A while ago I led an advocacy campaigns training course about how to work with the UK Government and Parliament. As part of that course, the group went across to Parliament and met with a Conservative MP to hear directly from him about the role of the MP.
One of the questions that the group asked the MP was: what do you look for when some-one comes to see you? His reply was interesting. He said firstly he would look for a local connection to his constituency. Fair point. And then he said something that really surprised me. He said that he also looked for fire in some-one’s eyes. And if they had passion about their issue, he was more likely to engage with them and to take them seriously.
Fascinating. A lesson there for all of us campaigners and certainly for me. I just know if you are working in a large bureaucratic organisation, it is sometimes easy to lose that passion and sink into the reality of working in a complex organisation. Yet there is an irony here because for all these large bureaucratic NGOs, they all started small with a burning desire to achieve change – that is why they were formed.
So while we talk about the need to professionalise campaigning, and I have been very involved with many others in developing campaign training, one thing is central and should never to be lost: don’t lose your passion and the fire in your eyes. It is one element that makes me love working for the voluntary sector – that you can show your passion.
I started my career in the NHS. And towards the end of my time there, I received an unsolicited piece of career feedback from my boss. He said to me if I was going to get on, I would need to leave my conscience at home. I decided I couldn’t do that and it led me to leave the NHS.
But after all my years in the voluntary sector, bringing my conscience to work with me, this was a real reminder and a note to myself: don’t forget to keep the fire burning in your eyes!