Training 3: Strategy

This is the third in a series of training sessions we’ve put together that provide a background for those interested in campaigning and community organising. The videos were filmed over a two-day training program involving workshops on community organising, strategy, building support for an issue, and using the CommunityRun.org platform.

Camp CommunityRun was designed based on ‘Camp Obama’, a training program that was originally used in the USA by the Obama 08 campaign, and was widely acclaimed as a crucial element in the success of their field campaigning. GetUp! has run similar camps before.

In this session Sam McLean explains campaigning strategy using a fun example.

Filmed & produced by Change Media (changemedia.net.au)

Strategy

The direction of a campaign and how the energy of participants will be organized is a matter of strategy. In this section, we will think a bit about the strategy of a campaign and the more refined aspects of developing a strategy.

What is Strategy?

In a general sense, strategy is about taking a large problem and bringing it down to the smallest constituent lever that can be pulled. By outlining a series of small achievable steps on the way to a larger goal, a strategy gives you and your supporters a tangible idea of what you’re campaign will involve.

Although we probably all like to think that we know what strategy is, the truth is that strategy is a term which is misunderstood and often overlooked. Many campaigners make the mistake of confusing strategy, the overarching vision of a campaign, with tactics, the specific actions used to achieve this goal.

Developing strategy can be broken into four crucial steps;

  • 1. The Problem: Think about what is the problem that you’re trying to solve, at the highest level? In answering this question, you should describe the current world state that needs to be changed. It is also important to try and articulate this problem in the most specific way possible. For example, it is much more effective to describe a problem as, “the lives of blue whales in the arctic ocean are being endangered by oil drilling” than “blue whales are in trouble.”
  • 2. The Outcome: What is the outcome that you want to achieve? What does your ideal problem-free world look like?
    It is important to keep in mind that an “outcome” and a “solution” are not the same thing. An “outcome” is the particular world order you want to see come to fruition. A “solution”, on other hand, is a successful pathway towards achieving that outcome.
    To illustrate this point, let’s consider for a moment the campaign that GetUp is running against pokies. In this campaign, the desired outcome is that fewer people lose their lives to problem gambling. Mandatory pre-committments on poker machines, by contrast, may be a solution sought out to bring about that outcome.
    Understanding the difference between the outcome and solutions is very important in terms of strategising your campaign. Often, campaigners fall into the trap of focusing all of their efforts towards achieving a specific solution, and run the risk of losing sight of the actual outcome of the campaign. Often, there may be other avenues in existence apart from your chosen solution which may in fact be more effective and simpler to achieve.

  • 3. The Target: Who has the power to give us what we want? How can they help us?
    When looking at bodies that can help a campaign, it can be useful to perform a ‘power analysis’. This involves making a list of all of your possible targets and considering on one hand how much power they each have and the other, how willing they will be to help your cause. This will help you to identify who your prime targets will be.
  • 4. Influence: Who do you have the most potential to influence? What is about your group and that target which makes them liable to your influence?
    Deciding on targets for campaigns should not only consider what potential they have to affect the decision, but the ways in which your group can influence those targets. Often aiming straight for the top, for example the Prime Minister, may not be the best way to go about it. Consider instead starting within your local community first, and work your way up from there.
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