Building new purpose and structure into an established campaign

Aid to the Church in Need

“Kate really changed something fundamental for us as an organisation. The process was quite detailed but fascinating. There is a commitment to go forward and I hope Kate will be alongside us.”

Patricia Hatton, Head of Fundraising and Marketing,
Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church, supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. Each year the charity funds over 5,000 projects in more than 140 countries around the world. Action Planning has worked with ACN for many years, providing consultancy on time management, strategic planning and senior recruitment, among other things.

In 2016 ACN launched a campaign, #RedWednesday, to raise awareness of Christian persecution by lighting up Christian and secular landmarks around the UK in red. The campaign gathered momentum and grew globally, with landmarks such as Westminster Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio, the Trevi Fountain in Rome and every church in the Philippines lit up, creating a wave of red around the world.

The message was hitting home. The Foreign Secretary commissioned a major report on Christian persecution from the Bishop of Truro and built #RedWednesday into the Government’s recommendations. But after four years, ACN started asking themselves whether #RedWednesday was actually making a difference where it mattered. Were Christians being protected from persecution as a result?

Patricia Hatton, ACN’s Head of Fundraising and Marketing, asked Action Planning to come and assess the #RedWednesday campaign and offer suggestions as to how it might be reinforced to deliver practical impact.

We set up an initial workshop with the ACN team, facilitated by Action Planning Chairman David Saint and attended by three of our Associate Consultants, who each spoke on a specific aspect of the challenge. David Bull, former CEO of Amnesty International UK and Unicef UK, covered ‘Campaigning for Change’ and what it means to be an advocacy organisation; Kate Nicholas, former Editor of PR week, spoke on ‘Campaign Communications’ and maximising the communications benefit of the brand; and Anja Batista Sonksen, former Strategy Manager for Volkswagen and Visa, covered the ‘Events Perspective’.

The ACN team came out of the workshop with a whole new perspective on #RedWednesday, understanding that it could be more than just an ‘awareness event’, and commissioned Kate to work with them to develop the thinking in much greater depth. Kate proceeded to engage with ACN’s senior leadership and board members to develop a new Theory of Change and a campaign strategy that extended the scope of Red Wednesday beyond a single event, to encompass a whole new approach to advocacy and engaging the public in a flagship campaign to stop persecution of Christians around the world.

Kate enabled ACN to see how a concerted advocacy campaign could lead to real change in terms of stopping the persecutions of Christians and those of other faiths. She helped them develop a clear roadmap for engaging political, corporate and religious decision makers, as well as mobilising the public to call for change, along with a clear set of brand messaging and a structure for communications and raising awareness that ACN can use to determine the next steps and plan.

The upshot was that ACN came away with fresh enthusiasm for #RedWednesday and a firm belief that it had the potential to really deliver change where it mattered.

Consultant’s insight:
It has been a privilege to work with such committed and passionate senior staff and board members on this project. The charity had already built significant momentum around their Red Wednesday event – and particularly the call to ‘light up’ iconic landmarks – but it wasn’t clear internally or externally how such action could lead to real change in terms of halting persecution.

What became clear at the outset was that if ACN were to help stop persecution, and engage people in the process, we had to have a clear idea about how change could come about and be able to articulate how the actions we were asking the public to take would help create that change. ACN now has a strong case and a compelling campaign proposition and it is exciting to see how this work has opened up discussions about a whole new approach to advocacy moving forwards.

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