Some Campaigning Thoughts

This page gives a few suggestions on the basis of 25 years personal involvement in campaigning organisations, to varying degrees and different levels of success. To be added to and edited from time to time.

Also see: Campaign Central features personal thoughts from other campaigners (along with resources etc.).

A few mottos

‘Be prepared’, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’, ‘No headless chickens’. Rather trite slogans, but they summarise some key thoughts below. And refer back to common sense and everyday life for a reality check.

You need to be able to exploit opportunities when they arise – be sufficiently up on your issue and aware of what is going on to use some event or change in political circles (e.g. new council committee chair) to act in a coherent fashion. This is where a small group can score over larger ones who can’t react as fast – they have to check back to HQ or consider the organisation’s wider interests.

Commercial marketing and management skills and training (although I hate to admit it) have a lot of relevance:
– A portfolio approach with a variety of tactics (but probably only concentrating on one at a time);
– Doing a SWOT analysis (see Planning page);
– Scanning the environment for STEP factors (see ditto);
– Making best use of scarce resources, ‘overtrading’ issues (trying to do too much with limited resources, whether human, financial or physical)
– Knowing when to call it a day or compromise.

BUT I am a little concerned about the tensions I have seen build up in organisations trying to go ‘professional’, when they have grown and succeeded through the ‘amateur’ activist working bloody hard. The two sides don’t always see eye to eye, and there is a danger of losing really valuable individuals.

AND on the other hand: beware the over-committed, over-driven activist, who can’t let go, can’t see the wider picture, can’t step back and realise they don’t even know what direction they are trying to go any more. Common sense and real life is still a powerful weapon to wield against the experts with narrow horizons. Don’t throw it away by appearing to be somewhat out of it, too.

Use your membership! Keep them active and committed – small successes are important, particularly if members feel they have helped to achieve them. This is energizing and can give a real drive to the next, bigger goal. Letter writing: “MPs reckon that for every letter they receive on a subject, ten meant to write but didn’t get round to it”. This has been quoted so often that I am no longer convinced! Don’t underestimate your power. My first ‘success’ was in a local Friends of the Earth group in the mid-70s – 3 of us (two still at school) put together a broadsheet newsletter (with help from HQ), which against my better judgement headlined a threat to dump rubbish on the town hall steps if the council went ahead with changing from collecting refuse from bins to using plastic sacks. Wide circulation to press and councillors and instant climb-down by said council!

Classic lobbying is about building up useful contacts and trust, and then either use that in conjunction with a good public case or influence decisions in the background (the ‘old school boy network’ approach). This can be on the level of knowing the person who knows how to make sure that a junior minister gets to appreciate an issue is important or at a local level getting a senior journalist on the local paper run a prominent story. But contacts are no longer the only approach, and indeed may not be as reliable as in the past (they are more likely to move on or have competing interests).

Don’t forget that a campaigning success is often only the beginning – what happens next to consolidate or develop your ideal? It is tempting not to think about this beforehand, as it would only make losing even worse. But do it.

Regulatory Bodies

If you have concerns about services provided by the utilities, want to object to offensive advertising, argue against government agency decisions, here are the contacts. All the web sites listed will have details of addresses, phone numbers, and nearly all will describe what they cover, what they can’t deal with, and the procedure you need to follow. Some studying here is likely to save time in wasted approaches.

Utility/Industry Regulators

Utility regulators mainly deal with pricing matters and aren’t very good at explaining their complaints procedure on their sites. See also Media/communications below.

Government/local council regulators

Other areas: start out at

The Ombudsman Association has a list of members.

Also note Centre for Public Scrutiny – online resource for auditors or scrutineers of public sector bodies. “Not only to hold executives to account but also to create a constructive dialogue between the public and its elected representatives” on public services.

Government Departmental websites are on the Lobby page.

Not-for profit and social regulators

  • Independent Complaints Reviewer investigates complaints about Land Registry, The National Archives, The Northern Ireland Youth Justice Agency, Children’s Commissioner for Wales.


Charity fundraising is regulated in a number of ways. Local authorities licence street collections, while the Charity Commission (in England and Wales) registers and oversees accounting and reporting.


