12 habits of successful change-makers: knowing our tools

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s Social Change Project investigated how social change happens. The research identified “the 12 habits of successful change-makers”, behaviours found in both individuals and organisations. Every month in 2019, SMK CEO and ACEVO trustee Sue Tibballs will reflect on what these habits mean for civil society leaders and invite you to do the same.

Habit #10: Stop thinking about campaigning as a process and start thinking about it as a journey – how are you keeping your navigators’ skills sharp?

Change is complex, often messy, but ultimately navigable. Your campaigners are pilots through uncharted waters. They use their experience, knowledge and skills to plot the route with the greatest chance of success, responding to shifts in the winds and currents to keep you on course. With this in mind, how do you as a leader ensure that they are equipped to guide the ship?

Firstly, in my experience, campaigners are naturally curious – they are committed to making change and want to understand how best to achieve it. Give them the permission they need to pursue that curiosity. This might mean budget to attend events that introduce them to new people, ideas and tactics. More important is your recognition that building relationships with other campaigners or following their twitching antenna to sniff out the latest developments are legitimate uses of their time. Too many campaigners feel obliged to do this part of their job out-of-hours.

Secondly, make sure your internal culture can accommodate a flexible campaign strategy. A goal and a framework for achieving it are sufficient, with activity sketched in but open to changing tactics. For larger organisations, other teams will need to accommodate the fact that campaigners may be unable to predict their activity many months in advance. And measurement that mirrors the numbers and percentages used by fundraising or communications is unlikely to deliver meaningful information about campaigns – so make room to experiment with different ways to assess your impact.

Thirdly, be open to different ways of achieving change. We have seen, over the past few years, campaigners’ attentions drifting beyond Westminster as Brexit dominates the legislative and national policy agenda. They are challenging the decisions of other institutions, shifting public attitudes, supporting grassroots change-makers to campaign for themselves, or using the law. Is your own leadership open to new kinds of outcomes and tactics? Do you need to better understand the implications and opportunities?

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is responding to new challenges with new forums for discussion. In November, we’ll be exploring how we can use the law for social change. Our forthcoming ‘coffee & campaigns’ sessions will help to connect peers for self-guided exploration of these challenges. Our regular Change Networks investigate specific instances of change and ask what we can learn from them.

Embrace the idea of campaigners as your navigators. Help them steer your ship with confidence by keeping their skills current and their tools well-calibrated.

Previous blog in the series: Habit #9, collaborating rather than competing

Image credit: https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/12397.html

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