With the use of smart phones and social networking on the increase, community organisers and campaigners need to make more of online opportunities if they want to have their voices heard says a report from the Young Foundation.
The report “Amplify: Local campaigning in a digital world” is designed to help community organisations use the free and low cost web tools already widely available in the digital age, and comes out of a programme of work with local communities across the UK.
Between April 2011 and March 2013 The Young Foundation, as part of the Building Local Activism programme supported by the BIG Lottery Fund (BIG), worked with six small organisations or individuals that wanted to use digital tools to campaign on issues that mattered to them. The organisations were supported to develop and run web-based campaigns using free or low-cost web tools.
Catherine Dempsey from Hackney CAB, one of the groups The Young Foundation worked with, said: “We found that our presence online made connections for us that we wouldn’t have otherwise made, both national organisations and policymakers and small voluntary organisations that were working on the same issues.”
The report offers a practical toolkit which is designed to inspire other community organisations or individuals to campaign on issues that matter to them using free and low-cost web tools. It makes five key recommendations, giving practical examples, for how best to use digital tools in a local campaign, telling organisers to:
1. Decide who to engage and what you want them to do – campaigning is a great opportunity to connect with your local community, but many campaigns should try to connect to people like politicians or journalists.
2. Collaborate – if campaigners look beyond their geographical areas they often find others tackling similar issues. Online tools make it easier to connect and widen a campaign’s reach.
3. Keep content accessible and up-to-date – many campaigns will find support dwindles if content becomes stale, but certain social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook should make contacting supporters easier and less time consuming.
4. Maintain momentum – people need to have a reason to stay committed to a campaign.
5. Target influencers to amplify your message – online tools make reaching people in power and other decision makers far easier.
The report’s author Sophie Hostick-Boakye said “The emergence of web tools has made reaching decision makers far easier. Technology can help accelerate social progress and by using web tools and targeting people who can change things, local campaigns can be propelled to new places.”
Sophie Hostick-Boakye is an Associate at The Young Foundation and works on Building Local Activism.