ORG’s campaign skills and tactics continue to develop and diversify. In past years, we haven’t tried to map out all of the ways in which ORG tries to work, but this year, as we have developed new ways of campaigning which we wish to grow, this report covers some of the ways we work, as well as the work itself. We would welcome feedback from supporters about how useful this is.
Email and phone your MP and MEP actions
We use email MP actions as a key campaign tactic for mobilizing ORG’s grassroots support. While email is becoming diluted as a weapon in the eyes of some MP – especially given the volumes of mail that can be generated by 38 Degrees in particular – it is still an effective weapon at key moments. ORG used it to good effect to promote EDM 1913 on Internet freedoms during 2011. At other times, we have gathered petition signatures, both to present to Parliament at an opportune moment, and to help consolidate a group of people prepared to campaign.
In general, we want to use these tools as a way not just of mobilizing large numbers of people at key moments but also of developing relations between ORG supporters and their MPs.
Press online and offline
ORG's online reach in the press is often greater than conventional media, who are sometimes still skeptical of digital rights issues. However, this is changing and ORG is often the go-to organisation for comment on copyright, online censorship and privacy issues.
We also, though, want to drive the news. For this, we need to get new information into the debate. We have tried this successfully with freedom of information requests and releases of original research in 2011, and by working to expose the new CCDP in 2012.
Reports and research
Last year also saw us begin to increase our output of original research. With strong research skills and staff capacity, we are much more able to produce original research in order to influence the debate through presenting new information. Peter Bradwell produced a simple but influential study of the availability of film online in the summer. We also last year started gathering original evidence on parody and copyright, and on mobile network’s default censorship. We are conducting original research on archival material and public access for our FreeBMD grant work.
Freedom of information
During 2011, we made a conscious effort to improve our use of Freedom of Information requests. As well, as training for staff, we formed a volunteer group to work on FOI requests and suggest ones to make. Because we wish to be able to time the public release of the information we receive, to maximize publicity, we cannot currently use theyworkforyou.com. We have requested that they add a feature for organizations to time and delay such releases.
We also, last year, felt we needed to increase the participation from supporters in campaigns beyond simple emails and political actions, to engage people directly in a range of activities.
We have also restarted our monthly emails, and redesigned them for higher impact. We use them to update all 30,000 of our campaign supporters on ORG’s work, the meeting we speak at and the key challenges to digital rights.
Working on the inside
Our work with policy makers has improved very considerably over the last year. This has always been a feature of how ORG works, but with a team of three people dedicated to this work, and active members of the Advisory Council, we are making a bigger impression on policy. The Hargreaves Review and scrutiny of it has been aided by our contributions, as have Cabinet Office, IPO, DCMS and Ofcom officials working closely with us. We have made less in-roads with the Home Office, but we do at least have contact with their officials.
With each of these organizations, we also work closely with our friends and allies, especially Consumer Focus, Privacy International, Which?, Big Brother Watch and Liberty, on most of our issues; Privacy International, Genewatch and others on the privacy side, and Index on Censorship and Article 19 on censorship; OKFN on Open Data, and ISPA, Coadec, Open Digital and LINX on Internet regulation.
ORG responds to every consultation that we can, but especially where we are working actively. This year, this has included Hargeaves, Data Protection, and Parliamentary committees on ICT and copyright.
We are well networked with several influential think tanks including Policy Exchange and Demos. We have started to build networks of academics that work on digital research to help them bring their knowledge directly into policy making.
ORG has been a major force behind building many new networks and informal coalitions. They are an effective way of defending digital rights, by making sure everyone with a public interest perspective is able to understand each others concerns and goals, and work for them together.
We have ambitions to extend our influence into even more areas, especially with trades unions and inside all of the UK’s political parties. We have helped the Lib Dems in particular but would like to build influence within all of the UK’s major political parties.
We have also recognized a need to nurture independent voices for artists and creators, and have this as a goal for 2012.
ORG participates in a number of international networks, including the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), European digital networks including IINDEP Hub. We work especially closely with EDRI –European Digital Rights – which is a coalition of organizations similar in outlook to ORG, like the EFF, Bits of Freedom in the Netherlands and Panoptykon in Poland. EDRI is developing into a useful and effective organisation since taking on a staff structure led by Joe McNamee, a move strongly recommended by ORG to both EDRI and the OSI. We are engaged with EDRI over their future strategic development, hoping to see them move to a more well-funded, agile structure, better able to support EDRI members.