I was asked a great question the other day: who needs to know about the impact of your advocacy campaigns?
It stopped me in my tracks, and did give me food for thought. When I started my campaigning work at Oxfam, I remember being keen for public recognition of the role that Oxfam was playing in any campaign. I was involved in the campaign to abolish supermarket vouchers for asylum seekers almost 15 years ago now, and while it was a successful campaign involving many organisations, I still wanted some public recognition along side others of the role that Oxfam was playing.
I wasn’t that obsessed by the need for profile, but I did want some degree of external recognition for Oxfam. Although I remember some of my colleagues wanting more profile for the organisation. I will never forget the degree of concern there was when I arranged a press conference on the issue, which included the British Medical Association and the Transport and General Workers’ Union – but without Oxfam. I do think that there will be stages of a campaign where you will make judgments that your organisation is not needed. But not withstanding that point, I still wanted recognition for Oxfam.
Now at the Red Cross, I am interested to observe how, with the benefit of age perhaps, I have changed my thinking. We are seeking to influence government policy on the section 4 azure payment card for asylum seekers – a sad carry-over from the former vouchers scheme.
I now find myself less concerned about public recognition of the role played by my organisation. My increasing focus is on the humanitarian suffering caused by this payment card and pushing for a return to cash payments for this group of people.
Yet I do realise that there are important audiences from whom I do still want some recognition for the role of the Red Cross. Chief amongst that audience are our staff and volunteers – and indeed our wider supporter base. I would also be keen for the key Parliamentarians to know about our work to help us build credibility for future engagement.
The information that I would like to convey is less about our impact but more about our progress with our theory of change. By this piece of jargon I basically mean telling the story of the campaign. The more I do this work the more I see successful campaigning is about being able to tell the story of your campaign. Such a story will include both the past and the future.
So I hope to convey to my key audience the journey that we have covered to date and then the future direction we plan for our campaign. And with any such story there will be breakthroughs and set-backs – the campaign story needs to include both but always with a focus on the new future direction.
For me now in my campaigning, recognition is less important, but the significance of telling the campaign story is even more needed that ever. Do you involve story telling in your campaigning?