Adeela Warley: Campaigning has always been much more than public protest

Context, creativity and emotion are essential ingredients for changing hearts and minds

There is no doubt our communications landscape is challenging. As the pandemic resurges, recession looms and demand for our essential services spirals just as charities are forced to make cuts.  

Against this backdrop, creative and often surprising communications tactics have been cutting through often in unexpected ways.

The young Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka used her face mask to name the black victims of alleged police violence and racism – a powerful political action that drew thanks from the victims’ families and worldwide media attention. 

Tributes to the late US supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, filled Instagram and twitter feeds with lace-inspired memes – ”dissent collars” symbolising political values and defiance. 

For many, campaigning conjures images of placards and loud public protest, but it’s always been more than that.

Now some subtle approaches are coming to the fore, such as “craftivism”, which creates safe spaces for engagement and reflection on the complexity and causes of problems, and an opportunity to be part of the solutions.  

Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, describes craftivism as “gentle protest”. 

Recent examples include placing small, bespoke hand-crafted gifts in the pockets of clothes on sale in stores to question the fast fashion industry, or putting embroidered handkerchiefs in the hands of powerful shareholders.

Corbett says this can help channel anger, sadness or despair into “strategic, kind and fair activism”, allowing campaigners to become critical friends rather than enemies.

Whether it’s loud outsider politics or quieter inside persuasion – context, creativity, surprise and emotion are the essential ingredients to changing hearts and minds; and ultimately shaping the kind of policies and laws that all decent civil societies need, and charities seek.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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