Planning campaigns at the grassroots

In this post we interview Kathryn Tulip of Seeds for Change Oxford who has been working to make strategy more accessible to grassroots campaign groups.

You can listen to the full interview (12.5 minutes) or Kathryn’s top tips for facilitators (2.5 minutes). Apologies for the background noise. For those that prefer the written word, we’ve transcribed some of the interview below, including paraphrasing the top tips….

Challenges strategy poses for grassroots campaign groups?

Many find the idea of long-term planning daunting, and the creation of timelines that go on for periods of up to 5 years quite tricky to deal with in terms of thinking about where they might be in their campaigns, and their ability to commit to that length of time.

The experience of having created plans in the past that haven’t been fully implemented – maybe being a little over-enthusiastic about what resources they had available and commitments   to carry forward the strategic plan… grassroots groups go up and down in their energy levels and numbers involved in the group, and … a strategic plan isn’t being well supported by the group process. They can’t fulfil the plan and that becomes a negative factor because they’re not making progress in the way that they hoped they would.

In many groups there are hierarchies and there are some people who seem to be more naturally strategic thinkers…. maybe [their strategy] is presented in a very charismatic and a very positive way and people find themselves agreeing with it, but it seems it’s not a democratic process. The shared thinking behind the strategy isn’t owned by the group and that can create hierarchies between those who do the strategic planning and those who follow on behind

Ways forward?

Think of strategy not as a fixed plan but as a discussion, a way of thinking about what might happen, what the outcomes are, the way to put ourselves in the best position to reach those outcomes without getting too bogged down in detail… a discussion of possibilities so that we’ve created more fertile ground

Top tips for facilitators?

  • Mind your language – the language of strategy, aims, outcomes, targets, tactics is quite militaristic and puts some people off. Think in terms of planning campaigns and stepping stones instead
  • Tackle the gender divide – experience shows that more men engage with strategy than women. Perhaps it’s the language or the traditional planning tools and processes
  • Advertise for accessibility – bear the above points in mind when you advertise a strategy session and use language that works for all
  • Beware linea r tools! – many strategy tools encourage linear thinking “if we do A then B happens” these are “fitted to some people more than others and frankly might not be what’s happening in the outside world if you think about the organic nature of our world”

And finally – one for your strategy toolkit….

Stepping stones to strategyKathryn has been exploring critical path analysis, but renaming it (for obvious reasons!) as stepping stones. There are various versions of the tool out there. Here’s one from Training for Change.