5 ways campaigning organisations are getting real about people power

How experimentation, collective identity, and layer cakes are boosting member engagement

What does people power really look like in the day to day work of building and running campaigns? I had the privilege of exploring how several winning campaigners are engaging people and building power last month at Blueprint for a Great Democracy, hosted by Common Cause: Greisa Martinez (Advocacy Director at United We Dream Network), Ruth Martin (Senior Campaign Director at MomsRising) and Anastasia Khoo (Chief Marketing Officer at Human Rights Campaign).

Member engagement

MomsRising is bringing parents and their superheroes to state capitols in the fight for paid leave. They offer a “layer cake” of ways people can get involved and strive to deeply support every member’s action.

Here are my five key insights from campaigners at the session. Read on to hear more about how panelists apply these principles in their work (video of the full session is embedded below).

  1. Collective identity leads to collective action.
  2. Organisations focused on deep engagement and building people power have systems, tools and language that reflect this commitment.
  3. Be human: Welcome, thank, and acknowledge people at all levels.
  4. People can bring exponentially more resources and skills to your campaign than staff alone.
  5. Experiment, evaluate – and know when to simply let your people go for it.

Collective identity leads to collective action.

Identifying with a movement isn’t just symbolism – it can be a powerful catalyst for action. Greisa Martinez spoke about how the United We Dream Network coordinates large coming out events where people speak openly, often for the first time, about their status as undocumented immigrants in the U.S. These events show participants that there are many others like them, making action easier (and safer). They also show friends, family and even strangers that the undocumented are people just like them.

MomsRising places an emphasis on stories and shared values: “Being a mom is a shared experience that cuts across economics, race and geography,” Ruth Martin said.

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