All posts by Sarah Daly

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.

Exmouth cropped photo

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.

Crafting our way to change

On Tuesday night, as rain was falling across London, there was a quiet revolution going on in a cafe near Kings Cross. Amid china teacups and origami cranes suspended from the ceiling, vintage furniture was gradually getting covered in paper, glue and sparkly pompoms.

The London cafe Drink Shop Do is used to being a hub of creative activity, with evenings that range from biscuit decorating to Lego building. But on Tuesday evening, craft was in the name of social care.

The Britain Cares campaign, which has already seen support from over 27,000 people, is calling on the Government to ensure that 100,000 disabled people receive essential social care support to live their lives. Under current Government plans, they’ll be denied it.

This is why a group of crafters, varying in experience, gathered to prove to politicians that not only are the current plans unjust, but that people in Britain really care about the issue. And they intend to prove it…with pompom-embellished socks. The 25+ crafters who met on Tuesday, marking the beginning of Britain Cares: Britain Crafts week, spent their evening adding ‘I care’ messages to socks, soaps, coasters and even tote bags.

Craftivists with 'I Care' tote bag made as part of Britain Cares: Britain Crafts

As you can see from the photos, their creativity was limitless – and this is exactly what is needed to catch the attention of MPs, with meaningful messages that people have spent time creating, calling on them to really think about the issue, and take action.

Using craft for activism may be increasingly popular, but it’s not new.

If you’re not familiar with crafty activism, or ‘craftivism’ here’s the lowdown:

What is it?

Betsy Greer coined the term ‘Craftivism’ as:

“A way at looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.”

The Craftivist Collective point out that craft + activism = craftivism, and they aim to show that ‘making people aware of the injustices and poverty in the world can be joyful as well as empowering and fulfilling.’

Why would I do it?

Craftivists say that as a campaigning method, it can be very satisfying. Making time to think about the issue is always refreshing, and craft encourages you to really consider your message.

It’s great that online activism has allowed us to campaign at the click of a button, but it can be overwhelming if you’re actually asked, ‘Why does this issue matter to you?’ Pause. In that frame of mind, when swiftly sending a pre-prepared email, it can be difficult to stop and really think about why what you’re doing matters. For me, craftivism is the self-initiated ‘pause’.

But isn’t this urgent?

Like many steps out of the ordinary, it can feel counter-intuitive:

‘Quick! There’s a crisis going on! We must shout loudly!’

Using craft doesn’t take away the urgency – it allows you to contemplate why the issue is so urgent and consider the most powerful and meaningful way to make change. It puts the power back in the hands of the campaigner – quite literally. Sometimes sitting and thinking about how we could create something that really gets across why we feel a certain way can be the most empowering way to use our voices.

Time is important

It doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Timing of action is always important. But actually, the time it takes to make something is part of the process.

Time is our most democratic and precious resource, and should be valued by those on the receiving end. By investing my time in something I really care about, I hope my MP will respect the action all the more, and feel that he is also valued as my representative.

I’m not sure my MP will really be convinced by craft

With all campaigning we have to ask what will have an impact. Scope already knows that delivering messages creatively can make an impression. As part of our Keep Us Close campaign, MPs received hundreds of wish stars and family memories, making them realise how significant the issue was.

Giving something as an ongoing reminder is personal and long-lasting. One MP told us, ‘The wish stars now have pride of place in my office in Westminster’.

Britain Crafts

So when an MP receives an ‘I care’ sock or soap this week, they’ll be reminded of the 4 in 10 disabled people who receive social care support that does not meet their basic needs like washing or dressing. And each time they have a cup of tea and replace their mug on a coaster made by one of their constituents, they will be reminded of how this issue is important to that constituent – and that they have asked them to take action on their behalf.

This weekend, could you make sure your MP knows how much you care about social care? By spending half an hour creating a message, you can enjoy the benefits of crafting, really thinking about the issue AND proving to your MP that you really care about social care – and that you’re not going to stop at an email.

Everyone’s getting involved. Even the cast of Downton Abbey!

Ema, who is disabled and struggling to live the life she wants to lead without social care, is making a pencil case for her MP with ‘I Care’ beading. In her film she talks more about living what she describes as ‘a half-life’. As Ema says, ‘social care is worth fighting for’ and if that means decorating hundreds of bars of soap, we’re up for the challenge.

Writing 'I Care' on a card with soap nearby

Scope supporters and shoppers show Britain cares

As the numbers of views of the Britain Cares campaign film fly past the 100,000 mark, the photo actions grow each day and the I Care actions get ever more creative, you may wonder if the Britain Cares team could sit back and take a breather. Not for a minute! And now more than 26,000 people have taken part in the campaign.

At this crucial time to influence the Government to ensure that disabled people get the social care they need – the reality is far from relaxing. Over the past few weeks the flurry of energy for Britain Cares has been magnified all around the country, as Scope customers have been signing campaign cards in their thousands across our 235 shops. It’s fantastic to see so much support for this crucial campaign.

For the past two weeks, Scope shoppers have been invited to choose a postcard and send it to their MP. There are six card designs, each representing a different area of life that social care makes possible for some disabled people, ranging from the essentials like getting washed and dressed to being able to leave the house to meet family or go to work. Things that many of us may take for granted, until we consider life without them.

