(not) Five for Friday – Campaigns we’ve loved

A different ‘Five for Friday’ this week for two reasons – it’s got 10 links and they’re all from the same source!

A few weeks back during #ECF11 in Vienna, Weldon Kennedy (@weldonwk) from change.org featured 10 ‘campaigns we’ve loved’ on his twitter feed drawn from the discussions at the forum.

Here is the list in full, which is packed with some great example of creative and unexpected campaign, some are linked to changing policy, others aren’t, but they’ll all make you think, and many where suggested by campaigners working across Europe so you might not have come across them before.

1 – 1Goal’s 2 girls 2 lives

2 – Triodas takes over ticker tapes

3 – Google Chrome donate a word to UNICEF

4 – Tip-Ex Bear

5 – Slavery Footprint

6 Help de Oma

7 – Hivos subtitle a dictator

8 – The Uniform Project

9 – United Breaks Guitars

10 – Pink Ponies

With thanks to Weldon for letting me reproduce his list here.  What would you add to the list?

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Thinking outside the ‘Campaigns Target’ box…

Two excellent examples of campaigns ‘thinking outside the box’ when it comes to who they’re targeting with their actions show that we don’t always have to go after the ‘usual suspects’.

First up is Greenpeace, who recently emailed supporters to ask them to support an action being organised by Liberate Tate campaign toward Tate boss, Nicholas Serota.

At first glance it might not appear an obvious choice, but as the email to supporters explains ‘BP is one oil giant whose logo is splashed all over galleries and exhibition halls like the Tate. By using its profits to sponsor the arts, BP hopes to cover up the horrendous damage it’s doing to the climate and the environment‘.

So it makes a great alternative target for their ongoing to highlight the influence of the oil industry. I’ve noticed this is an approach that Greenpeace employ regularly, another example is the campaign they ran towards VW earlier in the year, and its easy to see  how focusing on targets like the Tate helps stop them always targeting the same small group of oil companies who are already likely to be resistant to campaign action but sensitive to changing perceptions of their brand.

Secondly, the Global Poverty Project, who used the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Pert, Australia as a target for their ‘End of Polio‘ campaign.

The CHOGM meeting, which happens every 2 years, is often rightly overlooked by campaigners, by the team at the Global Poverty Project appear to have capitalised on the increased scrutiny of the effectiveness of these meetings to score a great campaign win. Their success has shown that with the right campaign ask, can present an attractive ‘win’ for the host government which is keen to demonstrate the investment of time and money that goes into hosting the event actually got things done.

For me three common themes unite these two actions;

1. An imagination – The Tate Gallery or the CHOGM conference might not feel like the places that changes are likely to happen, but with a little bit of imagination it is easy to see how they can become useful campaign targets.

They work because the organisations involved have clearly been prepared to spend time ‘thinking outside the box’ and no doubt investing a significant amount of staff time at really pushing into their routes to influence mapping. A good reminder of the importance of spending real-time in the process of campaign planning.

2. A clear overall campaign direction – The use of the Tate as a target works for Greenpeace, its not simply a case of appearing to pick on the Gallery because its part of a bigger campaign to highlight how ‘BP and other oil giants hope to gloss over their environmentally destructive activities, scrubbing clean BP’s public image’. I’m compelled to take the action because I can see how it contributes to a bigger campaign goal. For the GPP, success at the CHOGM meeting isn’t the end of the campaign, but a launch to call for further action from leaders to help eradicate the disease.

3. Being prepared to take the risk – Both campaigns could have failed. Leaders at CHOGM could have said they weren’t interested in pledging money, while the response from the Tate remains to be seen, but that hasn’t stopped the organisations behind the campaigns making the most of the opportunity.

What other creative targets have you seen organisations focus their campaigns on? 

What are the OccupyLondon protests teaching us?

Now in its fourth week, the OccupyLondon protests outside of St Paul’s Cathedral have been able to keep their cause in the media for such a sustained period of time, something many other campaigns fail to do.

While this was certainly helped by the mess that the Church of England made over it decision to close the Cathedral in the first week of the protest, I’m sure that the name recognition of the protest across the UK will be high.

Combine that with the rise of Occupy movements across the world, I’m in Washington DC this week and passed an OccupyDC in the city today, I think it’s legitimate to say that we’re seeing the birthing of a new campaigning movement, and with its emergence, a challenge to some of the assumptions about campaign structures that have guided more traditional organisations.

1 – Campaigns Needs Leaders

The OccupyLondon protests have spokesman but not leaders; they’ve adopted a non-hierarchical which means that decisions are made by a General Assembly which gathers each and every day to reach agreement by consensus. So far, even the media haven’t been able to bestow the title of ‘leader’ upon an individual associated with the protest.

The approach they’re taking of course isn’t an entirely new one, it’s been used by other campaigning movements, like Climate Camp, in recent years but it brings into focus one of the key questions I think that campaigns are facing at the moment, do campaigns need leaders?

Some would argue that a strong central leader or leaders is essential to a campaign’s success, for example Ann Pettifor who lead the Jubilee Debt Campaign writes in Cutting the Diamond ‘Contrary to the views of many in not-for-profit organisations, I believe that sound leadership is fundamental to successful public advocacy

Going on to contrast the Jubilee 2000 campaign which had a tight hierarchical leadership structure with a single clear message, to that of the climate change movement, which is made up of ‘thousands of small and large well-meaning organisations stumbled leaderless, disunited, and without a clear achievable ‘ask’ into the United Nations Copenhagen process’.

At the moment OccupyLondon are demonstrating that it’s possible to take a different approach and run a high-profile campaign. If this public profile can be sustained without a smaller group of identifiable leaders coming to the public conscience it could be seen as another blow for those who hold the position that campaigns can only succeed with a strong leader (or leaders) at their heart.

2 – Campaigns Need Clear and Concise Asks

One of the things I found striking from the first few days of the protest, was the lack of an apparent clear set of campaign asks coming out from the protesters, indeed a number of media outlets had to resort to pieces speculating on ‘what do the campaigners want’.

After a couple of days this statement was released from the General Assembly, but it still lacks the ‘elevator pitch’ that many campaigns rest upon, but is this needed?

This was a theme that Adrian Lovett, Director of ONE in Europe picked up upon in an excellent debate on The World Tonight last month, when he suggested that ‘the two things that a campaign needs is that its got to describe the destination that it want to get to, the world the campaigns want to create in as vivid as way as possible, but if that’s hard to get to some of the steps along the way’. For me, it doesn’t feel as the OccupyLondon movement has that at present, and I wonder if that’s hindering the movement growing.

I’m struck for example that movements like 38 Degrees don’t appear to have mobilised their supporters behind it, despite many of the aims of the movement being in keeping with its ‘progressive agenda’. Is this because they’re not able to reduce the demands of the movement to a concise and communicable few lines that will translate well into an email?

What do you think? Do you agree that campaigns need leaders? Does OccupyLondon need a clear ask to succeed?

UpdateThird Sector has an article about how charities could learn from the OccupyLondon communication approach.