Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lobbying: 6 Things to Know

Policy Cycle, from "Australian Policy Handbook" Althaus, Bridgeman & Davis

Policy Cycle, from “Australian Policy Handbook” Althaus, Bridgeman & Davis

Who makes the decision?  What might persuade or motivate them?  How do you best get that Information to them? These are the 3 vital things you have to know before lobbying.

Three further things to know, supporting your capacity to persuade, are: the internal public service status of your issue; the political status of your issue; and the multiple pressures on the decision-making process.

  1. Who,
  2. What,
  3. How,
  4. Internal status,
  5. Political status,
  6. Influences:

These six things sound simple and few, but behind them can lie great complexity: for example, a decision can be shared by multiple jurisdictions and decision-makers, a briefing note proposing a conflicting solution might already be sitting on the decision-maker’s desk, or you might be seeking something for which you’re already thought unfit.

If you start lobbying before you know at least these six things, you’re not lobbying, you’re flailing; you’re likely wasting time and money, and harming your own prospects.

To know these things: research.

And once you’ve got your facts together, plan – more of which in a future post.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

screwit-325x500Nike’s “Just do it” derived from Gary Gilmore’s last words before he was executed. Richard Branson’s “Screw it, let’s do it” is about making good ideas happen, not treating every idea as good.

When managers are frustrated, deadlines loom, issues are urgent or crises threaten, then it’s so easy to be stampeded into taking quick action – under-planned and under-evaluated action.

There’s nearly always time to devise a strategy and plan its delivery. There’s nearly always time to check whether ideas are truly good or merely appear so, whether they can deliver optimal outcomes, or whether a more considered approach can do better. You must resist the pressure to start doing things before you have a plan.

When you haven’t got the time to plan, you either need a plan in the bottom drawer ready to pull out – because you’ve already prepared a crisis management plan – or you need to find a way to defer the frustration, deadline, urgency or threat – even if it is just for an hour or two.

“Just do it” is a recipe for business death, and “Screw it, let’s do it” only works once ideas are tested.

(“Don’t just do something, sit there” is the title of a 1996 book by Sylvia Boorstein – I am not sure who first said it.)
(This post is an edited version of a similar post on Mike Smith’s personal blog)

Who’s a Lobbyist?

seattle lobbyistEverybody!

When Greenpeace take a delegation to a Minister, to talk about the Great Barrier Reef, they’re lobbying. If the Australian Medical Association seek new training standards for doctors, they’re lobbying. Should you push your local Councillor to oppose a high-rise development, or support a new local park, you’re lobbying. When Woolworths talk to the Government about weekend trading hours, yes, they’re lobbying. And while a town planner or a government relations consultant sees a public servant on behalf of a client, they are probably lobbying, too.

So many kinds of lobbyist: consultant lobbyists, who are hired guns in the same way as are barristers; business operatives, or owners or directors, who press a case on behalf of their company; social action, professional, or community organisations who want a policy changed, or saved.

Included in that last is political parties and movements: when your local Branch of The Greens Party sends a letter to the Environment Minister demanding protection for the black-throated finch, they are lobbying.  So are the Student Union when they hold a protest march about Uni fees.

And there’s you: sooner or later, everyone gets angry or enthused about some public policy issue, and would like to influence what a Government is doing. It might be that new local park for the kids, or immigration policy, or street lighting, or anything in between.

If you do something about it – organise a petition, write a letter, or go see your local MP: you’ve become a lobbyist. Congratulations!

If you do nothing about that anger or enthusiasm, don’t be fooling yourself – you don’t care enough to be a lobbyist.

Saluting The Warriors of 7 September

(Originally published 3 September 2013 on a personal blog, after a particularly long and tiring day of campaigning.  Republished for the anniversary of the 2014 Federal Election, not for Fathers’ Day!)

Just after 6 pm on Saturday 7 September 2013, and in the couple of hours after that, many thousands of Australians will collapse, exhausted.  Some will collapse elated, some will collapse distraught, some will collapse numb.  A few will have been paid for their exhaustion; the vast majority, however, are volunteers, and some will have foregone income, just to collapse, exhausted.


Photo: Leonard John Matthews

Some will have been working 18 hours a day and more, paid or unpaid; some will have worked a full, busy day, perhaps managing a family, and then put in extra hours after that.

All know they will collapse, exhausted; while many hope for an elated collapse, most know they won’t get there, and are sure of disappointment.  Yet still they toil.

Many of these soon-to-be-exhausted think my passions dishonest, dangerous or deluded, and some will think me evil: I reciprocate where appropriate, of course, but somewhat more kindly and nuanced I hope.

Whether to be elated, distraught or numb, while competing furiously one with the other, we’re also battling on the same side, though loathe to notice our common cause.

We’re, most of us, on the same side, though some know it not, when it comes to battling apathy and absence and distance and derision, the lazy and poisonous infection draining the capacity of democracy to live strong.  As we take the field to defeat one another, we’re simultaneously battling the fake sophistication of “they’re all the same” and “they’re all out for themselves”, because we know they’re not all same and selfish.

That’s why I find more in common with, and more enthusiasm for, a passionate, activist right-winger, than someone who takes the easy course and rubbishes elections, politicians and our democracy.  If these things are tawdry it’s because your absence makes them so.  If they seem irrelevant to you it’s because you don’t care enough to make them relevant.  If they seem shallow, you don’t care enough to help make them deeper.

It’s not someone else’s job – it’s yours.  If you will leave democracy to others, you must stop complaining – you decided others should do the heavy lifting instead of you, and they will do it as best they can without you.

And with little regard for their politics, I salute those who make the effort to try to make the world a better place as they conceive it, who will collapse exhausted late on Saturday 7 September.

(Originally published on Mike Smith’s personal blog on the night of 3 September 2013, after a particularly long and tiring day of campaigning)