International campaigns and movements

Recent years have seen a growth in global movements and new forms of participation around a common cause (see rise of single issues) across national boundaries. As consumers around the world have become more socially aware (see ethical living and consumerism) and connected (see globalisation of markets), cross-boundary issues such as fairtrade, child-trafficking and environmental sustainability have become more prominent. Ease of publishing has made it easier for organisations to harness online communities to connect with a global audience. With English continuing to be the principle language of trade and advancements in free translation tools such as Google Translate, organisations have been able to find trustworthy likeminded individuals and organisations around the world which can act as local hubs for their global campaigns. International campaigns can quickly spread globally because online participation is straightforward, enabling anyone with access to the internet to become an activist.

What are the implications?

  • UK charities being requested to participate in global campaigns being led by organisations overseas.
  • Connections between local actions and global movements may provide opportunities for people to participate at different levels.
  • The ease with which international campaigns can be undertaken may further increase the rise in single issues.
  • Increasingly powerful widespread campaigns may challenge the power of global and international institutions.
  • Domestic local issues being twinned with related local issues overseas in order to give the campaign an international dimension.
  • A focus on widescale international issues could take focus off smaller or more local issues.

Moving forward

Global networks are increasingly being used to strengthen campaigns at all levels and also to share knowledge.

  • Are there organisations in other countries operating in similar environments that you could learn from?
  • Some institutions are harder to influence than others, could working in collaboration with others increase your effectiveness?
  • Do you have supporters abroad who could act as networkers and scouts for local organisations you could work with?

As the internet becomes the main medium for global communication, the extent of your organisation’s relationship with other global networks is likely to be dependent on your ability to capitalise on the ease of publishing and engage with online communities.

  • Are your websites written in such a way that they can be translated by Google Translator?
  • What training and culture can you put in place to ensure your staff are happy to engage in online communities?
  • How willing are your staff to collaborate with new partners around the world, possibly at unsociable hours due to the time difference when not using email?

Global initiatives require good vertical and horizontal links, but also constant attention to internal forms of governance.

  • Are your organisation’s internal processes sufficiently accountable, transparent and participatory?
  • Were your organisation to work collaboratively on a global campaign, do you have the financial monitoring processes in place to track, manage and share financial donations and donor data with your partner organisations?
  • If globalisation is considered by government to restrict their freedom to address inequality, which campaigning strategies will be most effective for social justice organisations?

Want to know more?

From local to global

Published by: ESRC – a research council for social and economic issues.

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? This booklet looks at the role of communication technologies in international engagement and mobilisation and looks at the implications for civil society organisations and other activists in the light of changing governance structures.

How useful is this? The booklet provides a useful outline of the role of communication technologies and international campaigns.  It explores how the links between local and global can form effective social movements for campaigning, advocacy and giving.  Key ideas include: that social movements are assisted by a better understanding of the inter-relationships between the different forms of power; what some of the challenges are in efforts to achieve global engagement; and the realities of progress towards global citizenship.

Contentious citizens: Civil society’s role in campaigning for social change

Published by: Carnegie UK Trust and The Young Foundation – a centre for social innovation

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? A report providing analysis and historical overview of the campaigning landscape with particular reference to the challenges and opportunities associated with campaigning in a network age.

How useful is this? This is an in-depth report including detailed analysis as well as making recommendations. Chapters 3 and 4 are particularly relevant to the international campaigns and movements driver.  Chapter 3, looks at campaigning in the twenty-first century and includes the growth of international campaigns and local action as one of 4 main areas of campaigning (3.5) as well as an anlysis of MakePovertyHistory.  Chapter 4 looks at the future of campaigning, examining three scenarios unfolding today.

Strengthening Global Civil Society

Published by: IPPR – a left of centre think tank

Date: 2006

Format: PDF

What is it? A paper following a high profile event, exploring questions around global civil society and how it should be strengthened.

How useful is this? Although this looks at global civil society broadly it includes examples of where global civil society groups have been a force for progressive social change, whilst pointing out that their role should not be overstated and that global civil society is not inherently progressive.  The paper looks at ways to strengthen global civil society including: creating a more level playing field for the global south; supporting free media and access to information; making global civil society more accountable and transparent; and establishing a new relationship with global institutions.

Last updated at 11:02 Tue 08/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

Log in or join for free to comment.