Campaigning – popularising your tax advocacy

In this toolkit, we use ‘campaigning’ to refer to popular mobilisation, the process of engaging with the public and encouraging them to take some action in support of your tax advocacy and put pressure on policy-makers (either to complement or instead of ‘insider’ lobbying).

Why?

  • To demonstrate to your advocacy targets in government and elsewhere that you are not alone, that there is popular support for your position, that people are genuinely concerned to see a change in tax policy that benefits the poorest and increases their representation in tax policy formulation.
  • Those with power invariably listen more to community members, members of the public or – in the case of politicians – constituents than to organisations, as they are voters and consumers. As individuals these people may have limited influence, but brought together under your campaign banner they can exert considerable pressure.
  • Popular campaigning adds legitimacy to lobbying efforts when those affected demonstrate their concern.
  • It can open the door to decision-makers for lobbyists, who can then provide more policy detail.
  • It can be a means of generating media interest in your issue and so further raise its profile and make it difficult for decision-makers to avoid the issue.
  • It’s a way of using energy or anger in a positive way focused on bringing about change.
  • It may be an alternative to lobbying and dialogue if these methods don’t appear to be working, and may put more political pressure on your advocacy targets.

How?

When considering campaigning, some elements will be the same as in your broader advocacy strategy – such as focusing on a clear, simple objective – but some will be more appropriate for mobilising the public.

Remember that in public campaigning, your target audience is the citizens you are hoping to mobilise to take action. So the whole way you communicate your message will be different from when you are communicating directly to policy-makers. Now you are aiming to encourage your campaigners and activists to change policies and policy-makers’ positions through their public pressure.

Whatever you do, your campaign must have a simple, strong, engaging message at the heart of it that is easily understood by the public. Don’t overcomplicate – that’s a turn-off for most people! Single-issue campaigns tend to be the most successful (for example ‘End Apartheid’, ‘Ban Landmines’, ‘Access to Affordable Medicines’). When you start a campaign, it’s a good opportunity to develop some catchy slogans as discussed in Chapter 2.

Achieve campaign recognition through a consistent visual identity – solidify your campaign in people’s minds with a logo or series of images and phrases that all of your campaign materials feature – you should use the same colour and fonts. Here are some examples of tax campaign logos.

Trace the tax logo

Trace the tax logo

Stop Paradis Fiscaux

Stop Paradis Fiscaux

Share your visual images on social networking sites so they can be accessed by all. Flickr is particularly useful for sharing images. Remember to sort out rights to these images before sharing freely.

Start from where your audience is – don’t assume they know much, or anything, about the tax issue you are campaigning on. Again, don’t overcomplicate!

You need to give people the opportunity to take an easy action – you want it to be straightforward for them to get involved and easy for them to stay on board with you as the campaign develops.

Be imaginative and eye catching. Creativity is the backbone of campaigning!

Find potential allies to maximise achievability and avoid duplicating the work of others.

Think about how you can record the names and addresses of campaign supporters so you can keep in touch. If that’s not possible, think of other ways to keep people informed. Feedback on the progress of the campaign and the impact that supporters are having is motivating and may make the difference between them sticking with you through thick and thin or jumping ship early on.

Ensure that your campaigning is integrated with your lobbying and media work for maximum impact. This means ensuring consistency rather than uniformity in your approach. For example, your public campaign might lead with slogans such as ‘Stop Tax Dodging!’ or ‘End Tax Secrecy!’ whereas the policy recommendations you present to policy-makers as part of your lobbying strategy will be more nuanced (see ‘Top tips for formulating policy recommendations’ on page 6).

Use relevant hooks where possible to try to increase media coverage. For example, with tax campaigns, budget time or when people have to fill in their tax returns can be good hooks as people are already thinking about tax. These hooks can also be good opportunities to create stunts.

You need to be flexible and respond to opportunities as they arise.

Above all, you must be able to demonstrate that the change you’re demanding will result in real, lasting improvement in people’s lives.

