How to take action
Your guide to running a successful campaign.
Starting any campaign may seem daunting. That's why we've worked with some of our established Local Groups to develop this toolkit that will take you through the key steps to running a successful campaign.
The toolkit will introduce the whole process - planning, implementing and evaluating. It includes films with advice from experienced Living Streets campaigners to help you along the way.
We hope this toolkit will help you achieve results. If you have any questions or require further advice please email our Supporter Development Coordinator. Happy campaigning!
Our step-by-step toolkit
To start, clarify the problem or issue that you're going to campaign on. Think about what you would like to change. By identifying the problem, you will be able to develop a campaign to make that change happen.
Example campaign issues: lack of a particular service in the community; traffic going too fast in your neighbourhood; or pavement parking in your high street.
Change doesn't happen overnight - especially on a large scale. It's wise to start off small, and then if you're successful you can roll the campaign out more widely.
Watch Caroline, Chair of Islington Living Streets Group – 'How campaigns begin.'
Get the facts straight
Make sure that you fully understand all aspects of the problem or issue, so that your campaign stays credible.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What is the issue?
- What is the cause of the problem?
- Who is affected and how?
- Who has the power to make change happen?
- What change would you like to see?
- Has something similar happened elsewhere?
- Who can help you?
Try to answer these questions before moving on to the next stage.
Watch Jeremy, Chair of Southwark Living Streets Group – 'The importance of research.'
Where's the proof?
If possible collect evidence to support your cause.
This might be from your own local research or from wider sources of supporting evidence.
Your research method will depend on what you are campaigning for. You might consider:
- Conducting a traffic survey to count the number of vehicles or the average speed of cars on your road;
- Counting the number of steps to your nearest shop or the number of services available on your high street;
- Undertaking a questionnaire to show how many other people agree with you.
You may find someone else has already done the work for you.
There are many online resources to help you make a case. Living Streets has a range of resources you may find useful.
Start small and set the aims
Start talking and thinking about solutions to your issue or problem. Your solution should become your campaign aim.
Your aim should be a sentence that summarises what it is that you want to achieve. Be specific and realistic with your aspirations.
Positive messaging with the solution identified will show that your campaign is thoroughly thought-out and focused.
Watch Caroline, Chair of Islington Living Streets Group – 'How to set attainable aims.'
Who are your potential allies, and who is the target?
Think about who can make the change happen and who can help your campaign. Who has the power to solve the problem? They will become your target.
Many local campaigns will rely on targeting particular decision makers, individuals or groups. Think about who or what will influence them.
What's your message?
Your campaign message will be influenced by who your target individual/group is and what influences them.
These questions will help get you thinking about messaging:
- What is the call to action?
- Is the issue attention grabbing and urgent - does the campaign message reflect this?
- What motivates your target? How will the change help or affect them?
- Have your worded the message positively with solutions identified?
- Is your message backed up by evidence?
Watch Caroline, Chair of Islington Living Streets Group – 'Advice to achieve success.'
Steps to success
Look at your aim and message and work out the steps that need to be taken to achieve your goals.
These steps become your objectives and they should be simply defined and with a measurable outcome.
Campaigns may evolve and change along the way, but it is sensible to have a set of objectives to be working towards.
You will need to decide which groups to target and how you'll communicate with them.
Watch Jeremy, Chair of Southwark Living Streets Group - 'Working out which people to work with.'
Decision makers and opinion formers
Decision makers will often be local councillors or council officials.
Consider inviting key officials to meetings or arrange a one to one discussion or a phone conversation with them. Remember when speaking to these people to always maintain a positive relationship, while being clear about the problem and why it's important.
Always offer solutions to the problems you've identified and try not to focus too heavily on the negatives.
Even if they are not warm or receptive to your campaign, they are the people who will ultimately make decisions so it is important to develop a positive relationship with them.
Here are some websites that will help you to identify your local councillor or MP:
Next you can look at who influences your decision maker. It could be their constituents, the media, businesses, other councillors or other campaign groups. You can then approach these groups or individuals to strengthen your campaign.
Watch Jeremy, Chair of Southwark Living Streets Group - 'Identifying key decision makers'
Members of the public
Members of the community may be keen to get involved with your activities and can add weight to your argument.
Focus your efforts on approaching those who are likely to agree and want to be involved in your activities. It is important that you research and understand who these people are, so that you can pitch your message appropriately.
It's also important to remember that your audience may not always be immediately obvious.
There may be other groups or organisations with similar interests or those who influence your key target.
It is worth finding out who these people are as they can often offer good advice or may want to get involved themselves. Before collaborating with another group, consider these questions:
- Do you share a common vision?
- What resources can they provide you with?
- Do they have any similar experience?
- Do they have time to commit to your campaign?
Building relationships with the local media will be extremely useful when it comes to publicising your campaign.
Target local newspapers, radio stations and even television programmes to help spread your cause.
