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How to campaign

You’ve realised that something needs to change, or a change is happening and you disagree, but what do you do now? If you’re supporting one of Beat’s campaigns, we’ll have done lots of this planning, but if you want to campaign on something else, the points below will help you to prepare.

Getting started

Make a plan

  • Clearly outline the issue.
  • Decide what you want to achieve.
  • Gather relevant evidence such as statistics, personal accounts or survey people affected.
  • Identify potential solutions. The better prepared you are with potential solutions to the problem, the more likely the decision maker will be able to make the change you want. It might not be possible to come up with a solution alone, so working with others and proposing a team approach is a great first step.
  • Break down your aim into small achievable goals.
  • Decide who can make the change you want to see, aka the decision maker.
  • Think about what action you can take to get their attention.
  • Write an elevator pitch.

Elevator pitch

You find yourself alone for 60 seconds with the key decision maker who can make your vision a reality. What do you say? Planning your pitch in advance is a great way to clarify your campaign, and be ready to have that all important conversation. Picture the specific individual you will be speaking to as you outline the problem, solution and ask.

Problem:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • What evidence do you have that this is a problem? Do you have a key fact or figure to support this?

Solution:

  • What needs to happen?
  • What are you doing?

Ask:

  • What do you want them to do?

Planning an elevator pitch can also be a great way of getting to know one of Beat’s campaigns better, so that you can talk confidently to a decision maker when you need to.

Show your working out

It is important to back up what you are saying with evidence that proves it is a problem. You could:

  • See if there are local statistics available.
  • Complete a Freedom of Information request to gather relevant evidence.
  • Conduct a survey – great if you know that the issue affects many people. This can also help you build support for your campaign.

Showing that your issue affects many people and ensuring that a decision maker hears their voices and personal stories can persuade them that they need to act. This is why at Beat we regularly ask our supporters to add their name to our petitions and raise awareness of our campaigns with their local decision makers.

But don’t be put off campaigning if you can’t find statistics to back you up. Sharing your own story and how this has affected you is extremely powerful on its own. This page contains some useful statistics that can be quoted.

The best possible approach is to propose a solution and show that this will resolve the issue. This isn’t necessarily as daunting or difficult as it may initially seem – there might be research that shows your solution would help, or another area or country might do what you are suggesting. Gathering information about this will strengthen your case. If you can’t find concrete evidence, you can still outline why you believe this will help. In some cases the best way forward can be to suggest that the kind of changes you’d like to see are trialled first within a specific area. This might be referred to as a ‘pilot’ project.

Don’t be put off if you can’t think of a solution. Some issues can be complex and will take time and teamwork to resolve. Highlighting the problem is an important first step on the journey. The Campaigns team may be able to provide you with statistics or advice on getting what you need, and you can also quote any Beat resources. Contact the team via email.

And action

There are many ways that you can get your voice heard about your own campaign or to raise awareness of one of Beat’s campaigns. Here are a few:

  • Write a letter: Sharing your story directly with someone who can make the change you want to see is very effective. It might be hard to reach the person you need at first, so tell others about your campaign. Your local politician or health commissioners are easy to contact, and are a great starting point. Read more about writing to decision makers.
  • Arrange a meeting: Sharing your story in person will have even more of an impact, and help bring the issue to life. It can sometimes be tougher to arrange a meeting, particularly with key decision makers. You may need to be patient, persistent and meet with others along the way, to help build support. Read more about meeting with decision makers here.
  • Patient Participation Groups (PPGs): PPGs are set up by GP practices to give patients an opportunity to be involved with the healthcare provided by the practice. The groups meet regularly to discuss the services on offer, and how improvements can be made. This can be a great space to share what you have learnt from your experiences, and how this can be used to make changes. The names of the groups vary from place to place, and will sometimes be called Patient Engagement Groups (PEGs).
  • Feedback and consultations: There are often ongoing chances to feed back your experiences, and there are sometimes consultations that will be related to what you are campaigning for. These are great opportunities to comment and share your knowledge and experience. They represent a time when the decision makers are actively listening to what you have to say, so your channel to their ears is wide open!
  • Start a petition: Before starting a petition, it's good to try to get in touch with the people who can help make your change, as they may agree to help you right away without the need for a petition. It's also a good idea to check if there is already a current petition on the issue, if there is, rather than duplicating you can sign that and help to promote it. When starting a petition, Change.org or 38 Degrees are good options, as they allow you to keep in touch with the people who have signed. Keep what you’re saying clear, evidence based and engaging to encourage people to join your cause – follow the elevator pitch points above.
  • Using local media: If you’re comfortable to do so, sharing your story with the local media can be a really powerful way of getting your message out there. Others with similar experiences may hear about your campaign and want to join in too. We have a set of media guidelines to help get you started.

