Lost Voices Report: Digital campaigning and lived experience

The Social Change Agency is proud to present Lost Voices: Digital Campaigning and the voices of Lived Experience report and accompanying toolkit.

This report and its accompanying toolkit is the culmination of the Lost Voices project, funded by JRCT. The project examines the role of digital campaigning in influencing the ability of the voices of those most marginalised to be heard by those in power. It builds on Esther Foreman’s research Peering In (2011) and Shouting Down The House (2013), which established that current digital campaigning methods were drowning out the voices of lived experience.

This report primarily focuses on the digital campaigning work being undertaken by charities and not-for-profits. It also acknowledges the role that politicians, technology providers and foundations have in formulating solutions.The report contains recommendations directed at each of these key players.

Over the past year we have engaged over 100 MPs, technology providers, charity digital leads and those with lived experience to gain a comprehensive overview of the digital campaigning sector as it stands in 2017/2018. We also ran a hackathon in December 2017, bringing together the charity sector leads to help identify the issue and build a solution.

The research highlights the breakdown of trust between the key players in the digital campaigning space: decision makers, charities, technology providers and those with lived experience. The report suggests that while this is largely a result of the overuse of unfocused email campaigning techniques, it is exacerbated by factors such as metrics of success, the tools used and the availability of resources.

The report acknowledges that decision-makers are influenced positively by contact with those with lived experience and in theory, digital campaigning should allow for greater contact between the two groups. Charities have an important intermediary role in voicing the concerns of the lived experience to those in power. However, it suggests that the rise in digital campaigning techniques has led to a general degradation in the relationship between charities and decision-makers.

Moreover, is says the voices of those with lived experience are often inadequately represented in charity digital campaigns: digital campaigners often work in silos, away from those with lived experience (and even organisational colleagues); those with lived experience are inadequately supported in participating in campaigning; and charities are often poor in identifying which of their campaigning supporters are able to offer lived experience.

The impact of these has been to undermine the trust of people with lived experience in the campaigning process and to cause considerable harm to the relationship between charities and decision-makers, reducing the effectiveness of the former’s campaigning efforts in general. In order to reverse this erosion in trust, we have developed a toolkit to enable charities to interrogate their digital campaigning practices to enable the voices of people with the lived experiences to be heard better by those in power.

If you’d like to discuss the report in more detail or to find out how to implement the findings of this report into your organisation, get in touch with us!

Talk to us about implementing the findings of this report in your organisation

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