Whilst Senior Campaigner at Friends of the Earth
Apart from your current organisation which other organisations that campaign do you admire and why?
The Feeding5K (and their latest campaign @ThePigIdea) has been so impressive in engaging hugely diverse audiences – from grassroots and the public chopping veg at seriously fun events across the globe to high level UN delegates discussing global action. It’s been canny at surfing a wave of interest in a huge waste problem (in reality, partly created that wave) and benefitted from having a great communicator who also knows his stuff in Tristram Stuart.
Generally are organisations getting better at campaigning since you began your career? If so, what’s changed?
Things have changed massively from that pre web & digital era when I started – there was more deep commitment and late nights but probably less actual impact on policies and practices. We would shout as loud as we can but not be heard. Now we shout more carefully but so do many others (business, the web). We’ve been slow to adopt the right tools on occasion eg social media but we are, mostly, far more disciplined at mapping influence and knowing how to really effect change. One development I have witnessed is the over-adoption of business management jargon and approaches which don’t really suit time- and resource-poor NGOs.
Which campaigner inspires you most?
Sorry it’s not one – it would have to be the collective group of amazing local campaigners who achieve tangible changes locally – I meet many in the Friends of the Earth local Group network and in FoE International. They don’t get paid, yet year on year they plug away getting stuff done- awesome campaigners who blow my mind!
What three attributes make a good campaigner?
There are different types of campaigning but overall
1. An ability to multitask – from fundraising to coping with a live R4 Today programme interrogation
2. An open mind ready for new ideas or challenging preconceived ideas
3. a great and engaging communicator
What’s the most rewarding or exciting campaign you’ve worked on and why?
Most rewarding in outcome terms was the supermarket campaign to get a new retail Code of Practice and an Ombudsman –we got a new law and it involved working with lots of strange bedfellows – it took 8 years and is not perfect but it’s a start..
Most exciting – The Friends of the Earth Fix The Food Chain Campaign – we did hugely crazy things (like dress up as cows dancing to a silent disco in Liverpool Street Station) to get a new Bill in parliament. It was ahead of its time and a major challenge to get the messaging right and get people engaged.
How do you feel campaigns will change over the next five years?
Going against the grain I think they will be more about people on the ground, movement building.. The digital revolution has a key place and is a mighty tool – but truly engaging people will have to come from working with them more closely, recognising how to frame the campaign asks in ways which reflect real lives and values.
What advice would you give someone starting their career in campaigning today?
Get stuck in a local campaign so you develop a strong understanding of how messages and ideas play out with ‘real people’ as opposed to the strange NGO community!. But also work or volunteer if you can in an NGO – a great way to get experience. Just do stuff.. it does not matter what the topic is!
If you weren’t a campaigner, what would you be?
It would probably be an entomologist – finding fantastical new insect species in some remote part of the world or discovering a great way to manage pest populations in ways which did not harm biodiversity. Or a novelist…