to get out and understand the public they’re looking to support their campaign.
3. Talk to people – On Wednesday evening I heard from academic Josh Kalla talk about research he’s done with community organisers in LA to prove its possible to change minds on transgender people through deep canvassing –  they’ve found that from persuasion conversations you actually can change the minds of people.
But deep canvassing not only requires time and people but also listening and sharing personal stories – all resources that require investing in and are perhaps in short supply.
One of my criticisms of the Stronger In campaign was its apparent obsession with high-visibility campaigning like street stalls and leafleting outside stations. While they might have been a necessity given the resources they had, it never felt like a strategy for connecting people with personal reasons to vote Remain.
4. Recognise that expert voices don’t cut through to all – The Stronger In campaign has spent most of the campaign telling us how many experts were for Remain. I’m sure that was backed up and informed by polling, but as the polling below shows for a myriad of reasons many people don’t trust ‘experts’ any more. It means we need to think again about our messengers as well as our messages.
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5. Bring our issues together – Our campaigning can sometimes pit one issue against another, but in wake of the referendum we need to explore how our campaigning issues are connected together and actively finding common cause. It’s a strong finding that comes out the Networked Change report (which I need to write more about) that those networks that are more successful are ones which cross movement boundaries – we need to find ways to connect issues together.
6. We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for – In the coming weeks and months we’ll need to organise ourselves with plans and strategies that respond to the situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes I live in the belief that others will be the leaders to help navigate a path forward, but if you’re reading this its down to you, me and other campaigners to explore solutions that allow us to do that.
7. We have #MoreInCommon – On Wednesday afternoon I stood with 5,000+ others in Trafalgar Square to say that we have #MoreInCommon to celebrate the life of Jo Cox. The event, which was one of 20+ around the world, was organised in just 5 days by friends and colleagues of Jo Cox. None of those friends wanted to be organising the event in such circumstances, but the way they went about wanting to celebrate the life was inspiring, helping to ensure the message from Jo Cox’s maiden speech that ‘We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us’ was shared. It’s a message to hold onto in all of the current uncertainty.

Organising to build power – reflections on Hahrie Han skillshare

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend a day learning from US academic and trainer Hahrie Han on how we can organise activists. It was a cracking day alongside 50+ other campaigners, full of lots of thought provoking, challenging and inspiring content about how we can work to organise activists to deliver change.
It’s part of a series of events that Hahrie is doing while she’s here in London, this evening Hahrie is giving a lecture in conjunction with the University of Westminster. While the lecture is fully booked you can watch a free web stream of the lecture from 5.30pm today (31st March) here.
Walking away from the day I’m struck by a few lessons that I want to dig into more in my work.
1 – We need to get comfortable talking about transformation and power – Perhaps its our British reserve but because the word transformation seems to be associated with religious fever, while power is seen as a battle between good and evil, we don’t feel comfortable talking about them.
But as Hahrie suggested ‘movements build power not by selling people products they already want but instead by transforming what people think is possible’. We need to help people believe that transformation is possible and that starts by talking about it.
When it comes to power, we spent time considering the work of Steven Lukes and his Three Dimensions of Power. Lukes argues that power is exercised in three ways – visible, hidden and invisible.
Visible power is what we see happening in voting in elections or in Parliament – it’s perhaps the form of power that as campaigners we spend much of our time considering – how can we get MPs to vote for our issue in Parliament for example, but invisible power are the factors/beliefs/assumptions about how the world works that are often imbedded into our institutions.
Campaigners can spend lots of time talking about how we can overcome visible, but organising requires us to consider invisible power that prevents challenging the status quo. We need to spend more time talking about and wrestling with where power really is, and strategising on how we respond.
2 – Agency is about autonomy as well as competence – Agency is the ability to achieve purpose – and in most western countries individuals sense of agency is declining.  We’ve often see increasing agency in those we work with as simply providing people with the skills they need – so they have competence to go out and make the change we’re looking for – perhaps because they’ve been trained to use a particular tool or approach.
Hahrie suggested that agency is not simply about make people feel they have the competence to use a tool it’s also providing them with the autonomy to use those tools – the space to act on it free from the control of an organisation.
3 – Good organisers are not always the first to put their hands up – Zack Exley one of Bernie Sanders lead organiser has spoken about ‘the tyranny of the annoying‘  when the worst people with the most time on their hands take over, and when it comes to picking organiser the same could be true.
Good organisers aren’t always those who are the first to volunteer, they can just be those with time to get involved, but instead individuals who have an ability to learn and reflect, are able to hold the juxtaposition between pain (the challenge of injustice) and redemption (hope that it can be overcome) and relational capacity.
4 – What brings you into belonging to a community – Growing up in a church community, I spent lots of my teenage years in debates about if becoming part of the church meant that you have to first believe then behave before you could belong. There is a growing conversation in church circles that actually the focus should be on belonging, and from that behaviour and belief will come. See below for more on this.
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For many who come into activism the same is true. We often assume that people’s engagement in our issues comes first from a belief in our message and from that becomes the behaviours (like taking an action) and belonging (forming your support for an issue as part of your identity).
But evidence from pro-life activism in the US suggest it’s the other way around. Half of those who got involved in pro-life activism were indifferent to the issue when they first got involved, instead they did so because they were looking for community or invited by a friend. The belonging came well before the believing, are we creating activism spaces that encourage belonging?
5 – It’s not just about how profitable an organisation is – When it comes to metrics of success, we should take the same approach that financial analysts who don’t just judge the performance of a company in a given year on the profits they’ve made, but also the assets they have which inform their ability to make future profits for an investor.
Should the same be true of our approaches? Focusing on the wins achieved (the profit) but also the capacity going forward (the assets) which will inform the change we can deliver in the future.
There was lots of other insight wrapped up in the day, but I also walked away with some very practical reflections;

