Contentious Citizens: Civil Society's Role in Campaigning for Social Change

Written by Paul Hilder with Julie Caulier-Grice and Kate Lalor, this report prepared by the Young Foundation and funded by the Carnegie United Kingdom (UK) Trust in May 2007 provides a detailed analysis and historical overview of the social change campaigning landscape with particular reference to campaigning in a network age. According to the report,
"Social campaigning (as distinct from campaigns used in warfare, politics or business) covers the very diverse practices used in civil society for advocating change to decision-makers - often through public mobilisations or the staging of popular demands, but also through less obvious processes of lobbying and elite organising. It plays a vital role in publicly identifying social problems, proposing ways of tackling them, staging competing claims for the good society, and encouraging association, volunteering and active citizenship."
The report discusses the 4 principle challenges of campaigning in the twenty-first century:
  1. "How can progressive or sustained campaigns be built in an environment of media moments, celebrity dependence, and tabloid petitions?
  2. Who writes the script of the campaign, choosing and framing actions and deciding what counts as success?
  3. How can you counter the risks associated with corporate co-option and collaboration with government?
  4. How can you target decision makers most effectively in the era of network governance and where campaigns can take place at the level of the local, national and global?"

"Campaigning has always been messy, rough, and argumentative. It is the grit that keeps the smoother world of electoral democracy fair, and it is the currency through which societies talk to themselves honestly about their virtues and their vices. This report seeks to describe what’s happening – but also to suggest some potential remedies, including better ways of protecting campaigning for social change and better ways of building up civil society’s capacity to campaign, ranging from the role of schools in supporting new initiatives and new social infrastructures."

Click here to download the PDF document (4.5 MB).

More on campaigning for social change.

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