Developing a Campaign Strategy

Introduction


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Every organisation – no matter its size, aim or budget - wants to be successful. That means setting goals, realising a vision for change and having an impact on peoples’ lives.

The goals your organisation sets may be complex or challenging – from ending Internet censorship to protecting and freeing political prisoners to creating conditions for a society’s access to information. The journey from setting aims to actually achieving results that will have an impact on people's lives is a demanding one.

While your organisation may undertake routine work toward its overall mandate, it is when it seeks to make a significant advance on a specific issue that it launches a campaign.

A campaign is a series of coordinated actions, organised within a strategy that aims to achieve concrete objectives in a specific timeframe.

In order to be successful in achieving change, a campaign needs to align with the overall framework of your organisation – its Vision and Mission:

Vision: the image of an ideal future towards which your organisation wants to contribute with its work. For example, “The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) strives for a world where freedom of expression is defended, respected and upheld.”

Mission: states what your organisation does to contribute to make its Vision a reality; it is its central purpose and raison d'être. For example, “As the leading global network defending and promoting freedom of expression, IFEX enhances its members’ work by creating distinct opportunities for capacity building, joint advocacy and increased visibility.”

It is from these conceptual terms of reference that your organisation has established its identity, developed its policies and hired its staff. The Vision and Mission are the organisation’s expressions of desire: what it wants to achieve and how it will achieve it.

The campaign should also align with and figure into the organisation’s Strategic Plan – the outline of how a group makes its Mission operational. Thus, the issue chosen for a campaign should already be part of your organisation’s Mission and Strategic Plan. If it’s not, there is risk of setting out on a path leading to frustration and failure since this plan guides decision-making around the use of resources based on your organisation´s objectives.


Planning: the key to success

With the campaign intrinsically linked to your organisation’s Vision, Mission and Strategic plan, it becomes possible to begin planning a Campaign Strategy – that is, a defined set of goals, objectives, activities, and monitoring and evaluation tools that will enable your organisation to achieve change around the issue it is focused on within a given time period.

The Campaign Strategy is the road map for the campaign. It ensures that all campaign activities work to achieve the campaign's overall objectives; it is also the reference point for evaluating the progress and success of the campaign. Having a Campaign Strategy is also effective for communicating plans to other stakeholders, including fundraisers and other financial decision-makers, in order to gain their participation and support.


The Campaign Cycle

This section will map out a process for undertaking strategic campaign planning as part of the Campaigning Cycle (see Figure 1). The Campaigning Cycle helps an organisation, whatever its size, to develop a successful campaign and to become more strategic and efficient when designing and implementing campaigns.
As mentioned above, the campaign is framed within the Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan of the organisation. The Campaigning Cycle can be divided in three phases that each take into account the stakeholders involved and decisions that need to be made:

Phase One: The issue and problem to be addressed by the campaign are decided;
Phase Two: The strategy is designed and implemented;
Phase Three: The outcomes of the campaign are evaluated and its results are analysed.

Phase One: Define the Issue and Identify the Problem
At this stage, the organisation decides on the focus of the campaign. Ideally representative members, board members, executive directors and senior managers are involved in this decision, perhaps with some input from outside specialists.

Issue: In the first strategic decision, the organisation must define the issue the organisation will focus the campaign on. This decision needs to be based on careful analysis of both external and internal factors.

Problem: There are many aspects to any one issue. For instance, the issue of Internet censorship includes the role of software providers collaborating with governments; the persecution and arrest of online journalists and bloggers; the banning of human rights-related websites, etc. To focus resources more strategically, organisations should select only one or two of the problems related to the larger issue.


Issue: In the first strategic decision, the organisation must define the issue the organisation will focus the campaign on. This decision needs to be based on careful analysis of both external and internal factors.

Problem: There are many aspects to any one issue. For instance, the issue of Internet censorship includes the role of software providers collaborating with governments; the persecution and arrest of online journalists and bloggers; the banning of human rights-related websites, etc. To focus resources more strategically, organisations should select only one or two of the problems related to the larger issue (See What to Campaign on: Choosing Your Campaigning Issue).


Phase Two: Design and Implement the Strategy
This stage covers the design and implementation of the campaign strategy, which includes setting the concrete objectives that the organisation aims itself to achieve in the timeframe of the campaign. In this stage, the organisation also needs to outline the activities and tools and resources it will employ to achieve these objectives: Phase Three: Identify Changes to the Issue and the Problem and Assess Impact
As the campaign comes to an end, the organisation needs to identify how the issue and problem have changed since the initiative got underway. Changes may be immediately visible - for example, a new law was passed that meets your campaigning objective, but the impact that comes from this change may take some time to be clear. For example, impacts may only be gauged by measuring an increase or decrease in the numbers of licenses awarded to independent media houses (covered by the law) in the months or years that follow.

Identify Changes: The organisation undertakes to identify, analyse, and communicate the changes achieved and triggered by the campaign
Assess Impacts: The organisation assesses the impact of the changes on the problem and the issue over time.
Note: to be effective and responsive, organisations should also systematically monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy and the achievement of campaigning objectives throughout all stages of the campaigning cycle.

By following the Campaigning Cycle, your organisation can ensure that its campaign is strategic, impact-oriented and safeguarded against being purely activity-driven. Ultimately, the success of a campaign is in its ability to produce changes in norms or practices that are measurable. Success will also mean that the impact of these changes is central to your organisation's Mission and Vision.

By Rafael Barca - expert consultant on campaigning and organisational strategic development
 
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
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