1 Problems facing campaigning organisations
This course aims to explore some of the problems campaigning organisations can encounter, and how such problems can be anticipated and even avoided. It consists of:
a short case study about a parent teacher association which is campaigning for the lowering of the speed limit on roads within the vicinity of its school.
an audio extract from a podcast interview on campaigning which forms part of the learning material for the OU Business School course B625 Winning Resources and Support. The interview is with Chris Stalker, Head of Campaigning Effectiveness with the UK's National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
review questions for you to relate the points made in the interview to the scenario in the case study.
Case Study: Campaign at the crossroads
Neelam was feeling a bit dispirited. She had just chaired her third meeting of the Midchester Junior and Infants Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and yet again the subject of campaigning to lower the speed limit on roads around the school had come up, and yet again there was no progress to report. A number of parents were getting extremely impatient. It was now almost a year since the serious collision which had put one of the pupils in hospital for six weeks. The child in question had fully recovered, but concerns about how fast some cars still sped along the road in front of the school were as high as ever amongst the parents and staff at the school.
However, the local newspaper, after publishing a few readers' letters on the subject, seemed to have lost interest in the story. In fact the only reaction the letters had brought was another letter – to the school governors from a local residents' group complaining about the congestion caused by parents parking to pick their children up from school, and pointing out that this too was dangerous, quite apart from speeding drivers.
Furthermore, the school's local authority had just been through a massive re-organisation, involving a number of redundancies and departmental changes. No one seemed quite certain who currently held responsibility for road safety measures. The energy with which the PTA had begun to campaign had flagged as a result, and there was confusion and frustration where once there had been a burning will to get speed bumps built and traffic signs changed in order to protect the school children from irresponsible drivers. There now seemed to be little consensus on the way forward. Were they aiming at local drivers, local politicians, local residents, parents, school children or all of them? And how were they planning to reach them? And to what effect?
To add to the difficulties, another group of parents had made a strong case at the recent meeting for the committee to raise funds to buy and equip a minibus for school activities, such as travelling to sports competitions and music festivals. They were full of plans for events and a Christmas Raffle which they were confident would see the necessary sum raised in a matter of nine months. The support and goodwill of local residents would be a vital ingredient in the success of the planned events, as they would be a key audience. It transpired at the meeting that one of the parents had a good contact at a local car dealership who might be prepared to offer them a vehicle at cost price, or even less as a sponsorship.
While pleased at the idea of a new resource for the school, Neelam was worried that the necessary fundraising drive would divert yet more attention and energy away from the road safety initiative, and – as another parent had remarked to her immediately after the meeting – it seemed ironic that the PTA were planning to spend money on a motor vehicle at the same time as they were campaigning to clamp down on drivers …