Marc Porter Magee Ph.D is the CEO and founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

This is the sixth and final post in our series on the essentials for building an advocacy campaign. In the last post we compared selecting the right strategy to drawing up a blueprint. With that blueprint in place, we can now choose the tools we will use to complete the project.

With tools, as with tactics, you choose the right one for the job at hand. While there are hundreds of different tactics in the world of advocacy, there are a few top tactics that we come back to time and time again. If you can master these basic tactics, you will be well on your way to carrying out campaign strategies in service of a wide variety of goals. 

Of course, by choosing your strategy first, you give yourself more time to master individual tactics as well as go deeper into the tactics toolbox. In addition to the top tactics above, we’ve also drawn up a list of 52 common tactics across all four strategies when building our campaigns. Click here to download a PDF of the 52 common tactics for use in your campaign planning.

At first glance, this tactics toolbox is pretty intimidating. But it’s important to remember that you are not alone in your campaign. The listening tour you completed when developing your goals is also a resource of people who might be willing to help you in your campaign. And they may have skills they are excited to put to use in the service of your shared goals.

It’s easy to underestimate how much free help you can get from others when working on a just cause. While Erin Brockovich did have to master a lot of the science in her fight against PG&E, she was also able to get a lot of help along the way, including from an expert in toxicology at UCLA. Of course, it helps if you have a few tactics you have mastered as well so it’s a true team effort.

Planning, practice and persistence

As with any skill, the more deliberate practice you undertake, the better you get. There are two elements to deliberate practice: putting in the time and seeking out constructive feedback. Building out a network of friends and informal advisors can be crucial to getting the constructive feedback you need to grow in your role as an advocate.

At the conclusion of an advocacy campaign, it’s imperative to take stock of how you did by reflecting back on your goals and your campaign plan. While it is common to say we learn more from failure than success, in my experience that’s not exactly right. The experiences we learn the most from are the ones where we overcame adversity by returning to our mistakes with new approaches until we have found a path to success. Those paths to success then become road maps for future campaigns. More than anything else, it’s important to be persistent, curious and flexible as you work towards securing your policy victory. 

But even when our local leaders secure major policy change, we never say “mission accomplished.” There is always more work to do. A policy win is just the tip of the iceberg to ensure these victories translate into life-changing experiences for kids.

With this series of posts on the essentials of building an advocacy campaign, I hope we have lived up to our goal of making it a little easier to navigate this challenging terrain. We also hope you will take this system and use it, adapt it and improve upon it … and then share with us how you are doing so we can learn from you.

In our next series of posts on The Catalyst, we will take the tools and frameworks we introduced and apply them to case studies drawn from the past decade of local education advocacy campaigns. 

Twitter: @marcportermagee
Facebook: 50CAN



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