  • We need to be finding our own community of academics and practitioners who are researching this – most of the literature that we covered was drawn from the US (and even then the body of work is fairly small). We need to find academics in the UK who want to dig into what’s working and not working here.
  • It’s about mixing up and learning from different disciplines – Across the day we drew on insights from a range of approaches as wide as behaviour psychology to those teaching at business schools. Campaigners and organisers would do well to learn from across academic approaches.

For those who joined the skill share or the lecture, I’d be interested in learning what you’re thinking.

My campaign lessons from 2015

From winning a historic commitment to enshrine 0.7% on overseas aid into law, to being part of a global movement that mobilised 31 million people, to seeing friends celebrate success at the climate negotiations in Paris. 2015 has been a busy but brilliant year for me and my team at Bond.
Personally it’s also been a year of change, I became a father for the first time (proud father picture above), stepped back from being involved in the Labour Party at a time membership in the party surged (if you’ve just joined read my advice here) and tried to blog at least once a fortnight!
As we head toward the Christmas and the end of 2015, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons that I’ve learnt from the work I’ve done over the last 12 months.
1 – Winning is great – Development campaigning can sometime feel like change is secured by the inclusion of a paragraph here or a commitment announced there – all important but  . So being part of the winning Turn Up Save Lives campaign was an awesome feeling and a moment to celebrate. Fast forward 9 months and I had the opposite feeling when despite mobilising hundreds of local residents to welcome refugees to Wandsworth the council rejected the plan. The ecstasy of winning and the agony of losing are the best fuel for campaigning.
2 – We need to say thank you – to our supporters, to our activists and to politicians when they deliver what we’ve called on them to do. To those you work alongside in your movement.
3 – It’s vital to get outside the bubble – One of the most enjoyable things I’ve done this year is take 5 days to drive a VW Camper Van around the country talking to people in city centers about the Global Goals. It was a good reminder that our issues aren’t front and center of  people’s minds. Its something that I’ve experienced on the doorstep as well – most of the public aren’t interested in our issues. We all need to get out and about talking to Joe Public on the High Streets and Cul-de-Sacs of the UK
4 – Be movement generous – When I started the year explaining to people that the action/2015 campaign would be based on a ‘flotilla’ approach many weren’t convinced. The idea was we would agree on broad objectives and coordinate loosely around tactics but allow organisations to keep their own brand and not create a strong coordination structure. But the approach has worked remarkably well. The formal evaluation will capture all of the secrets of its success, but for me one of the key elements has been the commitment to movement generosity among those involved. It’s not always easy, but one of my keys to successful coalitions.
5 – Persistence pays off – Turn Up Save Lives was a campaign that had its roots in mass lobbies of Parliament in the 1980. The decision by Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline was a victory for a 5+ year campaign. It’s easy to get caught in 12 month planning cycles for our campaigns, but both are reminders that change can often take a lot longer.
6 – Elections change everything – Sure, perhaps none of us saw the result we got but the outcome of the UK General Election has changed the political dynamics dramatically (my initial thoughts here).  I’ve spent my whole campaigning career under a Labour or Coalition government, and there aren’t many people around who ran campaigns under the Major government in 1996. Adjusting to the new political landscape is critical, for example the one individual I wished I’d spent more time campaigning towards over the last 5 years – George Osborne. The Comprehensive Spending Review in November showed he’s the one making many of the key political decisions in the current government.
7 – Spending time learning from disruptors – some of the most successful campaigns this year haven’t had a single NGO involved in them. Remember the milk price protests across the summer, or seen how Uber have pushed to get TfL to change the regulations of taxis in London. Both successful examples of using campaigning tactics to deliver change – and that’s before you look at the wins that change.org has delivered.
8 – Time to think about new approaches – the calendar has been packed with ‘moments’ this year – from UN Summit, to Election, to Climate Negotiations but is it time to move away from ‘moment’ focused campaign that we’ve grown comfortable with.  The same goes for our tactics. I’ve spent lots of time reflecting on if we need to move away from petitions and do more to invest in our grassroots networks of activists. More to think about in 2016.
9 – Take M&E seriously – M&E isn’t often described as motivating and exciting, but as this excellent report from my colleagues at Bond suggests we need to be putting them into the public domain where they could more easily be used to improve the international development programmes of the future. It’s time as campaigners to do the same, to take M&E seriously (here are some thoughts on how to do that) and start sharing our evaluations.
10 – Take a break – I’ve been terrible at taking my own advice from the start of year. Time to start thinking about 2016 resolutions!
Finally, on a personal note, it’s been a record breaking year on the blog. Thank you to everyone who has commented, tweeted posts, signed up for email updates or just take the time to say they enjoy the blog. They’re all hugely motivating to keep going. I’m looking forward to 2016 where I’ll aim to continue to bring you regular posts on what’s happening in the world of campaigning.

