In a nutshell, campaigns are sustained efforts at a specific social justice goal. Campaigns are a powerful way of strategically building the capacity, developing experience, and laying the groundwork for future movements. Simultaneously, campaigns win solid victories for social justice. – Daniel Hunter
Strategy is the art and practice of developing effective plans of action to achieve objectives and win campaigns. This guide highlights a number of resources which are contained in the Commons Social Change Library.
If you are new to the topic then you may want to start by checking some of the introductory resources listed below. After that it may be helpful to choose a strategy template to guide you through the process of planning. Depending on your approach to change, the manuals listed can provide a comprehensive immersion in that approach, with a number of tools you can use and lessons you can apply.
If you’ve been involved in campaigns for a long time perhaps you might like to try some individual tools to get a fresh perspective, experiment with the guides to creative and systemic thinking, or dig deeper with the books.
Our librarians have also created topic guides covering key areas associated with strategy. Understanding what power is, how it is used, and how to map and grow it, is crucial to developing strategy. Resources associated with that can be found at Power: Start Here. For tools and templates related to campaign communications see How to Change the Narrative. Case studies demonstrating how campaign strategies have been formed and applied can be found at Activist History: Start Here.
Introductions to Campaign Strategy
Daniel Hunter outlines the key elements of campaigns: a strategic time-tested model for effective social change work.
George Lakey says it’s time to retire one-off protests in favour of direct action campaigns to maximize the chance of winning victories.
An overview to clarify language shared by campaigners. The elements include campaign focus and goals; vision; situational analysis; critical path analysis; organisational considerations; allies, constituents and targets; objectives; tactics; evaluation and success indicators.
An excerpt from Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World. Campaigning involves activating, mobilising, and organising people to make change and influence others to make change.
What is a campaign? And how do you start one? Here are ideas, steps and handouts from Campaign Bootcamp UK to help you get started with your campaign planning.
Campaign Strategy Templates
This planning template prompts you to apply a number of different campaign strategy, community organising, and civil resistance concepts and tools.
From vision and strategy to storytelling and metrics, this template ensures you’ve touched on all the essentials of an effective campaign.
The Movement Building Canvas is a practical framework to help you, your team or your organisation design your movement for maximum impact.
Trying to get your campaign moving fast and need your thoughts in one place? This is a simple template for designing an advocacy campaign.
Members of the Sydney Cancer Advocacy Network often suggest ideas for new campaigns so SCAN came up with a process and template to help decide which campaigns were worth running.
Template Log Frame Matrix: A simple tool to make campaign planning and project management a pleasure
A simple tool to make campaign planning and project management a pleasure, helping to make clear connections between objectives and tactics.
Manuals and Toolkits
While this list includes a number of individual strategy tools, you can also use one of the existing manuals, guides and toolkits to lead you through the entire process of developing a strategy. Each one reflects their own approach to social change so see which fits best for you.
- Planning your First Campaign: Everyday Activism Handout Pack (Campaign Bootcamp)
- Campaign Accelerator Toolkit (Mobilisation Lab)
- Organizing: People, Power, Change (based on the work of Marshall Ganz)
- The Building Power Guide: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World (Original Power)
- Developing Strategic Campaigns: An ITF Manual for Trade Union Activists, Educators and Organisers (International Transport Workers’ Union)
- The People Power Manual: Campaign Strategy Guide (tCA & Pasifika)
- The Path of Most Resistance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Nonviolent Campaigns (ICNC)
- Climate Resistance Handbook (Daniel Hunter, 350.org)
- Blueprints for Change Progressive Organizing and Campaigning Manual (BfC)
- Resistance Guide (Paul Engler, Sophie Lasoff & Momentum)
- Nonviolence Trainer’s Resource Manual (Pt’chang)
- The Mobilisation Integration Toolkit (Greenpeace)
- The Mobilisation Cookbook: A Guide to cooking up People Powered Campaigns (Greenpeace)
- Beautiful Trouble Toolbox
- Organising for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists (Midwest Academy) This manual is available via the Internet Archive website. Sign up for free to borrow.
Other Strategic Models and Approaches
Bill Moyer developed the Movement Action Plan (MAP), incorporating 8 stages of a social movement and four roles of social activism.
Frameworks can help us make sense of the current context and plan the way ahead. This article outlines four frameworks describing how social movements achieve change, by Martin Luther King, Jr, George Lakey, Bill Moyer and Tim Gee.
Directed-network campaigns combine self-organized people power with enough centralized structure to focus on clear political and cultural targets.
The 8-Fold Path is used by all the members of the OPEN Network, which includes organisations around the world like GetUp (Australia), MoveOn (United States), and Campact (Germany).
See the manuals and books sections of this Topic Guide for other approaches to change, such as strategic nonviolence and the Ganz style of organising.
Identifying Problems and Issues
Use this diagram from Mobilisation Lab to chart the causes of the problem that your campaign aims to address and how that problem affects people differently. This tool helps identify the “root cause” to tackle in a campaign or even in a set of campaigns.
Drill down into the root cause of a problem your campaign aims to address. Shift focus from the event into underlying societal structures.
