Let's discover the essence of campaigning

Campaigners should contribute to the UK Workforce Hub's consultation on a set of national occupational standards, says John Knight

John Knight, assistant director, policy and campaigns, Leonard Cheshire Disability
John Knight, assistant director, policy and campaigns, Leonard Cheshire Disability

In recent years there has been growing cross-sector discussion on the role of campaigning in bringing about political and social change. In my view, the current economic recession makes campaigning an even more vital activity.

The Campaigns Certificate run by NCVO's Campaigning Effectiveness programme and the annual campaigner awards run by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation have created an arena for sharing good practice and learning from each other.

Nevertheless, 'campaigning' is a peculiar discipline, described as "one of the last great amateur pursuits in the NGO field" by the report The Third Sector: Vision for the Future, produced by the NCVO and the Ashbridge Business School in 2002.

From community campaigns for safer streets to international coalitions on ending poverty, campaigners display an imagination, insight and passion that can sometimes be hard to pin down. I was therefore interested to hear that the UK Workforce Hub was going to try to do just that.

During the past few months, a dedicated steering group, which is bringing in expertise from the sector, has been discussing exactly what it means to be a campaigner and is drafting a set of national occupational standards.

I wouldn't advocate an end to imagination and left-field thinking in campaigning, but this will be an important document for recruiters, trainers and people who want to turn their activism and sense of social justice into a career in voluntary sector campaigning. Developing standards offers opportunities for campaigning organisations to have benchmarks of good practice.

To make sure the standards represent the complexities and demands of campaigning, the sector - people who actually campaign, rather than academics - needs your input to get them right.

A three-month consultation will run from 2 March and you can - indeed, should - take part by attending an event or completing the online questionnaire. This is your chance to have your say. Knowing campaigners as I do, I suspect that discussion will be lively and robust, and I look forward to taking part in it and seeing the results.

John Knight is assistant director, policy and campaigns, at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com

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