5 unexpected tools for the keen campaigner

Petitions, letter writing, provocative slogans on t shirts…the essentials when campaigning on social change. Throw in a few media stunts with over-sized props and you’re looking at a campaign win. Maybe…? Here at Scope we’ve been trying out some tactics that aren’t as common when campaigning – and learning a lot along the way.

As we’re recruiting for a National Campaigns Officer, we’ve been reflecting on some of the unexpected tools we’ve used so far…

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1) Glitter

Arguably a useful resource to have around whatever you’re doing, last Christmas we proved that glitter can also be a powerful campaigning tool.  Also essential was glue, and over 1,800 stars with wishes for better support for disabled children. In December we found that glittery wish stars could be the magic ‘thread ‘ so often sought by campaigners – tying together a key policy ask with a media- worthy action that resonates with the public and all while catching the attention of decision-makers.

It was all part of the Keep  Us Close campaign, aiming to ensure that disabled children and their families  get the support they need close to home. The Wish Stars were displayed on a 20ft Christmas Tree at a Parliamentary reception, and then sent onto MPs afterwards – from whom we got many positive responses: “the stars have pride of place in my office in Westminster”. They even made it onto the Guardian.

Why it works: Creative delivery and meaningful messages, together with a clear destination for campaign actions (a Parliamentary Christmas tree, say) should never be underestimated.  Neither should the power of glitter.

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2) 236 till points

Charity shops. Great places to pick up a bargain, and maybe leave with a warm glow knowing you’ve donated to a good cause. A place to lobby influential decision makers? To learn about key issues affecting disabled people today? Surprisingly yes – the charity shop till point ranks highly as one of the most important tools for a Scope campaigner.

In the past year, Scope customers have sent over 43,000 campaign postcards to MPs on key campaign issues. The shops dedicated a month each to Scope’s key campaigns in October and again in May, with posters throughout the shop and staff and volunteers encouraging their customers to sign campaign postcards that were sent to their MP – and they did, in their thousands. And with the card-signing came valuable conversations. MPs also visited the shops, showing their support for the campaign and encouraging local media coverage.

The response from Scope customers to the campaign issues was overwhelmingly supportive. Speaking to our customers about our priority campaigns makes sense – it allows them to learn about the issues facing disabled people today, and how they can play a role in improving the situation.

Why it works: MPs often need to hear about an issue from a large base of people, and shop staff want a way to engage with their customers and share more about the work that Scope does. The perfect match. And there’s potential to do a lot more.

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3) 300 flat pack boxes

Searching for reasonably priced flat-pack ‘fold at home’ gift boxes online is a tricky business. There is a surprising array of colours, dimensions and sizes available.

Why was I searching for a suitable ‘memory box’? It was January. We wanted a campaign action that wasn’t ‘make a new year’s resolution for change’. MPs needed to hear a strong, memorable reminder that family time together was precious. The Children and Families Bill was about to go into Parliament, MPs had already received emails, shop-postcards and wish stars on the issue.

Asking people to share a fond family memory with their MP turned out to be a good decision. We had a brilliant response in just three weeks (even in January!) and the memories people shared were heartfelt and meaningful – from sandwiches on the beach with Nan to long car journeys and Christmases together. Some people even shared photos. We packaged these memories into the freshly-folded boxes, tied them up with string and hand-delivered them to MPs.

Why it works: Often supporters have meaningful messages to add to a campaign, you just need to ask. Create an interesting space for people to make their actions unique and then do the message justice with creative delivery. And remember that MPs want to hear personal stories.

4) “Hi, my name is…”

Okay this one seems tentative, but bear with me. Meeting other people isn’t that radical – but finding campaign allies can often be overlooked as a priority. In the past year, we’ve had great success building relationship with others – across Scope departments, and with other organisations – and we need to keep at it.

Scope donors now regularly support our key campaigns. They’ve received emails, postcards, and even their own pre-made wish stars – so they can support Scope not only with their generous donation, but also with their influencing power.

We’ve worked with our Scope service Activities Unlimited on the Keep Us Close campaign (involving a Fun Day with a LOT of glue and glitter). We’ve introduced MPs to parents of disabled children via our Face to Face service. All of these activities depended on building a good relationship – and making an effort to understand the aims of others and how working together can strengthen them. And there’s always more to do.

Why it works: Working with others isn’t new – but is it essential. Our supporters won’t pigeon–hole themselves – so neither should we. Shop customers, parents, donors – they can all take part in a campaign, so it’s our job to work together and make it possible, and keep learning to make the partnerships better and better.

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5) A bar of soap.

The social care soap may take the prize as the most unusual tool so far. But if you’re intrigued, there are plenty of soap bars still being decorated to send to MPs as part of the Britain Cares campaign. And socks. And cards.  So you can join in! Again, it’s about being able to show MPs that this is an issue their constituents really care about. But this time the creativity doesn’t come from Scope – it comes from the crafter themselves – who adds their ‘I care’ message in their own way. While they’re busy stitching, gluing or carving into soap, they automatically invest time in their message, and can contemplate what they’re saying and why. Increasingly we hear that MPs need to know the messages they receive are meaningful– so creative campaigning seems to have a very important role to play.

Why it works: It’s fun, it can be therapeutic, it creates a personal message and catches the attention of MPs with its uniqueness. What’s not to like?!

There are plenty of tools that didn’t make the final 5 – telling a story with animations or compelling case-study films, working with partners from large corporates to local groups. And there are still more tools to be discovered for the next, and most ambitious campaign that Scope has planned. The possibilities are open.

Maybe you could be the one to create them…?

You can apply for the Scope National Campaigns Officer role here.