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The 100 Word Strategy

There’s a lot of discussion – and generally not much consensus – about what, exactly is a campaign ‘strategy’.

People often confuse theory of change with strategy – I characterise these as ‘what’ will change and ‘how’ you will make the change, respectively.  The former outlines a sequence of changes that, together, lead to the achievement of your final goal.   But power, motivation, pressure and leverage are – I believe – key elements of strategy that may be implied but are not explicit in a theory of change.

Our strategies should have identities – is it a hostile strategy or a cooperative one?  Mass mobilisation or an inside game?  These things set the tone and provide guidance for everyone working on it.

And finally, a strategy should be memorable.  Many of us have laboured in campaigns with ‘strategies’ running to 5, 12 or 20 pages without really coming to the point.  Even if – somewhere amongst that verbiage they hit the nail on the head –  no one can remember or explain the darn thing.

So I’ve become a proponent of the 100 Word Strategy.

Having so few words forces you to focus on the key elements in the power game of strategy.  Who is going to give you what you want (and, by the way,  what DO you want)?   Who else is key – and what is their role?  How will you motivate the change you seek and overcome challenges?  What leverage doyou have?  And what is the ‘flavour’ of your campaign – the tone, any signature tactics, anything unique?

Recently I ran a workshop with a group of people developing a campaign on an issue that is highly controversial within their culture.  Proposed legislation would crush their rights, and there has been enough backlash towards the government to stall this.  However this is a temporary win, and they needed a strategy to keep the planned laws at bay.

This is their 100 word strategy.  I have changed some words to protect the identity of the group.

  • Convince the Government to revise articles harmful to our rights in the proposed legal code and the related Bill. We will work with and strengthen the broader resistance movement, and with influencers, to maintain pressure on the government to not pass the legal  code, and then to revise the harmful articles in the Bill.
  • Support is gained by showing different people in society why certain articles are harmful, focusing on their own realities, normalising and putting a human face on our issue.
  • The campaign will be energetic, peaceful yet demanding. Safety and security must be taken seriously and integrated in the whole strategy. (103 words)

And here is another one – for the Great Bear Rainforest campaign in Canada, 1996 – 2001.

  • Use market pressure, particularly in the international marketplace, to persuade British Columbia logging companies that it is in their own best interest to secure from Government a regulatory environment that limits their unsustainable logging practices.
  • Identify key areas for protection for reasons of biodiversity or (First Nations) cultural heritage.
  • Remove or neutralise factors that that might inhibit governments*  from limiting unsustainable logging. (*This includes governments of BC, Canada and Coastal First Nations.).
  • Have these limits codified in legislation and regulation, and create a public expectation that they will continue. (89 words)

Both these are short enough to be memorable, comprehensive enough to give solid guidance and top level enough for the development of sub-strategies and tactics.  Clear, meaningful and effective – what else do you want from a strategy?

Jo Dufay offers trainings and workshops (in person and online)  in all aspects of campaigning, including how to develop a 100 word strategy.