5 Campaigning Insights Drawn from IDAHOT’s “Developing Public Campaigning Strategies” Meeting

By August 3, 2016 Learning

Across different regions, LGBT networks and organisations who aim to build the strategic capacities of LGBT advocates have come to a shared analysis that there is a need to provide the advocates with:

  • a theoretical and historical background knowledge to social change, campaigning and creative activism;
  • a capacity to make informed choices on strategies and tactics in line with their identity, objectives and capacities;
  • concrete tools to plan, carry out and assess public campaigning; and
  • a platform to take part in global networks and learning/practice communities in order to keep building their skills and contribute to the development of the skills of others.

Organisations sharing this perspective, which want to develop their capacities to deliver on it, came together in Bangkok for a strategy development meeting from June 7-10, 2016 in order to discuss the way forward. The meeting, organised by the International Committee of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), specifically brought together networks and umbrella communities that were engaged in capacity development in support of local sexual and gender minorities’ groups. APCOM is proud to be part of the meeting alongside brilliant campaigners from all over the globe, namely UN Free and Equal, All Out, Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights and, last but not least, Ireland’s Yes Equality, the campaigner behind historic successful movement of the world’s first national referendum on marriage equality.


Although it aimed to create a “universal” guidance on how to improve the capacity of LGBT rights campaigners, the meeting was also a platform to exchange lesson learned of campaigning among the participating organisations that represent different latitudes of issues, geography, demography, and more. APCOM’s campaigning strategy drawn from the innovative young gay men’s sexual health campaign TestBKK was part of the exchanged lesson learned in the room. At the same time, we at APCOM also learned so much from the other advocates. Summarised by Alex-Quan Pham, a young cadre intern at APCOM, here are five key learning points yielded from the remarkable meeting.


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Context, context, context.

The conditions that LGBT people live under vary from country to country. Even within countries, there are differences in local contexts. Some countries may have long histories of gender non-conforming or third gender identities for example, while others don’t. Some countries might have power religious authorities that influence cultural norms. Some countries have been colonized by others, which can lead to complicated and violent realities that stem from the imperialism.

Ignoring context can result in missteps on the part of campaigners. Without context, campaigners can choose goals that are either too modest or too ambitious, or they might even cause a dangerous backlash that the campaign was meant to aid.

Ignoring context can result in missteps on the part of campaigners. Without context, campaigners can choose goals that are either too modest or too ambitious, or they might even cause a dangerous backlash that the campaign was meant to aid.



Know your audience.

Being aware of an audience’s interests, what they respond to, and the platforms they use are all vital elements to consider. That being said, it’s important to understand that, even within the same campaign goal, the audience needs to be segmented according to different traits, i.e., age demography, geographic location, etc, in order to deliver effective intervention to each of the fragmented audience. To engage youth in empowering their sexual rights, for example, the go-to method is to utilise social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can disseminate information quickly among youth that may not have otherwise been reached. Social media platforms, however, may not work for advocating marriage equality to Gen X heterosexuals living in a suburb.

By knowing the audience, we don’t waste time or money on methods that wouldn’t be as effective on the particular group of people we’re trying to reach. And given that many of us are working with limited resources, it’s important that we maximize our impact with the knowledge we do have.



Collaboration is key.

Working in groups can be tough – large groups of people can mean many different personalities, needs, and styles of work. But working with others means that we get the combined brainpower and efficiency of everyone included. Within collaboration, there are many rounds of review to ensure each step of a campaign is near perfection. A group can also make sure that each member is accountable to deadlines and individual roles.

It’s also nice to talk to people, to vent about frustrations, and to share personal stories about successes that we can learn from and failures that need not be repeated. Campaign-building is much tougher done alone.



Don’t limit your tools.

Many campaigners may draw a distinction between online and offline campaigning — and might even value offline campaigning more than online. For some, activism that happens offline creates more substantial change than its online variant.

Whether this is true or not, the reality is that we need all the tools we can get to incite change. That means that both online and offline activism needs to be used as tools. Undermining one method can result in divisiveness. We don’t need to choose one particular tool. We can meet people where they are and encourage them to engage based on their capacity. Some people simply can’t be activists offline because of a disability or chronic illness, for example; that doesn’t make their contributions any less valuable.



Celebrate your successes.

The work of creating change can be heavy, because we are constantly being subjected to different forms of discrimination, stigma, and marginalization. This can negatively affect our emotional and mental health.

We can acknowledge that we have work to do while also celebrating how far we’ve come! Celebrating is a key point in ensuring that we’re taking time to appreciate ourselves, each other, and the work we do.




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The report of the meeting, which includes much more comprehensive campaign insights, can be downloaded here.


For further inquiry regarding the meeting, contact Joel Bedos at [email protected]

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