Campaigning: a single definition?
The terms people use to describe campaigning vary according to different perspectives. Advocacy and influencing, conjure up very different images from activism and protesting: yet each seeks to secure changes and are equally valid in the right context. Enabling people to have voice and representation brings another more inclusive perception of campaigning and is often seen as being the key to effective partnership between public and statutory bodies and the communities they provide services to. It is all about change for the better and how people go about achieving that.
People campaign because it is a proven path to achieve change. Many of our laws, social policies and the standards of life that we take for granted are the result of the efforts of previous campaigners. Same-sex couples would not be able to marry; women wouldn’t be able to vote; there might even still be a slave trade if it were not for successful campaigning.
The Feminist Library marching on Tooley Street
Types of campaign
Each Campaign is different and can be characterised by the following features:
- Who performs the activity needing change (the local Council; hospital; etc.)
- The geographical area it relates to (a borough; a local housing estate; etc.)
- How the campaigning will be carried out (lobbying; protest; advocacy; etc.)
- The outcome being sought (policy change; behaviour change; etc.)
- The theme of the issue (public health; benefits cuts; etc.)
Anyone can campaign, and people are motivated to do so for all manner of reasons (perhaps to save the local park from development or to promote the rights of a disadvantaged community). Whilst some campaigners are paid employees of charities, the vast majority are entirely voluntary and campaign to improve a situation that is important to them and their family and/or the local community. Commitment to the cause is vitally important, but how you go about it effectively can be learned, either through following good practice methods or by learning from others.
It’s important to think about the change you want to achieve first, before you consider the possible methods to achieve it. Most methods are referred to as either “Insider” campaigning or “Outsider” campaigning. The former refers to approaches that work with the targets through established channels (such as lobbying, public meetings, consultations), and the latter to pressure exerted through more public channels (protest, direct action). Less formal public pressure tactics, such as letter writing and petitioning, fall somewhere in between.
‘Insider campaigning’ primarily involves working within partnerships, and developing closer relationships with decision-makers; particularly where motivations and objectives overlap.
This can be characterised as:
- collaborative – working together with those in power to achieve something
- based on establishing shared goals
- mutual compromise
- more evidence-based arguments
- systematic process-based
- direct access to decision-makers
Save Southwark Woods is a vocal movement in the borough
‘Outsider campaigning’ is perceived as “marching protesters, shouting slogans and waving banners” and there is a commonly-held view (arguably amongst the 'establishment') that this type of campaigning is counter-productive. However, sometimes increasing tensions rather than building mutual dialogue becomes necessary; and history shows that major improvements have been secured through the use of outsider campaign tactics.
The main characteristics of ‘outsider’ campaigns include:
- oppositional – fighting to make your viewpoint heard or change opinions
- based on pushing a particular goal
- consistent stance on issue
- more emotion-based arguments
- more reliant on public opinion
- more reliant on political environment
Putting together a campaign
If you wish to start a campaign to change/improve something in your community, the Campaign Central website provides detailed guidance on how to put together a campaign, and provides a wide range of associated resources that you can download. Here is the link to their website: http://www.campaigncentral.org.uk/
If you would like to discuss your ideas and find out more about how to develop your campaign then drop us a line. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information and resources:
- The Campaign Central guidance is provided by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation: they support individuals/groups/communities to have the skills and confidence to speak up and take effective action on issues that affect them: http://www.smk.org.uk/
- The Foundation has a number of training programmes and holds events to help campaigners succeed in their activities: http://www.smk.org.uk/campaigning-training/
- They also present awards each year to celebrate the achievements of campaigners: this link to all awards since 2006 might just provide you the inspiration you’ve been looking for: http://www.smk.org.uk/past-winners-and-nominees-of-the-campaigneraward/