There is a fantastic article published this week in the SSIR, Taking Advocacy Campaigns off Autopilot. It is in reference to the need for continual innovation for social impact, and discusses this in context of the evolving use of digital campaigning in causes. It is something we have been researching and writing about for some time.
The article quite right points out that a ‘A lack of creativity in campaign tech can stifle social change. Advocacy organizations need to take more chances with technology and think beyond existing tools to achieve greater impact’.
The authors, Matt Holland & Michael Silberman, (Avaaz and Greenpeace Mobilisation Lab respectively), point out that the rise of digital campaigning has bought with it an obsession about click through metrics, And we know that alongside easy data acquisition, the obsession with open rates has given rise to the clictivism culture, the impact of which has been endlessly debated, and is something we have researched and written about extensively here.
Matt and Michael quite rightly lay part of the problem at the feet of the organisations themselves. They argue that while advocacy software, has been rewritten and re-coded, ‘the communication and engagement strategies surrounding them have not changed since the early 90’s’
The most successful campaigning uses digital alongside an arsenal of tools, which include creativity. It is very hard to do this when your organisation is stuck using one particular methodology such as digital email lobbying or welded to a particular reporting metric such as click through rates as a measure of success. This often goes right up to a board level – where trustees do not necessarily understand how and where the magic happens. You also need a lot of space and reflection time to bring around creativity. There is nothing like operating in a big organisational system to stifle innovation.
We have heard this echoed in many of our interviews and round tables with campaigners in large charities. Those with the budgets to do big campaigning, are often those who are most restricted in innovating around it.
Everyone from SSIR, to NCVO says that Campaigning generally needs to be more innovative – So how do we fix this?
The first step is to enable honest and real conversations between Campaigns leads between organisations. There are barriers that exist, there are levels conflict between departments, trustees boards who don’t ‘get it’ and sometimes there is a lack of strategic approach around political analysis and achieving change. Coming together to talk about it, be inspired by what else is out there and each other is crucial. We need a safe space to explore common challenges and deepen our practise together in a way that will benefit campaigners, the sector as a whole and the wider impact we all desire – we know from experience of running this in other sectors such as Community Businesses that this shared practise is also what leads to growth and innovation.
So we have teamed up with CharityComms to create The Campaigns Network – a face to face opportunity for Campaign Peers to meet to discuss important issues at a strategic level across causes.
Building on the NCVO Campaigning Conference and the SMK People’s Power, we see this is the next level in professional and personal development for campaigners, with the aim to raise the standard, creativity and innovation across the Campaigning sector together.
The Campaign Network – free to join if your organisation is a CharityComms member, and a small contribution otherwise, is a co-created, engaging and trusted environment for learning and sharing peer to peer at a strategic level. The programme will be co-designed by participants in the first session and will be based on the understanding of the challenges around impact, change and innovation faced by campaigners in the charity sector.
We are lucky for it to be supported by an awesome advisory board made up of Senior Campaigner leaders from 5 major charities from the TUC to Friends of the Earth and participants will also have the option to take up action learning sets (see this great guide to it from Bond here) to deepen their practise.
Like true campaigners, we are starting with where there appears to be the greatest need. If you are a Head of Campaigns or above in an organisation that has a turnover of more than £5million, then you are invited to join the community of practise – quite unlike anything that has gone before.
Our first gathering is on the 10th of October and you can read more about it, and book in here
See you there,
The Campaign Network is a joint initiative from CharityComms and the Social Change Agency looking to address a gap for campaign leads in UK charities for strategic development, campaign sector development and professional development