TOP TIP on what makes A CAMPAIGN SUCCESSFUL

by veteran campaigner Jonathan Ellis14

To run an effective campaign it needs to pass the TEA test:

  • Touch
  • Enthuse
  • Act

An effective campaign needs to Touch people. It needs to make a connection with its target, strike a chord and prompt a response.

But it needs to do so much more than that. It is all very well touching your target with your message, but they might decide that it is all so depressing or difficult that there is nothing that they can do.

A campaign needs to go beyond touching people to Enthuse them. An effective campaign convinces its target audience that there is a solution that could remedy the problem that has touched them. The campaign must contain elements that will enthuse people and deflect any defeatist or negative thoughts.

But touching and enthusing are no good for the campaign if you cannot move on to the third part of the TEA test. You need to touch and enthuse to ensure that the recipient of the campaign’s message decides to Act.

Campaigning is all about believing that there can be change to address a problem in the world. And it is about influencing decision-makers, at whatever level, to show and then demonstrate their agreement with the campaign’s ambitions.

To achieve this goal, you need a campaign message that passes the TEA test: ask yourself, do your campaign messages pass the TEA test?

In addition a good campaign makes use of all, or some, of the following:

  • A clear message
  • A clear identity
  • A simple solution
  • Clear outrage
  • Use of the media
  • Political support
  • Alliances
  • Public action
  • Celebrity. For tax purposes this can work both ways, using examples of celebrities who set a good example by paying tax and those who deliberately dodge it so can be used as examples to highlight bad practice
  • Symbolic timing or ‘hooks’, eg budget day, end of the tax year

It is important to focus on one message and remember the impact of a drip-drip effect.

Ways to implement public campaigning

Activity

Components

Benefits

Drawbacks/risks

Public meetings

People brought together for a debate

Decision-makers open to public questioning

Everyone invited

May get good publicity

Decision-makers hear views directly

Chance for discussion

Helps increase the organisation’s reputation on the issue

Time consuming and expensive to set up

Possibility of disruption or confrontation

Span of control is limited: you cannot control what is being said during the meeting or the background and interests of people showing up at the meeting

Examples:

• A town hall meeting with people from government and NGOs and the public.

• During the G20 summit in 2010, Christian Aid and ActionAid organised an event with the finance minister and civil society people and an audience of journalists and policy experts. It forced the minister to answer questions on the record that he had not been willing to answer before.

Vigils, demonstrations, protests, processions and occupations

Group of people gathered at a symbolic place to make a visual protest to decision-makers

Combine with leaflets to encourage attendance and press releases to spread your message

Can be very visual and powerful

Good media coverage potential

Can create sense of solidarity among participants and boost campaigning morale

Possibility of arrests and/or confrontations with police if demonstrations are illegal in country concerned and/or the police do not grant permission

Might lose access to decision-makers if confrontational

There may be no media coverage at all – this is a risk since it takes a lot of preparation but impact is limited without media coverage

Can damage image of organisation (especially in countries where non-violent demonstrations are rare)

People can join in to pass time instead of backing the issue

If too few people join in, your targets may think you have little support – this may undermine your campaign

Examples:

• When Ghana and Sierra Leone introduced value added tax (VAT) and a goods and services tax (GST), in the 1990s and in 2009 respectively, the new taxes led to protests and demonstrations. As a result, the government of Ghana entered into negotiations with other stakeholders to review the taxes. In Sierra Leone the tax was implemented.

• In 1997 in the Philippines, a broad multi-sectoral organisation SANLAKAS brought together a coalition of people (COMVAT) against the passage of a VAT bill. About 50,000 people came from the urban poor, students, workers, small businessmen, and church-based organisations. They marched towards the House of Congress to demand the scrapping of the VAT bill. Unfortunately the bill was passed.

Citizens meeting decision-makers

Groups of concerned people meet with decision-makers, often their local officials, to reinforce the message – could take the form of a ‘mass lobby’ of parliamentarians

Decision-makers hear concerns directly from those affected

Builds local support for campaign

Difficult to coordinate message

Example:

• In the Philippines, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) met with a key senator and briefed him on their tax restructure campaign. He became a champion of the FDC campaign in the legislature.

