In this toolkit, we use ‘campaigning’ to refer to popular mobilisation, the process of engaging with the public and encouraging them to take some action in support of your tax advocacy and put pressure on policy-makers (either to complement or instead of ‘insider’ lobbying).
- To demonstrate to your advocacy targets in government and elsewhere that you are not alone, that there is popular support for your position, that people are genuinely concerned to see a change in tax policy that benefits the poorest and increases their representation in tax policy formulation.
- Those with power invariably listen more to community members, members of the public or – in the case of politicians – constituents than to organisations, as they are voters and consumers. As individuals these people may have limited influence, but brought together under your campaign banner they can exert considerable pressure.
- Popular campaigning adds legitimacy to lobbying efforts when those affected demonstrate their concern.
- It can open the door to decision-makers for lobbyists, who can then provide more policy detail.
- It can be a means of generating media interest in your issue and so further raise its profile and make it difficult for decision-makers to avoid the issue.
- It’s a way of using energy or anger in a positive way focused on bringing about change.
- It may be an alternative to lobbying and dialogue if these methods don’t appear to be working, and may put more political pressure on your advocacy targets.
When considering campaigning, some elements will be the same as in your broader advocacy strategy – such as focusing on a clear, simple objective – but some will be more appropriate for mobilising the public.
Remember that in public campaigning, your target audience is the citizens you are hoping to mobilise to take action. So the whole way you communicate your message will be different from when you are communicating directly to policy-makers. Now you are aiming to encourage your campaigners and activists to change policies and policy-makers’ positions through their public pressure.
Whatever you do, your campaign must have a simple, strong, engaging message at the heart of it that is easily understood by the public. Don’t overcomplicate – that’s a turn-off for most people! Single-issue campaigns tend to be the most successful (for example ‘End Apartheid’, ‘Ban Landmines’, ‘Access to Affordable Medicines’). When you start a campaign, it’s a good opportunity to develop some catchy slogans as discussed in Chapter 2.
Achieve campaign recognition through a consistent visual identity – solidify your campaign in people’s minds with a logo or series of images and phrases that all of your campaign materials feature – you should use the same colour and fonts. Here are some examples of tax campaign logos.
Share your visual images on social networking sites so they can be accessed by all. Flickr is particularly useful for sharing images. Remember to sort out rights to these images before sharing freely.
Start from where your audience is – don’t assume they know much, or anything, about the tax issue you are campaigning on. Again, don’t overcomplicate!
You need to give people the opportunity to take an easy action – you want it to be straightforward for them to get involved and easy for them to stay on board with you as the campaign develops.
Be imaginative and eye catching. Creativity is the backbone of campaigning!
Find potential allies to maximise achievability and avoid duplicating the work of others.
Think about how you can record the names and addresses of campaign supporters so you can keep in touch. If that’s not possible, think of other ways to keep people informed. Feedback on the progress of the campaign and the impact that supporters are having is motivating and may make the difference between them sticking with you through thick and thin or jumping ship early on.
Ensure that your campaigning is integrated with your lobbying and media work for maximum impact. This means ensuring consistency rather than uniformity in your approach. For example, your public campaign might lead with slogans such as ‘Stop Tax Dodging!’ or ‘End Tax Secrecy!’ whereas the policy recommendations you present to policy-makers as part of your lobbying strategy will be more nuanced (see ‘Top tips for formulating policy recommendations’ on page 6).
Use relevant hooks where possible to try to increase media coverage. For example, with tax campaigns, budget time or when people have to fill in their tax returns can be good hooks as people are already thinking about tax. These hooks can also be good opportunities to create stunts.
You need to be flexible and respond to opportunities as they arise.
Above all, you must be able to demonstrate that the change you’re demanding will result in real, lasting improvement in people’s lives.
TOP TIP on what makes A CAMPAIGN SUCCESSFUL
To run an effective campaign it needs to pass the TEA test:
An effective campaign needs to Touch people. It needs to make a connection with its target, strike a chord and prompt a response.
But it needs to do so much more than that. It is all very well touching your target with your message, but they might decide that it is all so depressing or difficult that there is nothing that they can do.
A campaign needs to go beyond touching people to Enthuse them. An effective campaign convinces its target audience that there is a solution that could remedy the problem that has touched them. The campaign must contain elements that will enthuse people and deflect any defeatist or negative thoughts.
