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The need for campaigning focus

Last month I had the opportunity to go over to Warsaw to run a two day training course over a weekend for Polish NGOs.

The brief for the workshop was fairly clear: to run an introductory session on campaigning to inspire and motivate the NGOs. As ever with these international workshops, and as I have blogged about before, I was slightly apprehensive – would my campaigning rhetoric resonate in a Polish context?

Yet as ever I found that the language of campaigning is truly global; it really is an international language. I found people who had a burning desire to achieve change, were focussed on the problem and the solution, knew who their targets were and were keen to think about relevant campaign messages. And when I talked about planning for that moment of campaign success, they were with me again and were keen to think about how they could build in such planning to their overall campaign planning.

But on the second day, one of the delegates came up to me and said that I had changed her thinking about campaigning. I was surprised as the group had seemed to be with me, but I asked her what she meant by that phrase. She said that she had been challenged by my insistence that campaigners needed to focus – to pick an issue and then stick with it to achieve change.

She said that she was now going to have to go away and re-think: what was their focus going to be? But she also knew that this concept of focus would be hard to promote in her NGO.

I was keen to respond that it is good to have your menu of things you want to see changed – never lose that policy shopping list. And always be on the look-out for opportunities to raise any of these issues. But focus is so important for effective campaigning. By all means use opportunities but do not lose sight of your primary focus and keep chipping away. There is always such a temptation to run with a variety of issues – but remember to focus.

And focus was also the key theme when I was in Manchester recently running a campaigning workshop for a dynamic group of refugee campaigners. We listed all of the injustices facing asylum seekers at the moment and came up with a long list of issues. In the refugee sector we are not short of things to campaign on – the challenge that they were left with was: what would be their campaigning focus?

So what is your campaigning focus at the moment? Do you have a focus for your campaigning or are you trying to run with a basket full of campaigns?