I wanted to share with you some of the awesome advice that came out of the Campaigning for Social Change session today at Chain Reaction 2008. Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy at the Refugee Council, shared what he has experienced as the key attributes of a successful campaign for social change.
1. Make a positive connection: we often make a connection with people but the message depresses them. Successful campaigns get people activated and energized. The way to do that is to create a message that clearly defines the problem AND solution.
2. The elevator test: 15 seconds [in an elevator] to pitch your issue/campaign to the leader, politician, funder or whomever. Using that message from number 1 above, the problem and solution needs to be able to be articulated in just 15 seconds. (Yes, your campaign and issues needs more than 15 seconds, we know. The elevator test is the core of the message.)
3. Work out who has the power: Who are you directing the campaign at? How really has the power to realise the change you seek? Campaigns are often launched at the wrong audience. They have a great message, a great plan, a worthy cause – but are talking to the wrong people. Is the president really the one to convince?
4. Use the right campaign tools: It’s like being a general on the eve of battle and looking at all the troops before you: Research, lobbying, media, supporters, allies, etc. Not every one needs to be used all the time. But the right groups at the right times in the right ways. Keep in mind that alliances and partnerships aren’t bad, especially when they are unconventional. For example, Oxfam working with workers’ unions for the campaign around asylum seekers.
5. Plan for success: What happens if/when you succeed? Plan to be successful and plan where you are going once you get there (because you aren’t finished!).
6. Never stop campaigning: Things can be fickle! Say you get a law passed that provides allotment of funds for the community services you campaigned for. Then, two years later, those funds are reallocated. Where are you? Where is your campaign? Are you still working, still activating your members, still participating in the arena in an influential way?
7. Your choice of message: Campaign messages that are successful are those that motivate the audience with power, not the organizers. Often, when we are building a campaign, it’s easy to identify what motivates us and what calls us to action, but that’s not necessarily the best motivating message for the audience you are reaching out to. For example, a campaign about empty property that is directed at home owners with a message that compares the numbers of homeless people and the empty properties isn’t as effective as one that talks about the fact that empty housing devalues surrounding homes.
8. Enthusiasm: it’s self-explanatory but often more difficult than you’d think. I’m sure you can think of a time when you’ve talked to a campaigner who just doesn’t have his or her heart in it. It makes a big difference if you’re enthusiastic, both about the campaign and the issue, or not.
9. Enjoy your campaign: again, it’s self-explanatory but often overlooked. Be passionate and enjoy it.
Lastly, be sure to include at the center of your campaign those who are/will be effected. No one else can tell the story of a homeless person living on the street and dealing with health issues than someone who is. No one can talk about the issues in public schools as well as those who are in them every day. Give those you want to help the microphone, the spotlight, and let them tell their own story.
What are the key attributes to successful campaigns you’ve been a part of? Has your organization used any of the above points?