Significant Trends in 2006 (Part 1)
Part I: The FairSay 2006 Campaigning Review2006 Review Contents: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
2006 Campaigning Highlights
I have been working for eight years to combine campaigning and the Internet. So in 2006 it was a pleasure to see and feel two milestones being achieved:
- Increasing number of non-profits recognise campaigning as an essential part of achieving their purpose and are establishing campaigning activities.
- The Internet became mainstream and is now recognised as a powerful way to engage with others (rather than as a 'destabilising' technology)
The Campaigning Space Becomes More Crowded
The adoption of campaigning by an increasing number of non-profit organisations has been occurring for a while. But in 2006 this seemed to accelerate. In the UK, this is primarily due to the success of Make Poverty History in 2005 and the global parent coalition of GCAP. And just as campaigning was boosted by Make Poverty History (or other GCAP coalitions) in 2005, in 2006 it was further impacted by the Climate Change movement (e.g. Stop Climate Chaos coalition in the UK).
I experienced this trend in two ways:
- Established campaigning organisations started to feel it was harder to acquire and retain supporters (the bulk of what clients ask me with help on)
- Organisations new to campaigning were both hiring staff for new campaigning roles and were asking for help in areas of developing their strategy and plans and implementing these.
But there was also a continuation of the trend that started years ago: the establishment of new campaigning organisations.:
- MoveOn (one of the oldest of this group) continued to grow, fueled by the 2006 US Election and their ability to continually improve by constantly split-testing, analysing and surveying to inform the effectiveness of innovations and their ability to listen to and involve their participant base.
- This model was successfully replicated in Australia with GetUp (see their 2006 review) which only launched in Aug 2005. Now GetUp has more supporters than all the political parties combined and (I think) any other single Australian NGO (unions might be an exception).
Anyone who dismisses these initiatives as 'Internet' is still Internet illiterate: they are not about the Internet at all, they are about engaging with people and encouraging people to engage with each other. The Internet merely makes it cheaper and easier to do that. MoveOn and GetUp also get tens of thousands of people on the street and taking real action - and have inspired a new generation of people to have hope for their country and world. Another organisation, Avaaz, is on the verge of taking this model global (see more in Part 5: 2007 What's Coming in 2007)
The Internet Becomes Mainstream
In 2006 the Internet became mainstream in many ways on which others have documented. In numbers, 70% of the US population (or 77% depending on your source) and 62% of the UK population now have access to the Internet. But since others have written about this, I'll focus on the signs of this in campaigning in 2006.
The 2006 US Election demonstrated how far the Internet had come. Both parties and almost all candidates used the Internet (in conjunciton with more traditional approaches) to fundraise, promote their message, undermine their opponents and mobilise their supporters. Blogging networks and video were important to this as were custom social networking tools (see MyGOP, The Democratic Party or MyDD). Furthermore the Democrats started using modeling (aka micro targeting or segmenting) as the Republicans have for year to tailor their messaging for specific audiences and is likely part of the behind the scenes reason why the Democrats made such significant gains.
2006 also saw non-profit campaigners experimenting with blogging, using social networking sites, posting campaign videos, podcasting, using wikis, making mashups, etc. All these activities were not necessarily new in 2006, but they did become more mainstream in 2006 in terms of media reporting and public usage.
In my own work I saw and heard non-profit directors and senior managers expressing that the Internet is an essential part of achieving their organisations' campaigning objectives. Several years ago, the Internet was an afterthought for these same people. This is an important breakthrough since part of the challenge for years has been finding people in these roles who see the larger potential for the using the Internet beyond just publishing, email updates and fundraising. However most senior managers still do not yet know how to use it effectively and what using it effectively requires.
However the Internet becoming 'mainstream' in the non-profit world does not mean that non-profits are yet effective at using the Internet for campaigning. What it does suggest is that directors and senior managers may now be clearer about what they expect it to deliver, they may start to demand a better return from their investment in using the Internet for campaigning, they may be willing to allocate more staff and budget and they may be willing to take more risks.