Try to build a relationship with local journalists - once a relationship is estabilshed, you may find they come to ask you for updates and give your work a great deal of coverage.
You may also want to consider finding out if there are any issues similar to yours in your area that the media are currently interested in.
Making a splash
Now you should be ready to organise a programme of activity and to roll out your campaign.
The methods you choose will depend on who you are trying to influence and the problem you are addressing. Broadly, there are three communication channels to consider - campaigns may use a combination, or all three of these channels.
You can gain support from the community by holding events and meetings, and also through social media.
How to get the word out:
- Hold an event;
- Run a stall at a local event;
- Organise a meeting.
If you decide to do this, consider having some 'take home' information for interested individuals. This should contain your campaign message, information on how to get involved, and details of your planned campaigning activities.
Please make sure any materials follow Living Streets guidelines.
Social media is a great way to keep followers updated about your progress. You could write a blog, start a Facebook group or post updates on Twitter.
A well written letter with many supporting signatures from local voters is an invaluable method of demonstrating support for your cause.
You should have identified who the key decision maker is earlier in the process, and may even have opened a dialogue with them. They are the people you should be targeting with letters. Template letters to councillors that people can sign easily at a stall or on a website make it easier for people to take part.
Once you've amassed a large number of letters or signatures, consider putting out a press release announcing that you will be presenting them to the local authority.
Use different media
Different types of media can be powerful tools and may be an effective way of influencing your key target.
The Living Streets forum has many helpful tips on using the media. You can find detailed fact sheets on:
- How to sell your story;
- What makes a good story;
- Getting better TV coverage;
- Conducting interviews;
- How to write a good press release using plain English;
- How to write a letter to an editor.
Watch Caroline, Chair of Islington Living Streets Group - 'Using social media.'
Reflect on what has worked, and what hasn't worked so well.
Consider these questions as a starting point:
- How many of your objectives have been met, and what still needs to be done?
- Where have your successes come from?
- Has promotional work been successful?
- What tactics are not working?
- Who still needs to be convinced?
To have the greatest impact, it is important to reflect on and evaluate your campaign. Try doing this throughout the process.
If you keep assessing yourself you can build up your knowledge of decision-making structures and how best to influence them.
You can also identify activities that have worked and those that haven't, and adjust your plans accordingly.
And finally, something to remember...
Some campaigns can continue for years, so don't be disheartened if results aren't immediate.
If your campaign is successful and you achieve your ultimate aim, evaluation is still useful as you can always learn from your experiences and take those lessons on to your next campaign.
Watch Jeremy, Chair of Southwark Living Streets Group - 'Perseverance can lead to success.'
Steps to take in engaging with BME and other diverse groups:
1. Find out what are the key neighbourhood and other related issues in your local area specifically relating to BME and other diverse communities. The local authorities can help on this. Many now have community involvement unit. One useful department within the local authority is the leisure department. You will be surprised by how much information they have on the local population and issues affecting them. Leisure departments are particularly keen on the issues of access and availability of quality services.
2. Get a list of groups and informal networks that represent ethnic minorities, refugee/asylum seekers and other excluded groups. Useful point of contact for this is the local CVS (Council for Voluntary Organisations), which exist in most local authority areas. Many CVSs’ are linked with local BME Networks. The National Association for Councils for Voluntary Service hold a directory of local CVSs’ (www.navca.org.uk)
3. Telephone the specified contact person on your list of groups. Generally, emails do not work, as many of them may not have access to the Internet. However, it is still worth trying. I suggest over a 5-day period you speak to 3 individuals per day. The outcome of your conversations will be agreeing a date to go and meet with them. As much as possible, be flexible about this.
4. Visit, listen and learn. People may not be receptive at first. However, it is important to be patient and persistent. Focus more on what you can offer them, not on what you want from them. Maintain a friendly attitude. Feel free to ask questions about their work, their successes, and their struggles. Ask for information to take away. It is important to express interest in their work in the community as it shows that you value them and have respect for them. Praise them for their work. Your key outcome from the meeting will be agreeing to attend their next community meeting or event to do a short talk on your group’s work and provide information. Again, you will need to allow for flexibility about dates/times. Many groups tend to meet outside normal office hours due to work/domestic/religious commitments. Also, many of the individuals involved in running community groups are volunteers.
5. Attend meeting/event on agreed date. Arrive approximately 15 minutes before. If necessary, join them in setting up the room, etc. Mingle and talk to people. In your slot, give a short talk about your group and local campaigns and issues you are involved in. Give recent examples of successes of your work in the local area. Keep your ‘message’ simple! (e.g. no powerpoints please! Avoid jargon. If you have to use acronyms, give its full meaning). Take useful (and well branded) information/publications with you. Be prepared to answer questions from the audience. This is a sign that they are really interested in your work. If it is a community event, ensure beforehand that you secure a display slot. Talk freely to people who come to your table or stall.
