This article dives into how to define the different roles in the campaign, find the right people and set up an effective and inclusive co-working environment.
You and your colleagues are in this together. Your campaign can deliver when your team has the time and expertise to conduct the necessary tasks. The more aligned the team members are in working towards the same goal, the better your campaign will be. Your campaign will perform best when there are clear and inclusive working conditions.
To run a campaign, you need people. Each person in the campaign team must be clear on their roles and responsibilities for fulfilling certain tasks. Because politics is a competitive venture, you want to find the best people possible for these roles. As much as possible avoid unpaid roles that privilege people from certain backgrounds over others. Only rely on unpaid volunteers in the core campaign team as a last resort. These people need to be managed, decisions have to be made and everyone should be included in these processes. An ideal campaign team has:
The role of the campaign manager is to run the campaign. They would coordinate operations such as fundraising, polling, advertising, events and managing the team. They also play a central role in message development and political strategy, often in close collaboration with the party leader. This should be someone in whom the candidate (and party board) has complete confidence. For the relatively short period that the campaign will run, the campaign manager ultimately determines a campaign’s strategy and success.
Sometimes these responsibilities are divided up between a ‘campaign manager’ and a ‘campaign leader.’ Where such divisions are made the campaign leader generally takes more control over big political, strategic, and creative decisions as well as relations with stakeholders; whereas the manager takes more control over the logistic, practical and budget parts of the campaign and manages staff.
The campaign manager (or leader) does not necessarily have total control over the message and the candidates. The party leader or party chairperson should have autonomy and power, in their role as the most important public persona of the party or the most important internal person of the party respectively. Moreover, strong bastions of political power such as parliamentary factions or a big city mayor are major stakeholders and contributors in a campaign. Often in terms of press outreach and manifesto development, there is close collaboration with the parliamentary faction. A major role of a campaign manager is to get these stakeholders aligned and collaborate strategically with them.
After the campaign manager is in place, you need to think about the structure and staff needed for the campaign. There is no standard template for campaign staff and structure. Roles differ depending on the size of the campaign, the type of campaign and specific strengths and weaknesses of a party.
For inspiration, here are eleven example roles that are often found in campaigns:
Hiring ten people, or more, for a campaign team is of course a privilege. Depending on the budget and the size of the campaign, some people might be expected to take on multiple responsibilities. Oftentimes volunteers may be needed to take on some of the roles. Your campaign strategy and budget should inform what roles you need to fulfil and for which responsibilities you will need to rely on volunteers.
In order to find the right people for the job, you need to:
Experience costs money. Talent is an investment and volunteers are an opportunity. If your team is small, you can engage qualified volunteers to take on some of the responsibilities. Volunteers are a powerful force when they are empowered, enrolled, respected, and engaged around a shared vision. Increasingly in activism groups and smaller NGOs volunteers are asked to share responsibilities or tasks as a ‘circle.’ In practice, this could mean having five volunteers who together take on the responsibility of handling the press or managing social media.
Let us not forget that a volunteer gives something to a campaign, but should still receive something back for it, such as appreciation, a sense of community and the belief and hope that they are contributing to change.
The more people in the room, the better an idea can become. But the more people in the room, the longer it can take to agree on an idea. Therefore, vertical (top-down) management tends to lead to quicker output, but more horizontal (collaborative) management leads to better output.
In practice, campaigns are often structured as a hybrid between a vertical and horizontal approach. A typical hybrid campaign model puts the best minds together per task, such as those with different expertise or overlapping responsibilities. One person is however responsible to deliver the task and making sure decisions are made. In other words, get as much relevant input as possible, but be clear about who has the power to decide and sign-off on things.
Increasingly, Green parties are following the trend visible in many creative agencies: to use “collaboration-software”. Collabware, such as Telegram and Slack, allows for more efficient communication (by combining email, whatsapp etc. into one platform). More importantly, they allow for easily differentiated access. Each channel can have a purpose and include the relevant people. For example, you can set up a channel with all the communications people to share, improve and comment on press releases, emails and social media messages. In a seperate channel the communications director could check with the party leader to decide if those messages are ready to go online.
Campaigns do not always live up to their progressive values, especially when making everyone feel heard, valued, and empowered. This comes with the risk of losing talent, but also with the likely possibility that you are not collaborating in the best way to increase the impact that your campaign could have. Collaboration is an effort, but it is always worth it.
One way of taking equity and inclusion seriously is by building a ‘team agreement.’ Team agreements give your team space to plan how to navigate the expected and unexpected by affirming cultural norms, discussing workplace conduct, and outlining expectations and support opportunities. Remember to provide care for yourself and your team while working on a campaign because campaigns are demanding.
Another avenue to improve equity is to hold regular team meetings. The cadence and topics of the meetings are a balancing act of providing structure and purpose to make the meeting productive while also making space for everyone to contribute. Given that some team members might not feel comfortable asking questions in a group setting, managers should clearly communicate the agenda, deadlines, project expectations, resources that will be made available, and when they can come to the manager with questions. These meetings can also be used to decompress after busy or stressful activities and let people share their feedback and feelings.
Not everyone feels safe to talk in team meetings. Regular check-ins, one-on-one meetings between managers and staff as well as meetings between team members can do wonders in building and upholding a positive and inclusive work culture. Finally, it is beneficial - and increasingly legally required - to assign a neutral and trustworthy confidant that people in the team can talk to in the case of power abuse or other forms of oppression.
A good campaign is made with a diverse pool of talented or experienced people who collaborate as much as possible and make decisions quickly when needed. Invest in hiring people, finding, and supporting volunteers, building a team structure and setting up a team agreement.
Last updated: June 2022