Author: Tom Liacas

Organising’s back… and that’s good news for campaigners

Insights, Learning

There is a lot of talk these days about the relative merits of organising and mobilising in campaign strategy circles. In these discussions, mobilising is understood as the practice of driving your base to take part in collective activities, such as signing petitions or donating online, with a focus on achieving good numbers. Organising, on the other hand, is the process of building deeper bonds with supporters and skilling them up to become leaders themselves. Though many advocacy organisations have put their energies into mobilising, analysts such as political scientist Hahrie Han and labor activist Jane MacAlevey remind us that...

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A Big Organizing guide to 2017 and beyond

People Lead

A warning to those living in open and privileged societies and working in well-funded top-down advocacy institutions: This book may cause intense feelings of inadequacy and a burning desire to innovate. Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything is an inside look at the massive volunteer-driven campaign supporting Bernie Sanders’ run for U.S. president. Becky Bond and Zack Exley, key Sanders campaign strategists, draw on their experience creating a “Big Organizing” machine that leveraged supporter enthusiasm and put volunteers in leadership roles along the way to making seventy-five million calls, sending eight million text messages and winning...

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Fight for $15: Directed-network campaigning in action

Case Studies, People Lead

American unions have been losing members and influence for over 30 years so it’s notable when a labor campaign changes wage policies across the U.S. and forces corporate giants such as Walmart and McDonald’s to bend to its demands. Using directed-network campaigning, the Fight for $15 is shifting power in the direction of America’s workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-supported Fight for $15 seeks a $15 per hour minimum wage across the United States. The campaign is being fought at the federal level, where the minimum wage is currently a paltry $7.25, while also targeting big retail employers with...

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When political races become campaign innovation engines


Recent attention focused on cutting edge distributed organizing tactics deployed in the Bernie Sanders U.S. presidential campaign will surely trigger a sense of déjà vu for those tracking the field since Obama’s campaign in 2008 and for digital veterans who recall Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. Each race produced memorable campaigning breakthroughs and left behind a toolkit that organizers in other movements have adapted and repurposed toward advocacy and activism. Political campaigns as incubators for new mobilisation strategies There is clearly a special set of circumstances that emerges every few years and with certain candidates that turns political races in the U.S. into quantum leap moments for digital and people-powered mobilisation strategy. To find out what makes certain political campaigns such drivers of innovation, Mobilisation Lab spoke with some key observers who share a long view of political campaigning practices. For Micah Sifry, Executive Director of Civic Hall, U.S. campaigns are particularly potent digital mobilisation labs. American elections bring together budgets rarely seen by organizers elsewhere and, relative to other campaigns around the world, last a long time, providing the timeline needed for extensive testing and optimisation. Not all U.S. campaigns are alike when it comes to cutting edge strategy, however. Underdog status, Sifry says, provides certain progressive candidates a fertile base for innovation. “Typically, underdogs are forced to experiment where the front runners or the establishment candidates do less experimentation,” he observes. Sifry points out that Howard...

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