Campaign Bootcamp

campaign-bootcamp-logoCampaign Bootcamp is a week-long training programme for young campaigners. They’re looking for young people who care about social change, want skills training, mentoring and are ready to work hard.

The first Campaign Bootcamp will run from 16th-21st June about 30 minutes outside of London.

For more info and full application details -check out the website. The deadline is 26th April.


So many tactics. So little time….

The Academy of Change (credited with a significant role in preparing the ground for the Egyptian uprising) have posted Political activists reveal 65 ways to start a Syrian revolution, which gives some examples of the range of tactics open to activists. Clearly Gene Sharp, and others, have compiled similar lists in the past, but it’s always good to see what’s current and is working in what context. Here’s a significant chunk of the post handily broken down for individuals, groups, and society as a whole:

The first 18 suggestions include ways that individuals can participate in the Syrian revolution, and this includes: providing food and medicine to protesters, utilizing the internet to convince people to participate in the revolution, transferring news and information to those demonstrating and protesting in Syrian cities, putting up pro-revolutionary posters, raising revolutionary flags, conducting dialogue with pro-government soldiers and police to convince them of the merits of the revolution, providing financial support to revolutionary activities, providing financial support to the poor, amongst other suggestions.

As for ways that groups (between 3 – 5 people) can participate in “developing the revolution”, this includes: painting the walls of certain important buildings in pro-revolutionary colors, changing the names of streets so that they bear the name of martyrs of the revolution, carrying out campaigns to convince neighborhoods of the merits of the revolution, defacing and fabricating official state-affiliated newspapers, making pro-revolutionary banners, obstructing certain streets with cars, creating a new constitution, and preventing government officials from going to work.

The website also included 25 suggestions for ways that groups of thousands of people can contribute to the Syrian revolution, and this includes: acts of civil disobedience, marching in the streets, including marches with demonstrators all wearing the popular anti-establishment Guy Fawkes “V” mask, taking part in strikes, bicycle rallies, withdrawing funds from government banks, not doing business with companies or shops loyal to the regime, amongst other suggestions..

As for the AOC’s suggestions for ways that millions of Syrians can join together to participate in the revolution, this includes; refusing to pay electricity and water bills, refusing to pay government taxes, boycotting official state celebrations and events, disobeying unjust laws, and other widespread acts of civil disobedience.

Am I advocating these specific tactics for the Occupy movement or others? No. Tactics are context specific. A tactic that forces the hand of a dictator may not even register here in the UK and vice versa. But we do need to be thinking of possibilities, customising tactics that work elsewhere, finding action that ordinary citizens can engage with, breaking down ideas and making them accessible, and of course getting the ideas out there.

Essentially this is an appeal to be strategic on some level or another. Strategy is a hard one – there are those I’ve spoken to who argue that we simply need to go where the energy for action is, which is as good a criterion to use as any since we can’t ever know the outcomes of our actions. Others advocate understanding theories of change, and planning each and every tactic like moves in a game of chess.

The Occupy movement has of course named itself by a tactic, which may limit its range. But a friend of mine reminded me the other day just how many ways there are to occupy. Clearly there’s the occupation of public space – bridges and squares, but, for example, there’s also the occupation of switchboards and websites (what used to be called phone or fax blockades – a constant barrage of calls, faxes, emails to a corporation or government that strains its communications systems to the point of breaking). I’m sure others spring to your minds as you read.


Dare to dream?

Environmentalists have been especially ineffective in creating any shared vision on the world they are working towards

Donella Meadows


Next week I’m facilitating a visioning day for folk from various Quaker sustainability projects . In dialogue with my contact, Sunniva, at Quaker Peace and Social Witness we decided to frame the day as a ‘visioning’ rather than a strategy day. For me this was about giving the group explicit permission to think creatively, to welcome intuition and emotion, and tap into their shared values.