6 campaign lessons from Obama's rejection of Keystone XL

Climate activists in the US secured a HUGE win last week, when President Obama rejected the building of the Keystone XL pipeline because of it’s impact on climate.
I’ve written before about the campaign and my admiration for 350.org, the organisations who have been behind so much of the campaigning. In the last few years, the pipeline has become a focal point for much climate activism in North America and beyond so the Presidents rejection last week is big win.
So what can other campaigns learn from this success? The first 3 lessons come from this brilliant video by 350.org co-founder and senior adviser Bill McKibben.

1 – Build a diverse coalition – the first people involved in the campaign were ranchers from Nebraska and First Nations communities in Canada, perhaps not your usual climate activists then came students, scientists and many others. The distributed organising model that 350.org uses for its work, which is brilliantly captured in this post, lends itself to involve many different groups building locally as well as in Washington.

2 – Put your body on the line – right from the start of the campaign those involved have used peaceful, non-violent direct action at the heart of their approach. Together thousands of people have risked arrest, creating headlines and helped built a movement. The first period of direct action was deliberately timed when Congress wasn’t sitting to create a story, but since then they’ve kept the issue in the headlines by mobilising groups like the Sierra Club, celebrities, faith leaders, scientists and many others to get involved in non-violent direct action for the first time.
3 – Be creative – From circling the White House with a giant pipeline, to a Cowboy Indian Alliance protest on the National Mall, to the use of Obama’s campaign imagery in its graphics, the campaign has put creativity at the centre, providing lots of memorable images and moments.
I’d add a couple of others;
4 – Provided an abstract issue with a rallying point – Climate campaigning can be complicated with many of the policy solutions hard to mobilise around, but as David Roberts writes Keystone XL provided ‘clear villains, unambiguous markers of success, and local impacts that help draw support from other affected communities and demographics’.
5 – Drew on other movements – Those involved in Stop Keystone XL have a strong sense of where they fit within wider social justice struggles, as a result they’ve encouraged Keystone activists to get involved in Black Lives Matter protests, and invited those involved in the campaign to repeal ‘”don’t ask, don’t tell” in the US military to advise them.
But the final lesson goes to McKibben.
6 – Never Give Up – Remember when the campaign started, many climate activists in the US were bruised by the simultaneous failure to get domestic climate legislation passed (well documented here) and the collapse of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, but the victory against odds is evidence that as Roberts writes ‘social change is nonlinear and devilishly hard to predict’ but yet ‘an important part of the most important fight in the world’.

