How Oxfam let key activists know about its new campaign first

Oxfam are due to launch a new global campaign tomorrow (June 1st – although it seems that the BBC have jumped the gun by reporting on it a day early), and we’re promised that we should be prepared for a ‘impending wonk, campaign, celeb and media fest around Oxfam’s campaign launch tomorrow. Biggest thing ever; simultaneous launches in 45 countries; bigger (at least in ambition) than Make Poverty History or Make Trade Fair’

While it’ll be interesting to watch how the campaign develops and the tactics they use, especially with so many countries involved, as a campaigner I’ve also been interested in following the way that Oxfam GB have already soft launched the campaign to key activists around the country.

For example a colleague forwarded me an invite to a supporter phone briefing the activism team hosted on May 17th. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of such a call, but it seems like a really inspired and practical idea. The call involved speakers from the Oxfam GB’s Campaigns and Policy team, alongside representatives from the Events team with practical suggestions about what people could do.

Looking at the Cover It Live conversation from the call it looks like those who participated had a really lively conversation. For me, using such an innovative tool has a number of advantages;

  • It builds a sense of ownership – For those invited to be part of the call to allows them to feel that they’re the first to know, that they’ve got a responsibility to promote the campaigns to their own networks when it goes live.
  • It equips people and provides a space to ask the difficult questions – It’s easy to launch a new campaign with the accompanying policy report, but the reality is that most activists don’t have time to sit down immediately to read and digest it. A call like this allows the opportunity for supporters to feel like they’ve had the opportunity to ask before they’re hearing about it on the news.
  • It builds loyalty – by breaking down the divide between staff and supporters, especially by actively asking for suggestions and ideas, it makes Team Oxfam bigger. They also actively encouraged those on the call to join a group on their ‘enabler‘ site to keep the conversation going.
In the past, the cost of hosting such a call would have been prohibitive but here are a few ways that other campaigns looking to try the idea could do it for almost nothing;
  • PowWowNow is a free conference call service, which can facilitate ‘event calls’ for up to 300 people.
  • Cover It Live is an excellent interface for facilitating live discussion between a group. It’s free and you can use it to display images, carry out polls and can even include live video from a webcam if you’re prepared to pay a little extra.
What other free technology exists that could enhance a call like this? Have you seen other organisations use similar tools to keep key supporters informed? 

Campaign Totals – Department of Health

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 18,704


Number of postal correspondence: 15,201
Number of emails: 3,508
Biggest campaign: Association of Convenience Shops (ACS) – Tobacco Display Ban – 6,684

The Department of Health indicated that ‘to identify which items of postal correspondence were letters and postcards would incur disproportionate cost

Breakdown by topic and organisation:

View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 27 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Department of Health.

More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.

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Campaign Totals – Home Office

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 8,402

Number of postcards: 613
Number of emails: 7,789
Biggest campaign: Change.Org – Protesting about a loophole in the law allowing for importation of juvenile primates – 805

The Identity and Passport Service also received 253 actions in the year. No figures were provided by UK Border Agency

Breakdown by topic and organisation:

View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Home Office.

More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.

Be first to get the information from other departments by subscribing to the site using the box on the right, adding https://thoughtfulcampaigner.wordpress.com/ to your RSS feed or following me on twitter (@mrtombaker)

Campaign Totals – Department of Education

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 4,718

Number of letters: 900
Number of emails: 3,818
Biggest campaign: Sustainable Schools Alliance – Campaign asking the Government to support schools and put sustainability teaching at the heart of its education strategy – 1,234

Breakdown by topic and organisation:

View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Department of Education.

More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.

Be first to get the information from other departments by subscribing to the site using the box on the right, adding https://thoughtfulcampaigner.wordpress.com/ to your RSS feed or following me on twitter (@mrtombaker)

Campaign Totals – Export Credit Guarantee Department

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 1,208

Number of emails: 1,208
Biggest campaign: Jubilee Debt Campaign – Reform of the Export Credits Guarantee Department – 1,208

The Export Credits Guarantee Department indicated that it ‘does not hold information relating to correspondence received by methods of delivery other than email‘.

Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 26 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from Export Credits Guarantee Department. More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.

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Can working with think tanks enhance our campaigning?

This was originally posted over at the NCVO Campaigning and Influencing Forum.

Think tanks are hard to define, they’re part academic institution and part lobbying outfit. But however you understand them, I think that they could provide useful allies for campaigns.

That’s why ‘The Global ‘Go-To’ Think Tanks List‘ is an interesting report which tries to rank the ‘best’ think tanks around the world.

It shows that the majority of think tanks are based in the US, but the UK also has it’s fair share of ‘top’ think tanks. While the report doesn’t seek to rank them simply on political influence, it shows those who can be perceived as most credible.

Have you had experiences of working with Think Tanks? Do you think that they provide a place to enhance campaigns and advocacy? 

I’ve got a few thoughts about why they are and aren’t useful allies.

Firstly, they’re the home of future politicians and influencers. A quick look across at whose sitting on the benches in the House of Commons, will show that a significant number have spent time working within think tanks, they’re often the breading ground for politicians who will become the leading thinkers within their parties.

Take for example Nick Boles, now the Conservative MP for Grantham, who was former director at Policy Exchange, where he was said to be one of the most important influences on David Cameron. He might not be a minister in the current government, but you can guarantee that his views have a resonance. If you’re looking for future MPs who are going to be writing future manifesto, a quick look at who’s who across think tanks could be a good place to start!

Linked to the point above, as well as producing future politicians, lots of those working in think tanks have spent time as special advisors or other key influences within Parliament and Whitehall. I short they’re packed full of people who know people in power.

For example, in the last government, The Smith Institute was led by Wilf Stephenson, who was Gordon Brown’s closest friend from University, as such it said to have considerable sway over the views of No10, while one assumes that now The Centre for Social Justice which was set up by Iain Duncan-Smith, now Secretary of Sate for Work and Pensions, has considerable influence in certain part of the government.

But this is also  one of the weaknesses of think tanks. That they can be seen to be politically partisan, and thus rise and fall dependent on those in power at any given moment. While, a few on the list are seen as more politically neutral, most have a political leaning towards one party or another.

That said think tanks can be a useful vehicle for organisations looking to inject big ideas or new thinking into a debate. One of the roles that they can play is to provide a broader platform to spark a debate that an NGO might be more hesitant to initiate.

I wonder if one of the things stopping some NGOs from working more with think tanks is the cost of it. I’ve been on the receiving end of quotes for events at party conference with think tanks mean that they would be little to spare for anything else in the year.

Obviously think tanks needs to raise revenue to keep going, but because they’re not linked to universities they don’t benefit from academic funding. While the premium for the access/legitimacy that they can bring to a campaign is their most valuable selling point and means working with them doesn’t come cheap.

What do you think? Have you seen good examples of campaigns working with think tanks? Do they prove to be useful allies for campaigns?

Campaign Totals – DFID

Total number of actions received between May 1st 2010 and May 1st 2011: 142,636

Number of postcards: 76,221
Number of letters: 622
Number of petition signatures: 38,526
Number of emails: 27,267
Biggest campaign: Water Aid – Talk Taps & Toilets – G8 – 38,416

Breakdown by topic and organisation:

View the spreadsheet in google docs here. Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 17 May 2011 and is presented as it was received from DFID.

More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project here.

Be first to get the information from other departments by subscribing to the site using the box on the right, adding https://thoughtfulcampaigner.wordpress.com/ to your RSS feed or following me on twitter (@mrtombaker)