However I’m hearing the language of strategy coming back at me from the participants as I ask them what they hope to get from the day. In response, I went as far as to sketch out an alternative, strategy focused agenda for the day. It seemed sensible to check out this disconnect. Sunniva sent me Donella Meadows‘ paper Envisioning for a Sustainable World to support her decision to vision rather than strategise. If I’m honest I groaned a little at seeing the academic format of the paper, but soon found myself absorbed and then inspired. I’ll leave it to Donella to say the rest:

    I have been honing my capacity to envision. I rarely start a garden, a book, a conference, or an organization, without formally envisioning how I want it to come out – what I really want, not what I am willing to settle for. I go to a quiet place, shut down my rational mind, and develop a vision. I present the vision to others, who correct and refine it help it to evolve. I write out vision statements. When I lose my way, I go back to those statements. Sometimes I still feel silly doing all this. I was raised in a skeptical culture, after all, and worse, I was trained as a scientist, with all “silly irrationality” drummed out of me. But I keep practicing vision, because my life works better when I do. Here are some things I have learned about the way vision works:

– Envisioning is not a left-brain activity, it doesn’t come from the part of me that does rational analysis. It comes from whatever part of me informs my values, my conscience, my sense of morality. Call it heart, call it soul, whatever is the source of vision, it is not rational mind.

– I have to keep filtering out any remnants of past disappointments, any tinge of negativism, any analysis of “reality.” I have to work actively to focus on what I want, not what I expect.

– I have stopped challenging myself, or anyone else who puts forth a vision, with the responsibility of laying out a plan for how to get there. A vision should be judged by its clarity of values, not by the clarity of its implementation path.

– In my experience that path is NEVER clear at first. It only reveals itself, step by step, as I walk along it. It often surprises me, because my computer and mental models are inadequate to the complexities and possibilities of the world. Holding to the vision and being flexible about the path is the only way to find the path.

– Vision is not rational, BUT rational mind can and must inform vision. I can envision climbing a tall tree and flying off from its top, and I might very much want to do that, but that vision is not consistent with the laws of the universe; it is not responsible. I can envision the end of hunger, but careful modeling tells me that it can’t be accomplished tomorrow; it will take time. I use every rational tool at my disposal not to weaken the basic values behind my vision, but to shape it into a responsible vision that acknowledges, but doesn’t get crushed by, the physical constraints of the world….

– One essential tool for making vision responsible is sharing it with others and incorporating their visions. Only shared vision can be responsible. Hitler was indeed a visionary, but his vision was not shared by the Jews or the Gypsies or most of the peoples of Europe. It was an immoral, insane vision.

– Staying in touch with vision prevents me from being seduced by cheap substitutes. If what I really want is self-esteem, I will not pretend to achieve it by buying a fancy car. If I want human happiness, I will not settle for GNP. I want serenity, but I will not take drugs. I want permanent prosperity, not unsustainable growth.

– Vision has an astonishing power to open the mind to possibilities I would never see in a mood of cynicism. Vision widens my choices, shows me creative new directions. It helps me see good-news stories, pockets of reality that could be seeds of a wider vision. I see what I should support; I get ideas for action.

– People who carry responsible vision become, in some sense I can’t explain, charismatic. They communicate differently from cynical people. Even if the vision isn’t overtly expressed, it’s there and it’s noticeable. Inversely, many progressive, dedicated, “realistic” people unconsciously communicate their underlying hopelessness. Being around them is a “downer;” being around visionaries is a constant inspiration.

– I have rarely achieved the full expression of any of my visions, but I have learned not to be discouraged by that. I get much further with a vision than without it, and I know I’m going the right direction. I can take comfort in my progress, even while I continue to bear the tension of knowing I’m not there yet.

I am a practical person. I think of myself as relentlessly realistic. I want to create change in the world, not visions in my head. I am constantly amazed, but increasingly convinced, that envisioning is a tool for producing results. Olympic athletes use it to make the difference between the superior performance their trained bodies can achieve and the outstanding performance their inspired vision can achieve. Corporate executives take formal classes in vision. All great leaders have been visionaries. Even the scientific, systems-analyst side of me has to admit that we can hardly achieve a desirable, sustainable world, if we can’t even picture what it will be like….