  • Office of Communication, Ofcom, covers telecoms , media (radio, television, but not BBC) and more.
  • Advertising Standards Authority This includes advertising on non-broadcast electronic media (eg CD-ROM, internet). Phone 020 7580 5555
  • Press Complaints Commission Phone 020 7353 1284.
  • ISPA Not a statutory regulator, but reputable Internet Service Providers generally belong. The Code of Practice is quite large – see under Consumer Issues.
  • Phone-paid Services Authority for telephone Premium Rate Services complaints or enquiries – includes charity donations, gambling, competitions etc.

Research Resources

Info on a range of UK-based bodies carrying out or reporting research into various aspects of society, economics etc. We tend to focus on those of particular interest to our target audience.

Also see: Issue-based support organisations.


Local and Regional resources

Neighbourhood statistics ONS, the government’s statistical service, has closed its  Neighbourhood Statistics service (2017).

YorkshireFutures Regional Intelligence Network provides stats, policy analysis, research.


PolicyLibrary is more of a pointer to public policy research.

ARK is a source of social and political information for Northern Ireland (joint project of Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster).

Bevan Foundation “the social justice think tank for Wales”.

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is an independent charity that engages with the worlds of research and policy, practice and campaigning.

Centre for Economic Policy Research Reports include titles such as The New Economics of Rising Inequalities (with OUP).

Centre for Effective Services Irish organisation which focuses on “implementation science” – see their  implementation resources page.

Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) – thinktank established by the labour movement in 2012 to act as a centre for left debate and discussion.

Centre for Local Economic Strategies Works in ‘the area of local economic regeneration … and serves a network of local authorities, Training and Enterprise Councils etc’. Services and information available on a one-off or subscription basis. Barclay House, 35 Whitworth Street West, Manchester, M1 5NG, phone 0161 236 7036.

Centre for Policy on Ageing Promotes informed debate about issues concerning older people.

Centre for Policy Studies is an independent centre-right think tank.

Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh.

Centre for Scottish Public Policy.

Centre for the Study of Public Policy at University of Strathclyde.

Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, aims to “deepen public understanding of the legal, institutional and moral framework that makes a free and democratic society possible”. A useful European think tanks list, too.

Countryside and Community Research Institute at University of Gloucester.

Demos ‘is an independent think tank and research institute based in London. Launched in 1993, its role is to help reinvigorate public policy and political thinking and to develop radical solutions to long term problems.’

Economic and Social Research Council ‘is the UK’s leading research funding and training agency addressing economic and social concerns’. An academic body – find others via UK Research and Innovation.

Eurostat European statistics of all types.

Foreign Policy Centre is ‘committed to revitalising debate about foreign policy in an age of increasing global interdependence.’ Mezzanine, Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London, SE1 7NQ, phone 020 7401 5350.

Foundation for Information Policy Research studies the interaction between information technology and society.

Institute of Economic Affairs Mission is ‘to improve public understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society, with particular reference to the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.’

Institute for Fiscal Studies Mainly on economics and taxation issues, but includes consideration of impacts on/of society. Have done some research with CAF. From site redesign winter 04/05, charity related publications are no longer grouped, so do a search on Charities as keyword. Phone 020 7636 3784, email:

Institute for Public Policy Research Influential centre-left think tank, aim is to promote and contribute to a greater understanding of key social, economic and political questions. With their web site now accessible its now well worth checking out. 30-32 Southampton St, London, WC2E 7RA, phone 020 7470 6100.

Institute of Race Relations ‘conducts research and produces educational resources which are at the cutting edge of the struggle for racial justice in Britain and internationally. It seeks to reflect the experience of those who suffer racial oppression and draws its perspectives from the most vulnerable in society.’

Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services Promoting positive outcomes for people who use Scotland’s social services.

Institute for Social Banking International organisation based in Germany.

Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Do a wide variety of research on issues which matter to the sector, including volunteering, housing, social welfare. Website includes links to other sites with research information, as well as having much of their own available online.

Local Area (previously Authorities) Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) A good links page. Of most relevance to areas of work in which councils are prominent (e.g. care, housing).

