Campaigning in partnership

There are times when a campaign should be carried out by a specialist organisation which has niche knowledge of an issue but in most situations there is a good argument for collaborative campaigning. Though there are inevitably challenges presented by such an approach, there are significant potential benefits of a campaign involving a strong and well-planned partnership. Organisations can campaign together in a range of ways, from loose networks to more formal structured coalitions and alliances. Over time, collaborative partnerships often evolve by responding to changes in the external environment. Benefits of collaborative campaigning There are a lot of other campaigners out there and much of the work may have been done already by others – there’s no point in constantly reinventing a new campaign. Here are some of the main benefits of collaborative campaigning. Maximising campaign resources The voluntary sector is constantly short of money, especially campaigns budget, which are often pieced together from various other funding sources. Working jointly with one or more other organisations means the partners can share management and delivery costs. This enables limited resources to stretch further than they might otherwise, creating greater potential impact. Broadening your campaign support base Each new partner you involve means a new list of potential supporters for your campaign. The different communications channels and methods of outreach used by different organisations, can create new pathways for engaging wider layers of activists for your cause or issue. Showing a united front Demonstrating strength of numbers and a unified voice can be very powerful. It can add legitimacy and political clout to your campaign, making your targets pay attention. It can also dissuade potential critics who attack the divisions that often exist between organisations working on similar issues, from slightly different perspective. Involving different perspectives in your campaign By demonstrating the importance of your issue to a range of different stakeholders, groups and perspectives, you can improve your campaign’s credibility in the media, government and among the public. Building partnerships with organisations and people who might not be otherwise associated with your cause, or even the voluntary sector, could help you to leverage attention that you might not otherwise receive. For example, Oxfam GB, the Refugee Council and Transport and General Workers Union campaigned together successfully in 2000 for the scrapping of a new asylum vouchers scheme. Each organisation brought particular expertise, working with a union brought access to influencing routes directly within government. Making the most of new contacts By working with another organisation, you can begin to leverage each others’ reach amongst decision-makers, accessing different targets from the government department or company you are hoping to influence. These contacts can be of longer-term use if you or your organisation campaign on related issues in the future. Creating a campaign with wider reaching impact If you are a national organisation, partnering with a local group can lend increased credibility to both of your campaigns. It can also help you to develop a joined-up strategy for influencing different levels of government that have a stake in your issue. If you are a local group, partnering with other local groups on a common cause can help to increase your influence with regional and national decision makers. Common pitfalls of campaign collaboration Anyone who has worked in any type of partnership is likely to have seen some of the issues that can arise when two people or organisations are looking to work together.  NCVO’s Collaborative Working team has identified the following areas as potential pitfalls for partnerships: personalitiescompetition between partnerslack of information and experiencelack of resources, especially at decision-making stageresistance to changecultural mismatch between organisations lack of consistency and clarity on roles and responsibilities Before joining a coalition, or deciding to campaign in collaboration, think about whether joining together will maximise the impact that you could have had on your own. If you could have the same impact working alone, then think twice about whether you should work in collaboration or coalition, it can be a time consuming process. Further reading: Campaigning in collaboration, NCVO, 2007 Have your say Have you run campaigns in collaboration with other organisations? Would you do it again? What did you both learn? Share examples of campaigns that have been run in partnership on the Campaigning and lobbying forum.

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