Here’s an activity I developed to help a neighborhood group plan their campaign to bring live music back to six area restaurants. (Through a loophole in liquor license regulations all live music had been effectively banned by a group of five people who forced the restaurants to sign “voluntary agreements.” Not so voluntary, if you want to sell wine and beer!)
I find that for people who aren’t used to planning campaigns – or who lack other kinds of experience, like planning a large event – it’s useful to do a “dry run” to demonstrate the many kinds of considerations needed and to imagine some of the likely twists and turns involved. This activity is intended for the small group that will be shouldering most of the planning work, not for just anyone peripherally involved. (Then again, if you can get them to stick around, why not? Maybe they’ll join up!)
The “road trip” frame is adapted from a popular education curriculum, I’ll cite it once I come across it again.
“Strategic Planning Road Trip”
Depends on the group, but can include:
- ID short-term goals and long-term project/campaign timeline
- Develop shared understanding of possible implications of undertaking a complex initiative
- Support consideration of many factors in setting a plan
- At least 90 minutes
- You’ll need about 72”x 96” (or more) of easel pad paper, taped together in a rectangle on the wall.
Ask if anyone has ever planned a wedding, or another large-scale initiative that took weeks of preparation, and may not have turned out exactly as you planned. Explain that campaigns involve many of the same moving parts. You start by answering the question, “what do we want to accomplish?”, and build towards your ultimate goal along a defined timeline.
“In this activity, we’ll practice driving to our ‘destination,’ and we’ll take some time to consider what might happen along the way.”
This activity requires a substantial amount of artistic prepwork. You’re going to draw the “vehicle” of your campaign travelling on a road to victory, the “destination” in the top right corner. Along the entire bottom border of the page leave several inches blank for the timeline – imagine if the “trip” began today, when would the “destination” be? (If this were a grid, the x-axis would be the timeline, the y-axis tracks campaign momentum.)
Your “map” should highlight a few other things:
- Several “speed bumps” or obstacles
- A gas station (or biodiesel/EV station, or a bike pump)
- A “rearview mirror” on the car, for collecting experience-based reflections from those present
- Clouds/rain looming over one segment of the road overhead
- At least one “fork” in the road
- Milemarkers along the way
Bonus points if you can draw the road’s terrain as a series of peaks and valleys, mirroring the up-and-down nature of campaigns.
I recommend writing a large glossary on a separate page next to the “roadtrip” scene to explain the connection between the metaphors and campaign being fleshed out. Here’s a sample glossary:
“Rearview Mirror” – Lessons from the Road(s) We’ve Traveled
“Gas Station” – Resources That Will Power Us
“Speed Bumps/Obstacles” – That Might Keep Us from Reaching Our Goals
“Milemarkers” – Signs We’re On Our Way to the Ultimate Goal (these could be short-term goals, smaller victories)
“Fork” – Directions We Could Take
“Rest Stop” – How We’ll Stay Healthy & Thriving
You can add others if they seem obvious. If this is for a political campaign, for instance, there may be clear interest group opponents who want to slow your progress. You can add them as the “State Patrol”.
Split the group into teams of 3-5 participants. If the group is less than 12 people, you can have them each spend 5-10 minutes generating items in each category. For a very large group, you’ll want to have each spend more time, around 20 minutes, with only one category, like “milemarkers.” Give each group clear instructions on what they’re generating – it’s easy to get lost in our own metaphorical brilliance! Circulate around as they start to brainstorm to make sure they’ve got it.
After a physical warm-up or a break, have them reconvene in the large group.
You have many options for focusing the debrief depending on your goals. Getting a good list of “milemarkers” can be especially useful for planning – the group often must work on getting to the first ones right away – so I often spend more time building to consensus there, and breeze over the others.
I have also used the debrief to give the group an opportunity to “taste” the many considerations they’ll need to explore, and re-consider, and then re-consider again, if they decide to launch a campaign. It can also be used to help the group think about how to focus their planning research – big questions often emerge about what milestones will be necessary to reach along the way, or philosophical questions about the cultural importance of breaks and celebrations, and even, crucially, the fears participants have about what might happen. Or, we could spend a lot of time thinking about our current or potential allies (“gas” to get us from one “milemarker” to the next).
Depending on your goals, have the groups write their “roadtrip” additions on post-its and place them on the wall, one at a time. If there’s time, have them come up with a roadtrip song that incorporates some of their brainstorm! This is a LONG activity, it’s important to get people moving.
To end, invite the participants to turn to someone near them and discuss which of the “roadtrip” markers they think are most important for the group to address at the next meeting. Or if the group is displaying a heavy emotional energy, invite them to share their feelings with one another on launching the initiative.