National Centre for Social Research ‘is the largest independent social research institute in Britain. It conducts social research among members of the public to provide information on a range of social policy issues in Britain.’ 35 Northampton Square, London EC1V OAX, phone 020 7250 1866, email:

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Office of National Statistics The government’s agency, giving ‘the latest comprehensive range of official UK statistics and information about statistics as well providing free access to a selection of recently released publications in downloadable pdf format.’

PIRC Independent provider of research on corporate governance and corporate responsibility issues for shareholders (full name is Pensions Investment Research Consultants). See also Ethical Investment – Resource Extra

Policy Studies Institute ‘conducts research which will promote economic well-being and improve quality of life’ and is a wholly owned educational charity subsidiary of the University of Westminster. Quarterly academic journal Policy Studies, published by Carfax (now part of Taylor and Francis). Also produce the influential Cultural Trends.

Research in Practice for Adults (takes over from Centre for Evidence-Based Social Services?) – research utilisation organisation for adult social care.

Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House is an independent research and membership organisation working to promote the understanding of key international issues.

Runnymede Trust UK-based independent think tank on ethnicity and cultural diversity, working ‘to challenge racial discrimination, to influence anti-racist legislation and to promote a successful multi-ethnic Britain’. 133 Aldersgate Street, London, EC1A 4JA, phone 020 7600 9666, email:

Scottish Universities Insight Institute “promotes collaboration and engagement between researchers and wider society”.

Social Market Foundation. Established 1989 to provide a source of innovative economic and social policy ideas.

Social Policy Association, amongst other things produces Journal of Social Policy, and Social Policy and Society

Social Research Association Exists ‘to advance the conduct, development and application of social research’.

Society Central “a social policy news website aiming to forge better connections between academic researchers and those involved in the policy-making process”.

Socio-Legal Studies Association produces newsletter, annual conference as well as information on research areas.

Sociological Research Online ‘publishes applied sociology, focusing on theoretical, empirical and methodological discussions which engage with current political, cultural and intellectual topics and debates.’ Quarterly (last days of Feb, May, Aug, Nov). Has a full list of useful links. Individuals should be able to get access to most info on-screen, but in theory at least there are restrictions around the Archives for networked organisations.

Third Sector Knowledge Portal is an online library and web catalogue, developed by the Third Sector Research Centre to promote and preserve evidence, research and analysis of the ever-changing work of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. See our page for further voluntary sector research bodies.

The Young Foundation undertakes research to identify and understand unmet social needs and then develops practical initiatives and institutions to address them. Includes Institute of Community Studies?

Other Sources

Alliance for Useful Evidence promotes useful evidence in decision making across social policy. A network of individuals and organisations from across government, universities, charities, business, UK and wider.

Social Science Research Network Well-connected worldwide resource.

Online editions of newspapers and magazines are providing a useful source if you can only find the right site and section. We suggest trying:

Opinion pollsters major players includes Ipsos MORI (has Charities Research Team which helps charities to maximise their fundraising efforts, connect with key audiences or heighten media coverage).

UN Statistics Division – Social Indicators.

Doing it

Secret Services A Handbook for Investigating Local Quangos, Local Government Information Unit, ISBN 1-8979-57-10-0. Published 1995, 192 pages. How to investigate quangos, including how to obtain and use financial, policy and other information from health authorities and trusts, housing associations, Training and Enterprise Councils, Urban Development Corporations etc. Also includes criteria for monitoring the activities and performance of quangos. Available from LGIU, 1-5 Bath Street, London EC1V 9QQ Price: £25.00

Social Research Association has a number of resources and publications,  including on research ethics.

Charities should check out the Charity Commission guidance intended for any charity that carries out, or funds others to carry out, research.