But touching and enthusing are no good for the campaign if you cannot move on to the third part of the TEA test. You need to touch and enthuse to ensure that the recipient of the campaign’s message decides to Act.
Campaigning is all about believing that there can be change to address a problem in the world. And it is about influencing decision-makers, at whatever level, to show and then demonstrate their agreement with the campaign’s ambitions.
To achieve this goal, you need a campaign message that passes the TEA test: ask yourself, do your campaign messages pass the TEA test?
In addition a good campaign makes use of all, or some, of the following:
- A clear message
- A clear identity
- A simple solution
- Clear outrage
- Use of the media
- Political support
- Public action
- Celebrity. For tax purposes this can work both ways, using examples of celebrities who set a good example by paying tax and those who deliberately dodge it so can be used as examples to highlight bad practice
- Symbolic timing or ‘hooks’, eg budget day, end of the tax year
It is important to focus on one message and remember the impact of a drip-drip effect.
Ways to implement public campaigning
People brought together for a debate
Decision-makers open to public questioning
May get good publicity
Decision-makers hear views directly
Chance for discussion
Helps increase the organisation’s reputation on the issue
Time consuming and expensive to set up
Possibility of disruption or confrontation
Span of control is limited: you cannot control what is being said during the meeting or the background and interests of people showing up at the meeting
• A town hall meeting with people from government and NGOs and the public.
• During the G20 summit in 2010, Christian Aid and ActionAid organised an event with the finance minister and civil society people and an audience of journalists and policy experts. It forced the minister to answer questions on the record that he had not been willing to answer before.
Vigils, demonstrations, protests, processions and occupations
Group of people gathered at a symbolic place to make a visual protest to decision-makers
Combine with leaflets to encourage attendance and press releases to spread your message
Can be very visual and powerful
Good media coverage potential
Can create sense of solidarity among participants and boost campaigning morale
Possibility of arrests and/or confrontations with police if demonstrations are illegal in country concerned and/or the police do not grant permission
Might lose access to decision-makers if confrontational
There may be no media coverage at all – this is a risk since it takes a lot of preparation but impact is limited without media coverage
Can damage image of organisation (especially in countries where non-violent demonstrations are rare)
People can join in to pass time instead of backing the issue
If too few people join in, your targets may think you have little support – this may undermine your campaign
• When Ghana and Sierra Leone introduced value added tax (VAT) and a goods and services tax (GST), in the 1990s and in 2009 respectively, the new taxes led to protests and demonstrations. As a result, the government of Ghana entered into negotiations with other stakeholders to review the taxes. In Sierra Leone the tax was implemented.
• In 1997 in the Philippines, a broad multi-sectoral organisation SANLAKAS brought together a coalition of people (COMVAT) against the passage of a VAT bill. About 50,000 people came from the urban poor, students, workers, small businessmen, and church-based organisations. They marched towards the House of Congress to demand the scrapping of the VAT bill. Unfortunately the bill was passed.
Citizens meeting decision-makers
Groups of concerned people meet with decision-makers, often their local officials, to reinforce the message – could take the form of a ‘mass lobby’ of parliamentarians
Decision-makers hear concerns directly from those affected
Builds local support for campaign
Difficult to coordinate message
• In the Philippines, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) met with a key senator and briefed him on their tax restructure campaign. He became a champion of the FDC campaign in the legislature.
Production and distribution of materials – leaflets, posters, reports, briefings, stickers, pin badges, T-shirts, bands, hats, whistles
Leaflets and posters: strong visual images for your campaign, popular messages for communicating with public, community groups, etc
Reports/briefings: detailed material which shows the facts behind the campaign, usually with policy recommendations
Gives credibility among supporters and decision-makers
Posters are particularly useful as a way of giving a visual identity to a campaign and conveying a strong message – campaigners can have it in their offices for years to come.
Reports: time consuming and expensive to produce and a danger that they will not be read
Low level of engagement; people easily wear the T-shirts or use the stickers, etc
• After Kenyan MPs passed a bill in Parliament to exempt themselves from paying tax on their salaries, the CSOs in Kenya started a campaign to force the MPs to retract the bill. The campaign designed car stickers to be used by members of the public to show support.
• See ‘Top tips for designing a campaign leaflet’ (page 26).
