The logical extension of lobbying

By Mark Horler, Simpol supporter and networking officer.

There are a lot of NGOs out there these days. From the ‘big beasts’ right down to the little community organisations.  But, for now, let’s focus on the big ones.

That still leaves us with many many NGOs to talk about. I’m going to make a point of not naming names in this piece because it’s the principles that count really.

It was put to me at a post conference pint in London not so long ago that Simpol is no different from any other NGO insofar as it’s still just lobbying MPs and governments, only at a global level that requires all of them to act at once.

The argument went that this meant it was more effective to lobby through NGOs since they can appeal directly to a given government on a particular issue at a particular time without, crucially, having to wait for everyone to act. Now this is an argument that I have had put to me more than once and it’s partially true insofar as it goes.

Let us be clear and say outright that we respect the vital work done by NGOs. Simpol is a long term project and we recognise, of course, the necessity of action now to mitigate the worst effects of our various excesses and shortages.

What’s odd about it is the notion that Simpol is somehow competing with these NGOs and that Joe Public must necessarily choose between the one and the other. This is the bit that is not true.

Simpol is actually inherently complimentary to the work done by these NGOs. In fact, if you think about it, Simpol is the logical extension of the lobbying process carried out by NGOs. Let’s look at the message sent by NGOs via their members. The message is essentially this:

“Dear MP, as your consituent I urge you to do x, y or z”. There is then the implication that failure to do so will result in loss of votes though this is rarely, if ever, stated explicitly.

This is fine in itself. The problem is that, as we have established, there are loads and loads of NGOs all sending their various messages on various subjects at various times. They therefore unfortunately end up competing with each other. This leads to the famously fragmented progressive movement which, in turn, allows a minority supporting the status quo to dominate the policy agenda.

Here, by contrast, is what Simpol members say (in essence) to their MP:

‘Dear MP, here is a package of measures that, as a global consituent, I urge you to enact. Pledging to do so will make you eligible for my vote and that of others like me. Failure to do so makes you ineligible for those votes and thus you risk losing your position. ‘ 

So we can clearly see that here the statement is explicitly made that failure to comply endangers votes for that politician and party. In this way Simpol ensures that the competition is between politicians for the votes, not amongst the members of the progressive movement.

In addition, by allowing for a range of measures to be presented together in one package and by ensuring that all of the policy measures in that package are decided entirely and democratically by it’s supporters, Simpol is able to create an umbrella under which the people and the NGOs can come together to drive the policy agenda as a unified movement.

Simpol invites the people to choose cooperation over unbridled competition. We invite the NGOs to make that same choice so we can all move forward together.

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3 thoughts on “The logical extension of lobbying

  1. Oh now things are getting very interesting!

    I think that this is absolutely right on.
    But the implications of this post go further than this.

    If Simpol is to take on the role of ‘umbrella’ and unify NGOs around Simultaneous Policy, I think Simpol needs to make a slight, but critical, shift in its messaging.

    Right now, Simpol is a bit too much like any other NGO in that it is putting out an idea of what needs to happen. That’s what every NGO basically does.

    To be the unifying agent, I think Simpol needs to distinguish itself, and I suggest that the way to do that is to put “THE DAY” front and center stage of Simpol messaging/visibility, and put the “how” of Simultaneous Policy behind it.

    Why?
    Robert Brulle, a US academic and expert on social movements and environmental messaging, says that the key to a successful social movement is that the core message must be organized around “nightmare versus dream.”

    The nightmare must be immediate and real to the people that they desire to be liberated from. The dream must offer authentic liberation from the nightmare AND it MUSY be a utopian vision, says Brulle, a bold ideal to aspire to, something so great and marvelous that one feels it is worth laying one’s life on the line for it. Sensible solutions and practical problem solving do NOT inspire people to action (and, alas poor Al Gore, but ‘reality’ really doesn’t work).

    The ‘nightmare’ that I think is credible that Simpol can put forth to NGOs and to the public at large is that four decades and thousands of earnest, committed people have not been able to get leaders of the world to act on behalf of the world’s people and our common planet. We are stuck in a nightmare of decades of devotion failing. “Failure to act” is the nightmare we need liberation from.

    The liberating dream is immediately self evident: ACTION. The
    DREAM is that THERE WILL BE A DAY when we succeed, against all odds, and ACT AS ONE FOR ALL (echoes of Dumas…) Creating a campaign around “the day our dream of a just, sustainable flourishing world comes true” (or whatever the ultimate wording) is immediately engaging and compels one’s interest. Inviting people to envision and imagine The Day that ‘the world acts together for the sake of the world’ is, in fact, INCREDIBLY exciting and inspiring. Just imagining that such a thing could happen (and artists of all kinds can help a lot here, I think).

    Never going to happen, says the Skeptic –BUT then there is the Surprise Reveal (as we say in film) that Simpol has figured out how to make this DREAM COME TRUE.

    Voila, a wonderful dream that can liberate us all from the nightmare of failing to save the world we live in and the places and people we love, backed up by a practical, simple, doable way to make it come true.

    All NGOs have to do is dare to dream THAT THEIR DREAM comes true…

  2. Hi Mimi,

    Thank you for your comments. I read them with great interest!

    I think you may well have a point on this one… I think we do have to be able to show a credible method in order to be taken seriously though.

    We have often been accused of being simply a ‘nice idea’ that will never work in practice – a utopian pipe dream if you will.

    I think perhaps it is a matter of deciding to whom we send which message – the practical or the utopian. This (perhaps unfortunately!) brings us into the realm of marketing.

    This is something we are looking at in some depth at the moment and I will be certain to put forth your views on this to the management board.

    Could you possibly give me an appropriate link for the work of Robert Brulle that you mentioned. It sounds like it contains some very interesting and relevant substance.

    Thanks Mimi! 🙂

    Mark

  3. Pingback: The Nightmare and the Dream – part 1 «

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