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Involving beneficiaries

Participation is key to any campaign giving people a voice to influence the decisions that affect their lives. What ever the term you use, beneficiaries, users, clients orpartners, involving who you represent and placing them at theheart of your campaigning is not only positive and desirable butcan increase your impact. Meaningful beneficiary involvement is source of legitimacy andaccountability that strengthens the moral case for yourcampaigns. It can also help make change a reality. Long term grass roots involvement helps to ensure that policy changes are then actually implemented on the ground or behaviours changed. Who are beneficiaries ‘Beneficiaries’ are people directly affected by an issue who stand to benefit from the outcome of the campaign. Some people object to the term beneficiaries because it can imply that beneficiaries are passive subjects, rather than active agents, of change. There are lots of alternative terms used by different organisations from rights holder, affected community, stakeholder, participant. Not all are applicable in all contexts and all have pros and cons so we use beneficiaries here because it is short and simple. What ever the term you use involving who you represent and placing them at the heart of your campaigning is not only positive and desirable but can increase your impact. Starting out It is better to be honest about where you are, where you want to be and the culture of your organisation. All organisations work differently and will have different stages of beneficiary involvement. Think realistically about what you can achieve. These questions may be a useful place to start thinking:     What are the aims of your organisation?    Does your organisation take a ‘we know best’ approach?    Does it have a range of stakeholders with diverse views?    How are you funded?    Is it user led?  Involvement should be a positive experience for both staff and volunteers. Look for ways to share good experiences across the organisation this will also help to lobby internally for the value and importance of meaningful beneficiary participation and how it can work. Involvement across the campaigns cycle There is no one set approach to involving beneficiaries but it isimportant to think about why and where beneficiaries could beinvolved throughout your campaign A useful starting place may be to think about the stages of the campaigns cycle. Analyse the issue Analyse the issue and environment and build a robust supporting evidence base.  Consulting beneficiaries and users at this stage could support decisions around: Providing and collecting a firm evidence base for your campaign orProviding information and intelligence on the issue and highlight any adverse effects that may be createdIdentifying problemsIdentifying potential solutions  Developing a strategy for change Devise your campaign strategy and embed monitoring and evaluation.  Involving people in strategy and planning could be helpful given the specific knowledge and personal experience different groups can bring to a campaign. Planning Be clear on what you are trying to achieve and set clear and measurable objective.  At this stage beneficiaries and users could provide vital insight and ideas for setting appropriate campaign objectives.  Could your beneficiaries share intelligence on any adverse effects that achieving a particular campaign objective may have on their lives’ or the lives’ of others? For more meaningful participation organisations ensure that objectives then receive sign off from a beneficiary management or advisory group. Make it happen Securing meaningful change takes time, stick with the issue and communicate it well to the right audience. Campaigning with your beneficiaries increases legitimacy and can increase impact. Some beneficiaries and users may already have developed a relationship with some decision-makers and opinion formers, such as their local MP, and it may increase influence to approach targets through your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries could also be integral to informing the appropriate indicators of success, milestones, and an overall idea of what success might look like. To bring the message home to decision makers, contributed to the give us a chance’ campaign achieving success. Evaluation Measuring and assessing your campaign activities as you go against your campaign objectives and adapting your strategy. Then looking back at certain points at your overall campaign to draw out learning that can be fed into your future campaign work. Involving your beneficiaries throughout the campaign check the campaign is on track. Involving your beneficiaries at the end of the campaign to ensure that real change has resulted – the impact is the real change created by a campaign the difference it makes to peoples lives. Useful link Ladder of young people’s participation (Free Child Project) Have your say How do you involve beneficiaries in your campaigns? What have you learnt through this process that you could pass on to others? Have your say on the Campaigning and lobbying forum.


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