how to:How To Plan a Campaign For Social Change Before You Start It
Every campaign, no matter the size and your technology savvy, should be planned before it gets kicked off. In this how-to guide, you'll identify:
-The resources you have and need in order to acheive this goal
Hint! From here we'll suggest you check out some tools and tactics for more effective collaboration and fundraising.
-Tactics, actions and ways to mobilize people
-Hint! For more on this skip straight to our guides on encouraging people to take action.
-Your theory for how you will create the change you want to see
-A timeline for your campaign
-Hint! Any campaign that you launch will probably have some exciting periods and some less exciting moments - how will you build on momentum after a success and keep supporters engaged after a lull? You might want to skip straight to these tools and tactics for maintaining supporter engagement.
Define your long-term vision for change. Try and narrow it down enough to encourage success, or a series of successes, but not so much that this success is merely symbolic.
Define your short-term goals. A good short-term goal is…
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Framed.
Begin identifying the resources available to help you reach your goal.
For example, who can you work with? Collaboration is essential to success, and duplication of efforts hampers it. So take the time to research who else is working for the change that you are trying to achieve, and get in contact with them.
For more on this, check out our guide to coalition building, some tools and tactics for more effective collaboration, recruiting and managing volunteers and fundraising.
Narrow down what your most important resources are by identifying the audiences you’ll be targeting. Who will you have to engage in order to create the change you want to see?
You will probably be directing your campaign at two main audiences:
- Your constituency
Your constituency consists of your supporters - the people who you want to engage with your cause and with the actions that you believe will create change. They could be your peers (people you go to school with) or citizens in general. The more you narrow it down, though, the easier it will be to come up with a the right words to get them up out of their chairs! Before you can expect your constituency to grow, make sure as many people as possible know about what you’re doing (see our guide to awareness building!).
- Your target audience
These are the people who have the power to create the change you want to see. It could be a president, any other elected official or group of elected officials, shareholders of a corporation, executives at a corporation, or any other group with access to levers of power. Get to know this group well once you’ve identified it, because you’ll need to figure out what drives them to take action in order to be successful.
Power is about what you have and what the individuals/groups/institutions you’re interacting with have.
How can you get more resources- enough to shift the balance of power between, on the one hand, you and your constituency and, on the other, your target audience? What might you have that they need? Brainstorm!
In our case study on the Tunisian online activists who used their media savvy (resources) to attract international support, they grew a constituency that included well-known international human rights organizations. This global constituency had more leverage over the power wielders (target audience!) in Tunisia, and together they were able to get a student activist released from prison.
Turn this brainstorming into a theory for how the actions you launch will create the change you want to see. (Also known as a theory of change!)
Basically, don’t start planning a lot of tactics before answering this question:
How will everything that we do from this point on create the change that we want to see?
In order to figure out which actions will fit best into your theory of how you’ll create change, first make sure you understand the system that you are looking to influence. Talk to as many people as you can who are inside of this system. What drives them to make decisions? What are their sources of incoming revenue? Are there any disagreements at the top? Might anyone be upset at the how things are being done?
Draw out the tactics you will use. For the most part, tactics are pre-planned in a timeline that builds momentum over the months. But to a certain extent they are also created "on the go" to take advantage of situations as they arise.
It pays to constantly be aware of the shifting political framework, and be prepared to change one's strategies and tactics accordingly. (For more, check out our guides on mobilizing people to action).
Egyptian pro-democracy activists had been hard at work for years before an uprising began in nearby Tunisia. They were planning on protesting anyways on the 25th of January in 2011 but events in Tunisia created an opportunity to expand the scope of their police day demonstration, and they took that opportunity.
A tactic can push on those with access to the levers of power, for example a sit in or protest, or it can pull resources away from them, for example a boycott or strike. Check out this list of 198 tactics for non-violent action from the Albert Einstein Institution.
If you aren't safe and secure when using digital technologies for social change, especially in a more repressive environment, then you are minimizing your chances of success before even beginning. Read through our guides on digital security. Also check out our how tos on tactics for accessing blocked websites.
When defining the timeline of your campaign, keep in mind that it will be made of peaks, small successes where you reach short-term goals, and valleys, lulls or small failures. After each you will have to regroup, reevaluate your resources, your audiences and your tactics, and then move forward.
It may look something like this:
What does each peak and valley correspond to for your own campaign? How will you build on momentum after a success and keep supporters engaged after, or during a lull. Here are some tools and tactics for maintaining supporter engagement.
Delegate responsibility. Who will lead?
Check out how in the below diagram there isn’t just one leader making all the decisions and communicating them to everyone else. Instead, there are lots of leaders. And yet they are all connected to one another in a structured, and clearly defined, way.
The people in the middle may head up smaller teams with certain responsibilities. Everyone is a leader, but they are all coordinated and operating with a shared purpose and strategy.
Make choices about who will lead based on peoples’ different skill sets. Make sure to give people clear roles (you’re good at x, so were putting you in charge of x!), to clearly define how you will communicate with one another and to revisit your shared vision frequently.
Congrats! You should now have a plan in place for targeting the right people in order to change the balance of power so that you can effect change. The decisions you made as you followed these steps will most likely evolve over time, as your resources change, so keep coming back to them over the course of your campaign and readjusting as necessary!