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Is campaigning a global activity?

Is campaigning a global activity? Can campaigning ideas be shared across the globe? Recently I had the chance to find out as I led a day at the International NGOs Training and Research Centre’s (INTRAC) summer school on advocacy.

In the room that day were an impressive array of campaigners from across Europe, Asia and Africa. They were united by two things: their ability to speak English and their burning desire to campaign to change something.

I had been asked to lead a day on my book, which looks at how you cope once you have achieved a breakthrough on a campaign. I had done similar sessions in the UK, but this was my first international audience. Would my ideas resonate with them?

I started with a degree of trepidation. I talked about how very often a breakthrough comes and campaigners aren’t ready for it – that was certainly true for me. How you need to plan for success and even after you have made a breakthrough you need to keep making the case for change. I talked about how relationships with your target, especially if it is the government, will change, as will your relationships with the media and your allies. We also covered the prospect of being campaigned against.

These messages had all come from my own learning from campaigning and the mistakes that I had made as well as the case study campaigns that I had interviewed for the book.

Slowly across the room I could see the delegates engaging with these issues. The lessons that I had reflected upon in a UK perspective seemed to echo with campaigning across the continents. ‘We had never thought about planning for success’ said one delegate. I had to confess that it had never occurred to me either until I had been caught out by not doing so.

This day had a profound impact on me. Yes, there are cultural, social and political differences in campaigning around the globe, but there are some key principles, which seem to apply wherever you are based. Campaigning truly is a global language.