Monitoring our campaigns in real time…

This post has an excellent description about how one think tank, the Overseas Development Institute, constructed a dashboard to better monitor and evaluate how it’s outputs were being shared through its main communication channels.

Reading it got me thinking about what an equivalent campaign dashboard would look like.

I’m not aware of any campaigning organisation that uses such a dashboard, so I’ve put together my ‘wish list’. I’ll leave it to the IT experts to let me know what’s possible.

1 – Actions Taken – Most campaigning organisations have a bar which indicates the number of actions that have been taken, often in the context of a target that’s been set, but I’d want to the tool to go a step further and tell me about the trends. How many actions have been taken in the last hour or day and how this compares to other actions and trends across the sector. If I was focusing my campaigning on MPs I’d like to have some indication of the number of MPs my campaign had reached.

2 – Social Media – I’d want to know figures about how my campaign was being talked about on Twitter, statistics about Facebook interactions, number of views of relevant YouTube clips, etc.

3 – What people are saying – Pulling in relevant hashtags from twitter, plus blog and media mentions using Google Alerts, along with mentions in Parliament (if relevant) using TheWorkForYou. If possible, I’d try to draw this into a ‘favorability’ rating to indicate if people were positive about the campaign.

4 – What supporters are saying – Depending on if it would work organisationally I’d want to have a stream that was telling me about what our supporters were saying about the campaign through their interaction with our supporter enquiries team. Perhaps in a Wordle like that used by the DCMS in their reporting to Ministers.

5 – Open Rates for emails – Drawing in the information on the latest e-actions that I’ve sent out. Using dashboard information like that presented in MailChimp.

In addition, I’d like the dashboard to be able to record, when appropriate, the number of supporters who’d signed up to come along to a mass-lobby or demonstration that I was organising, but recognise that ‘s harder to capture in a dashboard.

Does anyone know of an organisation using a dashboard like this? Would it be possible to develop something like this? 


‘Things Online Organizers Say’ Bingo

Some fun for Friday…..introducing ‘Things Online Organisers Say’ Bingo, inspired by this video from the wonderful people at the New Organizing Institute.

The US Presidential election and the future of campaigning?

It’s the US election season, and suddenly anyone who’s watched an episode or two of the West Wing will become an expert on the best approach to win the 270 Electoral College seats needed, the opportunities presented by the Michigan Primary and the role of Super Delegates in a tight convention.

While predicting the result of the Primary and Presidential race, and while we’re at it I think we’re going to see Santorum push Romney all the way to the convention and Obama will win a second term, is a great conversation starter amongst the political engaged, it’s also a good time to start paying attention if you want to see the future of campaigning.


1. The election campaign is has a bigger budget than any other. This year President Obama is expected to fundraise over $1 billion and I’d expect the eventual Republican frontrunner won’t be far behind, which means it can develop some of the most powerful tools and employ the best and brightest staff.

2. It’s the most ‘important’ single political campaign in the world to win. The President of the United States is still the world’s most powerful elected official.

3. It’s got huge numbers of people involved. The Obama team already has over 200 staff working full-time in its head office in Chicago, a figure that is likely to increase rapidly in the next month, plus hundreds of thousands of volunteers on the ground ready to be engaged and resourced.

While I accept that election campaigning is different to campaigning to change public policy, and that the campaigns will make use of many of more traditional techniques like TV adverts, that are perhaps less available to public policy campaigns. I believe it’s still interesting to see how the tools used in previous campaigns have often tracked closely to the tools that are now common place in most campaigning organisations.

As Slate notes;

1996 saw the debut of candidate Web pages

2000 was the first time website were used for fundraising.

2004 saw Howard Dean pioneer the use of online tools (like MeetUp) to organise campaign events to link supporters together.

2008 led by the inspiring Obama campaign saw the emergence of socia media as a mass-communication tool, and the most sophisticated use of sites like which turned online interest into offline activism.

Add to that the resurgence of the concept of Community Organising fueled in part by the background of the current President but also the way that it was put to work to increase registration and turnout of previous under represented groups. (If you’re interested in learning more about the 2008 campaign I’d highly recommend that you read ‘Race of a Lifetime’ and the ‘Audacity to Win‘.)

