Know what you're getting yourself into
So you want to create an advocacy campaign? That's great because we're here to help you! Before you get started, though, it's super duper important to know what you're getting yourself into. Here are four things we want you to remember:
- Take yourself seriously so that others can take you seriously
- This will take up a lot of your time, so make it a priority.
- Planning an advocacy campaign is a circular process that shouldn't end after you graduate!
- If you ever get stuck, remember to use the tool we talk about at the end of this section.
You are the leader here. That means you and everyone else on your team need to take yourselves seriously.
At the Youth Activism Project, we are ALL ABOUT teens taking the leadership on solving issues in their community while adults take the backseat. The unfortunate thing, though, is most of us are not used to this level of responsibility, especially when we have 5 billion other things to do in our lives. Typically, when it comes to prioritizing activities, we end up prioritizing activities that are led by adults, like debate or National Honors Society...and we leave our own initiatives at the bottom of the to-do list!
We want to make sure that doesn't happen to you. What you're trying to do is serious and it's important that you think of yourself that way, too. You're creating a group of citizens committed to change; you're not just some school club or community service project. You're trying to create change in your wider community — so think outside your school or neighborhood bubble (check out these youth-led initiatives for inspiration). You need to be 110% committed. Speaking of commitment...
This is going to take up a lot of your time.
If you want to lead a strong campaign, you will need to considering dedicating up to 10 hours of work per week with your teammates putting somewhere between 2-10 hours depending on how many people you have. If you're balancing several extra curriculars, your should consider making this to your top priority and being willing to sacrifice other commitments if it comes to that.
Planning and leading campaign is a circular process.
In this guide, we break down the campaign planning stage into five stages. Here are the stages along with a suggested timeline of how long you should stay on each stage:
Stage 1: Get Going (2 to 4 weeks)
This stage is all about getting a good group of people together. Some people are so eager to get started on doing actions that they skip over this stage. DON'T DO THIS. If you don't have a strong group from the get-go, you'll be dooming your campaign to failure and you don't want that, do you??
Stage 2: Become an Expert on Your Issue(s) (2 to 4 weeks)
This stage is all about knowing everything you can find out about the problem you want to solve and the people who are solving the problem. Gather stories and statistics. Talk to people to figure out who are your allies and who are your adversaries.
Stage 3: Create a Campaign Plan (2 weeks)
This stage is all about planning the actions that make the most sense of solving your problem. Consider all the data you've gathered and think about multiple tactics that are needed to solve the issue. Make sure one of your tactics is meeting with politicians or other decision-makers!!
Stage 4: Launch Your Campaign Plan (2 weeks)
This stage is about actually doing the actions!! Make sure everyone has all the skills they need to be successful and don't be afraid to make changes as you go along. Always think about how you're going to measure your progress.
Stage 5: Reflect and Keep Going (1 to 2 weeks)
This stage is all about making sure your campaign keeps going. Figure out what you did well and what more you need to do. If you're about to graduate, figure out a process to have others take over. You're going to start something amazing — the worst thing that could happen is if all the momentum dies!
Use this tool with your team if you ever find yourself getting stuck: Head Hands Heart
When teams are stuck and the work is not getting done, typically their problems fall in one or more of the following categories:
Head: Head problems deal with strategy. You could have the most motivated team ever with all the right skills, but there's something that's just not working with your strategy. What can you do to solve it?
- Figure out exactly where your strategy is not working
- Talk to other people or groups working on the problem to figure out how to improve your strategy
- Create a new strategy and see how it works
Hands: Hand problems deal with skills. When you're carrying out your campaign, you might discover that people just don't have the skills to do what needs to get done. What can you do to solve it?
- Figure out what skills you still need to learn
- Find opportunities online or in your community to learn these skills
- Ask the Youth Activism Project for support
Heart: Heart problems deal with motivation. This is the hardest problem to deal with, so it's best that you try to deal with ASAP! What can you do to solve it?
- Hold a meeting with your team to talk about the lack of motivation
- Ask them what's wrong. Do they feel disconnected from the mission? Do they feel like their voices aren't being valued? Do they just have too much going on in their life?
- Figure out together how you can be more motivated as a team