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Mar 1st, 2011

Deciding what we do next – how it will work

By 38 Degrees team

The team will work hard to find out what 38 Degrees members want to do next

Photograph by 38 Degrees

38 Degrees has just launched our biggest ever consultation over future campaigns. There are more than half a million of us involved in 38 Degrees now, and everyone is being asked to help decide which campaigns we make a top priority over the next few months.

Now is definitely a good time to try to answer this question. We’ve just had three people powered campaign wins in as many weeks – which leaves some space for new work. At the same time we’ve just shown how big an impact we can have when we all work together, so there’s no denying that the decisions we take together really matter.

But how do you get half a million people involved in a decision-making process in practice? How will we make sure that people’s ideas really get heard? We have done this kind of thing before – all 38 Degrees campaigns are chosen through consultation with 38 Degrees members.

For example, before the general election last year thousands of us took part in a six week strategic planning process to decide what 38 Degrees did. The Save Our Forests campaign was chosen after a big discussion on our Facebook page. Over 80% of 38 Degrees members voted for us to launch a campaign to stand up for the BBC which help to save BBC 6 Music, and similar numbers voted for us to launch a campaign against secret lobbying by big business which pushed the government to pledge new rules.

There are more of us involved now though, which is bound to make things a little more complicated. The process probably won’t be perfect, but here’s the plan:

  • First of all, everyone will have the chance to make their own suggestions, and to comment on other people suggestions, on our Facebook page and on this website. Hopefully thousands and thousands of us will make suggestions and comment on other people’s. Common themes and ideas will start to emerge.
  • Then the team of staff and volunteers will trawl through all the suggestions, analysing which are most popular. We will also use text analysis software to help identify commonly suggested themes, and to make sure we don’t let our own personal biases skew the results. We will draw up a shortlist of the most popular ideas.
  • Next, everyone will have the chance to vote on the short list of most popular ideas. We will need to rank them in priority. 38 Degrees can do more than one thing at once, but we can’t do everything all the time. So if we decide together which things are our top priority, this can set the direction of what we do in the next few months.
  • Finally the staff team will feed the results back next week – including asking for help with preparing to launch any new campaigns we have chosen together.

38 Degrees moves fast – so it is likely that some things will come up not long after this process is completed which we won’t have expected but will nonetheless want to work on together. This process is going to set the direction, but it won’t rule out responding to events. We will have to discuss those unexpected things together as they come up.

This process is bound to not be perfect. We’re a new organisation, and we are still learning as we go along – please do feedback any comments or suggestions for how we can make this process better.

Personally I’m really excited that we decide what we campaign on together in this way. It’s quite different from how most organisations work, and sometimes it can be a bit chaotic. But as a community that makes change happen through people power, how could we not use people power to make decisions about what to campaign about?

Most excitingly of all, when we make decisions together about campaigns, so far they have turned out to be really good decisions. We are good at working together to spot situations where there is both an important issue at stake and we have a chance to change events. That’s why 38 Degrees was the first organisation to campaign against our forests being sold off, for example.

So, please do join the conversation about what we do next on our Facebook page or on the website discussion. And if you have any feedback about the process, questions or concerns – please post them as comments to this blog post.

Update – we’ve analysed all the results and now you can vote on the most popular suggestions. Click here to find out more

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