Production and distribution of materials – leaflets, posters, reports, briefings, stickers, pin badges, T-shirts, bands, hats, whistles

Leaflets and posters: strong visual images for your campaign, popular messages for communicating with public, community groups, etc

Reports/briefings: detailed material which shows the facts behind the campaign, usually with policy recommendations

Gives credibility among supporters and decision-makers

Educates others

Posters are particularly useful as a way of giving a visual identity to a campaign and conveying a strong message – campaigners can have it in their offices for years to come.

Reports: time consuming and expensive to produce and a danger that they will not be read

Low level of engagement; people easily wear the T-shirts or use the stickers, etc

Examples:

• After Kenyan MPs passed a bill in Parliament to exempt themselves from paying tax on their salaries, the CSOs in Kenya started a campaign to force the MPs to retract the bill. The campaign designed car stickers to be used by members of the public to show support.

• See ‘Top tips for designing a campaign leaflet’ (page 26).

Activity

Components

Benefits

Drawbacks/risks

Stunts

Unusual actions that draw media attention to your cause, such as street drama

Good media attention

Powerful for getting message across to public and decision-makers

Can go wrong and look unprofessional

If very controversial, public may be hostile

Examples:

• In Asia there are examples of people throwing coins at government buildings as a sign that governments are
wasting money.

• In advance of the G20 summit in London, Christian Aid organised a stunt (photo opportunity) to highlight the problems of tax dodging by multinationals. The media were invited to take a picture of pirates dressed in dapper
City suits carrying the sign of US$160 billion – the amount that Christian Aid estimates developing countries lose each year as a result of tax dodging.

• ActionAid went to a conference of accountants to raise the profile of its campaign on tax dodging. They offered
free counselling to the accountants attending (with couch and tissues, etc) to help them with their bad consciences!

• Singling out election candidates who have records of corruption, putting their pictures on a photo wall and mobilising people to pelt them with rotten eggs or tomatoes or mud. This can be used as a photo opportunity, accompanied by a press conference.

Newsletters

Regular mailing of information to those who are interested

Include some kind of an interview with an expert or someone with moral authority

You can bring in guest editors to build your network and diversify topics

Target audience must be identified

Keeps people up to date and makes them feel part of a movement

Encourages regular and alternative actions

Can address the general public as it is not limited to a single issue alone

Can be time consuming and expensive to produce

Example:

• Tax Justice Network Africa newsletter can be found at: www.taxjustice4africa.net

Postcards and petitions

People sign a petition, or sign or write a message on a postcard to decision-makers (the internet is increasingly used for this purpose)

Mostly accompanied with other public pressure (mobilisation, etc)

Quick and easy to do

Many people likely to act

Can be a good starting point for mobilising the public

Can be displayed in public places

Can build a photo opportunity around handing in the petition to the relevant minister for example

Impersonal; face-to-face interaction in a campaign is often more effective

Can sometimes irritate decision-makers – though they may still have an impact

Often not read by the decision-makers/legislators themselves but by their assistants, so there is risk of being ignored

Petition: authenticity of signatures can be questioned

Examples:

• The FDC used a petition letter as a tool to demonstrate support for its campaign to the government, gaining 200,000 signatures.

• Perhaps a more unusual use of a ‘petition letter’ was that written on 8 March 1992 by the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Malawi to all parishes. This letter entitled ‘Living our Faith’ was read in all Catholic churches. It addressed the plight of Malawians and spoke out against ill-treatment of workers. The letter sparked a commotion in the country as it was the first criticism of a repressive government. The government banned it – then it became hot property. The bishops were arrested. Citizens started marching and protesting in solidarity with the bishops. Before long, the government had lost control and fell, the first step on the path to the introduction of multi-party democracy in Malawi.

