Strategy Development + Collaborative Processes + Design-thinking ⇒ Effective, people-powered campaigns

Going into the field, going out from our desks and out from the computer and facing people directly was very useful because we had the chance to break those bad assumptions we had about people. Accelerator participant, Mexico

The Campaign Accelerator blends high-performing campaign strategy tools and collaborative processes with proven methods inspired by design thinking. We’ve found that this hybrid approach enables teams to build campaigns that engage more people in deeper, more powerful ways.

This is an action-based process. We develop ideas and test theories. We get out of the meeting room and work with key audiences. Over five days, the plan evolves and gets refined. Multidisciplinary teams work together–team members contribute equally throughout the process by relying on diverse perspectives and expertise.

Together, problems are identified and solutions tested, building a culture of collaboration that lasts beyond the planning process.

Participants have remarked that there was no difference between roles during the process. Alignment on strategy and plan through the process brings higher levels of autonomy during implementation. Teams are able to focus on the big picture instead of small details.

Results: Plan for Moving Forward

By the end of the five day programme, teams generate a project plan with clear next steps based on an analysis of the problem and solution, audience research, and tested ideas that address the campaign challenge.

Participants also walk away with processes and tools for radical collaboration and planning that can be taken home and used with their teams long after their week together ends.

Five Day Process

Campaign Accelerator Day 1 : DefineOn Day 1, we focus on strategy through a mix of tools to build a common understanding of the challenge. We start by creating a vision for a radically positive future and dig deep into the problem to identify the hidden causes behind the problem we are trying to solve. We look at the whole system and trends to identify existing and possible disruptions that could address the root causes of the problem. We define possible strategies that our organisation can take to create change and identify the people with whom we need to work to deliver solutions.

At the end of the day, we’ll have created a vision of what we can achieve and identified possible strategies that will be tested and refined over the following days. We take a collaborative approach to strategy that involves the entire project team using visual templates and exercises. This allows everyone to participate and build the possible strategies for a project step-by-step.

Campaign Accelerator Day 2 : SenseDay 2 focuses on gaining insight and building empathy with people we want to reach and engage with during the campaign. We do this by defining specific audiences, identifying uncertainties and assumptions we have about the strategy and conducting field research to gain insights into their needs, motivations and barriers. Participants find people who fit our key audiences and then interview them in order to surface patterns or trends. These interviews and observations generate critical insights to inform our next step: creative idea generation.
Campaign Accelerator Day 3 : CreateOn the third day, the team creates and develop ideas specific to our strategy based on insights from the previous day. We employ a structured idea development process based on creative principles and typically invite external guests to maximize creativity and idea generation. We use agreed criteria to select several testable project ideas that put audiences at the centre of our efforts to bring about change.
Campaign Accelerator Day 4 : Prototype & TestOn Day 4, we discover which project ideas resonate with audiences by creating low fidelity prototypes for each of the proposed project ideas and conduct field research to test concepts with key audiences. This allows us to determine which ideas will be most effective and make improvements based on their feedback.

By the end of Day 4, we’ll have an agreed strategy, defined target audiences, agreement on which ideas we will take forward and an understanding of how to improve it/them based on audience feedback.

Campaign Accelerator Day 5 : Plan & PitchThe final day synthesizes everything into a plan we can pitch to decision makers or funders and begin implementing. We develop an outline of the project plan – including the campaign story, engagement strategy, timeline of activities, responsibilities, success metrics, and immediate next steps. Together we define what success looks like and how it will be measured. Finally, we create a timeline with clearly assigned tasks and roles. We also explore how the team will work together to deliver this new plan.

Why Design Thinking?

Design thinking has earned a reputation for generating innovative new products and services.

We’re seeing the methodologies spread quickly throughout the international aid and development sectors (“human centred design“), and the NGO / advocacy worlds are beginning to take note as well.

Adapting and including a design thinking approach in campaign planning develops empathy with audiences, challenges assumptions, and helps us better understand people’s challenges and needs.

The process includes field research and interacting with key audiences to uncover what inspires action. Gaining empathy helps remove the barriers between ‘us’ as staff and ‘them’ as people we wish to engage.

Design thinking uses prototypes and testing to gather direct feedback on how and why people engage in and interact with campaigns. The process of prototyping, testing and iterating based on feedback frees teams up to try wild ideas while minimising risks. Free from failure, participants find courage to try new things rather than sticking to what they already know.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a good project for the Accelerator?
The Campaign Accelerator is most useful for campaigns in the earliest stages of development. That is, projects with the “raw materials” – a challenge, the research, an understanding of the context and key stakeholders – but without a clearly defined strategy and plan are ideal for the Accelerator. The Accelerator also presumes that people-power will play an essential role in achieving victory / success.
How does it work?
The Campaign Accelerator is a facilitated,collaborative process that takes project teams through the steps of creating and testing a plan that can be implemented. This is an action-based process. We create theories and ideas and we get out of the meeting room to test them with key audiences. The plan evolves and is refined over the course of five days.
Who needs to participate in the workshop?
Ideal participants include the full project team – covering all program areas – along with immediate managers whose buy-in is vital. The participants will be the ones to create and commit to a project plan and work tasks, so it is essential that all relevant functional areas are present.
When and where?
We typically run the Accelerator from Thursday through Wednesday – with a break over the weekend to manage energy levels and maintain focus. This is an intense and tiring process, particularly for English as a second language speakers. You may contact us to discuss possible projects and dates. We have specific space and location requirements for the workshop to be a success, so please discuss these with your facilitator.
Can this happen in a language other than English?
We have used simultaneous translation before, but recommend at least a few participants be fluent in English.
What will you get out of it?
In addition to having a plan that is ready to take forward with clear steps for implementation, you will learn new tools and techniques for campaign planning and strategic innovation that you can repeat in future projects. This is also a great opportunity for teams to learn how to work collaboratively, accomplish something together and have some fun building strong foundations to deliver the project.
What are some problems that this addresses?

We designed the Accelerator to address the following question which we heard with increasingly frequency from colleagues: “How can I plan a high-impact campaign with people-power at its heart?”

Additionally, the Campaign Accelerator has been designed to address or at least mitigate all of these potential issues we’ve seen:

  • General boredom with “traditional” or “business as usual” planning processes, which can result in unimaginative campaigns that feel like they’ve been done before.
  • Strategy developed by a smaller team that, even if it make sense, can’t be executed because the full team doesn’t really understand it.
  • Campaigns developed where the outputs are completely out of sync with the audiences who are actually needed.
  • Campaigns which fail to have the desired impact.
How can I run my own version of the Accelerator?

Check out our Campaign Accelerator Resources page for starter tips, worksheets and more. An experienced facilitator should be able to run most of the exercises. Many are fairly straightforward, but leading a full process does require practice.

We’re also running periodic facilitation trainings. Please consider joining the next one!