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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.

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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.

How to stop your campaign falling off a cliff…

As campaigners, we can be like Wile.E.Coyote running so quickly that we ignore the impending cliff.
With summits on what replaces the Millenium Development Goals and another on Climate Change in Paris in December, plus a General Election, it’s fair to say that 2015 is a huge year for anyone campaigning on development.
Lots of brilliant campaigning is taking place, but when you’ve adopted a focus on a number of key moments, how do you avoid loosing the momentum and energy once that key summit has happened, or if negotiations don’t go your way.
Ensuring that your campaign is prepared not to ‘fall off a cliff’ is easy to overlook in the busyness of activities.
Here are a few thoughts on how to avoid that happening;

1. Acknowledge the risk – Be aware that the process that you’re trying to influence might not deliver all that you want it to. Things outside of your control happen that you can’t foresee. I’m amazed at the number of campaigns that haven’t given any thought to ‘what next’.
2. Commit resources – It doesn’t need to be much, but ensure you’ve held back some resource to ensure you’re ready for the day or week after. I remember in 2005, the plan for Make Poverty History was to focus on aid and debt up until the G8 summit and then move to focus on trade justice ahead of a WTO meeting in December, but after we’d put all our energies into mobilising 250,000 people to pressure the G8 in Scotland we didn’t have many people around to help plan for the next big push.
3. Build something that will last beyond – Campaigns moments come and go, but too few campaigns focus on building the infrastructure needed to win again and again. Be it re-energising local groups, building public support or raising understanding amongst decision makers ensure that your campaign is creating the conditions to ensure your next campaign is more likely to succeed.
4. Be honest with your campaigners about what’s going to happen and what happened – Let’s be frank. Make Povery History or Stop Climate Chaos might not have been the strap lines for campaigns. The framing suggested the possibility of something wasn’t achievable in a year or two. So let your campaigners know its a critical moment for action, the ‘crisistunity‘ is after all a great way of getting people to take action, but be honest if it hasn’t succeeded or there is more to do.
5. Map out possible scenarios – Take some time out of running your campaign to explore what might happen. Think through a few scenarios, some ‘what if’ options with a plan of what you’d do to respond to them.  Scenario planning is an approach used by many to work out how they’ll respond before it happens (and what worked/didn’t work) but I don’ think widely adopted in the campaigning sector. Put your plan through its paces before the big moment.
6. Take time out yourself – There are no wins from burn out. Even in the busiest times we need you to be ready for the next campaign. If you’re in the heat of a campaign, it’s not your responsibility to plan for what next as well, although you probably want to make sure someone is thinking about it. So book time off after the big moment your working towards and time out in the weeks leading up to it.
7. Plan to evaluate – Sure, you’re busy, you have no time to reflect on what’s working, but the best learnings are, in my experience in the busyness of the moments, make sure you capture them. The Intense Period Debrief is a great way to approach this as a team.
8. Don’t stop at the announcement – Success. You’ve got the decision you’ve long been campaigning for. Congratulations but remember inplementation doesn’t automatically happen. Dial down your campaigns by all means, but keep following the process.

