If there is a specific issue you want to target and youíve got all your facts together, you are ready to organize a campaign. If not, do some research first (see Section XII).
A campaign is a long-term plan of action focused on one particular issue. Set an ambitious but achievable goal, plan escalating levels of action, and be prepared to stick with it until you win. As part of a campaign, you may stage protests and civil disobedience. Or you may choose a sustained public education effort of tabling, leafleting and public meetings. By using a well-thought-out strategy and an escalating level of action, you may be able to do anything from getting more veg meals in the dining halls to stopping an abusive research project.
A campaign requires a great deal of planning, commitment, and organization. While itís possible to do this alone, the support of others is very desirable. Once you get going, others will join you. You, however, must expect to lead the way.
Your first step is to thoroughly research your opponents. Make a list of their strengths and weaknesses. What arguments will they use to defend their position?
Think about the information you gather. What do you hope to achieve? In other words, what are your demands? What is the minimum you will accept?
If youíve got a good target, start developing your strategy. Begin by designing a timetable for your campaign. Then establish short-range goals that help keep momentum going and bring you closer to your you target. You can escalate your tactics as needed until you are successful.
Decide whose support you really need to win. Donít just say ďthe public.Ē Which part of the public? Which groups or individuals in particular? Consider how to reach them. You may not even need public support to win. Whose support can you count on from the beginning? How will you work with those people? Analyze how you will win over or neutralize the opposition. Prepare for countercharges. What claims will your opponents make to defend their actions? How will you refute them?
Picking a Campaign
Before you begin, ask yourself what you ultimately want to accomplish. A
student group can't fight every campaign. Pick something you can barely win.
Relate everything to student life.
Make every decision based on whether it will lead to your ultimate goal.
When are you willing to compromise (if ever)? At what point will you stop?
Talk about these questions as a group.
Choosing Your Strategy
You may be able to accomplish your goals with little effort, such as a letter-writing campaign or a series of leafleting and tabling activities. Believe it or not, some campaigns do not require demonstrations or rallies. Start out small, and build from that. It would be a bad idea to start a campaign with a civil disobedience, for example, because itís hard to escalate your tactics after that.
Here are some general strategies to follow:
Try to communicate with your opponent. Write to the head of the company or organization, politely state your grievance and ask for action. Give them time to respond, but give them a deadline so they donít leave you dangling forever. Itís always possible your opponent is unaware of abuses, and there may be room to negotiate a change. Regardless, if you donít go to the source of the problem first, your credibility will be impaired.
Document your communications. Keep copies of letters and a written record of telephone calls.
Before you go public, try to get some expert opinions to back you up. Such statements lend credibility to your campaign and make it easier to convince the public and officials.
Produce some basic campaign literature: a factsheet, a background/history sheet, an alternatives sheet, a page of expert opinions, and a short letter that lists your demands and tells people what they can do to help. These provide essential factual information for the public and for the media.
Arrange a meeting with any official related to this issue-this could be the mayorís office, the university president or a regulatory agency. Clarify the facts about the issue and the changes you are proposing and try to get their support. State the problem, your demands and what you want the official to do.
Build a coalition by talking to other campus groups. Ask them to pass a resolution or write a letter supporting your issue. Try to get support from local and national groups.
Develop an ďemergency responseĒ telephone tree early in the campaign and keep it up to date. It should be separate from any other telephone tree and should include only those who can demonstrate or take other action on a dayís notice.
Give your opponent a second chance to negotiate with you. This may also be the time to issue an ultimatum if negotiations are unsuccessful.
When you escalate to a new level, donít abandon your original activities. Public education should be a constant effort, complementing all your other tactics.