Letters to decision-makers

People write personally to decision-makers

Letters to elected representatives often viewed by policy-makers as a measure of public concern

Can be more effective than postcards as shows deeper grasp of the issue and arguably suggests more respect to authorities

Decision-maker may receive many letters, so difficult to distinguish from other campaigns

Effectiveness can sometimes depend on who sends the letter

Letter actions to companies

Consider launching a letter-writing campaign targeting company management – the chief executive officer and finance director, for example, or the company’s largest shareholders

Potential to show company a high level of concern about company behaviour

Need to maintain high volume of letters

Example:

• Christian Aid asked supporters to write to the chief executives of four FTSE companies, urging them to call
on the International Accounting Standards Board to introduce a new country-by-country reporting standard.

Activity

Components

Benefits

Drawbacks/risks

Internet campaigning

Using the web and online databases to get people to sign online petitions, fill in surveys, and email decision-makers

Should include social networking sites, such as Facebook, blogging, use of Twitter

Easy to set up, flexible and responsive

Can get many people involved – enables you to build a global campaign and to network globally

Popular – can help to generate new contacts and media attention

Responses are easily elicited from the internet – people are more likely to give their opinions via internet because of the sense of anonymity

Excludes those without internet access,
or with limited and slow access on mobile phones

May be ignored by decision-makers because impersonal

Often only has an impact if the number
of letters or emails is significant – could demonstrate a lack of widespread support
if not

Example:

• French NGOs decided in September 2009 to launch a large mobilisation campaign on tax havens in order to better reach the highest level of the French government, which will host the G20 in November 2011. Their online petition called ‘Stop tax havens’ has already been supported by 50,000 signatories. The campaign also aims to enable citizens to become true actors of change through a set of tools on its website (www.stopparadisfiscaux.fr/).

Exhibitions, films, photography

Set up in public places to raise awareness

Possibly linked with actions or stunts

Photos, video and audio are very visual and people will stop and take notice

It is a very good way to explain complex issues such as tax to a wider audience

Time consuming

Often dependent on the weather

Examples:

• UK-based Tipping Point Film Fund has been developing a cinematic feature-documentary-thriller about illicit financial flows called Cashback. It tells the story of how money is drained out of developing countries by a network of bankers, accountants and lawyers into secret, offshore western bank accounts, undermining the lives of millions of people. Tipping Point hopes that Cashback will act as an urgent wake-up call to the public as well as being a powerful lobbying tool for organisations to use at the highest level. Critically, the release of the film will be supported by a multimedia website and a 3–5-year international outreach campaign.

• Video exhibition showing the role of mining company in displacing people in Tanzania.

• Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an organisation set up to demonstrate concern about mining in the Philippines,
provided training kits on mining to universities in order to highlight the problems and garner support.

Boycotts

Refusal to buy products from a certain company

Can affect profits and bring pressure for change

Good media coverage

If few people participate, it will not be effective

It may alienate target and close down avenues for dialogue – so may be more
of a last resort approach when all else fails

Examples:

• In Vietnam there was a boycott of a whole supermarket, against a company involved in environmentally damaging activities.

• A UK call (2008) to boycott BP until the company would pay a ‘windfall tax’ after having booked a 148 per cent profit, while 6 million people are struggling to pay their fuel bills.

Competitions, award ceremonies

Award ceremonies for good or bad behaviour

Ask supporters to participate or nominate others – this is often used to engage schools

Can be done as ‘alternative’ awards in parallel with industry ceremonies where same companies get good attention

Good for awareness-raising and publicity for your campaign, especially if you get well-known people and media involved

Time consuming, especially if large scale

Example:

• Christian Aid organised an ‘Alternative Tax Award’ ceremony in front of the hotel where accountancy firms were meeting. Issues included awards for ‘Greatest potential for tax reform’ and ‘Most surprising use of tax havens’.

Activity

Components

Benefits

Drawbacks/risks

Polling

Doing polls of citizens or decision-makers or particular interest groups to get their opinion on tax-related issues

A way of measuring support for your tax campaign ‘asks’ – if the results indicate a strong level of support they can be used to add credibility to your campaign, get media coverage or persuade decision-makers that they need to act

Can also be used to hold decision-makers to account if they answer that they agree with or support your position

Can be expensive

May not get the results you hope for – for example you may discover there is little support for your campaign so there is risk of undermining it if others have access to that information

Example:

• The FDC in the Philippines asked legislators to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on raising tax exemption levels, then published the results. They answered the poll because they were concerned about bad press and some of them were put on the defensive. Later, the FDC was awarded third place as newsmaker of the year for having been instrumental in raising tax exemption levels.

