Survey the landscape

“Examine the political, economic or social terrain – with an experienced eye and sound judgement, in much the same way a general might explore the terrain before battle.” It is always important, when preparing to launch a campaign, to analyse existing or potential support as well as potential opposition. In other words, to map the power relations in your community or society, in order to determine e!ective pressure points, and identify how, why and where change might happen – and where it might be blocked. That means working closely with supporters to gauge, first their readiness to commit to a campaign. It also means making an assessment of where power lies, and the degree of support and/or resistance you are likely to encounter. There may be potential threats in the shape of big institutions, like the government, a corporation or an international organization, that might resist, discredit and undermine your campaign. You will want to be prepared for that. Your ‘enemy’ could be public apathy or hostility, local customs and prejudices. Knowing and understanding in advance how such institutions, customs and discrimination can block the progress of your campaign, as well as mapping potential areas of support will be vital to the development of your strategy. ‘Know your enemy’ as well as your friends, is wise counsel, and will help in the development of an effective campaign. However remember this always: power constantly re-aligns itself to accommodate and respond to new pressures, creating new spaces for action and closing others. This means that you have to constantly reassess your strategy and identify new forms of pressure, if you are to achieve your goals. Together with your supporters it will be important to explore the broader context your issue will confront when inserted into the public domain. We call this process ‘surveying the landscape’ – continuously examining the political, economic and social terrain with an experienced eye and sound judgement. In much the same way as a military general might explore the terrain before a battle. Does the ‘zeitgeist’ favor your campaign, or will you be up against it? When we launched Jubilee 2000 (J2k) the public were supposedly suffering from ‘aid fatigue’ under a Conservative government. In the late 1980s, Harry Enfield, the legendary comedian had introduced a new character into the British national consciousness: ‘Loads-a-Money’. It seemed our key audience was far more engrossed with making loads of money, and unlikely to be engaged by a campaign for economic justice for millions of people in poor debtor countries. We were subsequently to prove ‘the zeitgeist’ wrong; but it took hard work and much skill to engage a public immersed in the comedy of Loads-a-Money and others. Further down the scale, events may occur that could eclipse your own. We launched J2k one thousand days before the millennium, but were eclipsed by the decision of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to mark that date too, with wonderful images of time-keeping. The media ignored our campaign launch, and focussed on the time-pieces that would mark the transition to a new millennium. We had not surveyed the landscape for likely media conflicts.

2018-04-11T15:15:15+00:00