Celebrating collaboration and campaigning

The Police Bill Alliance won ‘best collaboration’ at the Shelia McKechnie Foundation (SMK) national campaigner awards last night.

Each year, SMK celebrates the best campaigns and campaigners. Their interest is in finding those who have made change happen – most effectively, creatively and courageously. The National Campaigner Awards this year had 10 award categories, including Best Coalition or Collaboration which recognises campaigns led by multiple partners in ways which are creative, respectful and genuinely collaborative.

Last night the Police Bill Alliance won! Five organisations – Bond, Friends of the Earth, Quakers in Britain, Friends, Families & Travelers and Liberty – established the Police Bill Alliance to campaign against parts of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a piece of legislation that placed severe restrictions on the right to protest and have serious impact on Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The Alliance faced stiff competition from two inspiring coalitions who were also nominated – We’re Right Here: the campaign for community power to shift where power lies in the UK and the Diverse5050 Campaign which led to a commitment for legally binding gender quotas in the Welsh Senedd.

What made the Police Bill Alliance so special?

The Alliance deliberately pursued an unconventional approach to joint campaigning by embracing the following approach:

  • A loose governing framework focused on guiding, not dictating direction
  • Putting the goal above the identity and brand made the campaign more flexible
  • Investing time in your base and allies
  • Active solidarity with marginalised groups underpinned our approach
  • Complement, don’t undermine, grassroots action
  • Resilience is both a necessity and a victory in itself

You can read more in our learning summary on what worked well and what could be improved here.

As a result of the coalition’s work, we successfully stopped some of the most authoritarian measures to curb protest, and increased awareness of the impact on Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Why collaboration matters

Hot on the heels of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, there has been a wide range of collaborative campaigns to oppose and mitigate the harm of various pieces of legislation. From opposing the Elections Act or Borders and Nationality Act and further restrictions to protest in the Public Order Act, to protecting the Human Rights Act – cross-sector collaborations have never been so important.

Even now in the face of the Illegal Migration Bill and proposed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill and many, many more pieces of legislation – different types of organisations from across civil society are working together to push back and halt the democratic backsliding and erosion of our rights.

The scale and scope of the various pieces of legislation being introduced will affect everyone. This makes it essential that we all work together, to focus on issues that cut across our individual organisations’ specialisms. Coalitions and collaborative campaigning are crucial for this as it enables organisations to draw on each other’s, broaden the base for advocacy and speak with one voice when useful but also hone in on the impact on people in ways central to our organisation’s individual remit in a manner that brings the issues to life.

Cross-sector support and solidarity are crucial ways to signal to decision-makers and the public that something is going horribly wrong with a piece of legislation or attitude towards the key tenets of our society. It is also vital that collectively civil society demonstrates that the removal of rights and accountability is not the prerogative of just one group or sector but affects us all. For charities, this can pose questions about charity law and regulation, but as long as the organisation finds a way to link campaigning to their charitable purpose – it is allowed. No one should fear making their voices heard and speaking out on pressing issues.