Advertising campaigns

Use billboards, leaflets in magazines, posters, internet websites, Google ads, email banner ads

Eye catching – strong visuals
can have impact

Gets your campaign slogan widely known

Control of your message

Not cheap

Difficult to target accurately

Example:

• ‘Help Mr Money Escape Paradise’ is an advertising campaign run by the French NGO CCFD running up to the G20 summit in France, bringing public awareness with a dedicated website, newspaper adverts and web media, linked to a petition. It highlights the amount of money held in tax havens, how this money is insecure, how Mr Money is bored in paradise and would like to return from fantasy land to normal life as he’s ageing and getting old (www.aidonslargent.org/).

Manifesto

Short outline of campaign messages – clearly and simply explains why you’re campaigning, problem, solutions, what public can do

Information in one place for supporters to work with – informative/educational

Knowledge is power – enables people to lobby decision-makers

Emphasis on enabling others to take action

Limited newsworthiness

Example:

• In February 2010 Christian Aid produced a short two-page manifesto outlining its position on six key development
issues, including on tax, in order to raise the profile of international development in the UK’s General Election in May
2010 and to influence the positions of the UK’s different political parties. Christian Aid sent the manifesto to all the
key manifesto writers in the main parties, and hundreds of supporters sent it to their parliamentary candidates.
It played a role in getting a policy position on tax dodging and poverty from the UK Conservative Party for the first
time, as well as commitments on tax in the manifestos of the other main parties.

Mass lobby

Citizens/supporters from across region or country gather to directly lobby council or Parliament

Inspiring for supporters – sense of being part of something bigger than selves

Gives MPs or councillors strong sense of scale of concern and opportunity to speak directly with those affected and/or constituents

Needs to be large scale to have impact – therefore can be time consuming and resource intensive if enabling people to come from far and wide

Can exclude those who can’t afford, or are unable, to travel

Example:

• In October 2010, over 1,000 Christian Aid campaigners gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in London to lobby
their respective MPs, having contacted them in advance and arranged to meet them in the lobby of Parliament or
directly outside the parliament buildings. Over three hours, 150 MPs were asked by their constituents to write to
government ministers about tax transparency (specifically country-by-country reporting) and about climate change.

Leaflets – one way of communicating your key message to the general public

TOP TIP for designing a campaign leaflet

  • Use your organisation logo and/or your campaign logo if you have one.
  • Include a brief outline of what the problem is, what the solutions are and action that can be taken (by your audience).
  • Use your campaign slogan – it emphasises the message you want to communicate.
  • Keep it short. People may not have much time to read. You may be distributing your leaflets to people passing by on the streets. The quicker they get your message the better.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t use acronyms or technical language. Words such as ‘transfer mispricing’ are completely forbidden! Try to avoid also ‘tax evasion’ and ‘tax avoidance’ if you are communicating with the public on the streets. Tax dodging can be simpler.
  • Make your campaign action visible: a leaflet not only brings information to the public but it also encourages them to care about tax issues and act on that concern.
  • Think about including a section on how people can give feedback or get in touch to support the campaign in the future, for example ‘Text this number xxx if you’d like to get more involved’.
  • Make it colourful and lively so it attracts people’s attention and makes them want to read it, for example add pictures and use colourful fonts
  • Case Studies

    French campaign to stop tax havens

    Case Study

    French campaign to stop tax havens

    A French campaign against tax havens was launched by a coalition of CSOs and trade unions in September 2009 ahead of the G20 Pittsburgh summit. Called ‘Stop tax havens’ they wanted to demonstrate that much of their economy was built on making use of tax havens via the investment decisions of banks, multinationals and hedge funds.

    This was an empowering message as it meant that citizens could contribute to ending tax haven secrecy by pressurising domestic companies to be more transparent about their activities. At a time of global economic instability and looming budget cuts, it was also important to show how both developed and developing country budgets lost out due to tax havens.Therefore there was a strong self-interest incentive for government action as well as a moral one: tackle tax havens and governments would gain more money!