11 lessons from #TurnUpSaveLives

Yesterday, I was able to celebrate (with loads of others) a huge campaign victory.
Over the last few months, one of the campaigns that has kept me busy has been #TurnUpSaveLives, a push to enshrine in law our commitment as a country to spend 0.7% of our national income on international development.
It’s been hard work (with lots of spreadsheets), but I’ve been fortunate to work alongside a great team of colleagues from 20+ organisations.
The bill, which was brought to Parliament by a Private Members Bill from Lib Dem MP Michael Moore, has now passed through the House of Lords and should receive Royal Assent before the election. It’s a big win.
I’ve learnt a lot from the campaign, here are a few brief thoughts;
1. A week really is a long time in politics – Days before both the second and third reading, we were still short of the 100 MPs we need to commit to attend, as campaigners it felt like we were running out of time but turns out the MPs are used to making changes to the diaries at the last minute, so a week really is a long time in politics!
2. Movements take time to build – I really enjoyed reading this reflection from Steve Lewis from Results UK, a reminder that the ‘movement’ calling for 0.7% goes back over 30 years, and Steve’s personal memories of a lobby of Parliament in 1984 calling for 0.7%. The votes were the culmination of the campaigning that started over 30 years ago and had grown, often working on other related topics (debt, trade, tax) but coming back when needed to 0.7%.
3. Make sure you know the process – Private Members Bills (PMBs) aren’t like normal bills that are driven by the Government, so understanding the Parliamentary procedure was vital, for example PMBs require you to get at least 100 MPs to attend on a Friday (when most MPs are scheduled to be in their constituencies), have to pass a Money Resolution (where Parliament has to agree to spending money on what’s being proposed), and the outcome of the Second Reading is used to decide the composition of the Bill Committee.
It was vital to use supportive MPs to help us understand what to expect to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity, as well as making use of the helpful Parliament website where you can track the progress of the Bill.
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4. Opportunity Cost – For MPs to be in Parliament on a Friday, especially close to the election meant not attending a community event or meeting potential voters. We had to find ways to reduce the opportunity cost for MPs not being in their constituencies, for example we had a Lifesavers gallery where we publicly acknowledged (and thanked via twitter) who was attending, organised a photo moment with a celebrity to help MPs secure local media coverage, and placed a big emphasis on constituents writing or visiting MPs to ask them to attend.
5. Using Twitter – We got #turnupsavelives trending twice on the day of the Third Reading in December, it was thrilling, but looking through the tweets it proved that twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber, with most coming from those who were involved or supportive of the campaign.
However, where we did find twitter useful in the run up to to thank those MPs who had committed to attend or ask those who hadn’t to do so, as well as thanking those that did attend. Encouraging organisations to use their corporate accounts and also those of CEOs or other senior staff worked well, turns out MPs like to be thanked by NGOs. Having access to an in-house designer at Global Poverty Project to quickly turn around images we could share was invaluable.
6. Precedent – Often we’re campaigning were about looking to change somethings, but setting a precedent is one of the most overwhelming reasons not to do something for a politician. We found that early on in the campaign our hope to get parties to whip their MPs into attending was unlikely to happen, Labour doesn’t whip on Private Member’s Bill and didn’t want to set a precedent by doing so for this bill. So finding examples of where a party has done this before is really useful in demonstrating that you’re not asking to set a precedent in supporting your ask.
7 – Don’t forget to say thank you – I remember a MP once complaining to me that after he’d voted for something a campaigning organisation had asked him for the next letter he got was asking for something else. Its easy to forget to say ‘Thank You’ for MPs for voting (and we didn’t do enough after the second reading in September) but come the Third Reading, having a graphic ready to share the names of MPs who’d turned, sending cards from supporters, getting on the phone to key MPs, and writing letters from CEOs ensured we were doing all we could to show our appreciation to MPs who attended the vote.
Enshrining the 0.7% commitment in to law was in the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos for the 2010 General Election. Turn Up Save Lives is the campaign for them to honour the commitment. Today campainers donned festive clothing to sing carols to persuade MPs to stay and honour their commitment to pass the Foreign Aid Law and a few even dressed as East 17 to convince MPs to Stay Another Day, Westminster, London. 03.12.2014.
8. Insider/Outside – The campaign was a great example of how insider and outsider tactics can work together. We needed to be mobilising constituents to email, tweet, call and visit MPs asking them to visit, that helped to create a belief that and a constituency of support, but we also needed to be working the corridors of Westminster, understanding the positions of the different parties, providing the arguments about why we need, getting CEOs to call key MPs to use their influence to make sure we reached enough MPs pledged to attend, etc.
9. Building the right coalition – We didn’t spend lots of agreeing how the coalition was going to work, instead we kept our structures lean and simple forming three groups (one for campaigners, media and public affairs colleagues) with central coordination from Bond. The Turn Up Save Live. We worked to ensure that we tried to get as many organisations involved, including Unions and Faith Leaders. On reflection, we could have done even more to build a unusual coalition in support.
10. Supporters loved it – Lots of organisations reported that the actions they’d invited supporters to take was one of the most popular actions, I think everyone enjoyed the binary nature of the campaign, that your MP was either going to turn up or not, rather than the indirect actions we’re often asking supporters to take appealed to people.
11. Working with Lords is completely different – That’s for another post, but we learnt quickly that the same approach wasn’t going to work. Lords need to be engaged in very different ways.
Want to learn more? I’d be delighted to come and speak to your team based on the learning from the campaign.

