Take Action: How to campaign

This is often a vital part of the work of  local community organisations (LCO) ⎼ campaigns to achieve change or improvement to your estates and surrounding areas to benefit everyone’s living environment.

There are a number of stages to any successful campaign that you should always keep in mind. Firstly, make sure that there is enough support from within the community. You’ll need to make sure that your neighbours and others in the area support your proposed campaign.

Then decide what are the key areas of the campaign. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many campaigns flounder because the key participants all have slightly different ideas as to what the campaign is about. It may help to write down exactly what the campaign is about once you have decided upon it.

The best way to decide upon what to campaign about and to ensure there is sufficient support is through good communication. You may have knowledge of concerns or incidents in your community ⎼ even your own home ⎼ do your neighbours have similar views? This can be established through regular meetings of your group and the wider community ⎼ perhaps a questionnaire in the area. Depending on the nature of the campaign you may also want to enlist the support of other groups, schools and local businesses.

You need to make your campaigns:

  • specific
  • winnable
  • easy to understand
  • agreed upon by the majority

In order to determine the size of the problem you could do the following:

  • call a meeting and ask people
  • distribute a leaflet
  • organise a petition
  • carry out a survey
  • call in some expert help

A public meeting is good to gauge levels of support, but not very useful for gathering detailed information. It is particularly useful later on if you want to demonstrate to someone else (e.g. the council) how much support your campaign has.

Door knocking enables you to get to know people and their concerns. However, always make sure that you carry some form of identification or, initially only door knock on those properties where you are known (this is okay at first, but make sure you expand your contacts to cover the whole community). Remember to take a pen and paper!

Leaflets: If well produced these can give out information and publicise your campaign, but they will not give you any information. Make sure they look good, use pictures if possible and are to the point. They also cost money to produce.

Petitions are useful to publicise a campaign and demonstrate support, but on their own are not enough to achieve change. What they can do, however, is provide you with an opportunity to talk to people and make useful contacts.

Surveys are excellent ways to provide and receive information, but may take a little longer. Therefore make sure that they are focused on what information you want to receive. Remember, someone is going to have to collate all the information received into an easily read and digested format.

Expert advice is great for receiving specialised information, but they will not know everything ⎼ your knowledge of the local situation is just as important. Although there are some groups that will provide expert advice for free, you may have to pay money to receive it.

Social media is an excellent tool for organising from holding virtual meetings to sharing your message with community groups on the variety of channels.

Get online and tap into the greatest trove of public information ever. You may need to tweak your searches if it is for hyper-local issues.  

Other residents’ associations can be a valuable means of getting help, advice and assistance.

But don’t just take our word.

The Leading Change Network has done extensive work on this topic and they have provided a free handbook to help guide you through the process.

The following guide aims to support you in developing your capacity for effective community organizing. LCN’s goal, much like ours at CAN is to provide you with an introduction to organising and encourage you to explore answers to the following questions: Why am I called to leadership in my community? How will I move others to join me? How will we develop strategy and structure our work together? And how will we achieve our goals?

The subjects covered include:

  • Introduction to organising
  • Telling stories
  • Building relationships
  • Coaching: Enabling others
  • Structuring teams
  • Strategizing
  • Acting: Tactics and timelines
  • Tying it all together.