Assessing policy windows: our new campaign strategy process guide

September 28, 2015 | By: James Whelan

policy steam convergence

If you’ve been a campaigner for more than a year or two, you will surely have experienced brick walls… campaigns that just don’t seem winnable. You’re focused on a real problem and have a sense of a policy solution, but your campaign just isn’t gaining traction.

There’s some excellent research on the policy cycle and how to assess opportunities for change or impact. You may be familiar with the idea of an ‘Overton window’ – the range of ideas the public will accept. From a campaigner’s perspective, we also need to know the range of ideas that the political system might accept. How ambitious can we be? How do we need to cut the issue?

Recently, tCA facilitators James and Fee designed and led a workshop session at the Organise 2015 conference on assessing political opportunity… and on how to focus our organising work to increase political opportunity. The workshop draws on John Kingdon’s theories about policy windows and a set of nine ‘conditions’ that increase the chances that our policy advocacy campaigns will succeed.

The 90-minute workshop encouraged participants to reflect on and critically analyse their current campaigns. Several participants concluded that their campaigns are very winnable, and generated options to build the alliances, champions and political space necessary. Others concluded that their campaigns are likely to be very challenging under current circumstances. With finite energy and other resources, it’s wise to avoid campaigns that just can’t be won.

Here’s our process guide to download. We’d love to hear from folks who apply this tool.

tCA Process Guide Political Opportunity Structure

About the Author

James Whelan

James Whelan

James is co-founder of the Change Agency and director of our Community Organising Fellowship.

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