    The campaign has a website so people know where to go to get information.They have clear policy recommendations and kick-started with a public petition that has so far collected 50,000 signatures.They identified four different stakeholders – citizens, trade unions, leaders of companies and local councils – and tailored messages and activities to each. In addition to signing the petition, hundreds of citizens have written to their banks to ask about their activities in tax havens. New technology has helped connect activists across France by using a ‘Google map’ that identifies other interested people in their area.

    Local authorities have been asked to get involved by requiring companies tendering for service contracts to present their accounting activities on a country-by-country basis.This approach has already been endorsed by eight French regions, and the capital Paris may be next on the list! All of these activities are designed to build up the pressure for change in advance of the G20 summit (which France will host) and the opening of the French presidential election in 2011.

    Reference no.15

    The campaign for tax justice in Brazil

    Case Study

    The campaign for tax justice in Brazil

    In 2007 the Brazilian government proposed fundamental changes to its tax system. Reforms were aimed mainly at simplifying tax rules – eliminating certain taxes and bringing an end to the ‘tax war’ between Brazilian states – as well as a proposal to end the link between specific taxes and the exclusive financing of social policy initiatives. While the reform proposals were disappointing – given their complete failure to address equity issues – they also raised new concerns regarding the financing of the country’s health, welfare and social assistance programmes.

    Brazilian CSO INESC saw the reform proposal as a window of opportunity to campaign for progressive tax reform.They invited five CSOs to participate with them in one of the government’s public consultations on the reform. As other groups became interested, a network of more than 100 organisations was formed – the ‘Movement in Defence of the Social RightsThreatened by theTax Reform’.They developed their alternative proposal ‘for a just tax reform’, calling for equity to be built into the reform bill and for social policies to continue to receive exclusive financing.

    INESC along with five other organisations formed the executive committee of the network, with INESC providing the technical support and coordinating the lobbying.The network conducted lobby meetings with representatives from all political parties and managed to secure the support of a number of MPs. This enabled them to successfully push for a public debate inside the National Congress.

    Key allies included the trade unions and churches, as well as a group of academics and state health departments. (While the government claimed there would be no losses to social programmes, the Ministry of Health calculated it was likely to lose US$9 billion).The public attorney’s office also assisted the campaign with several official requests for information from the government.

    Although the campaign was not able to force more progressive amendments to the tax reform bill, its key success was in blocking the approval of the tax reform bill for now (though it is likely to reappear with the new government). Given that tax reform is now firmly established on the agenda of a large number of CSOs, INESC expects the network to continue to advocate for tax justice in the future.

    Reference no.16

    Jersey banks walking tour and public event

    Case Study

    Jersey banks walking tour and public event

    In March 2009, ahead of the G20 summit in London in April, European civil society networks – including the Tax Justice Network, Attac France and Attac Jersey, Christian Aid and BankTrack – organised a campaigning event on the island of Jersey. Jersey is known as a secrecy jurisdiction because it doesn’t readily provide information for foreign governments who suspect that tax evasion is taking place within its banking system. It is also referred to as a tax haven because it provides low tax for both resident and non-resident savings and other assets.
    On the first evening, a public meeting was organised in the parish hall to discuss the effects of tax havens on poverty, the perils of dictators’ secret bank accounts, and the links between financial secrecy and the financial crisis. Political and business representatives were invited, including the chief minister, senators and councillors. One MP came and much of what he said supported the campaign.This gave the campaign more political credibility.
    The following day, a walking tour of different banks was organised, in the tradition of historical walks for tourists common in Britain. Representatives from the media were invited to attend.The tour stopped in front of each bank, with participants speaking about the campaign in their own language to the national media. Representatives from both the French and British media attended the event in great numbers. The media and activists beyond Jersey were kept up to date with live blogging and aTwitter channel. The speeches were also recorded on video, checked for libel, and put onYouTube for public viewing.
    The combination of a public event, walking tour, media work, and internet-based campaigning was what provided a successful campaigning event.