Respect, empower and include!
Since Barack Obama’s victory in last year’s US Presidential Election, there’s been a rush by a number of organisations to identify the silver bullet of the Obama campaign – what was it that lead to his victory and what can we in the UK learn from it?
Obviously UK unions have been amongst these organisations and those involved in and concerned with union organising strategies have paid particular attention to how the campaign appeared to be able to enthuse and mobilise so many volunteers, many of whom (both young and old) we were told were getting involved in political campaigning for the first time.
Quite a bit of the analysis of how this was achieved has focussed on the campaign’s use of new technology and in particular social networking sites including Obama’s own version ‘MyBo’. But as someone interested in how we in the trade union movement can get more people involved in the activity of their respective unions, I was struck by a chapter in the recently published Fabian Society book ‘The Change we Need: Lessons for Britain from Obama’s victory’.
The chapter, titled ‘Respect, empower and include’: the new model army’ written by Karin Christiansen and Marcus Roberts describes the campaigns approach to volunteers and activists. It describes how the campaign initially identified volunteers, then put them to work and kept them motivated. Throughout all of this there was an emphasis on keeping square pegs in square holes – allowing people to do things they had an interest in or a particular talent for, rather than forcing them to do a list of pre-ordained tasks. Motivation was achieved by traditional methods such as regular encouragement and thanks and also by making sure that volunteers understood where their efforts fitted into the campaign as a whole. Attention was also paid to ensuring that volunteers had the right resources in sufficient quantities.
Obviously none of this partcularly new to the way well run union branches and campaigns operate but I think that the trick for us is making sure that such approaches become more widely practised.
You can download the entire book here.