The long wait

The game changers

After he received his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the filmmaker Jason DaSilva began working with his creative partner Alice Cook on the feature documentary “When I Walk,” which is having its premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Together the two have formed AXS Lab Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to telling the stories of the disability experience. His past documentaries have been shown on PBS/POV, HBO and at the Sundance Film Festival.

Pat’s Petition

The game changers

Pats Banner - photo


Campaigning on any issue is a great way to get involved in something that you’re passionate about. Disabled people and carers used to feel left out, when every campaign involved a march to Hyde Park. But now the internet has made it easier to connect with others across the country, a new group of campaigners are finding it easier to get involved. The networks are growing.

Pat’s Petition

We came together in a heart beat with a message. Seven women who had never met – all disabled and/or carers – desperate about the tsunami of cuts and threats falling on disabled people and carers. We had no plan – just a petition on the government website.

Two years later we don’t recognise ourselves. We are a close, well organised team and above all we are friends. But hard work and a common cause will do that to you. Sadly during this time one of our members died, but her spirit is still part of our team

We have in our way achieved part of what we set out to do. When we started our campaign, not many had heard the term Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA). Now it is a key demand amongst disability campaigners. In July Pat and Rosemary went to Westminster and attended a debate in Parliament calling for a CIA. We set out to get a debate and we achieved that. But the fight goes on.

No one could possibly say this attack on benefits and services is over – this is only the end of the beginning. And we are fighting as hard as ever.
Do we have any advice for other campaigners?

If you look at our web site you can see the details of what we did. The words of our petition, the hard work , the people who supported us. But perhaps the secret doesn’t lie in the details.

The public are confused. They don’t necessarily have a lot of time or interest in disability matters if they have not yet had experience of disability in their own lives. Perhaps the most important thing is the message. If you can take the time to get that right, then the message will deliver itself. It needs your support and dedication, it needs your help. It needs every one to work together. But the right message will grow wings and fly.

Watch out for new messages from Pat’s Petition. But in the mean time – we don’t have that Cumulative Impact Assessment yet. Sign the WOW petition

How to create a kick-ass campaign

The game changers

martin kirk

Martin Kirk is Director of Campaigns at The Rules. He was plucked from Oxfam in June 2012, where he had been heading their UK Campaigning. Before Oxfam, Martin was Head of Global Advocacy for Save the Children UK.

You are doing some really impressive and groundbreaking things right now. You’re being serious about values; you’re taking a longer-term view by looking up to 2020; you’re clearly thinking in terms of narrative, logic and frames, and you’re even collecting good evidence to help you with that, which is something that is very rarely done. All that is wonderful.

It would be daft for me to try to comment on any of the detail of what you are working on. You have all the brainpower and expertise you need looking into that, I’m sure. So I’ve tried to think big and broad, to both encourage you to always see the bigger picture, and because I know from long experience how difficult it can be to see the wood for the trees in our daily work lives. So, I have three suggestions that might help build on all that great work.

Firstly, look forwards. Once you have all the research in, you might try using it to throw your minds even further forwards, create something of a genuinely long term ‘north-star’ for yourselves to aim at, maybe 10 or even 25 years in the future. Sticking as much as possible to the sort of realistic metrics the research will help you define, where do you reasonably think attitudes to disability can be at the far point? Obviously, this won’t be something to set in stone, and must be held lightly, but it can still be a very powerful guide. If I can be very bold, you might even try to bring some other disability organisations into that process. Imagine how powerful would it be if the whole sector shared a long term ‘north star’? Everyone could go off and do their own campaigns and focus on specific issues without needing to slip into that often painful, time consuming and lowest-common-denominator territory of coalitions or co-strategising, but could still agree to always keep half an eye on that long term success point. Perhaps come together once a year in a light-touch review and check-in process. After all, in the absence of things like Paralympics, attitudes and social norms can take that long to shift. If you don’t have some realistic sense of where you’re all heading, you’re much more likely to waste time and energy duplicating or pulling in different, even conflicting directions.

Secondly, look sideways. When Matt Jackson and I were working at Oxfam looking at attitudes to international development, one of the things we did was look for correlations between attitudes to aid and other social attitudes. It turns out the only correlation we could find was how trustworthy people felt the government was in general. Nothing to do with aid directly. The greater the overall levels of trust in the government, the more support there was for aid. The point is that both in terms of attitudes, and in terms of the mechanics of the political economy, the things that could be affecting attitudes to disability may have nothing, on the surface, to do with disability. So what I would suggest is that you try and get in the habit of placing attitudes, and policy analysis, in a broader systems context. Draw systems maps. If you’re not sure where to start, ask someone trained in systems analysis to come in and talk to you about how to go about it. There are lots of people in universities up and down the country who I’m sure would be very happy to share their expertise. And if nothing else, you could read: Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows.

And finally, look inwards. This is a very personal suggestion to everyone working on the campaign. Meditate. If you’re already a meditator, you’ll know why I say this. If you’re not, learn and I promise you, if you do it properly, you will start to realise its power in relatively short order. We can get so caught up with the latest research and the freshest, shiniest knowledge that we easily ignore the infinite source of wisdom and good judgment within each of us. It may all sound hokey and new agey but I wish I had started ten years ago, I really do. I would have been a better campaigner, made better decisions, been a far better and more compassionate manager, and indeed a better person all round. So if you think being more peaceful and loving in your work; less stressed or susceptible to anger and frustration; having access to better judgments, perspective and the incredible, often untapped power of your mind might be at all helpful in making this the kick-ass campaign it can be, then trust me, regular, serious meditation is perhaps your most powerful weapon. Set up meditation sessions at work. Call a local meditation group, I know they’ll want to help (there’s a group called Wake Up London I’ve heard a lot of good things about). I always find it is easier and works better in groups, especially at first, but however it works best for you, give it a go.

