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Dealing with unforeseen crises

Any campaign strategy should take into account existing weaknesses and threats, and plan for mitigating likely risks. But unexpected crises may still happen: e.g. a campaign spokesperson turns out to perpetrate violence against women and girls (VAW), a major quarrel unsettles campaign leadership, or a sudden external event, e.g. a natural catastrophe, disrupts activities. The following steps can be taken to mitigate a crisis.

 

Practical tips for crisis mitigation

  • Identify the crisis and your options. If a crisis surges, find out - 
    • What exactly happened? If possible, consult different persons so as to obtain a fuller picture. Listen carefully. Do not blame anyone for what happened unless there is unequivocal, proven evidence. 
    • Who is affected by the crisis (e.g. specific alliance members, or sectors of the target audience)? 
    • What aspects of your campaign strategy and “tactics” are affected or threatened by the crisis?
    •  What are possible ways out of the crisis, and who needs to take action?
    • Analysis prepared in the earlier phases of your campaign, e.g. problem trees, actor maps and risk analysis, can be used to locate the crisis precisely and identify possible options.
  • Deal with the crisis: Based on your findings, decide on the action to be taken. Decisions should be taken according to the agreed team or alliance procedures. If, in an emergency, you cannot contact others before taking necessary immediate action, then inform all relevant campaign members at the earliest possible moment and decide together what further actions must follow.
  • Assess what happened. When the crisis is over, evaluate as a group:
    • How did the crisis come about? What were the factors leading to it? Can you avert future crises by working on any of these factors, which could be internal or external?
    • How did you deal with the crisis? What was helpful, what not?
  • Learning from crises should be shared with others in the team or alliance so as to prevent the same mistakes. Campaign evaluations should examine crises and the lessons drawn from them.
  • Crisis Prevention: Careful campaign planning, and establishing partnerships and alliances on a solid basis of clear responsibilities and processes can protect you from internal crises. A risk assessment (see Risk Analysis in Campaign Planning) enables you to create a contingency plan, which outlines how to manage foreseeable problems. Regular monitoring of campaign activities and their context helps to detect early warning signs – in time to prepare for action and adjust elements of the campaign as needed.
  • Consider exit: If adjustments in the strategy and practical plans, changes in campaign leadership and appropriate conflict management fail to bring the crisis to a satisfying end, assess whether the campaign is still likely to reach its goal even if the crisis remains unresolved, and whether the benefits of continuing to campaign outweigh the likely damage caused by the crisis. See also Exit Strategy in Campaign Strategy above.