Leslee Welman, manager of Exmouth’s Scope shop, has been busy speaking to customers about the Britain Cares campaign and collecting hundreds of signed postcards. She told us how brilliant it has been to see such a lot of support for the campaign from her customers:

“It’s been really positive so far. It’s wonderful to see our customers so passionate about this issue and able to take action by signing a campaign card. They’re really keen to do anything they can to support the campaign, and of course Scope. I’ve spoken to many of my customers who are personally affected by changes to social care and therefore this is really important to them.”

All the signed cards are now on their way to Westminster, to call on MPs to take action and ensure that social care is funded in the upcoming Spending Review and that disabled people get the right support to live their lives.

If you are one of the thousands of people who have already signed a Britain Cares card in a Scope shop – thank you for your support. Please stay involved, and visit www.britaincares.co.uk for the many ways you can continue to show you care.

Keep Us Close campaign update

After almost a month, our Keep Us Close families campaign is continuing to go from strength to strength. Scope supporters have been busy emailing their MPs, calling on them to ensure that disabled children and their families have better local support.

Hundreds of emails have been sent, adding to the thousands of campaign postcards and petitions that have been sent from our shops in England and Wales. Our customers have been so keen to support the campaign that many shops ran out of campaign postcards!

Six MPs have visited their local Scope shops to collect the postcards and hear about the importance of the campaign. The Labour Shadow Minister for Children and Families has supported Keep Us Close, as well as other organisations, including Save the Children and the Family and Parenting Institute.

Online, our new Keep Us Close animation is still very popular, and the campaign has been a hot topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The campaigns team is busy planning the next stage of the campaign, so look out for how you can get involved next month.

In the meantime, please don’t forget to email your MP, and tell all your friends about this essential campaign for disabled children and their families.

Bromley Council refuses to reverse textile bank decision

As a campaigner, I am often left with a mixed feeling of pride and disappointment. Leaving the Civic Centre in Bromley, after the Council meeting, was no exception. I felt extremely proud of the Scope charity shops staff and volunteers who led a local campaign to a meaningful conclusion, ensuring the significance of the issue came across, both in Bromley and more widely. But I found it difficult to shake off the feeling of disappointment that despite our efforts, Bromley council is maintaining a decision that could cost Scope £360,000 a year.

Since March, I have had the privilege of supporting the staff and volunteers from Scope charity shops in the Bromley borough. They have been encouraging their customers to sign a petition calling on Bromley Council to reverse their decision to evict Scope textile banks from council land, and to show other councils considering the move how unwelcome it is.

Campaign to save textile banks

The communities affected by this decision have launched an impressive and passionate campaign to save textile banks that act as a vital lifeline for their Scope shops. In only three weeks, the Bromley borough stores collected over 1,400 signatures from angry residents, opposed to the decision, and already we have heard that other councils are now wary of such a move.

The campaign came to an exciting close on 25 June, as we went along to  the Bromley Council meeting, to witness key councillors attempt to justify their decision, in front of the full council and residents.

The council chamber was full of spectators, and as Alex, Scope’s area manager, and Julie, the manager of the Petts Wood store spoke, the atmosphere in the room was tense. The overwhelming support we have received for this campaign was echoed by the loud applause Julie received as she finished her speech.

How loss of donations will affect disabled people

Despite this support, and the questions raised by opposing councillors in the debate, Councillor Smith, who is responsible for the decision, stood his ground. The removal of the banks in Bromley would dramatically affect our donation levels, and consequently impact on our work with disabled people and their families. This was clearly in the minds of all spectators as the councillor continued to explain why he felt Scope’s ‘privilege’ had now ended.

The support from the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, who requested the decision be referred back to the original steering group, was very welcome. There were questions raised on the transparency of the decisions made, and the true benefit to the community and other charities under the new plans. It was positive to hear our points be raised in the debate, and go a small way to reflect the outrage felt by Scope customers.

Despite this, the council voted to reject Scope’s petition.

Scope charity shops reaction to Bromley’s decision

Wendy Howden, manager of the Bromley Scope store attended the meeting, along with Julie.

I share Wendy and Julie’s disappointment at the decision. However, I remain positive that the support shown for this campaign is something we should be proud of. Bromley council were mistaken if they thought this change would happen without a response from Scope or the Bromley community. If we can join together to create such a brilliant, personal campaign in such a short amount of time, I have no doubt we can support the Bromley shops to be as successful as ever, and ensure this council decision does not impact on Scope’s essential work. We already know that other councils considering this type of contract have changed their minds, which is a fantastic achievement for the campaign and the future of Scope’s shops.

If you would like to support the shops affected in any way, please contact them directly: BromleyPetts WoodOrpington and Beckenham. I’m sure they would be grateful for your continued support.

We would like to thank everyone who signed the petition, and demonstrated an enthusiastic interest in this campaign. Your valuable support has sent a strong message to other London councils, who may be considering a similar move, of the strength of community support on this issue and the value of donations to charity shops.

We are always looking for enthusiastic campaigners to join us as we campaign on important issues such as this. Please join our campaign network here.

I look forward to hearing from you.