Foreign Aid Groups to Fight Like Political Parties
17 May 2016 at 11:26 am
The foreign aid and development sector has launched its “fight back” campaign for the federal election, using emotionally evocative and cutting-edge tactics favoured by the major political parties.
Campaign for Australian Aid (CAA), representing more than 65 organisations in the sector, said it would employ door knocking, fence signs and phone booths to garner support for those living in some of the poorest parts of the world.
CAA campaign director Tony Milne told Pro Bono Australia News that the campaign style was new territory for foreign aid organisations, but a necessary step after the latest round of budget cuts reduced Australia’s foreign aid spend to its lowest ever level.
“It’s not something that we’ve done before. But we know that in order to change community views we have to increase the visibility of our issue in the community,” Milne said.
He said the CAA looked around the world at best practice techniques in terms of how to change community views of an issue.
“The US is one country where a lot of advocacy organisations look to in terms of the type of techniques that are being used, but these type of campaign techniques are used all over the world in different advocacy campaigns,” he said.
“We want to make sure that what we’re doing is having the greatest impact, and so we look to campaign evidence.
“We know from evidence that talking with people is one of the greatest ways to change people’s hearts and minds on an issue, it’s very resource intensive but it is actually one of the most impactful things you can do.”
While some other Australian advocacy groups, including GetUp!, have adopted this style of campaigning, Milne said the resource requirements make it challenging for Not for Profits.
“You need a lot of volunteers and a lot of people to make it happen, but some of the most successful campaign organisations and advocacy groups are already doing this style of work,” he said.
“Over the last year we’ve been training up volunteers to go out into the community to engage with their community… and one of the ways we do that is through door knocking.”
“We also have stalls at community events, we speak with church groups and community groups and schools to have a conversation with people about the issue.”
He said a major feature of the campaign, which would set them apart from other groups, were the emotive fence signs.
The signs will feature children from countries including Ethiopia, Vanuatu and Myanmar with the slogans “vote for us” and “vote for me”.
“[It’s] one of the unique things we’re doing… some of the advocacy organisations do that, but it’s not a big feature of advocacy campaigning,” Milne said.
“But we want to increase the community visibility of our issue, so we’ve designed billboards which we think are quite provocative and really speak to the issue that we’re trying to get across – that we want people in this election to think not just about how their vote impacts themselves and their family and their community, but how their vote has an impact on people who live in some of the poorest parts of the world.”
He said the federal election was an important opportunity to show the public that their vote impacts people all over the world, not just Australia.
“We’re asking people to talk about the issue, to have a conversation and on the doorstep we’re asking people to sign a pledge, and the pledge is to vote for a fairer world,” he said.
“One of the things that sits behind that is our advocacy ask… we want all political parties to commit to repairing the Australian aid budget and, in particular, in the first budget of any new government, to reverse the latest $224 million cuts, which makes us the least generous that we’ve ever been.”