Europeans for Affordable Housing e.V.
For a successful ECI, a European network is key. Local partners do simply know the language, situations on site, regional circumstances and activists within the 27 member states better. For some topics, even regional or communal partners can contribute their special knowledge.
Another argument for a large and branched network is the number of signatures that needs to be reached in total and the minimum number of countries, in which the threshold needs to be exceeded. It is a factor for success, to reach many people right from the start of the ECI; a branched and reliable network helps tremendously with this.
What applies to the ECI as a whole also applies to the network: Clear agreements and organisation, written agreements of cooperation (it is best to set up a contract), target agreements and contact partners are the key to success. What comes with this is also the integration of a partner organisation in the planning phase: It is best if all partners are committed to the common project in a way that they see it as their project and thereby, the joint success is also a success for the individual partner organisations.
Building, maintaining and using a network: Mostly, one starts the planning phase with a network of allied organisations. Starting there, one can and should identify possible additional allies and systematically look at the field: Who is already on my side and supports me? Who has signalled interest? Who are other natural and possible allies? Sometimes, alliances happen that look completely absurd at first, because an interest in the topic is only indirectly visible.
Apart from that, one has to identify hindrances. Who are my opponents? Who will undermine my endeavor? Where could conflicts arise with my allied organisations? Where are conflicts of interest? For example, established NGOs, who actually have the same goal as the ECI might work against it, either for vested interest or in order to keep their own influence. Such organisations might see their status as the only or the most powerful lobby and might work directly against the ECI by inflicting a negative sentiment onto other organisations. They might also work against the ECI indirectly, by offering themselves as partners but then only work half-heartedly or not at all or even contribute in a negative way.
There is a simple tool to help exclude negative influences of such supposed partners early and to promote a fruitful collaboration. One can define a scale for the commitment of the partners, by which one can assess the seriousness of their engagement and their willingness to actively participate. Some possible factors could be:
You don’t only want to build a network, but you also want to maintain it. The cooperation with partner organisations has to have a high priority within overall organisation. For this, organisations can be involved in the planning and developing of the campaign and there should be a constant exchange with contact persons about the status quo, problems, successes and wishes. Within the project team, there can be coordinators for individual countries or groups of countries or organisations. The exact arrangement should depend on the phase of the ECI and their specific requirements. Independently of all of this, there needs to be a comprehensible contact file with partners of all organisations in it.
A crucial factor to get enough signatures is the campaign. According to Wikipedia, a campaign is ‚a initiative limited in time with a defined goal, which is trying to be reached by the coordinated efforts of multiple actors-“ The goal on the one hand is to inform about the issue and the call to action (signing!).
For this, target groups and foci (thematic, geographic, social, demographic…) need to be defined. Then, fitting messages can be developed for the respective target groups. Pensioners over 65 need to be addressed differently than students between 20 and 25 or young families. This is why channels and media, by which the target groups are addressed, are relevant as well.
Of course, the messages have to be packaged well and have to have a recognisable design. It is recommended to have a trusty agency for the whole campaign: Development of the logo, website, social media outlets, imagery, a “corporate design” etc. needs to be done in time before the campaign starts and it should be applicable in all of Europe. Campaign material (digital, print) has to be designed and it is best to develop a toolbox for campaigners, in which all relevant materials can be handily transported and argumentation aids, FAQs and everything important is included.
You do not need to choose a big-name agency to support the ECI. International and multilingual campaign experience is important, so it can also be a a small or medium-sized local agency
What is important for all communication channels: Do not just fill them somehow or flood them with content but use them efficiently. No matter if someone from inside the ECI or an agency is in charge of communication, a lot of experience with the platforms, eventually with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and digital channels should be given.
The website should also be efficient for both users and the ECI itself. It starts by selecting the languages in which it is offered, and which will be rolled out first. The focus should be on the larger and more universal languages, like English, French, German, Spanish, Italian. The editing system should be easy to use, there should be a way to add additional modules (signature form, social media feed) and most importantly: It should be able to handle a lot of traffic (scalability). If an advertising or a call by a multiplier hits hard, it would be the worst-case scenario, if the website would crash, people could not sign anymore and would give up frustrated.
For the overall campaign, a timetable which defines, which target groups are reached with what message by which measure via which channel at what time is important.
It is helpful here as well to define goals and milestones. Campaign start, half time or final sprint are reasonable milestones timewise, the first 1.000., 10.000 or 100.000 signatures or a defined reach of social media postings could be goals.
The campaign launch is an important event. It is best to have a launch event at the same time in all participating countries – live, digitally, per newsletter, the possibilities are endless. Ideally, multiple millions of people are reached by mailings, posts, articles etc. The network should already have set a positive attitude via their own multipliers. Maybe there are celebrities, who help with the promotion.
Sustainable cooperations with the media and campaigning platforms can work wonders. Avaaz, change.org or campact are the most well-known and offer tools, to reach (hundreds of) thousands of people. Also cooperations with „traditional“media or wide-reaching members‘ magazines of associations and organisations bring an ECI closer to their signature goal.
To keep he topic of the ECI present throughout the whole duration is a special challenge. To do so, it can be placed with media and journalists (wrapped in a great story) or, if that is wanted, over members of parliament and their channels. Interest will naturally vary, but do not let that irritate you! The campaign also follows the pattern of defining goals and permanently monitoring them, evaluating them and – if needed – adjust them.
Europeans for Affordable Housing e.V.