'Campaigners beware of paternalism,' warns Shelter chief

Charities that don't consult their beneficiaries about campaigns are guilty of paternalism, according to Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter.

Sampson, who was speaking this week at the NCVO’s first conference on campaigning, said: “To come up with solutions without the beneficiaries is hugely questionable – it's very paternalistic.”

He added: “Our full name is ‘Shelter – the national campaign for homeless people’ and as such we should help homeless people define as much of the campaign as possible.”

Ray Mitchell, campaigns manager for Age Concern England, agreed. “If you are producing materials that need to resonate with a particular group, then it makes sense to ask them.”

Age Concern England is launching a campaign next month to try to increase benefit take-up. The charity showed focus groups of house-bound older people 24 different posters before choosing one for the campaign.

“Many of the images that we came up with in the office were the exact opposite of what the older people chose,” admitted Mitchell. "All charities should be consulting their beneficiaries when planning campaigns, instead of second-guessing. It's about maximising the impact of your work.”

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