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Five Steps to Building Great Campaigns that Change the World

If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in doing something big. Maybe getting a recycling program going at your school. Or getting involved in national-level debates around food assistance. Bravo – we need it all.

A campaign is a set of actions that escalate towards an end goal. Campaigns can focus on doing anything from raising public awareness, to raising money, to passing new policies, to getting someone elected for office.

Building great campaigns that inspire people and achieve social change isn’t easy. But it’s not magic either. Yes, changing public policy or public opinion can be really hard. But you can give yourself the best shot possible keeping a few important ideas in mind.

1. KNOW YOUR GOAL. You need a destination, a dream, so people know if they want to join the journey, and so you can allocate your resources to get there. Big goals are great for articulating your vision and inspiring people to join you; everyone wants to be part of making a big impact. But at the same time, be realistic about what you can achieve and when. And remember, changing the public conversation around an issue, or educating your generation, are great goals alongside concrete policy change.

2. ARTICULATE YOUR OBJECTIVES. On that note, identify the steps towards achieving that goal. If your overarching goal is getting a new policy passed in the spring, you might spend the fall semester educating youth about the issue, having initial meetings with decision makers, and/or building out your communications tools. These can all be articulated as objectives, for example educating X# of youth, or raising decision maker awareness (communications tools can contribute to either).

3. BE REALISTIC and STRATEGIC. When thinking about both goals and objectives, be sure they are not only inspiring, but also realistic and smart. Balance getting people amped up with amazing proposals, and actually getting things done. Propose a realistic timeline for getting tasks done. People *will* be motivated by achieving more modest results, if they understand how they relate to the bigger picture.

4. BUILD A GREAT TEAM. One of your most important resources is your team. In most cases, you’ll be working with volunteers (and you’re probably one too). So it’s important to give them clear tasks, recognize their contributions, and build their skills to get their work done.

5. KNOW AND SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES. Identify what success looks like, and make sure everyone know about your good work. This not only build momentum, but gives an important shout-out to everyone who’s played a part in your success. Along these lines, build in moments to take stock of what’s working and what’s not, and tweak things as necessary. And remember, change happens over time. Never lose your enthusiasm, but maintaining a steady and realistic vision of change will keep you moving forward.

Good luck! And have suggestions on how to build a great campaign? Please share!

About Karen Showalter

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