So what are the early trends for 2012? Well the overriding one seems to be the most sophisticated use of data.

Slate suggest;

‘From a technological perspective, the 2012 campaign will look to many voters much the same as 2008 did…..this year’s looming innovations in campaign mechanics will be imperceptible to the electorate, and the engineers at Obama’s Chicago headquarters racing to complete Narwhal in time for the fall election season may be at work at one of the most important. If successful, Narwhal would fuse the multiple identities of the engaged citizen—the online activist, the offline voter, the donor, the volunteer—into a single, unified political profile’.

While the Guardian reported this weekend;

‘At the core is a single beating heart – a unified computer database that gathers and refines information on millions of committed and potential Obama voters. The database will allow staff and volunteers at all levels of the campaign – from the top strategists answering directly to Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina to the lowliest canvasser on the doorsteps of Ohio – to unlock knowledge about individual voters and use it to target personalised messages that they hope will mobilise voters where it counts most’

And this sophisticated use of data doesn’t seem to being the sole preserve of the Democratic Party, with Slate reporting in January about how Mitt Romney built a similar database to help him almost win the Iowa Caucus;

‘Romney’s previous Iowa campaign allowed him to stockpile voter data and develop sophisticated systems for interpreting it. It was that data and those interpretations that supported one of the riskiest strategic moves of the campaign thus far: Romney’s seemingly late decision to fight aggressively for his first-place finish in Iowa’

For more on the digital and data tactics that the campaigns are using take a look at this from the Washington Post and this from ABC News.

In the UK, we don’t have anything that comes close to the Presidential Elections. The nearest equivalent is the Mayor of London elections that are happening in May. It’s a highly personalised contest trying to reach one of the biggest single constituencies in the world, and certainly the Ken campaign is making use of some innovative tools;

1. Last week saw the launch of personalised Direct Mail which make of QR codes to invite a response.

2. The  Ken campaign has made a significant investment in using Nation Builder tools to launch ‘Your Ken’ – a community to resource and mobilise its activists which was received with acclaim when it was launched last year.

3. The heavy emphasise on the use of text and email to get the message out to potential voters across London.

I’ll be watching with interesting at how both these elections campaigns make use of new tools and tactics in the coming months, and reflecting on the opportunities they present for campaigning for social change. 

Five for Friday….17th February

Here we go with this weeks ‘Five for Friday’. These are 5 great articles on campaigning that you should be reading this week.

1 – Casper ter Kuile asks if the megaphone represents everything that’s wrong with campaigning.

2 – 17 pieces of good advice for anyone who writes email copy, and also a useful ‘Nonprofit Tech Checklist’.

3 – I’d really recommend Paul Mason’s new book, Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere. If you don’t have time to read it, here is a 6 minute interview with The Guardian or the video from a longer talk at the LSE.

4 – It might sound dull, but the European Citizens Initiative will mean if you can get 1 million fellow European citizens to sign your petition then the European Commission will bring forward a proposal for a legal act. More on how it can work for your organisation here but the risks here.

5 – I think that this Amnesty campaign which uses the music identification app Shazam is brilliant.

And if you didn’t see it earlier in the week, have a look at my post on the importance of trust in campaigning.

What would you add to the list? 

A ‘cut out and keep’ guide to online campaign movements

It’s been a huge week of online campaign movements.

But with all these campaign movements doing amazing things, it’s easy to get confused about each of their USPs. So here is my handy ‘cut out and keep’ guide.

Avaaz –

Announced today that it has over 13 million members, who’ve taken over 68 million actions since its formation in 2007.

Has a global remit and a very broad focus, but increasing seems to be looking at issues around human rights and democratic space in countries like Syria, Tibet and Burma as well as building campaigning movement in emerging economies like India and Brazil.

Doing amazing work to make the most of the metrics to ensure their actions have the biggest impact, and also fundraising significant sums from its community for its work but also to respond to humanitarian situations.

The Economist called it ‘“a town crier in the global village, a cross-border fraternity that strives to be seen, heard and heeded.”

38 Degrees – (see also Move On in the US and Get Up in Australia).

UK-based, in the last year it’s focused on a range of issues from tax dodging to the NHS Bill, energy prices to saving our forests.