….Of course having a vision isn’t enough. Of course it’s only the first step toward any goal. The grandest vision will get nowhere without proper information and models and implementation (and resources, labor, capital, time, and money). There are great difficulties in all these steps of social change and much work to do. I’m by no means indicating that we all become nothing but visionaries. I think what I’m advocating is simply that we make the world safe for vision.

That means, at the least, that we take a mutual vow not to go around squashing vision — our own, or anyone else’s, and especially not that of young people. Of course having a vision isn’t enough. Of course it’s only the first step toward any goal. The grandest vision will get nowhere without proper information and models and implementation (and resources, labor, capital, time, and money). There are great difficulties in all these steps of social change and much work to do. I’m by no means indicating that we all become nothing but visionaries. I think what I’m advocating is simply that we make the world safe for vision. That means, at the least, that we take a mutual vow not to go around squashing vision — our own, or anyone else’s, and especially not that of young people.

Mapping the activist experience

Take a look at Chris Johnston’s latest post: A journey through time, space and Leed’s global justice movement. It would be easy to be put off by the Leeds-specific title and the early mention of the-less-than-thrilling-named Customer Journey Mapping, but hang in there.

There’s something here for anyone trying to start, sustain or facilitate activism. Chris’s Activist Journey Map is well worth replicating for your group, network or organisation. Possibly a useful variation on other mapping tools for group’s strategy or visioning, or for designing support for networks of activists?

Campaigning – a SMART choice?

Thanks (again!) to Dwight Towers for bringing Political Dynamite’s recent post redefining SMART objectives for campaigners to our attention.

If you’ve read our ramblings on Strategy you’ll know we’re engaged in a constant quest to find ways to make strategic campaign/action planning accessible, and this is a step on the way. All that business language, all those management tools are a turn off to many activists. The redefined SMART, (headlines below – read the full post as the summary doesn’t do it justice) is more human, has elements of vision and values in it, whilst still retaining some common sense, pragmatic thinking. A nice balance.

S – Success focussed (rather than specific)

M – Movement building (rather than measurable)

A – Ambitious (rather than achievable)

R – Reactive (rather than realistic)

T – Targeted (rather than Time-bound)

Here’s some additional thoughts culled from a comment I left on the original post.

‘A note on Reactive: Political Dynamite are absolutely right, when they define reactive campaigns thus:

On the other hand, successful campaigns do need to be reactive. They need to be quick on their feet. And they need an answer to the question ‘What do we do if the government ignores us?’.

But there’s the danger that it’s misinterpreted to mean ‘sit and wait then respond’. Whereas effective campaigns take the initiative whilst also having the nimble footwork that allows them to also respond to unforseen events. Even the smallest group can set the agenda if they’re audacious enough (there’s a couple more A’s for you!).

Also, let’s not assume that the government is the target. There are many that would say behind every elected government are unelected corporation pulling the strings

Here’s some alternatives to think about:

  • Shared ____ (values, process, aims, goals….fill in the blank as appropriate)
  • Sustainable – personally, as a group, and in terms of planetary footprint
  • Resilient – building a campaign that builds a community that weathers the adverse changes that face us all
  • Resourceful – innovating, imaginative and inspiring – moving beyond and reinterpreting old tactics, making us laugh, gasp, or just plain sick with envy that we didn’t think of it first
  • Tenacious – accepting that any campaign is hard work and hanging in there for the duration, not taking no as an answer, not being cowed by the size and apparent ‘might’ of the system

I’ll be taking some of this thinking into future strategy workshops and meetings. As always, any learning will be shared right here.

Communicating Climate Change

Chris Rose of Campaign Strategy has drawn our attention to Earthscan’s latest Earthcast – a “free live interactive web event”. This one’s on Communicating Climate Change and will help you to:

  • Learn behaviour change strategies for encouraging sustainable lifestyles and communities
  • Learn effective communications strategies for engaging the public with climate change – (and why looking for generic messages about climate change is probably a waste of time)
  • Learn about the different roles the public can play in tackling climate change

Where? Online When? Thursday 11th November at 5pm GMT. Registration’s free