Top Posts for August 2011

Its been a quieter August on the blog, but still a huge thanks to everyone who has visited, tweeted a link or posted a comment.

Here are the five most read articles for the month.

1. Thoughts on the first week of
2. Summer Reading
3. Advocacy in 2020 – future trends and how to prepare for them
4. Four exciting things happening in campaigning
5. Campaign Totals 2011 – By department

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On holiday….back in September

A Daily Tip e-mail from the good folk at New Organising Institute reminded me last week about the importance of taking a holiday. They came up with lots of useful reasons as to why we should take a break.

Back in September

With this in mind, I’m going to pause blogging until the start of September to take a short break myself.

If you’re an activist and you haven’t taken a break for a while I’d encourage you to do so.

If you have taken a break recently and are looking for useful reading on campaigning, why not have a look at;

My Summer Reading list – Lots of great books recommended by folk from across the campaigning world
The Right Ethos tweets – they’re suggesting a campaigning resource you should be reading throughout August.
These old posts that still get lots of traffic to them Best Advocacy Videos and Great Campaign Stunts.

See you in September…..

Campaign Totals 2011 – By department

Third Sector magazine have covered the Campaign Totals work that I’ve been doing in the latest edition which comes out today. So for those arriving at the blog I’ve complied the responses into one place.

In May, I used Freedom of Information to ask each department;

  1. The total number of campaign letters, postcards and emails that appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign you received from 1st May 2010 to 1st May 2011
  2. The breakdown of these numbers by delivery method (letter, postcard and email).
  3. A breakdown by topic and/or organisation(s) where you received more than 500 items of correspondence (through any delivery method) that appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign in the period defined above.

Below is a list of the departments I’ve had responses from;

Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Education
Department of Energy and Climate Change
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for International Development (and more here)
Department for Transport
Department of Health
Export Credits Guarantee Department
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Treasury – I’m still processing the information but click here and here for a pdf of the response.
Home Office

I’m still waiting for the Ministry of Justice to respond, while the Ministry of Defence said it did not hold this information. The Department for Work and Pensions indicated that it didn’t have any accurate information about the numbers of actions it received.

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Advocacy in 2020 – future trends and how to prepare for them

I’m not sure what caused it but the spring saw a number of  reports being produced by NGOs which looked at future trends. The two I’ve found most useful are ‘Leading Edge 2020‘ by Troicaire and ‘2020 Development Futures‘ by Action Aid.

They’re well worth a read as they provide a huge amount of insight into what might be coming on the horizon, much of which could have huge impacts on our advocacy and should also provide a challenge for any organisation that hasn’t spent a little time thinking about how it’ll respond to a changing environment.

Alex Evans who, amongst other things is editor of the excellent, authored the ‘2020 development futures’ paper for Action Aid, in it he makes 10 recommendations for the next 10 years.

They’re all insightful but 5 stand out as being especially important to advocates;

1. Be ready for external shocks – A reminder that external shocks are often the key driver of change, reflecting on the quote from Friedman that ‘Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around‘. Evans suggests that ‘Civil society organisations should put aside a substantial proportion of their policy and advocacy to roll them out rapidly when ten times as much political space opens up overnight, for three weeks only‘.

2. Putting members in charge – arguing that we’ve traditionally built our engagement on largely passive engagement of members who have responded by signing a postcard or donating money. Evans argues that CSOs need to ‘put their members in charge as far as possible using technology platforms to ask them regularly what to campaign on, where, how to do it, and how they want to be involved’.

3. Specialise in coalitions – but not simply civil society organisations, suggesting that power is going to become more diffuse and that it’ll be going to bloggers, citizens, NGOs, businesses and beyond. The effective civil society organisations will need to be the catalysts to create shared platforms and the glue to keep them together. Practically, Evans suggests that coalitions will need to be more diverse and will need staff within CSOs who have experience outside the civil society sector who can act as ‘translators’ in bring these diverse coalitions together.

4. Expect failure – Which is linked to being ready for external shocks, but also recognising that CSOs will also expect to find their own operations under stress. I’ve written before about how we shouldn’t see failure as a bad thing as long as we learn from it.

5. Be storytellers – suggesting ‘if diverse coalitions are key to effecting political change, it is narratives, and compelling visions of the future, that can animate networks and coalitions over the long-term‘ and calling on CSOs to be storytellers about the future.

If you’re inspired to spend some time thinking about how future trends might impact your work, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Have a read of NCVOs ‘Making Sense of the External Environment‘ booklet.
  • Gather together some colleagues and spend 30 minutes trying to draw together PEST or PESTLE  analysis on the trends that might affect campaigning in the coming years – both are simple tools that allow you to gather your thoughts on what might be happening in key areas.
  • Based on your PEST chart, ask yourself what will campaigning look like in 2020.  Identify different scenarios and consider how your campaign might adapt.
  • Spend sometime soaking up ideas on sites like or
  • Look at NCVO Future Focus booklet which asks what will campaigning look like in 5 years time.
  • Come up with a list of up to 5 practical things you’re going to do to respond. I’ve found it’s easy to spend lots of time thinking about future trends but organisations often struggle to start to act on them.
Do you agree with the recommendations that Evans makes? How do you go about reflecting on future trends?

Campaign Totals to DEFRA in 2007 & 2008

Back in 2009 I started to use Freedom of Information to find out about the number of campaign actions to a handful of departments that I’d been involved in running campaign actions towards.

DEFRA was one of them and here are the results of the actions they received in 2007 and 2008 as pdfs to view through

Total number in 2007 – 108,617 (38,191 emails and 70,426 postcards)

Total number in 2008 – 155,419 (30,429 emails and 124,990 postcards)

I also asked for information for 2005 but they were unable to provide this, and 2006 where I was informed they received 75,000 actions.

Information taken from Freedom of Information request returned on 9 March 2009 and is taken from a list of information provided by DEFRA.

More about the ‘Campaigns Total’ project for 2010-11 here. Be first to get the information from other departments by subscribing to the site using the box on the right, adding to your RSS feed or following me on twitter (@mrtombaker)