Feeling vague and blurry?

Convener: Paul S.

Get your story straight in an organisation dominated by multiple issues.

1 Comment

  1. Session summary: Vague and blurry? Giving focus (and a story) back to an organisation that works on multiple issues

    As an organisation gets bigger and older it may work on more and more stuff. Your single-minded clarity about the problem you’re trying to fix becomes blurry. You become more siloed. Every campaigner in the building thinks their issue and their project is the most important, and thinks that the organisation should be resourcing and communicating their issue at the highest level all of the time. In the meantime, for the outside world your purpose and points of distinctiveness become murkier. Just who are these people and why do they want my time and money?

    – How have people resolved this dilemma? Can re-establishing a single, ambitious goal help?
    – Can a single goal help?
    – What’s your experience of trying to present a clear view of an organisation as more than a collection of issues?
    – What barriers have you encountered? How have you overcome?

    Friends of the Earth are looking to address these issues with a ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ for 10-20 years, that speaks to our strengths and values.

    Key learnings:
    – A big single goal (e.g. Gates Foundation’s eradicating polio in 5 years) can be powerful, as a means of telling your story, providing focus and being clear about who you are.

    – But the crucial thing is to be absolutely clear about your values and running them through all your work, all your comms, all your everything.

    – Your goal/narrative must be true to your values internally – but don’t create a goal and a narrative that justifies you simply continuing to do what you’ve always done through triangulation. You’re trying to change the world! Focus on what you need to do to make that change.

    – Make it connect by telling the human story, not the abstractions, not only ‘the issues’

    – Clarify your values, develop your story and goal through an open and transparent process – use blogs and social media to open up the process and allow people to engage and influence the project as it goes.

    – There’s a whole bunch of approaches to research and testing your thinking (and testing, testing, testing is key – don’t do it in a dark basement talking only to yourselves):
    – Focus groups with friends of existing activists
    – Email testing
    – Web surveys
    – Social media content sharing
    – Basecamp
    – Co-creative communities. Promise communispace
    – 1:1 interviews with key stakeholders
    – PR co targeted audit of particular groups you want to reach – see what parts of brand resonate and are known

    – We can look not just to our peer organisations for inspiration about people doing it well: private sector and social movements, not just other NGOs

    – We should be OK with the fact that when we clarify our values and our story, we *will* annoy and alienate some people – we can’t be all things to all people and stay values-focused

    – We should feel confident that we *can* take supporters from one *issue* to another if we link the issues through our *values* – Common Cause have research that shows this

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