5 ways Campaign Bootcamp saved my bacon this year

We often get asked what difference Bootcamp makes - so we're launching a new blog series where Bootcamp graduates can share how Bootcamp helped them make change happen

We often get asked what difference Bootcamp makes – so we’re launching a new blog series where Bootcamp graduates can share how Bootcamp helped them make change happen. Here’s our first one, by Emma Howard, a graduate of Bootcamp 2. 

Emma Howard at Campaign Bootcamp 2 Emma Howard at Campaign Bootcamp 2

“How did I end up here?” I asked myself in February, after being asked to “take care” of the campaign side of Keep it in the Ground, the Guardian’s new climate change project – until the only other employee with campaigning experience moved over from the USA.

I’ve been part of plenty of campaigns and was thoroughly delighted that our editor was taking a stand on the social justice issue of our time, but with my campaigning career decidedly in its infancy, I felt a lot more daunted that I did excited. There was definitely the potential for me to do something like this:

So how did I end up here? Campaign Bootcamp, that’s how. One year ago I joined their programme and community – and boy has it come in useful recently. Here are just five of the ways that it has done that:

The theory

When a task feels overwhelming, getting started is generally the best remedy. But you generally need a template to do that and Bootcamp gives you those in bucketfuls: the building blocks to create a campaign strategy, a map of powerful influencers or the 18 ways you can win or lose a policy argument.

The confidence to talk about it

A newspaper is not a campaigning organisation and the kneejerk reaction of most journalists is to get something out the door as fast as is humanly possible – not to think strategically about its impact. So it can require more than a shot of caffeine to suggest to a time-strapped editor that they might want to do things differently. Knowing the theory – and knowing I’d been taught it by some of the best in the business – gave me the confidence to stress, for example, that email (long forgotten for most in the newsroom) is fundamental to any digital campaign.

The comfort of a mentor who had my back

Theory is crucial, but the crunch time comes when you have to put it into practice. It was the weekend before we needed to pick a target – or two – and have some idea of how to influence them. My head was swarming with so much theory I couldn’t pin any of it down. It was time to pay my mentor a visit. She obliged my request – on a Sunday night, and with a hot dinner no less – and helped me to unpick my concerns, apply the theory and return on Monday with a host of both questions and answers.

A place for collaboration

Bootcamp is full of like-minded and like-skilled people – so partnerships are practically waiting to happen. It was here that I first became aware of the work of the responsible investment charity ShareAction through a fellow Bootcamper and ShareAction employee, Colette G. St-Onge. The Keep it in the Ground campaign is focused on fossil fuel divestment – and so my awareness of their work and the existing relationship came in useful for getting a partnership off the ground in the space of little more than 24 hours. Colette built a tool for the series I am currently running on personal divestment; it allows our readers to email the most appropriate person at their pension fund and ask for a fossil free option. When they receive their replies, we will work together to help readers to understand them.

A community to turn to

Even a job you love and are privileged to do can be stressful and tiring. The Campaign Bootcamp community is a safe space – both offline and on – to share concerns and bounce around ideas. “How do I organise a Downing Street petition delivery?”, “Does anyone have a contact who works at Facebook?” or “I’m exhausted. Who can meet at the pub in two hours?”

It’s also an endless source of inspiration to pick you up after that long day, week or month.  From taking on entrenched misogyny in the tabloids to fighting for legislation to stop the sale of conflict diamonds, this community is a constant reminder of why we do it – and how we can do it better and with a smile on our faces.

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