From Complaint Box to Organizing Hub

So much of what ControlShift is about is not really software tools at all, but a cultural shift in how advocacy organizations and campaigns should operate. We see ourselves as instigating cultural change, helping to shift advocacy organizations from a centralized, broadcast mentality to a distributed, organizing-focused approach.

Recently, we’ve realized that some of our customers have embraced the idea that members should be able to start and run their own campaigns, but have not made the equally important shift in their own work from platform provider to organizer. Rather than simply providing unopinionated software tools to members and acting as tech support, we find that our most successful customers think of themselves as organizers working with their members to co-create and win the best possible campaigns.

In the simplest of examples, sometimes when members of the public launch petitions they write long and technically detailed treatises rather than short, pithy explanations of what has gone wrong and who needs to fix it.

In these situations, we recommend working with the petition creator to edit their petition to a more manageable length. Perhaps organizers could suggest that the member write a blog post that explains the longer point that they are trying to make, and all of the other information supporting their case, while restricting the petition to only just enough text to clearly express the idea. They could then include a link to the blog post at the bottom of their petition.

Many of our most successful customers frequently edit the petition text submitted by members, sometimes rewriting the campaigns completely, for petitions they plan to send to their email list. Some organizations feel like this is aggressive and “steals” the campaign from the person who started it, but we think that the constructive advice you can provide about how to select targets, what style of writing works well, and steps to take after they have some signatures will help those who created the campaign to be more successful. Additionally, providing this level of support to campaign creators provides an opportunity to share the organizer’s experience and hard-earned wisdom with the petition starter, begin a conversation about campaign strategy, and start to form a relationship of trust that can be built on in the future.

By partnering with people who create campaigns, you can get the best of both worlds — impactful campaign ideas generated by your membership at scale and tightly edited campaigns that have a strong theory of change to send to your list. The most important part, however, is the conversation you’ve started and the collaboration that can grow from what was initially just a text editing suggestion.