The Art of Juggling

The game changers

Adam Askew

Adam Askew has worked in the campaigns and communications environment for the last 10 years. He started his career in youth engagement work and over the past 10 years has run national campaigns across Africa and Asia. More recently In the UK he has run The Robin Hood Tax campaign and has just stepped down as the communications chair for The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign. His general approach to campaigning (and life) is brutal pragmatism, combined with sharp insight and simple easy to digest communication.

I was once asked, while interviewing, what the point of a campaigner is. Given my role as a global campaign manager at the time I felt it was a slightly loaded, but a nonetheless pertinent, question. Given the context of the interview and the fact I was on a recruiting panel I gave it some thought…. (Just to be clear, this candidate was unsuccessful in their application due to epic failure in many other areas!)

In my response I talked about the campaigner’s art of juggling. It is one of the most important skills in any campaign and one that is so often undervalued. The juggler has the ability to judge the situation, understand the personalities involved and know when and how to deploy which tactic at what time. This is fundamental to any campaigns success. The juggling part comes in because campaigning is often a complicated beast with lots of balls in the air at any one time; most of the balls tend to be policy oriented, but you have media ones, public facing one, digital ones, fundraising ones & political ones, and this involves a lot of folk. It is your job as the juggler to take that complexity, juggle the issues skillfully in order to help create a clear and concise campaign strategy or programme. You are often at the bottom of the campaign food chain; the juggler is the unsung hero playing a vital unseen role and in my view, the campaign can live or die because of them.

So as we come to the end of the IF campaign and the post mortem begins, I have begun once again to ask myself a number of these same questions.

The IF campaign, was a coalition of over 200 organisations (so a lot of balls), calling for an end to world hunger.  The campaign, backed by a list of incredible organisations, had all the hallmarks of an excellent coalition campaign. It had a clear goal. It had some big celebrity backers. It utilised the talents and skills of some of the best campaigning organisations out there and it deployed the best agency communication thinkers around.

It achieved some incredible things: Over £4 Billion pounds of new money saving nearly 2 million kids lives, which is an incredible achievement and worth all the effort alone. But there was more, the progress on tax avoidance and land grabbing (the things that keep people hungry) are also to be applauded.

The IF campaign did not get as much the public exposure as it wanted and at times it was unable to tell its own story simply enough, but 45K people in London’s Hyde park in June demanding action, calling for the possibility of IF was breath taking.

So how does this all link to the juggler? Well in this campaign we dropped a few balls and we probably tried to keep a few to many in the air at once, but the campaign created one hell of a circus and when all is said and done, the conclusion reaffirms my view that the juggler is still one of the most important roles of any campaign set up big or small.

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign showed what is possible when we join and juggle together and I am certain it will have saved lives. There is a part of me already looking forward to the next joint endeavour….

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One thought on “The Art of Juggling”

  1. Nice post. Met Adam previously when he was a guest speaker I invited from Oxfam to an Amnesty International event I organised on the topic of Poverty and Human Rights in Birmingham.

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