The summer is a time for relaxed chats in my Brixton office. This week it was with a seasoned NGO campaigner who’s been on a break and wondering about re-entry into the UK/global development and environment campaign scene at the research-y end. Where are the gaps and potential niches that a bright, reflective, experienced campaigner-turned-researcher could help to fill? Here’s a few that came up, inevitably influenced by How Change Happens and attendant reading.
Implementation Gaps: A lot of successful campaigning targets the gap between policy and practice – what the government or the law has said vs. what is happening in reality. It may not have the intellectual appeal of starting with a clean sheet and saying ‘if I ruled the world, I would do X’, but the chances of getting somewhere are much higher. So how about a guide to IGap campaigning – how to identify them, work out which ones are the most promising, case studies of success, questions to ask etc?
Positive Deviance: I’m getting increasingly obsessed with this as a huge potential addition to the development repertoire. Instead of jumping in and opening a project or campaign, start by looking for the positive outliers that already exist on any given issue. Go and study them, and then use social learning to spread the message. The outsider acts as a facilitator, not a ‘doer/intervenor’. But all the positive deviance examples I’ve seen refer to programming – tackling on-the-ground problems like child malnutrition in Vietnam. What would a PD-based campaign look like? Go out and identify existing positive outliers on tax evasion, respect for human rights, or smallholders in value chains, then build a campaign to scale them up?
In my last blog, I spoke about how a simple video message about a warlord who lives thousands of miles away from most of the video’s viewers, created by Jason Russell, inspired millions to “make Kony famous”, and end the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Many of us development professionals entered the profession with a desire to create a better world. We knew it would take time and effort but were happy if we knew we made at least a small dent. With technology, our dreams have suddenly become bigger. Is it really possible to use technology to amplify development impact? If anything the KONY 2012 campaign gave all of us believers in the power of technology to do good, something we longed for - HOPE.
Zero to 66 million views on YouTube in just five days (March 5-March 10). Mostly teenagers and young people. Celebrity tweets from Oprah and others.
The essence of the campaign: A simple video message about a warlord who lives thousands of miles away from most of the video’s viewers, created by Jason Russell, inspired millions to “make Kony famous”, and end the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony and the LRA are allegedly responsible for large scale killings, and rapes of women and children in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
There has been some criticism of their efforts: Some victims say it has come too late (Telegraph). Others ask how are we ever going to awaken to our civil responsibility to demand more from our sitting governments if we are lulled into a dependency state for every civil service we should rightly expect from our governments? (CNN). Some African critics of the Kony campaign see a ‘white man’s burden’ for the Facebook Generation (New York Times).
Today, or so the conventional wisdom goes, if you have a compelling issue and a laptop, you can influence people and win hearts and minds in the process. Hence the rise of online advocates, such as Change.org, who run campaigns for groups like Amnesty International for a fee. See the related article in the Washington Post. In Change.org’s case, the general public can create online petitions for free and get help and visibility for their campaigns.
Change.org was originally conceived as a nonprofit, but now it and other companies with a social purpose, e.g., Patagonia Inc., are part of a new and emerging group of “benefit corporations.” What are these corporations and how will they affect us in the future?
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been targeting the World Bank Group for 25 years in an effort to influence its economic, social, and environmental policies. Many of these advocacy campaigns have been quite contentious and critical over the years, the most visible being the ‘50 Years is Enough' campaign of the 1990s which called for the abolishment of the Bank. While this particular campaign was obviously not successful, it is clear that some of the most important Bank reforms adopted over the years – environmental safeguards, compliance mechanisms, and access to information – were spearheaded by civil society.
The use of relevant and credible evidence from the ground is crucial in strengthening arguments and incentives for reform. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, for example, was successful in part because of the evidence gathered and presented by experts with practical experience from conflict-torn societies. Forging strong ties with local actors and ensuring inclusive representation in coalitions are crucial factors for successful campaigns.
To this point, Transparency International (TI), a global coalition to fight corruption, recently introduced Participatory Video (PV) as part of their program on Poverty and Corruption in Africa. The introduction of PV is a first for TI, and it is used as a tool to engage and partner with the poor in fighting corruption. In collaboration with InsightShare, a leading company in PV, TI’s African National Chapters have started training local communities on how to create their own films, capturing authentic stories about corruption and how it impacts their daily lives. Alfred Bridi discusses his experience about the training process in Uganda and has made a short film (see above) to illustrate the process and enthusiasm among the participants.
In reviewing effective strategies in global policy advocacy campaigns, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a prime example of an effective campaign. The campaign’s efforts in creating and advocating for the norm of a complete ban on landmines led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, and the Nobel Peace Prize a few months later. Don Hubert provides a thorough analysis of key factors that led up to the establishment of the Treaty, which reflects S. Neal MacFarlane’s argument that “the humanitarian imperative is best served not by avoiding the political process but by consciously engaging it” (p. 5). The following are some of the factors Hubert, ICBL and MacFarlane identify as key to the campaign’s success:
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you will know that we in CommGAP are interested in learning how to change social norms for better governance and accountability. In a forthcoming paper, I will take a closer look at the journey of norms in development; how they emerge, become global norms and diffuse to local contexts. In reviewing global advocacy campaigns that led to transformational and normative change, it’s hard to ignore one of the most successful and important reform movements of the 19th century, namely the UK’s Anti-Slavery Campaign. How did the campaign manage to change such deeply entrenched norms as slave trade and slavery throughout the British Empire in some 50 years? Clearly, it’s a unique case that involved many institutional and environmental factors, and it would be impossible to cover all of them in a single blog post. However, the campaign would not have succeeded if it wasn’t for a number of critical components that are of great interest to what we are learning about social norms and successful reforms.