SMK Campaigner Survey 2021: help us capture your extraordinary year
The SMK Annual Campaigner Survey is back for 2021. It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. The world has changed, though not always in ways we’d hoped. Change-making has changed too.
Last year’s results: what did the 2020 Campaigner Survey tell us?
In 2020, the gap was widening between politicians and public on campaigning for social change.
Campaigners in civil society encountered an increasingly hostile political environment, but politicians were far more likely to be negative about campaigning than the general public – and the gap had grown.
This came after years of tightening government restrictions on campaigning and increasingly intolerant attitudes to dissent.
Formal measures included the Lobbying Act, the use of ‘gagging clauses’ attached to grants, and proposals to restrict access to judicial review.
In 2020, several high-profile campaigns by charities and civil society groups were heavily criticised.
The National Trust faced a backlash from some Conservative MPs and elements of the media after it published a report into slavery and colonialism links at its properties.
Food poverty campaigns by the footballer Marcus Rashford and Unicef UK were criticised by some MPs and media outlets for calling on the Government to give more help to low-income families struggling to provide food for their children during the pandemic. The Government later u-turned on its refusal to provide free school meals over the holidays following strong public support.
The owners of flats with dangerous cladding, who campaigned for help from the Government to replace it in the wake of the Grenfell fire, were prevented from speaking to journalists without government permission. Grants had ‘gagging clauses’ attached.
The pandemic, coming on top of austerity-driven policy, seemed to have increased the appetite for social change and campaigning.
Covid-19 exposed systemic problems, growing need, and may have made people ‘more aware that they need to fight for change to happen’. More than half (54%) said that campaigning was now a greater priority for their organisation, and 48% said their organisation had increased its campaigning over the past three years.
What was helping?
Campaigners said that people and organisations were becoming bolder and braver, with more community-led campaigns. The public seemed to be more receptive to campaign messages, especially amidst the pandemic and high-profile campaigns like Black Lives Matter and Marcus Rashford’s food poverty work. Plus, there was simply greater need and people are responding by campaigning.
A more hostile political environment saw some politicians shutting down channels of communication and attacking campaigners and their allies as a threat to the common good. The pandemic made traditional ways of campaigning difficult or even impossible, and there were signs of digital ‘exhaustion’. 2020 saw proposals for further formal restrictions (e.g. restrictions on protest and judicial review) and more informal restrictions (e.g. attacks by politicians and media on charities campaigning).
Read the full results here.