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Understanding the world you are campaigning in

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When deciding whether to embark on a campaign, you need to assess both the environment your campaign is functioning in and the decision-making process you want to influence. You’ll also want to understand the wider work of your organisation, including the views and needs of the people you represent and support.

Some changes can happen quickly in the face of major threats or when there is massive public demand for action. However, most changes are the result of years of careful nurturing of evidence (the ‘drip drip’ effect) until a particular view becomes common sense without anyone having been aware of the change.

Many factors can influence the success of a campaign and also whether there are any consequences of the campaign that no one had foreseen. These consequences can have positive or negative effects. You must therefore ensure that your campaign issue and strategy are open to revision and development, and undertake risk assessments to minimise the risks.

Tools for analysing your environment

Understanding the environment in which your campaign is running can also help to minimise risks and help you make important decisions about your campaign. There are several well-established and simple tools to help you analyse the environment to decide if you have found the right issue to embark on a campaign.

The following tools are explored in-depth, along with practical examples, in NCVO's Good Guide to Campaigning and Influencing. NCVO’s guide to strategic planning, Tools for Tomorrow also includes step-by-step guides to selecting and using tools that can help in your campaigning. You can also take a look at the strategy section of our Knowhow Nonprofit website.

SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

A SWOT summary enables you to organise the information you’ve gathered while investigating the campaigning climate into four categories. You can also explore your organisation’s internal priorities and capacity.

SWOT analysis is best done in a group to consider what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your campaign may be. Things you might consider could include:

  • resources, expertise, skills, capacity, funding
  • the current environment and future trends
  • how the issue is positioned
  • your stakeholders such as beneficiaries, supporters and funders.

PEST: political, economic, social, and technological

PEST uses these four categories as a manageable way of arranging a large amount of information, helping you to assess how these factors are likely to influence your ability to effect policy change. Variants of PEST analysis also look at the environmental, legal and ethical factors (PESTEL and STEEPLE).

Forcefield analysis

Once you have completed SWOT and PEST analysis it can be helpful to analyse the forces for and against any change you are contemplating to see how realistic your idea is and what key issues you would need to address to bring about change.

Stakeholder analysis

Stakeholders are people or organisations who are affected by the issue. A stakeholder analysis is used to identify allies and opponents to your campaign, and prioritise whom to target. It also helps to determine your influencing strategy – who you’ll influence, how and when – and priority audiences for you to focus your resources on.

Page last edited May 08, 2017

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