Features Directory
Charity Insight Contributor
Published 15 September 2011

I want to change a government policy. Where do I start?

Chloe Stables,

parliamentary officer, National Council of Voluntary Organisations
Knowing what you want to change and why is half the battle; that's a start. The next stage is to open your ears and start talking to people. Read around the issue, check the official report of Parliament (Hansard) and start to make contact with the people that matter this will help you work out who the key players are and how they might be influenced. Remember that Westminster is mad for social media so start to bookmark relevant blogs and follow relevant people on Twitter, as this will help you keep up to date on more recent developments.

George Pascoe-Watson, partner, Portland
The best campaigns have a clear policy objective, have ideas about the solution to the problem, and know exactly who they are targeting. Think about what exactly it is about the policy you want to change. What is the timescale? Is it happening tomorrow or at some point before the next election? Does it need legislative change? You must get your argument straight you will be talking to lots of people about your campaign so you need to be able to communicate it clearly. You can then work out who to target and how to get to them. Remember, politicians read the papers too. Getting media coverage has to be part of any lobbying campaign.

Gus Baldwin, public affairs manager, Macmillan Cancer Support
Nearly always by agreeing your draft campaign objectives essentially what success would look like for your campaign. You then might want to think about key variables such as your level of resource, amount of time you have, the Governments current position and agenda, whether you have support from key stakeholders and if not how you might get it, and your evidence base. After that you will probably go back and tweak your objectives to make sure they are as SMART as possible. I sometimes wonder whether some charities have forgotten that campaigning is all about winning and in order to have a chance of doing that your objectives need to be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Estelle McCartney, associate director, Champollion
Be clear on your objective and the change or the ask that you are making. If possible, establish some economic, social or political evidence to support your position and carefully develop your key messages. Ideally you should test those messages to ensure that they are compelling. You should then identify the relevant decision-makers, the influencers and other interested parties. Do not overlook the role of civil servants in the policy-making process. Consider and devise your campaign tactics making sure they hit your target audience. Those tactics might include direct lobbying of ministers, organising backbench MPs to raise the issue in Parliament through tabling questions or seeking a debate, applying pressure through the media or demonstrating public support. Think about how you might help the government to make the change without it looking like a major U-turn.

Joe Saxton, driver of ideas, nfpSynergy
Know your stuff. Do your research. Become the expert as an organisation in the issue. Start by presuming your issue is really boring and work out how you can create a sense of injustice about the issue. Make sure you have original research or at least a unique synthesis of the facts. Once you are an expert work on your topic make sure you can communicate it to anybody quickly and powerfully.

Camilla Williamson, public affairs adviser, Age UK
First of all you need to find out what Government Department has responsibility for that policy area and who the key people there are that work on it. Once you've done this, make sure you're familiar with the current policy position in this area and any party/political thinking on it that is likely to progress it in the near future.

Going forward, you will need to know the decision making process in the Department and who ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with so that you know who you're targeting. Once you're in this position you can begin to engage with the relevant team and people at the Department and put together a strategy for how you will influence on this agenda over the next few weeks/months/years.

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