As the Activism group we’ve been looking at how we facilitate, encourage and partner with our community of active supporters.
We want our proposals to be based on solid evidence and drawing from best practice in the charity sector and so carried out some enlightening research into the three active supporter areas of membership, campaigning and volunteering. This evidence will help us to deliver the next, 2018-2022 Action on Hearing Loss strategy.
We divided our research into two key areas: analysing the feedback from our current supporters, and looking critically at the approaches and strategies other organisations use, to see what works best.
In the first phase we collated survey results from existing volunteer and member feedback and, having quickly identified a specific knowledge gap in the area of ‘activism’, we carried out a survey of those we consider our campaigners . The Activism survey was really enlightening.. One of our most interesting findings relates to the terminology we use. It highlighted that we need to get better at establishing how our community of ‘activists’ see themselves. For example, the vast majority identified themselves as ‘Supporters’ rather than ‘Campaigners’ or ‘Activists’. In addition, people are more willing to engage in ‘offline’, rather than ‘local’ campaign actions, although we see these as the same thing!
Focusing on feedback from our members, volunteers and campaigners enabled us to build up a clearer picture of our ‘target audience’ – and begin to plot the ‘journey’ they might be willing to accompany us on, over the next five years.
In the second research phase we spoke to people from a range of relevant organisations, including The Children’s Society, Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Guide Dogs and the NSPCC. We discussed membership, volunteering and activism, yet aside from activism it was difficult to identify any cross-sector trends in best practice. In fact, it became clear that many organisations are beginning to ask the same questions as us, particularly in relation to membership and governance. It’s clear that this will be an interesting area for development in the sector in future!
For me, one of the most interesting outcomes of the research process was seeing how organisations – and particularly the campaigning and activism teams – are navigating the new political landscape, as the government becomes preoccupied with Brexit-related legislation; and parliament is filled with new MPs in ‘unsafe’ seats. These learnings will help shape how we effectively partner with our activists, members and volunteers over the next five years in order to create a fairer world for people with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss.
Maddy Haughton-Boakes, Campaigns Officer at Action on Hearing Loss. Maddy was the Research Support and Knowledge Manager for the Activism strategy development group.