Has over 800,000 members who have taken 4 millions actions since its launch in 2009

Makes great use of  legal opinion and press adverts to support its online campaign.

Has started to build a grassroots movement, but is often criticised by MPs for causing deluges of emails.


Sum of Us –

Launched just a few weeks ago, but already generated an impressive 80,000 actions towards Apple and boast 200,000 members.

Sole focus on corporates, and sees itself as a ‘movement of consumers, workers and shareholders speaking with one voice to counterbalance the growing power of large corporations’

Trying to increase its impact by demonstrating those taking action are also consumers by asking people to indicate for example that they are ‘a iPhone user’ on their Apple ethical phone petition.


All Out –

A global movement to advance the interests and rights of LGBT people, its grown to be community of more than 800,000 people in 190 countries.

Significant focus of its mobilisation is on countries where being LGBT is still a crime, mobilised over half a million around the world to stop the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda in summer 2011.



Global movement on climate change. Name is linked to the need to reduce carbon emissions by under 350 parts per million to prevent catastrophic global warming.

Founded by Bill McKibben, a veteran environmental campaigner in 2007, committed to grassroots organizing as well as mass online action.

In October of 2009 they coordinated 5200 simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries, which CNN called the ‘most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history’


A site for individuals to take action on whatever issues they choose, as well as providing a platform for organisations.

Over 5 millions people have taken action across 25,000 petitions. Rapidly growing worldwide.

Is able to provide advice to those individuals who set up online actions with dedicated support from a team of organisers to help with media, outreach and political engagement.

Structured as a for-profit but with the social mission of a nonprofit, expects to make $5 million in revenue in 2011.

I’d welcome suggestions of other movements that need to be added to the guide.

Why trust matters in campaigning..

I’m fascinated by the importance of trust in driving campaigning activity, and increasingly convinced that it’s a key  element for successful advocacy, both in the context of the trust that individuals feel towards the person or medium inviting them to take action and also the target that we’re asking them campaign towards.

Which is why the results of Edelman Trust Barometer (a summary of the UK findings are here) last week are interesting to reflect upon.

Although the Barometer isn’t really focused on NGOs, instead being produce for businesses wanting to understand how to better position themselves, many of the messages that come out of it are really useful for anyone thinking about how best to position their campaign.

Here are a few reflections;

People need to hear a message 3 to 5 times to believe it. This isn’t new news, but once again it’s useful to be reminded. What implications does this have on the way we communicate our campaign messages and the importance of ensuring its reinforced through multiple communication channels. How do we get better at ensuring the ‘trusted messengers’ are the ones delivering them.

Globally, academics and technical experts are considered to be the most credible spokespeople. When people are asked to form an opinion of a company, academics have a 68% trust rating, by comparison CEOs have a 38% trust rating.

Does this mean we should be more proactive at making use of academics in our endorsing our campaigns, perhaps using them to publish research that will support our asks? As an aside, the growth in ‘someone like me’ (peers) and a ‘regular employee’ suggest that we might want to make more use of ‘normal’ supporters in our campaigning communications.

Growing separation in the trust that people place in the media. The survey found that in the UK’despite selling millions of copies, only 14% trust the tabloids to tell the truth. While broadsheets command around 50% trust, TV and radio is almost 60%‘.What does this mean for the channels we use to communicate our campaign messages. Interestingly, globally Social Media is only ‘trusted’ by 14% of people, but that’s jumped by 75% in the last year.

Trust in governments is falling, with the majority of countries now distrusting their governments. Indeed in almost all EU and G20 countries trust in government is well below 50%.

Does this have implications on our campaigning when we invite individuals to take action to ask the government to do x,y or z? If the majority of those we’re asking to take action, don’t implicitly trust the government, what does impact does this have on their belief that the action they’re calling for will ever be achieved?

People trust NGOs. The research found that ‘for the fifth year in a row, NGOs are the most trusted institution in the world, and in 16 of the 25 countries surveyed, more trusted than business’.

Great news and an exciting opportunity, but as the decline in trust in countries which saw scandals involving NGOs happen a figure the sector will have to work hard to stay at the top.

