One thing is more important than having the right campaign strategy - people. It’s hard to be more precise than that because it covers many areas but the bottom line is, if you want to change the hearts and minds of others, you can’t do it alone. One lone soldier is not going to win a battle, but one small and cohesive group can make a difference.
It’s like an old technique first developed by Alexander the Great. Back in the 4th century BCE he conquered Europe and the Middle East. My memory of this from Classics is faint, but I’ll do my best to recall. In one of his greatest battles against the Persians, he was hugely out-numbered by size and power - they had elephants and charriots that would have slaughtered his small travelling army had he engaged in traditional warfare. What he did, though, was to pinpoint a section of their phalanx with all of his strongest troops and broke through the line at one point. The Persians now had their army split in two and facing the wrong direction - turning charriots and elephants was a long process, in which time Alexander’s troops had swarmed in and massacred the exposed troops causing the army to fall.
In World War II France attacked Germany after it’s conquest of Poland but was thoroughly defeated despite a stronger army and more allies. What did Germany do? They used a variation of the same tactic to defeat a stronger force.
In a campaign, volunteers are your army, and you’re up against the rest of your nation. Time spent calling, catching up and empowering your volunteers is the most valuable time spent as a coordinator. The less jobs you can do yourself, the more opportunity you are giving to others to step up, join your army and be given a chance to share their knowledge and skills. This all builds your infantry so that when you go in for the attack on your one target, there’s an army of troops already charging with media and grass roots action to make your group seem a lot bigger and more powerful than it really is.
How do you transition to such a hand-off approach?
First thing to do is to build rapport with your friends/volunteers. Rapport = trust + comfort.
Trust doesn’t mean to throw a job at someone and say “yep, I reckon they can manage that”. Trust means get to know the person. Hang out with them and learn about their passions and hardships. Connect with who they are as a person, have them understand your journey and then build a relationship from there. You can only trust a person if they know that they are being trusted, otherwise it’s just a word.
I’ve been organising a project lately and also been a helper on someone else’s project so I learnt this on the job. My way was - Get together with a bunch of people, talk about what needs to happen, delegate the tasks, set up accountability mechanisms and away we go. The way I experienced someone else’s was - we developed a shared passion for the project’s success through conversation, we talked about how we can do it, I took on my own things that I wanted to achieve and the accountability was already built in because I was accountable to myself from the trust that was set up.
Secondly, plan way in advance. If every step is outlined 1 month in advance, all you have to do is guide people to fit in to fill those roles. Just asking people to do a task that you’ve set up is an unsustainable approach that’s not worth your time because they’ll do the task, not understand the bigger picture and wait until they get delegated to next time. If they are a part of the process of outlining their task then they can use that process to take initiative for next time. If you can manage a project but not be involved in any of the small tasks, then you’ve been successful in coordinating your volunteers as a director. If they start coming with questions on the process and help you to refine the tasks at hand, then you’ve been a successful enabler and you’re actively empowering your volunteers to step up.
For me, when undertaking a project, my goal is to be an enabling director. Holding the vision for where the project needs to go and allowing people to step up on their own accord into positions that suit them. I want people to feel comfortable working with me and growing our capacity together. There’s no use in the old hierarchical system where jobs just get delegated - it’s such an inefficient use of people’s skills and motivations. Be vulnerable to your fellow campaigners and they will take the opportunity to step up and help shape the project in their own special way.