Lessons in how change happens from #SelmaMovie

If you take nothing else from this post. Go see the movie Selma.
I promise you its the most powerful film you’ll see this year, and a ‘must watch’ for anyone interested in how change happens.
Much has been written about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, but walking out from seeing Selma I was struck by a few lessons that should resonate for all campaigners;
1 – You can’t go alone – The film centres on the leadership of Martin Luther King, played brilliant by David Oyelowo, but throughout the film you see the importance of the role of the other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition (SCLC). When wrestling over strategy, training the movement or negotiating with those in power, your reminded that although Luther King led the movement, he was ably supported by individuals like Abernathy, Lewis and Young. He need these companions to support him both strategically and spiritually as leader.
2 – You need to build your movement – In preparation for seeing the film I’ve been enjoying Taylor Branch’s ‘Pillar of Fire’, its a brilliant history of the Civil Rights Movement, and while the film touches on the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the book is reminder of the work that happened in places like Selma, Greenville, and elsewhere across the south, it was SNCC and others who worked to register voters and build consciousness amongst black communities. For movements to have moments like the marches in Selma you need to be committed to the hard work of organising before them.
3 – Have your second (and third) act planned – The film shows what strategic mastermind that King was, as he prepares for the Selma to Montgomery marches, he knew that his presence would draw nationwide media coverage. While the film doesn’t shed light on if the outcome of the Bloody Sunday march, where marches were viciously attacked by the local Police and State Troopers, could have been predicted, it’s clear that King was aware that he would need to call a second march (known as Turnaround Thursday) to increase the pressure on President Johnson and show the resolve of the movement. To often campaigns plan for the big moment but don’t think what they’ll do next.
4 – Capitalise on your opponents mistakes – As King explains why he’s moved the campaign to Selma, their is an interesting dialogue about why the campaign had ‘failed’ in Albany, Georgia, because local Police Chief, Laurie Pritchett, had studied the non-violent principles and developed a strategy to response which had muted the effectiveness of the movement, and the expected response of Selma Sheriff, Jim Clark, who they anticipated would respond in the violent way he did, helping to gain attention for the campaign. Throughout the film you see how Luther King sought to understand his opponents and exploit their weaknesses. Like a Judoka, he skilfully ‘throws’ his opponents using their power/strength.
5 – Use all the tactics available to you – While the film centres on the marches in Selma as part of the push to get the Voting Rights Act, through the film you also see how Dr King and the SCLC used a range of tactics available to them to put pressure on President Johnson to push the Act through Congress, from legal challenges, media, use of celebrities, to building diverse coalitions, although the SCLC focused on mass mobilisation, it sought to use all the approaches available to it.

Why Developing Your Grassroots Matters – My review of 'How Organizations Develop Activist' by Hahrie Han

Since reading it last year, I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen about why they should read Hahrie Han’s book “How Organizations Develop Activist“.
So I was delighted to be asked to contribute to a special Mobilizing Ideas dialogue on the book. A extract from my review is below, but I’d encourage you to head across to the Mobilizing Ideas blog to read the rest of my review and some cracking contributions from other brilliant organisers and academics.
Han has turned her lens on what she describes as national associations, which appear to be organisations with longstanding programs of grassroots work linked with grasstops influencing, neither mentioned by name but one working in health and the other environment, but you get the impression the lessons are widely applicable.
While there are certainly difference between our approach to grassroots campaigning in the UK to the US, for example less of a focus on state/local level activism, we’re generally keen to learn from trends in the US, and while enjoying the book I was reminded of the lessons from Theda Skocpol’s study on why the push to get action on climate change in 2010 failed in part because it focused too much on grasstops lobbying, rather than the slow work of strategically building power, a sobering lesson for any organisation that nurturing your grassroots matters.
Turning the pages, in the book Han hits the sweet spot in the challenges anyone who works with local chapters or groups. The characterisation of groups being categorised into 3 types, Lone Wolves, Activists and Organiser rings true for anyone who’s been involved in working with local groups.
Lone Wolves being those who chose to ‘to build power by leveraging information — through legal briefs, public comments, and other forms of research advocacy’ while ‘mobilisers and organizers, by contrast, choose to build power through people’.
For many its easy to see activism and organising as the same, but as Jim Coe points out in his review of the book that the ‘two strategic models are in fact based on radically different philosophies and approaches’.
This central idea is one that I found most challenging in the work that I do. I often find myself using the words interchangeably, but as Joy Cushman suggests in the book “The organizer thus makes two [strategic] choices: 1) to engage others, and 2) to invest in their development. The mobilizer only makes the first choice. And the lone wolf makes neither”.
The study is full of practical ideas and evidence insight, for me 5 things stand out as challenges and opportunities for those working in ‘traditional’ organisations or associations looking to build grassroots networks;