  • ARVAC promotes the use of research by small/local/community organisations (see Sector Development page).
  • Bradford Community Statistics Project appears to have ended – check Bradford Resource Centre just in case.
  • Community University Partnership Project from University of Brighton aims to help local/regional community and voluntary organisations develop their work through research.
  • Interchange is a charity based at University of Liverpool that “facilitates research by social science HE students for the benefit of local voluntary & community groups”.
  • National Centre for Research Methods Has pointers to training sources, publications etc on improving methodolody and capacity. Academically based.
  • Opinion Research Services is a public sector specialist based at University of Wales Swansea.
  • Radical Statistics (RadStats) believes that statistics can be used as part of campaigns for progressive social change.
  • Science Shop from Queens University Belfast and University of Ulster. Students can assist Northern Ireland voluntary and community groups with research projects on social science research, health science issues or policy, environmental and geographical questions, historical research, educational issues, information technology.
  • The American Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits has a section on Basic Research Methods. Their pages are generally ‘library links’ but looks well organised. Another US source: Resources for Methods in Evaluation and Social Research.

Taking Action Personally

Bodily action

Give Blood

Register as an organ donor – use info on British Organ Donor Society website.

Use your resources wisely

Be an Ethical Consumer

Specific consumer issues

  • Clean Clothes Campaigns aim at improving working conditions in the garment industry, world-wide.
  • Ethical pension funds From July 2000, pension fund trustees are required by law to state if and how they incorporate social, environmental and ethical considerations in their investment policies. Amnesty International UK has a free advice pack Pensions: Protecting your future… and theirs?.
  • Breakdown services from a responsible motoring organisation, Environmental Transport Association.

Use the online charity merchandise stores or other online services which generate money for charities, listed on our pages.

See our Social Economy links section for alternatives ways of trading services and goods. Ethical investments: see our Resource Extra which focuses on facilities for organisations, but many of the links will be relevant for individuals too. Also try Ethical Money.

Use a Social Firm, ‘a business created for the employment of people with a disability, or other disadvantage on the labour market’.

Environmental slant

Reduce energy consumption – go to the Energy Saving Trust.

Sustainable/responsible timber extraction: Forest Stewardship Council. Climate Care takes the global warming out of your consumption by calculating the CO2 cost and uses this to fund projects such as renewable energy, energy efficiency or forest restoration. Reduce the impact of car use through a car club, or car (or bike!) sharing – see CoMo (was Carplus/bikeplus) website.

Look at Friends of the Earth or WWF sites for other practical personal environmental action.

Global concern

Tourism Concern Sustainable tourism etc. Centre for Environmentally Responsible Tourism (CERT) signs up Tour Operator Members but web site disappeared, Sept 05.

Don’t buy endangered species products when travelling abroad – CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Change your life

Reduce your demands on the Earth’s resources, and improve your life, by looking at alternative ways of working links on our Employment Issues page. Resurgence is a magazine worth looking at, if a bit spiritual for some.

Active citizen

Volunteer for causes you believe in – see our Volunteer Opportunities page for a range of agencies and options.

Wrongdoing at Work – get advice on whistleblowing from Protect (was Public Concern at Work).

Check out MySociety’s various sites, such as FixMyStreet (FixMyTransport and PledgeBank are being retired in 2015).

Our Areas of Concern front page Find an issue which you identify with, and follow it up.

You want to take action against shoddy dealings? Check our regulatory bodies page for where to start with a complaint.


We prefer not to repeat info easily available elsewhere, so check out Charities Aid Foundation’s info on tax effective giving in its Personal Giving pages.

ShareGift is for those with small shareholdings not worth trading in – donate to charity instead. They can arrange larger donations of shares too.

Give by clicking: generate money for charities just by visiting. Visit The Hunger Site, The Rainforest Site (both American).

(Initial list for this page came from Guardian Weekend, Jan 2000.)

Social groupings and communities

Useful links: children and youth, women, ethnic, travellers, refugee, families, sexuality, faith, elderly.


Also see national support bodies.



Also see Issue-based support bodies.

Families and Parents


Also see Human Rights/Immigration on Welfare page.


Including Gypsy, Roma. Rural links are on Housing/planning page.


Veterans, Armed Services



Also see Education/Play; Umbrella groups/networks.

Economy, Environment

Useful links: environment, sustainability, corporate responsibility.

A separate page covers International Aid and Development – training, codes of conduct, etc. as well as contacts.

Environment, including Sustainable Development

Sustainable Business, Corporate Responsibility, Trade

See also Resource Extra – Ethical Investment and Social Economy pages.