Whilst Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Crisis Action
Apart from your current organisation which other organisations that campaign do you admire and why?
I’ve recently been inspired by the entire campaigning sector following the collective work we’ve all been doing in response to the ‘Gagging Law’. As someone who has a lot of experience in coalition campaigning, it’s been wonderful to see so many different voices from the UK charity sector speaking as one in a targeted and effective way to push for change.
Generally are organisations getting better at campaigning since you began your career? If so, what’s changed?
Absolutely – it’s been very exciting to see this development over the years. Campaigning has become much more professionalised and, with that, we’re seeing a stronger focus on monitoring and evaluation. As a result, the sector is becoming much better at identifying and achieving impact. We’ve also become better at learning from our colleagues in fundraising – building campaigner journeys that ensure supporters around the country can be turned into activists. Finally, the eventual embrace of new technologies – particularly social media – is having a fascinating effect on the responsive capacity of organisations.
Which campaigner inspires you most?
I regularly work with Sudanese or Syrian activists who put themselves at serious risk by speaking out on abuses taking place in their country. I am awed by the dedication and bravery they show in doing so – it is a privilege to work with them.
What three attributes make a good campaigner?
First and foremost, any campaigner needs to be passionate about their work. This is what you need to influence others, to push on through the long hours and to keep going in the face of disappointment after disappointment. Second, you need to be strategic – able to work out the most effective, efficient route to influencing your target. And, finally, you need to be flexible in order to adapt your strategy to the myriad of unexpected changes that any campaign will encounter.
What’s the most rewarding or exciting campaign you’ve worked on and why?
In March 2012 I ran a social media campaign for the first anniversary of the Syrian conflict – Unite for Syria. We had no budget and no time but through sheer hard work were able to convince activists and celebrities the world over to support a multimedia campaign. On the day, we reached millions upon millions of people and the campaign itself became the story. It was wonderful to create something from literally nothing and to create a global community of activists all working together – from Brazil to Indonesia, India to South Africa, Egypt to the US.
How do you feel campaigns will change over the next five years?
I hope that campaigners will continue to be more and more driven by monitoring and evaluation. I also expect that the medium for our tactics will change as the sector catches up with all that the internet has to offer. That said, I still believe that the core components of campaigning will remain resolutely the same and that the strength of a constituent’s handwritten letter to an MP will always be one of the most powerful tactics we can deploy.
What advice would you give someone starting their career in campaigning today?
Immerse yourself in the campaigns of the whole sector – sign up to every newsletter and campaign bulletin! Get a feeling for how different organisations engage their supporters, the ambitions they set for themselves and the success they obtain. Make sure you have experience of local campaigning – volunteer in your community and experience the day to day of influencing local institutions and decision-makers. Finally, I would encourage anyone to work in Westminster for even just a short period of time in order to understand the ‘other side’ of campaigning, so that as a campaigner you appreciate the environment your targets will be working in.
If you weren’t a campaigner, what would you be?
A legal barrister – I’d still have to be arguing for a living!