If you’ve been public about your campaign, people may contact you seeking support. It’s important to take care of yourself and direct them to appropriate support, such as the Beat Helpline.

Who can make change?

Identifying where change needs to happen and who can make the change you want can be a challenge. The political and health systems can be complex, but you don’t need to be an expert in how they work before you can get started. The worst that can happen is the person you contact can’t help you, but they might know who can.

Parliament are the group of all politicians from different political parties who have been elected in their area to help set laws and make decisions about policy, legislation and funding. The Government is made up of members of the political party who have the most elected politicians. Initial decisions about policy and funding are made by the Government, but have to be debated and agreed by Parliament. That’s not to say that if your local politician is not in the ‘ruling party’ that they can’t have an impact on Government decisions – they are equally able to apply pressure to the relevant Ministers in Government. Find out more.

The NHS in each country decides how to spend the funding given by the Government and implement policy and legislation. Health care is devolved, which means decisions are made in the countries own Parliaments. If you are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, writing to your MP about health related issues can help, but it will be your Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP), Members of the Senedd (MSs), or Northern Ireland Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) who is best placed to be able to help with changes in your country.

In England some decisions are made nationally, and others are made by regional health and care groups such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Read more about how these work.

Your local politician and your local health commissioners will be able to help in different ways, so contacting both will be a great way of getting your message heard by all the right people.

There can be a lot of jargon to wade through in the political and health systems. We hope our Jargon Buster can help!

Beat campaigns

We want to see a society where people with eating disorders experience care and understanding, and can quickly access effective treatment. To achieve this, we are calling for changes to be made by Government, the NHS and others in several key areas.

The changes we want to see:

  • Rethink anti-obesity measures: The Government’s plans for a range of measures to encourage weight loss, including a weight loss app and the introduction of calorie labelling on menus will be potentially harmful to those affected by eating disorders. We are urging the Government to rethink these measures, ensuring that their approach is evidence based and informed by eating disorder experts and people with lived experience of eating disorders.
  • Reduced waiting times for treatment: At the moment, the treatment you can access and how long you have to wait will vary depending on your age and where you live in the UK. We believe that whatever your age, and wherever you live, you should be able to access the right treatment for you, when you need it. Due to devolution, the specific changes we are campaigning for vary between the different countries of the UK. You can read more about the specific changes we want to see in each country here.
  • Medical training: On average just 1.8 hours is spent on teaching about eating disorders in UK medical schools, with one in five medical schools providing no teaching at all. We believe that eating disorders must be appropriately taught and assessed at all medical schools and that all junior doctors should have gained clinical experience during their Foundation training. Contact the team via email to find out more.
  • Research and Innovation: While some high quality research is underway and effective therapies have been developed, we still don’t have a full understanding of what causes eating disorders or how best to treat them. We are calling for a significant increase in funding for research into eating disorders. Contact the team via email to find out more.

The Changes We Are Campaigning For

We want to see a society where people with eating disorders experience care and understanding, and health systems where they can quickly access effective treatment.

Engaging with decision makers

Want to start making a difference? This page will help you work out who the most relevant person to contact is. Find out how this differs across the UK, and get specific advice about contacting politicians and local NHS leaders.

Current Campaigns

With all of our campaigns, we hope we can move a step closer to getting everyone with an eating disorder the early treatment they need and deserve.

How Parliament works

The UK Parliament is made up of three parts: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Monarch. They are responsible for creating laws, representing the views of people across the country and keeping a check on the work of the Government.

Understanding the Healthcare System

Decisions over health funding and policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are taken by their respective Governments. As a result, the structure of the NHS varies between the different countries of the UK.

Jargon Buster

The mental health system is full of acronyms and jargon that can make it difficult to understand, whether you want to raise awareness, take part in a consultation or contact your local politician.