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? 
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Great free daily organising tips from @neworganizing Institute

I’ve just signed up to get ‘Tip of the Day’ from the New Organising Institute. They’re based in the US and every weekday they send a free tip about organising, many of which would be relevant to campaigners in the UK. How brilliant is that?

This is my favourite so far (which I’ve reproduced in full to illustrate how brilliant they are*). I can’t encourage you enough to sign up for the tips….

The difference between goals, strategies and tactics by Nick Gaw
I see so many campaigns get excited about a new tool, and then use it without considering how it impacts their strategy. There are some really sexy organizing tools out there. In the midst of some amazing innovation, it can be all too easy to get excited about using a particular tool and forget to think about where it fits in to the grand scheme of your primary objective. Unless you can use it to reach your goal, it’s not worth spending time and money on. So, here’s an example to demonstrate the difference between goals, strategy and tactics.

Your Goal: Getting backstage at a Justin Bieber concert.

Possible strategies, with accompanying tactics bulleted:

Strategy 1. Become friends with Justin Bieber’s mom

  • Join her book club
  • Join her church
  • Get your mom to introduce you

Strategy 2. Get Justin to notice you from on stage and invite you back

  • Procure front-row tickets
  • Coordinate posters and outfits among other attendees
  • Throw something attention-getting onstage

Strategy 3. Become friends with the bouncer

  • Dress in a way that he notices
  • Buy him beer
  • Date his best friend

Notice that the tactics for each strategy are unique, specific, and don’t fit any of the other strategies. If you can stay committed to your goal, put creative strategies into place, and use tactics that are effective in your specific situation, you’ll be in good shape!

And remember, if a tool or tactic helps you implement your strategy to reach your goal, you should use it (Justin Bieber’s mom probably appreciates a nice young person in her book club). If it doesn’t, then it’s only going to be a distraction (throwing something attention-grabbing on stage at her church is probably counter-productive).

If a tool fits your strategy and tactics, use it! But make sure you know why you’re using it, and how it benefits your work.

Go to http://neworganizing.com/tag/noi-tips/ for more and to sign up.

* if you’re from the wonderful folk at New Organising Institute, firstly thanks and secondly let me know if you don’t want this tip to be published in full here…

Top 50 Political Influencers

I’m a big fan of Total Politics magazine. Every month its full of articles that are invaluable to campaigners. This month it profiles the ‘Top 50 Political Influencers’, those key influencers who don’t hold a political office but have an important role in shaping government decisions.

I don’t necessarily agree with the whole list, I think it’s a bit light on influential business leaders, and a bit too full of directors of think tanks, but it’s a useful reminder of the importance of considering the role of those who aren’t elected when looking at ‘routes to influence’.

Spending some time considering ‘routes to influence’ is a key activity in planning a campaign. If you’re stuck for ideas, you could do a lot worse than having a look at some of the lists that Total Politics have produced.