Before you start doing anything, discuss values and what you want to achieve. It’s easy to assume you’re on the same page and then as the campaign progresses disagreements on fundamental values surface. I.e. conflict within feminism.
You need to flexible around ideas and take time to reflect; be agile and responsive to the changes around you and allow for learning and growth.
Strike a balance…
…between being impactful, and actually happening. There is a temptation to try and plan the “perfect campaign” but sometimes you need to stop planning and start doing. You also need to make sure you don’t promise things you can’t deliver – you don’t want let people down, you need to build a sustainable model.
Power in numbers… So much can be changed by working collectively – along with finding the people who want to make change happen, partner with organisations and experts who you can learn from and strengthen your campaign; don’t try and own a cause or passion single-handedly.
Ask for it!
Even if you have a request that seems unlikely, ask anyway. People and organisations are often happy to help with venues, lending professional skills etc – especially if it’s an issue they care about.
Be very clear about exactly who you want to target and what the message is. Do you want to change a policy and therefore need to think about influencing the government? Or do you want to change behaviours so you want to target certain community groups?
People won’t be inspired by how you run your campaign or activities, but why you do it. This is your big vision, the thing that makes you angry, the thing that will make people want to donate or get involved.
Not always what you expect The results of the What Women Want surveys conducted in 1996 and 2016 were largely the same despite 20 years having passed between them. However, when the survey results were handed-in, parliament was full to capacity with a dynamic panel of speakers, attendees and MPs – the coordinator said it was the most diverse group she’d ever seen in parliament. This was a huge success in itself.
Seeing the conversation change perspectives
Bloody Good Period is changing the narratives around menstruation; highlighting period poverty in the UK and making it accessible to people, even fun so that it’s something people enjoy talking about.
Seeing the conversation being taken to high level spaces
Meeting with a decision maker that pays attention and wants to keep the discussion going or advocate for your cause it is very rewarding. For example, the UK Youth For Change team met with an MP who then asked a question about the campaign objectives in Parliament!
Young people have always been denied a voice but there are so many campaigns being set up by young people now, such as Amika George who is working towards free menstrual products for schoolgirls from low-income families. She’s so young but doing so much.
The Internet: Friend AND Foe
Dealing with aggressive reactions on the internet to certain campaign messages can be difficult. You need to learn when to switch off and when to try to take criticism constructively. Learn to recognise when to engage (i.e. if you can find common ground with someone and give them a new perspective) or when not to engage (i.e. when it’s just a troll).
Negative comments online can lead to positive outcomes. People questioning your work or content can help you reassess your core messaging. Put resources in place to respond quickly so you don’t need to keep repeating yourself such as a Manifesto or FAQ page on your website.
Voice… If you’re giving people a voice through the campaign make sure you’re not talking for them. Priorities…
You won’t always have the capacity to make the change you want to see. Trying to balance life, studies, demanding jobs and campaigning on huge issues can be very draining, but it’s vital that you look after yourself. You’re not going to be useful to a campaign if you’ve burnt yourself out, so take breaks and check-in on others if you think they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Make sure that people can get involved with what you’re doing. Give them opportunities to be creative and clear ways to contribute whether that’s working on events, designing digital content, attending wider meetings, sorting logistics, or supporting marketing.
Value what people say and listen to your supporter base in order to stay relevant – the campaign needs to speak to them.
Value fellow campaigners
Acknowledge people’s successes! Some campaigns have a ‘Volunteer of the Month’ which gives activists a sense of achievement. Avoid campaign fatigue…
Campaigns often address huge issues that will take years to change, so whilst core campaign goals may stay the same make sure that each year you think about new messaging to keep it current – you don’t want activists to get bored. Step out of your bubble
You can learn so much from other campaigns even if they aren’t specific to your cause – pay attention to the way other successful campaigns work!
Sometimes nothing beats seeing people face-to-face. Meeting up with other campaigners or partners – whether it’s for an event, a march or just a cup of tea – will revive your energy for the campaign and often generates conversations that are too difficult or long winded to have online.
Part 1 of 2 part blog on Gender Focused Campaigning