THE BLOG
24/09/2013 06:23 BST | Updated 21/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Campaigning Has Gone Mainstream

Are you persuasive and stubborn? Do you care about things? That's probably most of us, at times. Well then, you could be a campaigner. In the UK - and it appears across the world - campaigning has gone mainstream.

Are you persuasive and stubborn?

Do you care about things?

That's probably most of us, at times. Well then, you could be a campaigner. In the UK - and it appears across the world - campaigning has gone mainstream.

Most of us are concerned about political issues, passionate about some things. People care about the threat to their local A&E or the prospect of fracking. Some of us want to see women's faces on banknotes and to rescue the struggling bee population.

And yet decreasing party political participation is one of the main trends of my generation. So surely avenues that allows us to express what we care about is a good thing for democracy and society?

But it's how to do it and make a difference, that's the thing. So the question I'm asking here is " is there a secret formula for successful campaigning? Can campaigning be mass market? Who is thriving and who is just surviving in this tough environment?"

Just look at the different groups. There are;

Classic ad-hoc local group style, viewed in the anti-fracking protests who tend to focus on maintaining the status quo and preserving England's green and pleasant land. To the;

Issue based campaigning organisations, like Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Oxfam (actually these campaigners can cross over with the local groups but in a far more organised way, like FOE does with it's phenomenal local groups network). Then there are;

• The disrupters, professional campaigning organisations like the impressive 38 degrees, an online maverick - inspired in some part by the mighty global campaigning organisation Avaaz - but with an offline presence and genuine democratic participation who have even managed to penetrate middle England. Alongside change.org if you haven't heard of them, you'll definitely have heard of their campaigns. They're the backdrop for the brilliant, No More Page 3 and the campaign to ask Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53/week. Interestingly though they are a profit making business. And finally;

• The Kings and Queens - at times - of campaigning, the political parties and the unions. In between elections, the parties are actually pretty poor at campaigning but at election time, they can pioneer some of the best techniques. These ripple through the NGO sector for the intervening years, you should see how the NGOs gobble up information that falls out of Blue State Digital, the agency credited with helping Obama secure two victories. Of course, some individual MPs, like Stella Creasy and her excellent campaign on legal loan sharks, are an exception.

So with such a vibrant field, have we cracked the winning campaigning formula?

• The number one thing that is needed and probably pretty obvious - is a clear goal. Like most projects a clear sense of what success looks like is hugely important.

• An understanding of who can make the change you are looking for. Is it a politician, councillor, business, who can make the change you are seeking. Are they the only audience, or are there people around them that will have influence?

Focus. Organisations need to keep their focus on this. An ex colleague became bored of me saying "keep your eyes on the prize", but we all need to be reminded of that time-to-time. Once you have the goal and the discipline, in a sense the fun can begin.

Think creatively about persuading the people who matter, how can you make them smile whilst getting your point across?

• Then all you need is persistence, iron persistence and perhaps a little sprinkling of lady luck.

Easy as that. Well it should be. Having so many current campaigns is really exciting and is allowing new issues and voices to be heard. Some of the more traditional voices and issues are struggling with the rapidity and intensity of the new style of working. That challenge is no bad thing, but in creating these new mechanisms and organisations for activism, we need to remain true to the authenticity of campaigning and make sure it's for the right reasons. More importantly, it will make a real difference.