How will campaigners remember 2011?

A combination of holidays and overseas travel with work have caused posts to dry up on the site over the last month or so, but with 2011 coming to an end it’s time to ask how will the year be remembered for campaigners and reflect on a few of the posts that I’ve written.

Much has already been said about 2011 as a year of the protest. Time Magazine has nominated ‘The Protester‘ as its person of the year in response to the momentous changes that we’ve witnessed as a result of the Arab Spring and column inches continue to be written about the Occupy movement that has captured the imagination of many in the UK and US but beyond that what might 2011 be remembered for?

1 – If you snooze, you loose!  Time and time again this year I’ve been struck by the importance of campaigning organisations having the ability to respond quickly. Indeed one of my posts back in February was about the way that WWF had failed to respond to the campaigning that had started around the sell off of the UKs forest. Those organisations that have succeeded in the last year are those that have been able to develop structures that allow them to quickly respond to a campaigning opportunity and be ‘first to market’. In an increasingly dynamic campaigning environment where loyalty to one organisation is declining, actions can easily be shared via twitter and an increasing number of ‘platforms’ for campaigning exist it’s hard to see this trend changing anytime soon.

2 – Movements don’t need (visible) leaders. Examples abound about leaderless campaign, with Occupy London being one of the most prominent recent examples, but dig a bit deeper behind most of the campaigns and movements that have been successful in the last year and you’ll find an often complex web of individuals playing different leadership roles. In the last year I think we’ve seen a shift in the way we need to see and understand campaign leadership from the strong figurehead (which I wrote about here) to a more nuanced and networked leaders, making things happen in the background but not always leading from the front, this post I wrote back in June reflects on some different leadership roles needed in campaigns.

3 – The coming of age of 38 Degrees. It’s amazing to think that it’s just a few years since 38 Degrees was established, but this year it’s had a number of high-profile campaign victories most notably on stopping the privatisation of the UKs Forest and also causing a huge amount of bother with its ‘Save the NHS’ campaign. But in the process of establishing themselves as key players has led to the start of a backlash about its campaign approach which is heavily reliant on generating large numbers of emails actions, with some MPs going as far as refusing to respond to campaign actions from 38 Degrees. Will a trend to watch in 2012 be increasing questions raised about the sustainability of the approach they take?

4 – Measuring impact matters more than ever. In a year of tightening budget ever organisation is being asked to demonstrate the impact of its advocacy and the contribution it’s making through its campaigning, but despite some efforts that I’ve written about (here and here) I don’t think that anyone has cracked this yet with an approach that quantifies our impact as opposed to simply our outputs or outcomes. This is another debate that isn’t going to go away and one that every organisation is going to have to grapple with in 2012.

Those are my observations from 2011. What do you think it’ll be remembered for?

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