Expert view: Are you prepared for success?

One lesson you learn very early on in campaigning is the importance of focusing on your goal. You need to know clearly what you want to achieve and have a strong belief that you will get there.

Yet most of the campaigners I know are much too busy campaigning to spare the time to think about what they might do once they make a breakthrough in their campaigns. This was certainly the case for me when I worked at the Empty Homes Agency, the campaign group that highlights the wastefulness of leaving houses to lie empty. I was involved in a campaign demanding new powers for local authorities to tackle the scandal of England's empty homes. We built up wide-ranging interest in the campaign and gained cross-party support. Eventually, the Government took action.

Suddenly, we went from a campaign aspiration to a campaign reality. We had achieved our goal, but we had to think quickly about how best to respond to that change.

Since making that breakthrough, I've had the chance to reflect on how to cope when you achieve your campaign goal. In Campaigning for Success, the guide I wrote for umbrella body the NCVO, I looked at eight successful campaigns and how they coped with achieving their goals. The case studies covered everything from empty homes to civil partnerships, and from hospital waiting times to the hunting ban.

There are many important lessons to be learned from these case studies, but two points made the biggest impact on me. First, you should never stop campaigning, even if your target agrees with your message. You need to keep the pressure on. If you pull away, you can be assured that someone else will replace your message with a new one.

You also need to be persistent to ensure that your target - in most cases, the Government - follows through on its promise. It's easy to walk away once you make that initial breakthrough, but you need to keep on making the case.

Second, you should plan for success. How will you respond once you have gained a breakthrough? Try spending 30 minutes every three months to review your answer to this question.

Campaigning is all about seeking change and having a burning desire to achieve it. If you are going to have a sustainable impact, it is vital that you continue to make your case, even after you have made a breakthrough. Plan for success. These are lessons I will definitely take with me on my next campaign.

- Jonathan Ellis is the author of the NCVO book Campaigning for Success. 

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