How many of you watched the Presidential debate last night? I promise not to get partisan (I’m not even going to mention the two candidates’ names!), but the debate reminded me of two quotes – one by that famous philosopher Groucho Marx, and the other by legendary coach and sportscaster Lou Holtz. Origins aside, these quotes are surprisingly relevant to modern civic campaigns.
“These are my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have others.”
Brace yourself for a shocker – sometimes candidates will do or say anything to get elected! And (if you’re not out of your chair already), consider this – sometimes they take a total reversal on their own positions and principles!
The same temptation can be present for civic campaigns. Here’s is what I mean: most Civic campaigns build strong coalitions. We partner with likeminded – and sometimes not so likeminded – organizations. That means that we often have to work really hard to put our differences aside and find common ground. Sometimes you are pulled to support something that takes you off mission. This is a tricky situation to maneuver, because you want to keep your coalition partners together, but you also need to avoid getting diverted from your original mission.
It’s not easy, but the best advice I can give is: stick to your principles, seek common ground, and be willing to support each other as much as possible without taking your campaign off message.
“When all is said and done, more is said than done.”
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes, especially when you apply it to politics: lots of politicians do a lot of talking but get nothing done. The same can happen in civic campaigns. We develop a strategy, identify goals and outcomes, but we fail to assign responsibility. This too often happens when working with a coalition. Two things to remember:
1. In a civic campaign, decisions have to be made (and often made quickly) in order to either take advantage of an opportunity or prevent a crisis. Input should be a collaborative process, but sometimes decisions have to be made by one individual;
2. Never, ever end a planning session or brainstorming event without a clear outline of “action steps” and assigned responsibility.
These two points will allow for a lot to be said, but even more to be done!