Framing campaigns to win on multiple fronts

We need to frame our campaigns in a way that helps move people towards the values that mean one day, we’ll be obsolete.


This blog refers to the handbook for campaigners, Common Cause, which you can find here:


Aside from the multitude of colourful diagrams (reason enough for me to read any book, to be honest), I found reading this little pamphlet helped me to answer some of the questions I’d had for a long time about the way we approach campaigning. Over the years I’d been working in campaigns and watching others do the same, I’d sometimes found myself feeling uncomfortable with the way issues were talked about – it felt as if the rule was that it was OK to say what you like, if it got the job done.

It’s OK to make people think everyone who’s experienced rape is a victim, if it helps get funding for survivor services. It’s OK to talk about people in refugee camps as if they’re helpless, if it raises money to underpin the services they themselves are helping to design and deliver. It’s OK to present sustainable lifestyle choices in the same way as we present a flashy car or throwaway fashion, because it will make people shop more ethically without even realising that’s what they’re doing.

But something didn’t feel quite right about it, and this pamphlet explains why. It draws on decades of research to explain why it’s not just what we do that matters, it’s also what we say. People’s values are shaped by what they hear around them in almost all cases. So if you go and work in the City, you’ll start thinking the size of your car and your house are terribly important because those are the values that surround you every day.

Our job as campaigners is, first and foremost, to win the campaigns we run. But if we want to keep on winning more and more important fights, the way we run those campaigns matters too. We need to frame our campaigns in a way that helps move people towards the values that mean one day, we’ll be obsolete.

I found reading this pamphlet really helped me shape my own thinking about the way that I wanted to approach campaigning in the future. Winning will almost always be the most important goal. But when we have choices about how we plan to win – and we nearly always do – the critical thing to help us decide should be the extent to which our choices will help lay foundations for the generations of campaigners that come after us, by putting in place the values that will lead to enduring change.


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