How We Win
Over the past two decades, we’ve learned many lessons about building a new economy. Probably the most important one is that winning lasting social change requires a comprehensive set of capacities and a long-term strategy.
We are not saying this is the only way to win. But when you have the tools at your disposal, the chances of real, lasting victory go way up.
Here are the elements of a comprehensive campaign:
• Understanding the economic sector you are trying to change: this is the phase where researchers do deep analysis of an industry or company. They must know who controls the industry/business, what the working conditions are, how it affects community health and the environment, what its political power is, what laws and regulations it is bound by and much more.
• Analysis of how the targeted economic sector could produce good jobs and a healthy environment: Based on a deep understanding of the industry/business, an alternative model is proposed that shows how better working conditions would benefit multiple parties, including the industry/business, the community, the environment, the city, local businesses, taxpayers and the workers and their families.
• Strategic research to bolster the policy proposal: Once a policy proposal is developed, ongoing research is required to strengthen the case for that proposal and deal with legal, political and other challenges.
Policy Development and Advocacy
• Power analysis of the political landscape: Before creating policy options, a thorough analysis of the political landscape is needed so that the policy effort is grounded in reality. Relevant elected officials are mapped according to both their influence and the degree to which they are expected to support or oppose the campaign. Other influential players, including community leaders/organizations, business groups and homeowner organizations, are included in this mapping.
• Creation of policy options that address the core problem: Following completion of the initial industry/business research, the next step is to develop several policy options that have the capacity to achieve the stated goals of the campaign. The proposed policies must be legally defensible and politically viable, so a thorough understanding of relevant law and the political landscape is required.
• Conversations with electeds and allies to vet policy for political feasibility: Even if a proposed policy appears to be politically feasible, it must be vetted with key elected officials and close allies to ensure that the internal analysis matches reality. A series of frank, open meetings is required to make this determination.
• Creative fight to win: Once a policy option has been chosen, a creative and determined effort is required to build support for the policy. This will involve public actions, hearings, release of timely research, consistent and effective work with coalition partners, and in some cases significant alteration to the policy.
• Recruitment of core grassroots leaders to support project: Based on an initial assessment of the political landscape and the broad parameters of the policy, a campaign must recruit grassroots leaders from key constituencies. This requires an understanding of the internal dynamics of targeted communities and constituencies so that recruitment is sensitive to their needs. Deep relationship building over a period of several months is required to achieve a sufficiently large core of leaders with the necessary commitment to the campaign.
• Strategic deployment of leaders to build further support and provide community voice: Once a core of committed community leaders is recruited and developed, these leaders must be deployed in a way that broadens the reach of the organizing, reached key decision makers and maintains their engagement. Types of activities included delegations to elected leaders, public actions, legislative hearings, and so on.
• Recruitment of organizations to join the project: Beyond the recruitment of grassroots leaders, the cultivation of a strong, diverse coalition is essential to the success of a campaign. The particular types of organizations of will vary from campaign to campaign, but may include unions, faith-based groups, environmental organizations, immigrant rights groups, public health groups education associations. This process requires several months and a sophisticated understanding of the core issues and dynamics of targeted coalition partners.
• Authentic engagement and integration of coalition members into project work: Once coalition partners have been recruited, they must become an integral part of the campaign. This means both internal involvement in strategic decision-making as well as public participation in such things as meetings with electeds and press events.
• Development of long-term commitment by coalition partners to fight to win: Ongoing relationship building with coalition partners is essential to maintain their commitment. This requires concerted efforts by key staff to address challenges and continue to deepen the relationship with coalition partners.
• Identification of key audiences and targeted message development , messenger training, and materials creation: Long before the launch of a campaign, a comprehensive communications strategy is needed. This includes a careful and creative message development process, the creation of a wide range of internal and external materials (message sheet, talking points, brochure, fact sheets, website, logo, etc.), the training of messengers, a mapping of key media outlets, the development of a multimedia strategy and more.
• Deployment of message, messengers and strategies to build support for project, inoculate against opposition and provide cover to electeds: A successful public launch of the campaign that establishes the message, gets the attention of key decision makers and engages key media is critical. Following the launch, both proactive and reactive strategies are required to build the case, put pressure on supporters and opponents, inoculate against counter arguments and maintain interest of key audiences. This involves media events, story placement, creation of new materials, further training and deployment of spokespeople, etc.
• Engaging the public debate on our terms: It is critical to control the debate. This requires careful planning and then aggressive, nimble execution of communications strategy.
• Research into legal hurdles to policy proposals: A thorough understanding of the legal landscape is required during the policy development stage. Outside legal help will typically be needed, but some institutional knowledge is a great asset.
• Development of legally viable options for policy enactment: Policy options must be exhaustively vetted before a campaign is launched. Failure to do this can result in years of wasted effort and demoralizing setbacks.
• Defense of the policy in court: No policy, no matter how well it has been vetted, is immune to legal challenge. Such challenge should be anticipated so that a strategy is already in place if a litigation is filed.