Friday, August 16, 2013

Go with the flow

Every academic term I assign my students in some of my classes a group project. They must think up some goal to change public policy or corporate policy and come up with a hypothetical plan to achieve that change in less than six months. We start studying actual successful campaigns. We talk about lessons learned, what might be transferable, and how to think about their own campaigns. The final week of class, they are the show. They present their campaigns and we all ask questions and discuss the likelihood of success.

At the center of all campaigns is their flow chart. This is not brain surgery and has been around more than 90 years. They deconstruct the working elements of their campaign--meta-goal development, campaign goal-setting, coalition-building, investigative work, recruitment, trainings, media, actions, fund-raising, events, negotiations, legal work, etc.--and build their flow chart from a reverse-engineered assumption that they will succeed in less than half a year, preferably faster, since the sooner you can achieve a victory, the more rapid the movement growth. Time is the x axis, of course, and tasks are stacked up the y axis.

Each situation is different, of course. In many cases, the campaign only invites ridicule and high costs by launching street actions before garnering a good number of willing participants. The same can be true of mainstream media work--social media and other alternative media is a different bar in that flow chart, of course.

Working with your strategic team and point people, that flow chart can be adaptively modified on a weekly basis. Areas that are not going as well can get more personnel, more resources, and fresh thinking. This can keep everything moving forward in a coordinated fashion.

It can also give multi-talented people a chance to participate more in one task when that task is running hot, and jump to another task when needs shift. The campaign can readjust for developments, for events, for a sudden influx of funds, in-kind donations, or recruits. New people can join the strategic update, assessment, and adjustment meetings as appropriate.

First they ignore you. Then you make a flow chart. Then they laugh at you. Then you follow the flow chart. Then they fight you. Then you win.

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