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Campaigning on Hot v Cold Issues – What’s the Difference?

Duncan Green's picture

I recently began an interesting conversation with our new campaigns and policy czar, Ben Phillips, who then asked me to pick the FP2P collective brain-hive for further ideas. Here goes.

The issue is ‘cold’ v ‘hot’ campaigning. Over the next couple of years, we will be doing a lot of campaigning on climate change and inequality. Inequality is flavour of the month, with an avalanche of policy papers, shifting institutional positions at the IMF etc highlighting its negative impacts on growth, wellbeing, poverty reduction, and just about everything else. That makes for a ‘hot campaign’, pushing on (slightly more) open doors on tax, social protection etc.

In contrast, climate change is (paradoxically) a pretty cold campaign. Emissions continue to rise, as do global temperatures and the unpredictability of the weather, but you wouldn’t think so in terms of political agendas or press coverage (see graph). The UN process, focus of huge attention over the last 15 years, is becalmed. Politicians make occasional reference to ‘green growth’, but that is becoming as vacuous as its predecessor ‘sustainable development.’

The distinction is not so clear cut, of course. Hot campaigns can suddenly go cold and vice versa (politicians and officials are able to go from saying ‘no, don’t be ridiculous’ to ‘we’ve always supported this’ with bewildering ease, when the moment is right). You could argue that the Arms Trade Treaty campaign was one of those. But a campaign needs to get seriously hot if it involves a major redistribution of power and influence (like taxation/inequality or climate change, but not, I would argue, the Arms Trade Treaty).

So the essay question is: do you campaign differently on hot v cold campaigns, and if so, how? Here are some initial thoughts:

#4: I Paid A Bribe

Sabina Panth's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on January 12, 2011

I Paid a Bribe is a recently launched online tool that strives to change the perception of corruption and move citizens from apathy to action.  Its goal is to “uncover the market price of corruption” by encouraging victims to report on incidences when they have been forced to pay a bribe, when they have resisted a demand for a bribe, or when they didn’t have to pay a bribe because of honest officers on duty or improvements in law or procedures.  The format for reporting is compartmentalized in a manner that allows both the viewers and the host organization of the website to observe the nature, pattern, types and distribution of bribes across cities and government departments in India.