“ Thanks for a really useful session – it’s always reassuring to discover you’re not the only one facing these challenges and very helpful to talk about some of the ways of addressing them” 

– Rose Downes, Macmillan Cancer Support

Our role as campaigners is to challenge injustice, address power and fight for the values and equality we want to see in the world. Many professional campaigners work to see this addressed in the lives of the beneficiaries or cause their organisation works to serve.

The most successful campaign asks are those which are rooted in the lived experience of those on the front line of service delivery, and/or those who are experiencing the sharp edge of the issue. However, in larger charities, there is often a big conflict between front line service provision and managing and delivering policy-based campaigns – especially where a reduction in funding means that organisations are forced to choose between immediately helping in their core beneficiaries or investing money in campaigning to create long term systemic change.

This week The Social Change Agency and CharityComms hosted another Campaigns Network meeting, discussing how we can make the business case for campaigning and policy work (a difficult position when results and impact of campaigns are not often felt in our lifetimes) and how we can navigate the tension between campaigning and front line service teams.

The network is an inspiring space, filled with people committed to tackling the hard questions that make this sector valuable. Discussions showed that there is no easy answer for a ‘perfect’ balance between service delivery and campaigning. Services are crucial and many offer life-saving support that individuals need. Campaigning is crucial if we want to fight for a world where we won’t need those services any more. They would work in tandem, weaving in and out of each other, but the reality is that for many charities, they’re sometimes at odds with each other.

Campaigning and service delivery aren’t mutually exclusive – although at times if you’re working in either area it might feel like that. The tensions that arise between the two are legitimate fears from both parties. The lack of resources, fears over maintaining funding, and top-heavy leadership in many organisations can lead to a feeling of detachment between the two areas.

The Campaigns Network discussed these tensions at depth. It was somewhat cathartic to be in a space in which your fears and desire to find a solution created lengthy and fruitful conversation. And there is no single solution. Every organisation has unique issues that it needs to resolve.

Service delivery is a crucial aspect of many charities and organisations should be valued for the immense work that they do under increasing pressure. Campaigners are doing the deeply important work of lobbying for change. Services and Campaign teams need to agree on a central narrative, so that they can work together to achieve the greatest amount of change. Informing each other consistently, through both formal and informal networks, creates greater opportunity for collaboration between these areas within an organisation, which only serves to make the organisation stronger.

Interested in coming along to the next Campaigns Network or want to add yourself to the Campaigns Network mailing list? Email esther@thesocialchangeagency.org for more information