What could possibly bring together a former Conservative MP, a Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager, and an active Labour member? Surprisingly, the answer is Europe.
They are all part of the team running the European Movement UK (EMUK), a membership organization and the British branch of European Movement International, a lobby set up before the birth of the EU that has always advocated in favour of European cooperation and integration.
They have no small task ahead of them: to lead the fight against Brexit by launching a nationwide grassroots campaign in close collaboration with like-minded organizations. Their objective is to defeat a decision that we think goes against the country’s interests. Following the unclear result in the UK General Election, this cause seems more achievable than a few months ago.
As obvious as this cross-party alliance might appear in a country deeply divided by their relationship with the continent, there has been a classic problem of coordination between pro-EU organizations both in the political and civil space. For example, during the June 2016 referendum campaign the official Stronger IN campaign, later rebranded as Open Britain, coordinated the pro-Remain camp by producing leaflets, organizing street stalls and centralizing communications with voters. Though the campaign didn’t get underway in a real way until former Prime Minister David Cameron came back from Brussels with a deal in late February 2016—four months before the referendum
This time around, the European Movement UK is approaching things differently. It’s gathering people who believe Brexit was a mistake, and who want to be part of a truly grassroots movement of independent organizations operating under one single umbrella. Interest is high, so dozens of independent organizations from the civil society and existing EMUK branches are expected to sign up within the next few months, with groups varying from scientists to students.
By adding more branches to its network and providing a governance framework, EMUK will be able not only to collect data, but also to make sense of it. Examining the bigger picture will help with understanding the continuingly evolving profile of those within the pro-Remain camp.
To activate these individual players, EMUK is using a well-known campaign technology solution. This provides pro-EU organizations with a ready-to-use campaign platform which includes features such as a database, a highly-engaging website, a communication suite and powerful grassroots management tools. The goal is to increase message discipline across channels, and get the right message out to the right potential supporters.
We’re also helping EMUK engage with its network by setting the guidelines for data collection and synchronization of communications, thus ensuring a high level of consistency. The objective is not to have one single and centralized voice, but to reach out to different audiences through various channels with the message that has demonstrated the most resonance. For example, should data collected in one of the branches show that a specific health-related message is working well amongst voters under or above a certain age, the EMUK will encourage its use across the entire network and continue collecting data to measure its effectiveness.
Invoking John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, EU president Donald Tusk pointed out that he is not the only dreamer. Well, he can now wake up to a pro-EU movement in the same country that about a year ago decided to leave the EU.
Sebastian Rodriguez is a tech entrepreneur and founder of Rollout Democracy, a tech consulting firm specializing in political technology. They are the creators of the Digital Playbook for Grassroots Campaigns ®.