There’s a renewal in civic participation in Europe today, illustrated by grassroots campaigns which have emerged across the continent, including En Marche! in France, the Five Star Movement in Italy, Podemos in Spain, and Momentum in the UK.
With these movements arising on both sides of the political divide in the context of a thriving political technology scene, it’s no surprise that all of them have harnessed the creative use of social tech, digital organising platforms and powerful new activist-ecosystems to promote their aims.
We can see that new directions in European campaign tech are engaging different sections of the public outside traditional party structures. Here’s a look at three of the key trends in this area.
1. Visual Activism
Native digital formats such as memes and GIFs are at the cutting edge of social media engagement for European campaigns. Deploying them effectively requires campaigns to master visual languages which are specific to the internet, as well as engaging with decentralised meme communities for visual activism.
Creating all content centrally is no longer sufficient. To achieve a more authentic alignment with an audience, visual content may be crowdsourced and curated from the activist community; this community ownership of creative collateral inspires others to act and spread the word.
Traditional influencer management software still has a place, though we increasingly see that new visual curation systems are also being developed to target organic community content in a more strategic and measurable way.
2. Smarter Fundraising
Although online giving continues to grow, grassroots donations in Europe have classically not achieved the volumes typical in the U.S., particularly in respect of political campaigns. This may be set to change though, as an increasing number of SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms and payment service providers enter the European market, lowering costs and driving up standards.
There are well-established challenges, not least fragmentation of local payment systems and diverse regulation for fundraising (especially for international NGOs) across the EU. However, initiatives such as the Single Euro Payments Area could eventually dismantle these barriers to some extent.
Fundraisers also need to carefully balance the use of marketing automation, machine learning for targeting, and deeper personalisation against the enhanced privacy environment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May.
It’s far from straightforward, but nonetheless many European campaigns are seeing benefits from smarter fundraising, including more diversified income streams and greater loyalty from repeat donors.
3. Gamified Surveys
Mass listening and civic consultation exercises are being deployed across Europe, as organisations and institutions seek to revive their engagement with the public.
With campaigns competing for slim attention spans, producers are opting for more creative approaches in digital participation, weaving entertainment and educational content together in a data-gathering mechanism. Gamified surveys allow “players” to see how their views compare to those of others in a narrative way that goes beyond a simple ticked box. This creates a conversational storytelling environment that can be more effective than traditional centralised data-gathering exercises.
So what lies ahead? These three examples represent just a few of the trends my team has identified in 2018. The new landscape offers many opportunities for staying ahead of the game. It’s certainly an exciting time to be working on engagement with our European clients, and we’re intrigued to see how the field continues to develop.
Sam Lockwood is founder of Brand Response, a progressive digital agency working between London, Berlin, Brussels and Paris. He is also director at campaign startups tribe.tech and fundraise.tech.