These tools for defining your campaign problem come from The Campaign Accelerator Toolkit by MobLab. Where will your campaign go? Which problems will you focus on solving?
This process will help reduce the scope of campaigns in order to focus efforts on where change can really be achieved.
Social power is the capacity of different individuals or groups to determine who gets what, who does what, who decides what, and who sets the agenda. – Srilatha Batiwala
Mapping Power and Campaign Context
This tool will guide your team through a power mapping analysis to inform your campaign strategy with a thorough picture of the players, and their power.
In the context of community organising, a Power Analysis is a tool that helps us begin to understand where power currently sits within a community.
This Context Map template allows a team to foster a collective understanding of the overall context in which a campaign is happening.
Campaign research gives you the information you need to set winning strategy and deploy resources wisely.
This guide dives into 3 tools that can be used as part of a campaign design process: system maps, network maps and narrative power analysis.
For more on analysing power relationships and planning to shift them see Power: Start Here.
Mapping Stakeholders and Assessing Roles
Use this tool to identify the social groups that are affected by your issue, and locate those groups along a spectrum, from active opposition to active allies, so you can focus your efforts on shifting those groups closer to your position.
This excerpt from Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements introduces the crucial four roles required for social movement success.
Social movements are made up of many individuals and organisations with varied strengths, perspectives and theories of change. In order to win, we need to effectively identify and value not only our role, but also the role of others in our movement.
For more see Coalition Building: Start Here.
Engaging Supporters and Activists
An outline of the Circles of Commitment model which has been adapted from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church. The model defines levels of engagement by people in a campaign, with insights about how to grow involvement in each circle.
Use this Engagement Pyramid to visualise the different ways a person might get involved with your campaign.
Momentum has valuable insights on mobilisation, absorption and leadership development.
For more see Organising: Start Here.
A theory of change statement is a tool to understand your strategy and how (or if) it will work. Being able to articulate a clear theory of change statement is a prerequisite to an effective campaign. – Marshall Ganz
Defining Theories of Change
A theory of change statement is a tool to understand your strategy and how (or if) it will work. This article and template is based on the work of Marshall Ganz.
Getting clear on our theory of change can be personally empowering as well as important for strategic alignment within organisations and campaigns. This article draws on the Resource Manual for a Living Revolution.
A well-crafted theory of change helps align the available energy, keeping your team focused and clear-headed about the change you plan to make and how. This is the Change Agency’s approach to theory of change.
Choosing Strategic Tactics
This tool names some key factors that change agents should consider when determining their tactics. The same tool can be used to evaluate actions after they have been carried out.
An approach to planning the location of tactics to have the greatest impact, particularly in terms of narrative power.
Stuck in a rut when it comes to campaign tactics? Explore Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent action which are classified into three categories: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention.
Other Campaign Planning Tools
Critical path analysis can shift focus to outcomes rather than tactics and provide experience and skill in defining clear objectives.
This worksheet helps you apply the principles of the directed-network campaigning.
This campaign design framework supports organisations rolling out distributed organizing efforts, drawing from best practices of successful networks.
Understand when to talk and when to fight with this model for talking about conflict, negotiation and resistance.
Any movement-based organization seeking to build, exercise, and win political power must have sophisticated strategic capacities to be able to navigate uncertain, dynamic, and constantly shifting political environments. – PowerLabs
Watch this webinar recording to understand and assess your organization’s strategic capacity. Use strategy to build and win political power.
How do you measure the impact of activism and advocacy work? Here are some ideas, resources and organisational examples to get you started.
How can we equip ourselves to design effective monitoring and evaluation approaches for campaigns, movement building and organising work?
For more see evaluation resources on the Commons.
Developing Strategic, Creative and Systemic Thinking
Help campaigns and organising strategies be more effective at driving systems change with this guide from Blueprints for Change on systems thinking.
6 tools for creative idea generation for your next campaign by Mobilisation Lab e.g. mind maps, idea generation, picture prompts, prototypes, etc.
Strategic questioning is a powerful tool which helps people discover their own strategies and ideas for change. It can be valuable in campaign strategy, group consultation processes, one-to-one organising conversations, coaching and many other contexts.
Anita Tang shares the process for running a Campaign Clinic to generate fresh ideas and innovations in campaigning.
- Strategy and Soul: A campaigner’s tale of fighting billionaires, corrupt officials and Philadelphia casinos (Daniel Hunter) – see reviews, excerpt and reader’s guide, and Commons articles, including the ‘move the rock’ concept
- How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning (George Lakey) – ICNC webinar and Q&A about the book
- This is an Uprising: How nonviolent revolt is shaping the twenty first century (Mark and Paul Engler) – see review
- Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements (Bill Moyer) – see Movement Action Plan resources
- No Shortcuts: Organising for Power in the Gilded Age (Jane McAlevey) – see review
- The Activist Handbook (Aidan Ricketts) – see review
- Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in Twenty First Century America (Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa) – reviews, excerpts, videos and more
- Re:Imagining Change: How to use story-based strategy to win campaigns, build movements, and change the world (Doyle Canning & Patrick Reinsborough) – download the first edition or buy the second edition
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