And always, of course, have fun!

How to achieve maximum visibility for your campaign

The game changers

Esra'a photo

Esra’a Al Shafei is a Digital youth activist and Director of and

For a campaign to receive the maximum potential for visibility, it has to be unique in its approach and creativity. It is difficult to get people to be responsive about a campaign that is neither accessible nor engaging. The more a user can interact with the details, the more informed they will be about the subject and greater the likelihood that they’ll share it or feel stronger about the cause.

Campaigns are most effective when they make facts noticeable in a very thorough and responsive interface. Examples of these could include interactive infographics, the gamification of factual information, as well as animated short videos. These have higher potential for virality which in turn could rally more people around the cause.

A successful campaign is dependent upon thorough research, as many people who’d potentially support a cause simply don’t have the time or resources to seek out the facts behind certain issues. Because their primary goal is as an educational tool, campaigns should have a base of solid factual validity in order to avoid detractors and undermining, and to establish a strong and trusting relationship with users and sharers.

A campaign is most effective when it presents its audience with a shocking truth, simplified into something that’s both dependable and relatable. Making this happen involves the careful curating of information into easily-digestible forms to both engage and empower audiences.

Virality is important in bringing about awareness to a cause, but successful campaigns also foster a true and deep understanding in its audience of an issue’s fundamental underpinnings in order to ensure long-term staying power. With a purely viral campaign, it can be a slippery slope into the territory of a cause du jour in the chaos of the information age. But pairing virality with educational tools ensures the campaign will be both relevant and impactful in the long term.

Who do we need to convince?


Changing Britain to be a fairer place for disabled people is a big ask. We can’t convince everyone straight away; we need to start somewhere.

One of the things we know is that more than any other age, younger people tend to be against benefits for disabled people. Benefits are by no means the whole story, but disabled people tell us that they feel the benefit scrounger narrative is a big part of negative attitudes towards them. Why do young people feel this way about giving people support?

Younger people mistrust politics more than ever before, and they are less likely to vote, so do they really hold sway with politicians? Is it a lost cause because no-on listens to young people?

On the flipside, take the word “politics” out and young people can be a passionate, energised force for change. Many young people are involved in issues from the environment to human rights – could they be a big part of the solution on disability issues, too?

We’re inspired by what young people are doing, from young disabled people’s groups like the Trailblazers to (often younger) Oxjam organisers around the country putting on gigs for a cause. They’ve got time, energy and enthusiasm and they are the next generation who will run this country.

How important do you think young people are for our campaign? What role could they want to play?

How do we know it’s working


These are the big campaign successes we’re looking for:

Political success

The May 2015 election:

  • Political party manifestos for the 2015 General Election have a clear commitment to improve disabled people’s living standards
  • Each party adopts specific policies that increase disabled people’s living standards
  • Broad commitments are in each party manifesto, and they’re appropriately worded and framed

Any coalition negotiations

  • Increasing disabled people’s living standards is a priority area
  • Incorporates manifesto commitments and priorities
  • Agreement contains specific commitments to increasing disabled people’s living standards

The next Government

  • Prioritise the implementation of improving disabled people’s living standards
  • Replace the disability strategy and Disability Action Alliance
  • Revise the role of Minister for Disabled people and Office for Disability issues.

Public success

More people involved in campaigning:

  • Bigger and more engaged public support for campaign issues, including a greater number of Scope supporters
  • Young people have greater capacity to campaign for the type of society they want to live in

The May 2015 election:

  • Raised consistently at local level with candidates, in particular in swing seats
  • Polling shows the issue of disabled people’s living standards increasing in importance for voters, especially young voters
  • Disabled people’s living standards becomes more of a key issue in the media and political debate during the election campaign, for example, questions asked during leaders debate
  • Young people play a key role in working with the government to help shape government’s implementation of policies.

Change in attitudes and public debate:

  • Negative attitudes towards disabled people are challenged through greater understanding and connection between disabled and non-disabled people
  • Increasing living standards of disabled people becomes a new narrative in public debate, shifting attitudes towards disabled people

What do you think?

These milestones are still quite big – how can we know if we’re on the way to achieving these?

What do we say?

Bus with message - Some people are gay. Get over it!

No campaign can work without a good plan and no plan can work without a good message.

Finding the right message is one of the most important aspects of planning a campaign. But it is also one of the most difficult. Many campaigners spend so long in conversation about an issue that they often forget that simplicity is power in communicating the issue to potential supporters.

When the right message is found, it quickly becomes the heart of a campaign. Developing actions that communicate that message becomes much easier. Here are some golden rules for developing a successful campaign message:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Encourage conversation
  3. Tell a strong story
  4. Create emotional connection between the audience and the cause
  5. Tell your audience what you need them to do

What do you think makes a great campaign message?

What messages from other campaigns do you think work well?

How do we do it?


Campaigns can be big, hi-tech and involving hundreds of thousands of people. But they can also be started by just a group of determined people sitting down on some steps.

We need a compelling way to get the public to take real action.

Some essential ingredients for a campaign action that has impact:

  1. Be specific – What does the campaign action hope to achieve?
  2. Be achievable – What one or two things do you want your supporters to do? How will this help you to achieve your goal?
  3. Be informed – How will you influence your target?

What other ingredients do you think are key to developing an amazing campaign?

Which campaign actions have you participated in that we could learn from?