Unusual actions that draw media attention to your cause, such as street drama
Good media attention
Powerful for getting message across to public and decision-makers
Can go wrong and look unprofessional
If very controversial, public may be hostile
• In Asia there are examples of people throwing coins at government buildings as a sign that governments are
• In advance of the G20 summit in London, Christian Aid organised a stunt (photo opportunity) to highlight the problems of tax dodging by multinationals. The media were invited to take a picture of pirates dressed in dapper
• ActionAid went to a conference of accountants to raise the profile of its campaign on tax dodging. They offered
• Singling out election candidates who have records of corruption, putting their pictures on a photo wall and mobilising people to pelt them with rotten eggs or tomatoes or mud. This can be used as a photo opportunity, accompanied by a press conference.
Regular mailing of information to those who are interested
Include some kind of an interview with an expert or someone with moral authority
You can bring in guest editors to build your network and diversify topics
Target audience must be identified
Keeps people up to date and makes them feel part of a movement
Encourages regular and alternative actions
Can address the general public as it is not limited to a single issue alone
Can be time consuming and expensive to produce
• Tax Justice Network Africa newsletter can be found at: www.taxjustice4africa.net
Postcards and petitions
People sign a petition, or sign or write a message on a postcard to decision-makers (the internet is increasingly used for this purpose)
Mostly accompanied with other public pressure (mobilisation, etc)
Quick and easy to do
Many people likely to act
Can be a good starting point for mobilising the public
Can be displayed in public places
Can build a photo opportunity around handing in the petition to the relevant minister for example
Impersonal; face-to-face interaction in a campaign is often more effective
Can sometimes irritate decision-makers – though they may still have an impact
Often not read by the decision-makers/legislators themselves but by their assistants, so there is risk of being ignored
Petition: authenticity of signatures can be questioned
• The FDC used a petition letter as a tool to demonstrate support for its campaign to the government, gaining 200,000 signatures.
• Perhaps a more unusual use of a ‘petition letter’ was that written on 8 March 1992 by the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Malawi to all parishes. This letter entitled ‘Living our Faith’ was read in all Catholic churches. It addressed the plight of Malawians and spoke out against ill-treatment of workers. The letter sparked a commotion in the country as it was the first criticism of a repressive government. The government banned it – then it became hot property. The bishops were arrested. Citizens started marching and protesting in solidarity with the bishops. Before long, the government had lost control and fell, the first step on the path to the introduction of multi-party democracy in Malawi.
Letters to decision-makers
People write personally to decision-makers
Letters to elected representatives often viewed by policy-makers as a measure of public concern
Can be more effective than postcards as shows deeper grasp of the issue and arguably suggests more respect to authorities
Decision-maker may receive many letters, so difficult to distinguish from other campaigns
Effectiveness can sometimes depend on who sends the letter
Letter actions to companies
Consider launching a letter-writing campaign targeting company management – the chief executive officer and finance director, for example, or the company’s largest shareholders
Potential to show company a high level of concern about company behaviour
Need to maintain high volume of letters
• Christian Aid asked supporters to write to the chief executives of four FTSE companies, urging them to call
Using the web and online databases to get people to sign online petitions, fill in surveys, and email decision-makers
Should include social networking sites, such as Facebook, blogging, use of Twitter
Easy to set up, flexible and responsive
Can get many people involved – enables you to build a global campaign and to network globally
Popular – can help to generate new contacts and media attention
Responses are easily elicited from the internet – people are more likely to give their opinions via internet because of the sense of anonymity
Excludes those without internet access,
May be ignored by decision-makers because impersonal
Often only has an impact if the number
• French NGOs decided in September 2009 to launch a large mobilisation campaign on tax havens in order to better reach the highest level of the French government, which will host the G20 in November 2011. Their online petition called ‘Stop tax havens’ has already been supported by 50,000 signatories. The campaign also aims to enable citizens to become true actors of change through a set of tools on its website (www.stopparadisfiscaux.fr/).
Exhibitions, films, photography
Set up in public places to raise awareness
Possibly linked with actions or stunts
Photos, video and audio are very visual and people will stop and take notice
It is a very good way to explain complex issues such as tax to a wider audience
Often dependent on the weather
• UK-based Tipping Point Film Fund has been developing a cinematic feature-documentary-thriller about illicit financial flows called Cashback. It tells the story of how money is drained out of developing countries by a network of bankers, accountants and lawyers into secret, offshore western bank accounts, undermining the lives of millions of people. Tipping Point hopes that Cashback will act as an urgent wake-up call to the public as well as being a powerful lobbying tool for organisations to use at the highest level. Critically, the release of the film will be supported by a multimedia website and a 3–5-year international outreach campaign.
