The upcoming European Elections in 2024 present a crucial opportunity for civil society organisations to engage with candidates and advocate for critical issues, at a stage when candidates are known to make early pledges and commitments, while also using key issues to drive voter turnout.
With extensive experience working with European and national civil society, and specifically on European Parliamentary election campaigns in the past, Fix The Status Quo brings the expertise this civil society movement needs to pull off a smooth, seamless and fruitful collaboration among NGOs - and get the results we need to see.
For effective outcomes, it is essential to connect the European, national and local levels. These elections roll out at the national level, and it is crucial to be able to support national campaigns in a coordinated strategic approach, with a European perspective. Our approach activates and mobilises European networks to connect with and support national and local campaigns.
Building up networks and capacity, developing common and aligned campaign strategies, and being ready to deploy on time ahead of the elections - all of this requires consistent and persistent engagement with partners, co-creating a direction together ahead of time.
Some key things we learned, and how we plan to apply that knowledge:
A base of all candidates is a huge added value to the coalition and its members, allowing direct contact with election candidates
a. To promote transparency, accountability, and alignment with citizens' concerns and demands, we engaged with candidates and encouraged them to sign pledges outlining their intended actions if elected. Our aim was to shape a more proactive European Parliament, and establish connections between NGOs and candidates before their term begins. in 2024, many organisations once again want to campaign in this way towards candidates, and it's essential for their success and cost-effectiveness to work together in building that candidate list.
b. One significant challenge we consistently encountered was the difficulty of compiling a comprehensive list of candidates running in the elections in all EU member states. We needed a large number of candidates' profiles, including their email addresses and social media accounts, to be able to use the “candidate pledge” tactic effectively. This was crucial because candidates play a vital role in shaping policies, but when it comes to European elections, we could be looking at 3-6 thousand individual candidates, some of them never before elected in their home countries, without much of a public profile.
A base of all candidates is hard to get and costly, so the best strategy is to pool resources and collaborate - and it needs to happen early in the process to enable powerful, impactful public campaigning
a. In 2019, some organisations attempted to buy candidate lists from public affairs agencies, but this strategy was largely unsuccessful, and very expensive. The lists they bought were incomplete, not entirely comprehensive (in particular lacking information about candidates, or those new to the election game) and got delivered too late for an impactful campaign.
b. Additionally, these lists purchased by some NGOs were not integrated with the live campaign, resulting in numerous duplicates circulating around the coalition. That meant that candidates were contacted multiple times through different email addresses. This caused frustration and annoyance.
c. We learned that to source, maintain and make the best use of a database of all candidates, the best possible scenario is for many organisations to collaborate - to involve their member groups in countries across the EU, their staff and volunteers, in a concentrated effort to provide comprehensive, fact-checked information for small sections of the entire list - and to trust that other coalition partners will do the same for their geographical areas - so that all partners, big and small, can have access to the full base of candidates.
d. That technology can help, both by automatically scrapping candidates pages from parties, deduplication and normalisation, collaborative editing, and allowing the campaigners to focus on intel gathering and QA control and less data entry
Pledge/manifesto campaigns can be impactful and allow creating integroups or to activate “pledged” MEPs at key moments, like a hearing of a commissioner to be sure the right questions are asked… but it needs to be used through the next term, and not be considered closed on june 2023.
For the 2024 elections, many NGOs are interested in people-powered campaigns that target candidates for MEPs. These campaigns involve asking their supporters to send emails, tweet messages, or participate in political meetings - and all are aimed at getting candidates to take a stand on one of the issues important to European people.
However, these organisations recognize the size and complexity of the task if they were to tackle it individually. This is where our project comes in, and where we believe we have a unique role and expertise to put in place the architecture of the 2024 European Parliament NGO campaign.