When newspapers start to campaign – The Times Cities for Cycling

The email from my father this weekend started like this;

Thomas, Can I bring your attention to The Times Cities for Cycling Campaign which is trying to make a real push to improve the cyclists lot and safety particularly in our cities but not exclusively. There are already some top people signed up to it (most UK cycling Olympic team members, Boris J and Ken L, Gabbi Logan, Jon Snow, James Cracknell)…..

It was in response to the biggest public policy campaign to launch last week didn’t come from an NGO or a pressure group but The Times newspaper, which launched the campaign on Thursday motivated by a tragic cycle accident that left one of its young reporters in a coma last year.

As a response, the papers campaign is calling on the adoption of an 8-point cycle safety plan in cities across the country. As I write the paper is suggesting that 17,000 people have supported the campaign, and over 600 have emailed there MP.

Now The Times isn’t the first newspaper to launch a campaign to change public policy, indeed seeing it reminded me of a conversation that I once had with a former Government PR Advisor who suggested that many of the campaigns that are launched are worked out with a certain level of collusion with the government beforehand, but it’s a good case study to look at.

To see what the newspaper has done well in the first few days of its campaign, and what it could improve on, but also the massive potential opportunities for the right campaigning partner to come alongside a newspaper on.

So what are they doing well?

They give profile to a previously overlooked issue – Now this is obvious, if you’ve got a daily readership of 400,000 people, plus excellent connections with credible spokespeople (see the use of many of our Olympic cycling medalists) it’s easy to give a huge amount of profile to the issue that has perhaps previously been overlooked, and that’s certainly true with the editorial coverage of this campaign. The website has a nice breakdown of everything they’ve covered and the celebrities they’ve engaged.

Direct access to decision makers – We shouldn’t underestimate just how good this access is. Read any of the diaries that came out from ministers in the previous Labour Government and you soon get a sense that they were in weekly (and perhaps daily) touch with the editors of the main newspapers. Add to that the fact that some of the advisors around key Ministers previously coming from the ‘fourth estate’ you can be sure that regular lobbying around some of the campaigns demands. I’m sure we’ll see articles in support of the campaign from leading political figures in the next few days.

They accelerate the policy change cycle – Perhaps because of the demands of a daily paper, or as a result of the discussions that happen before a campaign is launched, previous newspaper campaigns have been able to move from launching the campaign to declaring victory within days rather than, giving a natural platform to announce the campaign success. I can’t see the Times campaign as being any different.

In this campaign they’ve moved an issue that rapidly up the agenda of decision makers, and I’m sure across the country this weekend there are elected Mayors and Council Leaders trying to work what they can do to implement these suggestions. It’ll be interesting to see when The Times announces its first campaign victories, my guess it’ll be within days rather than the months it can often take for traditional NGO campaigns.

Engage new audience – Exhibit A for this would be my father, he’s a loyal Times reader and a regular cyclist, but he’s not a natural activist but so I can only guess that because the issue has come from a trusted source for him (his newspaper) its been able to engage him, and no doubt others in a way that other campaigning organisations can’t.

But what aren’t they so good at?

Taking supporters on a journey – Go to the website and the campaign offers a menu of three actions you can take to immediately support the campaign – Pledge Support, Spread the Word and Write to Your MP – but I’m not sure what will happen next to my Dad and the 17,000 others who’ve shown their support.

Will they hear more, or be encouraged to do more, or is their primary role to help provide the headline number? This is a space where a charity/campaigning partner working with the newspaper could play an important role, providing those readers who want to get involved in the campaign with tools and opportunities to do more.

Generating actions – I can’t decide if I should be impressed by 17,000 actions or a little underwhelmed. It’s a decent number but given the amount of coverage, the readership of the newspaper and the heavy promotion that it’s got on twitter, where #cyclesafe has been trending for much of the week in the UK, it puts it somewhere mid-table when it comes to the number of actions that movements like 38 Degrees or organisations like Friends of the Earth can generate. Perhaps its simply shows the challenge of converting coverage into campaign actions.

Seeing the issue to resolution – It’s too early to tell if this will be the case with the Times campaign, but given this isn’t the main business of a newspaper, it’ll be interesting to watch if the paper continues to monitor any commitments that are made to ensure they’re followed through on as opposed to simply being announced in response to the campaign.

Do you agree? Should we be impressed by 17,000 actions? Does working with a newspaper provide a great opportunity for a campaigning organisation?