  1. The need to focus on transformational and transactional outcomes – Han refers to the this paper on Metrics that Matter suggesting in the rush to prove to funders and if were honest often others in our organisations the value of our work we can spend too much time focusing on transactional outcomes (the number of emails sent for example) but we need to focus more on transformational outcomes that reflect the often ‘invisible’ work of building capacity and how people have been altered through collective efforts.
  1. Develop the approach of a coach when working with supporters – groups that had adopted an organising approach were ones that Han understood the need to create a ‘network that grows’, as staff at the heart of an association its easy to revert to an activist approach, but should focus on coaching those involved in groups about how to overcome specific challenges or situations that they are facing.
  1. Question the narrative – Han talks about the way she observed different chapters making meaning of their work through past experiences “Remember when we got 100 people to attend the meeting”, suggesting its more than just the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ perspective but a sense of believing that we develop a ‘taste’ for specific approach. We need to challenge this.
  1. Bring people together for fun – the research finds that the most successful chapters or group were those that combined political and social activities, deepening commitment and a sense of shared values. Perhaps a learning that feels obvious in the cold light of day but too often in my experience overlooked.
  1. Make our approach sticky – making the time to invest in leadership development isn’t easy, but for chapters to succeed the rationale for adopting a particular method of change needs to become ‘sticky’ that is passed on from one generation of leaders to another.

This post first appeared on the Mobilizing Ideas February Essay Dialogues, and can be read in full here

Campaigners #Shelfie – 6 books that should be on your reading list.

I’m often asked for suggestions of books campaigners should read. I could list hundreds, but here are 6 that I’ve found particularly useful in the last year. I’d love your suggestions and additions.
1 – The Power of Habit – you might be groaning under the weight of books available from authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Nate Silver. I’ve read far too many of them, but I found Charles Duhigg book is one of the most helpful. His book is full of insight about what makes us change our actions, and has a fantastic chapter on why Rosa Parks was successful and how movements start because of the social habits of friendship and grow because of the habits of a community. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to keep a new years resolution!
2 – Victory Lab – I’ve written before about why I think all campaigners should keep a close eye on what’s happening in the US to learn about approaches. Sasha Issenberg book is the best look at the data-drive approach that has been adopted across US politics. It’s a brilliant look at how the Obama campaigns and others have adopted microtargetting, testing and audience insight. Campaigners in the UK have much to learn on this and this book is a great introduction.
3 – A View from the Foothills – Campaigning is political, and its vital that every campaigner has a good idea of how politics work. To be honest, I’m sometimes time surprised about the level of political literacy that exists amongst some campaigners. if we want to win campaigns we need to know how the institutions we’re targeting operate. Chris Mullin’s diaries of his time as a MP and junior minister are one of the best reads out there, but you wouldn’t go wrong reading Alistair Campbell’s diaries either.
4 – Made to Stick – looking for ideas about how your communications can get traction, what the top brands do to ensure that you remember their adverts, then you need to read Chip and Dan Heath’s book. Its a practical, full of great illustrations and the principles will stick with you as you design your next campaign messaging.
5 – The World Is Not Ours to Save – this is a personal choice that I’ve found really helpful over the last year. Although its primarily written for faith-based activists, the premise of the book, that as activists and campaigners we need to recognise our limitations, and ensure we build in habits that allow us to rest and be refreshed is one I’ve found really helpful as I’ve been thinking about how I sustain a long-term career in campaigning. If you don’t find Tyler Wigg-Stephens book for you, perhaps try other authors who’ve written about spirituality and activism.
6 – How Organizations Develop Activists – A late entry into my list, but I adore this book. Hanhrie Han has done the legwork to work out why some grassroots groups succeed and others fail. I found myself changing from nodding in agreement to furiously scribbling down insight from Han’s study of two unnamed organisations in the US, for anyone who wants to think about how they can build a flourishing grassroots network . A good summary of why it works (or doesn’t) here and this by Jim Coe is a fantastic summary.