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Creating a campaign strategy

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The starting point for any campaign is understanding what the problem is and pinpointing a solution to that problem (see analysing the issue section for further information). From this, you can create a clear campaign aim which will act as a beacon towards which everyone involved in the campaign should head.

A campaign strategy sets out the headlines of your campaign. Most campaigns are likely to also need more detailed plans too. 

Setting the campaign aim

In one sentence you need to set out a clear campaign aim encapsulating the ultimate purpose of the campaign, the change you want to see and the impact you want to make. It should be easy to communicate and clear to understand. This campaign aim should be:

  • compelling and inspiring
  • targeted – identifying who or what needs to change
  • focusing on impact – articulating what real-world change will result
  • succinct.

Aims are not the same as objectives, which are the changes you will need to see to contribute to achieving your overall aim. You may have several objectives, each of them stepping stones on the path towards your aim, but you will only have one campaign aim.

To have a realistic aim you need to:

Brian Lamb explains step-by-step how to build a theory of change for campaigning in NCVO’s Good guide to Campaigning and Influencing. Below are some of the basics:

What is a theory of change?

A theory of change is essentially your pathway of how you think you will create change. To build a theory of change you need to start with your ultimate aim – that is the change that you wish to make. Everything that you do must contribute towards achieving that ultimate aim. It is also important to work out what is achievable given the resources you have available to you and the environment you are working in.

A ‘theory of change model’ is a powerful tool for focusing your campaign strategy and planning. It brings a focused view of how to make change happen and explores the assumptions behind each of the stages on the way, identifying the conditions needed for change to happen and what campaign activities might produce that change. This process forces campaigners to list in sequence their planned activities and to draw logical connections between these and their expected outcomes and impact.

Importantly, any particular campaign theory will not necessarily be fixed but will change as you take on board new evidence or as the theory is tested by the impact of your campaign actions.

Elements of a theory of change

In summary, the basis of a theory of change is to state the ultimate aim and impact you want to achieve and then describe what would need to happen to reach that point. The main elements of the theory of change model are:

  • stating a clear aim or ultimate impact you want to achieve
  • mapping the activities that campaigners should undertake to achieve that campaign aim
  • mapping of how you will achieve your outcomes that work towards the ultimate aim
  • understanding different ways of achieving social change
  • identifying how/where you need to build the capacity of the organization or campaign group to achieve change
  • build in evaluation.

You can learn more about how to build a theory of change and how to use it in campaigning, in NCVO’s Good Guide to Campaigning and Influencing [insert link].

For a deeper look at how to build a theory of change and example theories of change, you can download NCVO’s guide Campaigning for Change: Learning from the United States, written by Brian Lamb.

How to create a theory of change is also included in NCVO’s one-day campaigning training: Creating a winning campaign strategy and our flagship Certificate in Campaigning.

NCVO’s experienced consultants can also come into your organization and facilitate you to develop your own theory of change for a campaign.

Further information

Campaign strategy template

Page last edited Sep 28, 2017

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