Big Northern Get Together – How to Devise a Winning Campaigning Strategy Session Notes

Session title:

Winning Campaigns; What issues to campaign on and how to devise a winning strategy.

This session looked at how to avoid some of the pitfalls that campaigns can often fall into. It also provided some advice on what the starting points for a successful campaign should be.

The session was mostly focussed around this document which is a great check-list to start any campaign with.

We went through each of the boxes in the doc and discussed them. Some quick summaries of those discussions are here:

The first two questions need to be discussed in tandem

What is the problem? What is the issue?

The first question you should ask your self is what is the underlying problem you are trying to solve. This is different to the issue, in that an issue is something you can campaign on. I.E. The problem is that we don’t have enough affordable housing, the issue would be different depending on your campaign; it could be to do with there not being enough houses built, maybe its that homes are too expensive because wages are low, or if you were an organisation with different vales to 38 Degrees the issue could be that too many people are in need of housing in this country. When picking your issue you should ask 3 questions. Does this issue adhere to our values? Is it widely felt? Is it deeply felt? The more it does all of those things the more likely you are to be successful.

What is the solution?

The solution should be concrete, realisable and have a time-frame. The phrase “a yes is not a yes without a time attached” is well worth noting. You’ve probably hit upon a good solution if you can think of someone who can provide you with what you want. Make sure that what you are asking for would provide a noticeable change to the people effected by the issue/problem that you first identified.

Who is the target?

Who are you asking to make the change? Are we sure that they have the power to give us what we want? Can we influence them? Research is vital at this stage. There is no point asking David Cameron do do something that can be decided upon by your local council. If it is a problem with the local council that you are addressing who’s working in that department? Where does the real decision making power lie?

What is the target’s motivation (self-interest) to side with us?

Being morally correct wont win you your campaign. You’ll need to find out what the interests of the decision maker are and how we can influence them. 38 Degrees won the Tax credits campaign not because George Osborne had a change of heart and suddenly began caring about poor people. It was won because he wants to be leader of the Conservative party and the weight of public opinion against those cuts became too much of a political barrier to him achieving his self interests.

Where does our power lie? Do we have enough?

Is our power in this campaign as voters? Is it as consumers? Is it as a group of people that wont leave the target alone? How do we create self-interest for our target?

Taking on a campaign to change a government policy when there is only 5 people in your group is going to be impossible. When answering the question of where our power lies you’ll need to make a decision about whether you have that power already, can build that power or don’t have that power and so need to find another campaign. Too many good campaigners have wasted precious time on campaigns that were bound to fail.

What action will get the target to negotiate with us?

All campaigns should be building towards a negotiation with your target.

If you can come up with this action then it means that you’ve probably thought about the target, your targets motivation and your own power successfully.

Is this action going to be a demonstration? Is it a phone call? Is it a mass tweet? Is it a strike?

Whatever you choose it should be fun, involve as many people as possible, be based on your power and ensure that your target meets with you afterwards.

How does this action build leadership?

Whatever this campaign is, it probably wont be your groups last. The best campaigns bring new people into the organisation and develop peoples skills so that they are better equipped next time round. It’s worth considering what skills will be learnt throughout the campaign before you start.


I also talked very quickly through a power analysis tool which is explained in great depth here

and I gave out this worksheet explaining in a bit more depth the considerations before starting a campaign.