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6 pathways

In my last blog, I wrote about my new interest in London Citizens and their approach to organising taken from Chicago and the work of Saul Alinsky.

But as I finished last time, despite my enthusiasm I was left wondering where this approach fitted with other forms of campaigning the like of which I was more familiar.

Then I had the good fortune to attend a presentation by Chris Stalker on the work that he has been doing on advocacy capacity building. In his thought provoking session (and his forthcoming paper on advocacy capacity building written for INTRAC will be well worth reading), he referred to a report that has come out of the States: Pathways for Change: 6 theories about how policy change happens by Organizational Research Services.

The report sets out, you will not be too surprised to hear, six theories for how policy change happens – one of which includes organising. I have been sending this report out to loads of people since I heard Chris speak; what I like about it is that it shows campaigning as a spectrum with an array of approaches but different situations and issues will call on different approaches. It is good to see these different approaches laid out so clearly and with academic references and the relevant academic discipline – there is no one right approach.

So what are these pathways?

  1. ‘Large Leap’ – where large scale policy change is the goal. How about the campaign against apartheid?
  2. ‘Coalition theory’ – co-ordinated activity among a range of individuals with the same core belief. How about the campaign for a smoking ban in public places?
  3. Policy windows – advocates using a window of opportunity to push a policy solution. How about the current initiatives to use the government review of child detention to push for an end to all asylum detention?
  4. ‘Messaging and frameworks’ – the key issue for influence is how issues are framed and presented. How about campaigners at the moment trying to re-frame their issue in the language of the Big Society?
  5. ‘Power Politics’ – where policy change is achieved by working directly with those with power. This made me think about my own campaigning with the last government on tackling empty homes.
  6. Community organising theory – where policy change happens through the collective action of the members of a community who work on changing problems affecting their lives. How about the London Citizens Living Wage campaign?

But don’t take my interpretation of this paper – take a look yourself! If you read one thing over the next few months as part of your own professional development how about you take a look at this article and see how you respond to these six pathways?