2016 was a hell of a year. But the result – of Brexit, of Trump, of everything – was that many of us who’d previously felt somewhat apathetic, suddenly had the urge to stand up, be counted and make sure our voices could be heard. The Women’s March on 21 January, for instance – which coincided with President Trump’s first full day in office – saw an incredible 4.5m women (and men) worldwide march for equal rights. Much of this was down to Trump himself – as singer and seasoned campaigner Annie Lennox points out, his “locker room talk” has been a catalyst to empower women.
But campaigning isn’t just about the big stuff. It can be about making a difference locally, too. Perhaps the young people in your area don’t have enough extracurricular activities available? Or that scrappy bit of land in your neighbourhood – could that become a project for you and your fellow guerrilla gardeners?
Sue Tibballs OBE is the chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, a charity that trains and supports both individual campaigners and campaigning groups. She has spent 25 years working as a campaigner. “The one thing I have learned is that it is possible to make change,” she says.
“People assume it is impossible to change things – that those with power don’t care about your issue and won’t help, In fact, the people making the big decisions often just don’t know about the thing you are campaigning about – so you need to make them aware, give them reasons to act and offer solutions.”
You also need to be campaigning about something you feel 100 per cent committed to – running a successful campaign will take up a huge amount of your time and energy. Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of Women for Women International UK, suggests thinking in terms of PACT. “PACT is our motto – be passionate, ambitious, committed and together; that’s what I tell my team.”
So how do you get started? Here’s the W&H five-point campaign plan…
1. Consider your message. Campaigning is all about having a good story and being clear about what you want your campaign to achieve. One way of doing that is writing your message as an “elevator pitch” – in other words, a succinct pitch that highlights why anyone should care in just two sentences. Be flexible – and realistic in your aims. You might not be able to get a local youth group knocked down to build another, for instance, but you may be able to raise funds for a fresh coat of paint.
2. Research, research, research. Read up on all the background, key players, legislation and any relevant policy. Also, speak to other people who will be affected by what you are campaigning about. As Sue Tibballs says, “Don’t bluster through – be properly prepared and know what you want.”
3. Make the right connections and encourage others to share your campaign. A good campaigner is adept at making connections and targeting the right people. So get on social media and contact celebrities via Twitter. Or contact a relevant charity to see if you can collaborate or share ideas. You need to ensure that others feel the same way as you – with enough connections, you can get a core group of people together to get your campaign off the ground.
4. Set up a petition. This is an easy way to demonstrate the support you have for your campaign. Visit ipetitions.com or, if you would like the Government to be involved, petition.parliament.uk. At 10,000 signatures you get a response from the government; at 100,000 signatures your petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
5. Hold an event. This is a great way to inform people about your campaign. You could also invite representatives from the organisation your campaign is targeting to spark a debate. Then think about a demonstration – a march, say, or a media stunt, to provide the visual image to your campaign.