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Campaigning in collaboration

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A type of collaborative working

Change cannot happen without the active involvement, support and cooperation of others. Collaboration therefore often lies at the heart of successful campaigning and influencing and can be central to achieving lasting change.

Many of the challenges that campaigners face - from climate change to tackling poverty - can't be organisations acting alone. Strength in numbers can give better leverage and a coherent and coordinated voice to negotiate with. 

Organisations can campaign together in a range of different ways from loose networks to more formal structured coalitions and alliances and often collaborative working evolves over time in order to respond to external factors. 

Collaborative campaigning can:

  • Bring together a range of expertise knowledge, and experiences 
  • Lead to the sharing of resources and workloads
  • Allow access to a broader base of supporters and therefore reach a greater number of targets
  • Enable you to apply pressure to decision makers at various levels
  • Make a greater impact

Establishing a unified voice can offer unique opportunities to influence key decision makers and achieve change, but collaborative working can present particular challenges as well. We have a range of resources to support you in exploring the options of collaborative working and avoid some of the stumbling blocks. 

Why campaign in collaboration?

Working in collaboration can increase the impact of campaigns. Establishing a unified voice can offer unique opportunities to influence key decision makers and achieve change. Sharing resources can also enable campaigns to access a broad base of supporters and ensure a co-ordinated approach to targeting ministers and demonstrating the extent of support for a cause.

The combined voice can be very powerful when consensus is reached on a subject. Many successful campaigns have developed strong positions through reaching agreement with a wide range of supporting organisations.

"Decision-makers don't want individual organisations all talking at the same time. They want to know what the line is on an issue."
Brian Lamb, Special Education Consortium

The involvement of wider civil society in campaigning for social and political change has increased in recent years and has pushed campaigning higher up in the public's consciousness. Working in partnership can often be a means of gaining widespread public support, as some people are willing to sign up to a cause or movement, who might not sign up to a specific organisation.

Some of the benefits are:

  • Stronger, more united voice
  • Increased profile, credibility and influence with decision makers
  • Access to a wider supporter and campaigner base
  • Shared skills and experience, and improved learning opportunities
  • Shared workloads and pooled resources
  • Improved prospects for raising public awareness
  • Ability to apply pressure at various levels
  • Larger organisations can benefit from links or specialities of smaller organisations
  • Smaller organisations can benefit from profile, capacity or reach of larger organisations

Challenges to campaigning in collaboration

Careful consideration should be given to what all partners are hoping to achieve by working together, and how any potential pitfalls are to be avoided. In some collaborative campaigns, there may be 'baggage' - history, culture or political affiliation - which could prove problematic at the start of the campaign. Open, honest communication with partners is vital to the success of the campaign, particularly at the early stages when trust is developing.

Some of the challenges are:

  • Reaching agreements can take time and delay action
  • Mistrust as to the intentions of partners
  • Partners are overly protective of their own field or contacts
  • Disproportionate contribution of resources
  • Lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities
  • Communication problems
  • Compromised messages
  • Uneven profile or publicity
  • Reputational risk through association
  • Transaction costs

"Challenges were resolved through negotiation and because the lead individual in each organisation was trusted to have the best interests of the campaign at heart."
Jonathan Ellis, Asylum Voucher Campaign

Although there are many challenges to campaigning in collaboration, these can usually be resolved and are often outweighed by the potential advantages of campaigning in a network, coalition or alliance. Working collaboratively can be an effective mechanism for increasing the impact of a campaign.

Some examples of campaigning in collaboration

From the global reach of Make Poverty History to local communities coming together there's some great examples of campaigning in collaboration to get inspiration from.

Plane Stupid's 'adopt a resident' scheme is a great example of reaching out beyond your usual supporter base to listen and work with another other group affected by the same issue. Both groups shared the same goal of halting Heathrow's third runway although their reasons for doing so differed from global climate change to local environnment and quality of life.

Try thinking out of the box. A campaign coalition made up of eclectic groups of diverse organisations can make a powerful statement even before your campaign target has heard of your key messages. From professional bodies, trade unions, membership organisations even corporate organisations it's well worth researching who else if affected by the issue you wish to campaign on and could you work together to make more of an impact.

A couple of years ago the unlikely alliance of the Scouts, church groups and the Rugby Football Union successfully joined forces to lobby against a massive rise in water rates  in the Stop the Rain Water tax.

Page last edited Mar 15, 2016

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