foe-bees-campaign
Image from Friends of the Earth

A fascinating visit to Friends of the Earth as part of my MA in Media, Campaigning and Social change gave me lots to think about. We heard presentations about fracking, Brexit and media engagement, as well as learning about their campaigning approach more generally.

One thing that really stuck with me, however, was something very simple. Andrew Pendleton, the Head of Campaigns, stressed the importance of campaigns having a clear aim which can be stated in a few words or even less, for example ‘Stop fracking‘, ‘Protect beesor ‘Stop air pollution.

dont-fack-lancashire
Image from 38degrees.org.uk

 

I started to think about an area of campaigning that I’m particularly interested in: interfaith work. At a time when tensions between faith communities are running high across the globe, the importance of encouraging communication between belief groups could hardly be greater. But I can’t help feeling that the aims of interfaith organisations can come across as ill-defined and unspecific.

I’ve been involved with the Three Faiths Forum (3FF), an interfaith charity based in London. According to their website, 3FF “works to build good relations between people of different faiths, beliefs and cultures.” This is a noble ambition, but already exceeds the ‘few words’ suggested by Mr. Pendleton for a clear aim. Even at that, the idea of “good relations” is rather vague and does not provide a clear sense of what the work of the organisation is.

Furthermore, the very name of the charity is a misnomer. Despite being called the ‘Three Faiths’ Forum, the charity actually seeks to build relationships between communities of all beliefs. This evolutionary hiccup, due to the fact that the organisation was founded by Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders, seems like a pressing point for revision.

I’ve picked on 3FF, but could have said the same of similar organisations, such as the Interfaith Alliance, the Cambridge Interfaith Programme or the Coexist Foundation. Each proclaims ambitions like 3FF’s: to promote better understanding between people of faith and others through dialogue and research; to learn about, from and between religions as they interact within a secular and religious world, and so on.

coexist-foundation
Image from idealist.org

But even if these aims were clear – despite being rather wordy – they still lack punch; it’s not obvious what the point of all this is. Mr Pendleton mentioned that Friends of the Earth uses Chris Rose’s Campaign Star. The top ‘point’ on the star reads ‘Ambition: what we want to achieve’ which is then broken down into, amongst other things, ‘direct change to the problem’ and ‘potential for further change.’ This is where the problem lies with interfaith work. It is not obvious which problem it seeks to address, and what further changes can be achieved by addressing it. Even in specific campaigns, such as 3FF Middle East – a campaign for ‘intercultural and interreligious relations in Israeli hospitals’ – do not provide concrete aims which can be clearly understood by supporters.

I truly believe that the work of interfaith organisations is extremely valuable, and that more work to this effect can produce genuine, positive social change. However, if they are to get wider support, they must work to communicate their aims with greater clarity.

 

 

 

References:

The Change Agency, 2016. Making a Campaign Concept. [pdf]  The Change Agency. Available at:  http://www.campaignstrategy.org/book_extracts/making_a_campaign_concept.pdf [Accessed 5 December 2016].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Clarity in Campaigning

  1. I think a ‘few words’ is really important too! But I also wonder about the impact of the continued use of ‘Stop’, ‘Ban’ and ‘End’ in motivating new people to an issue and helping people visualise the alternative. Maybe groups could explore a campaign line which describes the social change they want in a more positive way, like the interfaith groups do. I’ve also been recommended to try the ‘elevator pitch’ to know whether a campaign can be explained in a succinct and persuasive way in just 30 seconds 🙂

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    1. Yes – I thought our discussion in class about ‘Hope Not Hate’ vs. ‘Stop Funding Hate’ was interesting. Are stronger words more effective, or disaffecting? Maybe it also comes back to values – like everything else seems to!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I somehow missed this part when we visited the organisation – so thanks for bringing it up again. I really enjoyed reading this post. While you are talking about organisations that aren’t able to communicate their aims properly, your text is very much on point, which I appreciate a lot. One of my professors once said: your dissertation’s-topic is only good if you can sum it up in one sentence. I am not sure if that holds true for campaigns and their aims as well, but I think it’s a nice guideline. “Keep it short and simple without making it too simple” is a motto, I usually try to work along. Often, messages seem to fail as they are too squishy and therefore don’t deliver, so I agree that we should all keep in mind what Andrew Pendleton said the other day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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