Is the time right for your campaign? This tool will help

Timing is everything when campaigning for policy or social change. Effective charities recognise that ideas have a lifecycle and know when the time is right for their campaign.

The Overton Window describes this lifecycle. Overton argued that public attitudes determine when government has the freedom to act; there is only a narrow window in which governments can turn an issue of concern into a matter of policy.

Ideas start as unthinkable, becoming radical and only when they move into acceptable and desirable do Governments have the licence to act.




So where does your issue sit in this cycle? Be careful not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking about where attitudes should be – look at what the data really tells you about public awareness and opinion of your issues.

If your issue is at the unthinkable end of the spectrum, your precious resource need to be invested in raising awareness and challenging stereotypes rather than creating detailed policy options or paying economists to undertake costings.

In fact, different tactics are required at each stage in the cycle as the diagram below illustrates.


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Understanding the policy cycle means investing your resources wisely and can help you take a portfolio approach to your influencing work. It will allow you to choose a mix of issues some of which push the boundaries of the unthinkable, while others require a concerted last push for change.

Katherine Rake