• Video exhibition showing the role of mining company in displacing people in Tanzania.
• Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an organisation set up to demonstrate concern about mining in the Philippines,
Refusal to buy products from a certain company
Can affect profits and bring pressure for change
Good media coverage
If few people participate, it will not be effective
It may alienate target and close down avenues for dialogue – so may be more
• In Vietnam there was a boycott of a whole supermarket, against a company involved in environmentally damaging activities.
• A UK call (2008) to boycott BP until the company would pay a ‘windfall tax’ after having booked a 148 per cent profit, while 6 million people are struggling to pay their fuel bills.
Competitions, award ceremonies
Award ceremonies for good or bad behaviour
Ask supporters to participate or nominate others – this is often used to engage schools
Can be done as ‘alternative’ awards in parallel with industry ceremonies where same companies get good attention
Good for awareness-raising and publicity for your campaign, especially if you get well-known people and media involved
Time consuming, especially if large scale
• Christian Aid organised an ‘Alternative Tax Award’ ceremony in front of the hotel where accountancy firms were meeting. Issues included awards for ‘Greatest potential for tax reform’ and ‘Most surprising use of tax havens’.
Doing polls of citizens or decision-makers or particular interest groups to get their opinion on tax-related issues
A way of measuring support for your tax campaign ‘asks’ – if the results indicate a strong level of support they can be used to add credibility to your campaign, get media coverage or persuade decision-makers that they need to act
Can also be used to hold decision-makers to account if they answer that they agree with or support your position
Can be expensive
May not get the results you hope for – for example you may discover there is little support for your campaign so there is risk of undermining it if others have access to that information
• The FDC in the Philippines asked legislators to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on raising tax exemption levels, then published the results. They answered the poll because they were concerned about bad press and some of them were put on the defensive. Later, the FDC was awarded third place as newsmaker of the year for having been instrumental in raising tax exemption levels.
Use billboards, leaflets in magazines, posters, internet websites, Google ads, email banner ads
Eye catching – strong visuals
Gets your campaign slogan widely known
Control of your message
Difficult to target accurately
• ‘Help Mr Money Escape Paradise’ is an advertising campaign run by the French NGO CCFD running up to the G20 summit in France, bringing public awareness with a dedicated website, newspaper adverts and web media, linked to a petition. It highlights the amount of money held in tax havens, how this money is insecure, how Mr Money is bored in paradise and would like to return from fantasy land to normal life as he’s ageing and getting old (www.aidonslargent.org/).
Short outline of campaign messages – clearly and simply explains why you’re campaigning, problem, solutions, what public can do
Information in one place for supporters to work with – informative/educational
Knowledge is power – enables people to lobby decision-makers
Emphasis on enabling others to take action
• In February 2010 Christian Aid produced a short two-page manifesto outlining its position on six key development
Citizens/supporters from across region or country gather to directly lobby council or Parliament
Inspiring for supporters – sense of being part of something bigger than selves
Gives MPs or councillors strong sense of scale of concern and opportunity to speak directly with those affected and/or constituents
Needs to be large scale to have impact – therefore can be time consuming and resource intensive if enabling people to come from far and wide
Can exclude those who can’t afford, or are unable, to travel
• In October 2010, over 1,000 Christian Aid campaigners gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in London to lobby
Leaflets – one way of communicating your key message to the general public
TOP TIP for designing a campaign leaflet
- Use your organisation logo and/or your campaign logo if you have one.
- Include a brief outline of what the problem is, what the solutions are and action that can be taken (by your audience).
- Use your campaign slogan – it emphasises the message you want to communicate.
- Keep it short. People may not have much time to read. You may be distributing your leaflets to people passing by on the streets. The quicker they get your message the better.
- Keep it simple. Don’t use acronyms or technical language. Words such as ‘transfer mispricing’ are completely forbidden! Try to avoid also ‘tax evasion’ and ‘tax avoidance’ if you are communicating with the public on the streets. Tax dodging can be simpler.
- Make your campaign action visible: a leaflet not only brings information to the public but it also encourages them to care about tax issues and act on that concern.
- Think about including a section on how people can give feedback or get in touch to support the campaign in the future, for example ‘Text this number xxx if you’d like to get more involved’.
- Make it colourful and lively so it attracts people’s attention and makes them want to read it, for example add pictures and use colourful fonts