6. At the meeting pass around a contact list form/template for people to put their details down (names/addresses/tel. No/emails) if they are interested in knowing more about Living Streets' work. If you can, stay for the whole meeting. It is an opportunity to learn more about the community group and the issues they deal with. Also, if you can, stay for a few minutes after the meeting and network. Potentially, this is the best time to begin to gain trust.
7. Follow-up enquiries that people may have raised. Ensure that you get back to them as soon as you can. Ring back your contact person the next day (no later than 2 days after!) thanking him/her for allocating a slot for you at the meeting.
It is at this stage that the relationship process really begins. Think about ways that you can support the work of the identified groups’ work in their local community. Keep them updated regularly about your upcoming activities. Ask about other forums and networks they may know of (e.g. social clubs, churches, mosques, etc). Ask for meeting agendas to be sent to you. Look out for items on it relating to your work and try and attend if necessary. It is critical not to lose the momentum and continue to build trust. In building trust, always be clear about what you have to offer to the community.
Tips for engaging with people from minority communities
- Broaden your understanding of communities’ different cultures, customs and needs before you try and engage. For example, Hindu and other South Asian communities are mainly established in local communities through strong social groups and networks. These can serve as good starting points for engagement. Specifically for Hindus, the temples are key meeting points and the ‘secretaries’ to the temple ‘committees’ can be very good first points of contact. Securing the support and ‘buy-in’ of a named contact sympathetic to your line of work will be a good starting point in building relationships with this group
- Always try to engage with community representatives as early as possible so that they can then encourage people/individuals within the community. A significant element of outreach work may be necessary to engage with other groups such as asylum seekers and refugees. Examples of outreach methods can be:
Identifying places where migrant workers often meet together (e.g. Polish shops, Portuguese café, etc) and organising meetings and workshops there. Information about events and campaigns can also be advertised in these locations
- Considering the need for translation and interpretation at meetings/events
- People from these groups often work unsociable hours. Therefore, flexibility about dates/times will need to be adopted (e.g. evenings or weekend engagement events)
- Be prepared for rejection and do not be discouraged by this. It takes time to build trust as people may not be open straight away
- Give adequate notice prior to engagement activities
- Is there an opportunity in your group to develop skills? Are you able to provide that opportunity? If possible, offer opportunity to develop skills (e.g. volunteering), including accredited training.
- Engagement can serve as an opportunity to improve skills in relation communication, campaigning, volunteering and networking
- Do not raise expectations. People from vulnerable communities will quickly put barriers up if they don’t trust you or you break your ‘promises’.
- Work together with groups to agree methods of engagement. For example, with young people, the first stage of overcoming engagement barriers is to agree on the best methods to adopt. An example is the establishment of ’Youth Council’, to present issues from their perspectives. Some local authorities have Youth Councils who are involved in the decision-making structures in the localities, and if set up, it could be possible to engage with existing structures.
- Ensuring confidentiality at every stage of the engagement process. For example, when trying to engage with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, it is important not to advertise an event in an entire area, as this could lead to potential homophobic abuse or harassment. Targeted events should be held at LGBT friendly venues – maybe with an organisation working with this group or at other appropriate venue. This will ensure that people can feel safe and secure in voicing their views or concerns
Ideas for engagement activities which are likely to attract minority or under-represented groups (not an exhaustive list!):
Holding an open day event to profile your service or function. Opening your ‘doors’ to the community to give them an insight into the day-to-day aspects of your work.
Community ‘fun’ days
A mini-festival or carnival-style event where people of all ages, status and background can enjoy themselves and, at the same time, find out about what your work is about. Also an opportunity to share information with ordinary members for the community. You can organise your own or ‘piggyback’ on one being planned elsewhere in the area.
Planning for Real
A hands on method that people use to sort out what should be done to improve their neighbourhood. Commonly used in neighbourhood regeneration/Housing Market Renewal engagement with local people.
Providing information or a service away from your organisation or office. It may involve targeting an area where it has been identified that people have difficulties accessing information from you. It is about taking the organisation into the community. You may use locations such as places of worship, community centres, sports/leisure centres and libraries. Great opportunity to develop relationships with a wide range of local community groups.
Periodic publication targeted at people, giving updates and latest information/initiatives.
- What do you plan to achieve from the activity (survey, meeting, etc) you are carrying out?
- Have you set measurable targets (e.g. numbers of people attending) and mechanisms for recording these?
- Would you be able to assess whether there is equal representation e.g. whether you have only reached certain groups? What will you do to follow this up?
- Is it appropriate to have a mechanism for getting people’s comments such as feedback forms, storyboards, etc? Have you put this in place?
- Are you planning any follow-up to tell people what the outcomes of their comments/views were?
- Does someone have clear responsibility for taking forward the views expressed to ensure that the activity has a successful outcome?
- What can be learnt in preparation for the next activity/event?