Dear Reader – I hope this post makes you curious about new approaches to organizing, campaigning and achieving your objectives.
Unless you have all the support you need, your twin organizing goals are:
One, to maintain your existing base and
Two, to appeal to those beyond your base.
This is harder than you think.
You can’t keep your current base happy without taking action on the issues that brought them to you.
However your strategies and tactics may undermine your appeal to others.
This is counter intuitive to many.
The conventional wisdom suggests that if you take action on the concerns of your constituency, others will notice and want to join in. Especially if you achieve your objective and stop, prevent, rescind or change something.
Not necessarily so. In fact there is evidence the opposite happens and that certain strategies and tactics can be counterproductive to increasing the size of your base.
There seem to be many reasons. Here are three.
Fatigue – people are already tired and worried about the challenges in their busy lives. An actual disaster, a message that emphasizes crisis or predicts societal collapse add to the fatigue. So does pouring more data on the debate. It can become overwhelming. See here and here.
Fear – threats, conflict, polarization, acrimony, demonization spread the belief that nothing works anymore, no one can be trusted and nothing can be done. That turns into fear. Some run in the opposite direction. Some retrench. Others opt out. Overall, trust disintegrates. Including trust in you. See here and here.
Frustration – At being made to feel guilty for not doing enough. Or for not doing what you think they should be doing. At not being given credit for making up their own mind. At being shamed. Studies suggest shame is a useless change agent.
The result, your base remains marginal. Not strong enough to generate the widespread popular support that is necessary to embolden politicians to make tough decisions. See here.
What to do?
1) Change your mindset from we/they, good/bad, either/or to both/and. We are in this broken and beautiful world together. See this. And this messaging from Stewart Brand of Whole Earth catalogue fame.
2) Engage with the caring majority instead of the usual stakeholders and decision makers. Pay attention to the issues they hold just as dearly as you hold yours. Expand your repertoire to include their concerns. Help them solve their problems. Remember not every voice has been heard and not every contribution has been counted. See here.
3) Invest in tough, honest and civil conversations. Create opportunities for people with strongly held and differing views to come together. Embrace moral disagreements. Don’t avoid them. See Adam Kahane’s work for example. Or this. Also CBC Ideas, Why Democracy Depends on How we Talk to Each Other.
The methods that worked for you in the past may not be enough to address the very real and legitimate concerns that exist in the present. In that regard your base is just a baseline. Hopefully a threshold not a barrier.
It is the essence of imaginative culture that it transcends the limits both of the naturally possible and of the morally acceptable. ~ Northrop Frye
Musical selection this post is I Give You Power by Arcade Fire featuring Mavis Staples.