Over the past year, we at The Social Change Agency have been undertaking a project exploring digital campaigning and its effects on the lived experience.

Following Esther Foreman’s previous research in Shouting Down the House, we sought to create an evidence base to support our hypothesis that digital campaigning is drowning out the voices of the lived experience

Over the past nine months we have interviewed and surveyed almost 50 charities, petition providers, technology providers and MPs  to understand the state of digital campaigning as it currently stands.

Our research has revealed some interesting dynamics.  While many people acknowledged that there is an important role of digital campaigning – our observations have shown that it has contributed to a breakdown of trust between MPs, charities and those with the lived experience.  Factors such as our metrics of success, our tools, and the  availability of resource and capacity have become the wedge between the trust of MPs and charities and the public, and have hindered the innovation needed to resuscitate it.

We are not the first to question the role, impact and value of digital in campaigning – our colleagues Jo Wolfe, Jim Coe, Bond, ACEVO and DotEveryone have all published widely on it. We are also not the first to talk about the value of the lived experience and the importance of direct accounts of those who are living with impact of injustice and flawed systems day in and day out. See Baljeet Sandu, Expert Link and others. However, while the importance of digital campaigning and the importance of the lived experience have been established respectively, rarely have they been considered together.

Thank to the JRCT, who have funded this work, we have been able to bring all sides together and start to crack open the myths around impact and methods that people have been holding on to.  The work has been overseen by an incredible advisory board – whom we would like to extend a massive thank you. These consist of The Children’s Society, Reason Digital, CAST, Government Digital Service, Expert Link and Guide Dogs.

In case you haven’t realised.. Or heard (if not, where have you been?), we are holding a hackathon on 7 December, in which we’re inviting everyone to form a collective hivemind around this issue.

Over the next 3 weeks we will be releasing our report, and opinions in bite-size chunks for you.  Please read, reflect and join the debate #LVhack

We’re starting this series with the crux of the issue:

The cycle of mistrust