Image by Haringey Liberal Democrats. A march on housing rights.

Campaigning toolkit

Some housing issues and problems cannot be resolved quickly or easily, and may require an organised and ongoing effort to bring about lasting change. 

Check what’s already happening

Running a campaign can be an intensive task, so before you commit yourself to a new one, it’s worth checking if there’s already someone doing what you’d like to.

There are many existing campaigns, national and local, focused on various housing issues, including ending homelessness, improving living standards and fire safety, objecting to demolitions and gentrification, protecting renters’ rights, lobbying for the building of new council homes and other topics.

Your problem may be something that activists are aware of, and already campaigning on. Your voice and lived experience could help to amplify and strengthen existing campaigns, speed up the resolution of your individual issue and link you up with others in the same situation. So it’s always useful to find out more about what campaign groups exist nationally, as well as in your local area, and consider joining forces.

Our directory of residents’ action groups may help you find campaigns and groups that you might want to get involved with, or simply take inspiration from.

How to start campaigning

If you decide to start your own campaign then the first stage is understanding some of the social and political landscape around you. Ask yourself ‘where am I currently?’ and ‘where do I want to be?’ 

Consider which route you might take. Who will you bring with you on the journey? What milestones do you want to achieve or experience along the way?  Drawing a journey map for reference can be useful and you can refer back to it throughout the life of your campaign to help shape your strategy.

What do campaigns need?

1: A goal

This is the one change you want to see.

Identify the problem, then think about what resources are available to you (this could be things like people and their time, skills, abilities, ideas, knowledge and experience, places to meet, ways to share information).

Consider your own values as well. Be clear about the solution you want to see. Define your campaign on how you are going to solve the problem. Focus on the solution, not just the problem.

2: Objectives

These might be several specific things you will do to try to achieve the goal.

What things do you want to do?
How will you know when you’ve achieved them?
Is it within your power to accomplish them? Be realistic about your resources.
When exactly do you want to accomplish your objectives?
What are the milestones, and when do you need to achieve them by? 

3: A plan for the future

This will include your strategy and tactics: the many things you will do to try to influence your targets.

Your strategy is your way of seeing and planning for your long term goals and your tactics are the actions which are stepping stones along the way.

We often think of the tactics first, but try to focus on being strategic by asking yourself, ‘How does this specific action achieve the thing we need to achieve?’

4: People who benefit

Who is your campaign for? Think about the ‘stakeholders’. Who will be impacted –  both positively and negatively?

Your Spectrum of allies

‘Spectrum’ just means a range of different people, and ‘allies’ means those who will be helpful or supportive of your campaign.

Consider the different individuals and groups in your community and how you can better persuade them to support you. Take some time to think about, and fill in your own spectrum of allies. You can use this diagram and write in the spaces.

Active allies: people who will give time and energy to help your cause: they might go on a march or write letters to their MP, knock on doors or organise fundraising.

Passive allies: people who agree with your campaign but can’t help very much. Perhaps they share or like your social media posts, or donate a bit of money to your funds.

Neutral: people who don’t have an opinion yet. Perhaps they don’t know much about the subject, or it doesn’t affect their daily lives.

Passive opponents: people who would be naturally against your campaign because of their beliefs or values. They might leave negative comments on your posts, or argue with your campaigners, but they won’t act to work against your cause.

Active opponents: Thos who feel so against your campaign that they will campaign for the opposite side.

You can be strategic about how you spend your time for the best effects. Don’t waste time trying to sway your active opponents to believe in, or join your cause – they never will.

Instead, fous on the passive allies and those in the neutral group – getting them to be active allies in your campaign means you’re more likely to win.

5: A great story

Story-telling is a crucial element of campaigning.

It isn’t the same as making a speech. It’s about sharing a part of your story, in order to motivate and move others to action.

People who communicate their values as individuals begin building empathy and engagement, forming connections as groups.

The concept of campaign story-telling is:

Here is who I am > this is what we have in common > here is what we are going to do about it.

It’s important to create boundaries if you are sharing your personal stories.

Think carefully about what you are willing to share, because you can’t control what happens to the story once it goes out into the world. 

It’s useful to think about how much to share and who with, within three bubbles:

6: A call to action

People won’t be convinced until they understand why you need them to join and support you. An important part of the story-telling is to share your ‘ending belief’, as a call to action. 

The ending belief is usually twofold: what would happen if you do, versus what would happen if you don’t.


My home has had damp and mould for 5 years. I now suffer with respiratory problems as a result. (Your personal story)

This is a shared problem in our building. Every flat is riddled with mould. We’ve complained to the council repeatedly, but they have not taken any action. 14 residents in our block had to be treated with antibiotics for serious chest infections this year, two elderly residents even had to be taken to hospital. (Your group story + context)

We need the council to take the problem seriously and treat the whole block for mould. (solution). 

With the support of our community we can challenge the council and get them to start taking the problem seriously. (End belief + call to action: what happens if you do)

Without support, the council will just continue to ignore us, the mould will remain and residents will continue to suffer ill health (End belief + call to action: what happens if you don’t)

What campaigning techniques could I use?

Most campaigns require and rely upon wider attention being brought to an issue. There are a number of ways this can be achieved. Here are a few examples:

Creating change

Think about how your group has the capacity, the power, to create change. Ask:

  • What change do we want to see?
  • What would it take to create that change? Better awareness? Better organisation? More power? New tools?
  • Who has the resources to create that change?
  • What do THEY want?
  • What resources do WE have that THEY might want or need?

Powerlessness is often at the heart of the issues people face. By working together and collaborating within our communities, we increase our power and the resources needed to effect the changes we want to bring about.

Working together towards a goal may not solve the whole issue, but it can set a foundation to build upon.

Adapted from the principles of Marshall Ganz (Harvard): Organizing People, Power, Change

Image credit