January 26, 2017

Scale meaningful people support for sustainable impact

As a campaign or programme director of a people-powered CSO, you want to run activities that harness other people’s contributions to achieve the common cause. Your role is not primarily to produce the best campaigns or programs with your staff, but to facilitate like-minded people’s actions and contributions to leverage collective impact.

1. Nurture your eco-system of actors

Instead of first developing a campaign/programme and then looking for good partners – take the reverse approach. Actively scan the huge multitude of people who share your cause. Understand what they want and have to offer. Develop clear principles on who to align with in which way and what for. The Global Impact Investment Map is a good example for a web-based, dynamic and collective mapping of an ecosystem in real time. Be opportunistic in choosing allies, but don’t miss the outliers, who may add the greatest value. Monitor which collaborations do or do not work and why. Be prepared to also invest in long term relationships. Sometimes we have to do things that are inefficient at first but meaningful in the long term, says Eric Gordon of Harvard’s Berkman Center.

2. Design activities around people’s interests

Identify where people’s energy and needs are in regard to the shared cause. Take this (not just your own idea of what’s important) as a starting point when developing a campaign or programme. Adopt success indicators that measure if people are content with the project and not just if your organisation grows its membership, visibility or income. 38 Degrees regularly surveys social media to see what members care about. When identifying some energy around national forests in the UK, they started the Save our Forests campaign. Within 6 months they mobilised half a million people and stopped the government from selling it. Dalia, a Palestinian community foundation ensures communities set their own priorities when allocating funding.

3. Leverage peoples’ input for collective impact

Tap into the huge potential of skills, capacities, capabilities and expertise of people who share your cause. ‘’ICSOs must shift from prescribing actions to provisioning supporters so that they can take action on their own terms,’’ argue Virginie Coulloudon and Jed Miller. Greenpeace Netherlands ran a hackathon with designers and developers to produce a software that tracks super trawlers on the oceans. Médecins Sans Frontières and Accenture developed interactive Missing Maps asking people to map needs directly after a disaster. Greenpeace asked people to contribute to content and tactics of the Detox Campaign and created the Mobilisation Cookbook with staff recipes for crowd-sourced campaigning. Amnesty works with people across the world who help interpret satellite imagery with a micro-tasking approach to detecting human rights’ violations.

4. De-brand where appropriate and close the feedback loop!

When Scope was approached by a young man with Down Syndrome they helped him start his own campaign without the Scope brand. That supported its credibility and it was enormously successful. When collaborating ensure data-feeds with aggregate info on activity in real time. Evaluate data with people and partners, iterate and adapt where needed. Engage in social listening and assess stories of successes and failures that are shared in your network. Wiki Development allows to share lessons learnt amongst development practitioners to sustain their efforts of adaptation. Take time to debrief with all participants focusing on impact and where to take it from here. Publicise successes and failures!

5. Know what people and partners think!

Regularly ask partners, staff or donors to rate you from 1-5 on the questions below. Add one open question for qualitative feedback. Compare results over time.

  1. Do you trust us?
  2. Do we offer you an opportunity to leverage your activities for the shared cause?
  3. Did your involvement with our organisation feel empowering?