Guerilla policy manifesto

OBEY campaign by Shepard Fairey. Car park billboard/hoarding outside the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Photo by Leo Reynolds.

Traditional policy is developed largely within the closed policy establishment, between competing ideological agendas, and imposed on others.

The policy establishment comprises a relatively small circle of politicians, senior civil servants, mainstream media commentators, think tanks, business and lobby groups. These individuals are largely drawn from a small group of elite universities.

This produces policy that is poorly evidenced, badly designed and difficult to implement. This policy rarely reflects the lived experience of ordinary people, especially marginalised groups.

Guerilla policy is unauthorised. It is policy developed outside of the times, places and means sanctioned by the policy establishment.

Guerilla policy is developed openly, collaboratively and consensually by the people affected.

In guerilla policy, experience and expertise are valued above the elegance of an argument.

Guerilla policy is non-partisan and non-ideological. People matter more than theories.

Guerilla policymakers have fewer resources than the policy establishment, with two exceptions – they have much greater experience and understanding of the issues they engage with, and there are many more of them.

Guerilla policy can be done by anyone. Developing good policy requires only a combination of experience and enquiry, logic and common sense, confidence and humility.

There are no set forms, methods or terminologies. Guerilla policy is often irregular and informal. Guerilla policymakers do not know the answer in advance.

Guerilla policymakers do not aim to be experts on other people’s lives – and no-one can be an expert on society. Authenticity matters more than authorship.

There are no excuses to exclude relevant experience, no matter how uncomfortable it is to hear from.

Guerilla policymaking is always a call to action for others to get involved.

Policy needs to be widely accepted to be effective. No-one wins the ‘competition of ideas’.

Guerilla policy doesn’t rely on institutions. The larger the institution, the more that authenticity is in danger of being compromised.

Guerilla policy is not dependent on current or future sponsors. Guerilla policymakers only accept support that they would be happy never to receive again.

Guerilla policy is about developing policy that improves people’s lives – especially to enable people to exercise power over their own lives.

The purpose of policy is not to justify inequality.

What already exists could be good enough, and worth defending against worse alternatives.

Guerilla policymakers respect the ultimate responsibility of government and parliamentary institutions to determine policy.

Let us know your thoughts. Post a comment, or email:

4 Comments on “Guerilla policy manifesto”

  1. hilarysutcliffe says:

    I like everything you say and do, but HATE that silly name guerrilla policy and that image above. I think it totally marginalises what you do and will be a significant barrier to gaining support from ordinary people. It feels a bit indulgent and fun to be part of for the people involved, but missing the whole point of the inclusiveness message you are trying to achieve. Sorry!

    • No need to apologise Hilary – it’s partly down to personal taste of course, but you also raise an important issue regarding how we bring people into what we’re doing. I don’t envisage or even hope that guerilla (or guerrilla) policy is the only way to do this – we’re just at the start of beginning to make an argument and to experiement with different approaches to involve people. Other organisations have of coruse been doing this far longer than we have – some charities, campaigners and social movements, researchers and so on, and they are the inspiratios for what we’re trying to name here. All we’re really trying to do is to give this kind of ‘unauthorised’ policy work a name, akin to guerrilla marketing, guerrilla film-making etc, which emphasises its independence and hopefully its openness. Will this name work for many ‘ordinary people’? Probably not, in all honesty. Then again, what would be an inclusive name?

  2. John Lash says:

    I am curious about the statement “Guerilla policymakers respect the ultimate responsibility of government and parliamentary institutions to determine policy.” Perhaps I do not understand your definition of policy, or have a clear idea myself. I question whether or not the acknowledgement of institutions as entities gives them unwarranted power, and fails to recognize the reality that they are comprised of individuals. Even if we agree that we will abide by democracy, we have a choice to make about whether we obey, lend support, etc. to a given policy. My train of thought here seems a little unclear even to myself, but these are the thoughts that occur to me.

    • Thanks John – I agree that, to reinterpret or rephrase your point, we grant institutions their legitimacy and so we can remove this legitimacy from institutions – and that recognising this is crucial to ensuring that they are held accountable and act with this in mind. The reference to respecting government and parliament is meant to suggest that our focus is mainly on improving the inputs into policy – especially, given our interest in social policy, the frontline practitioners and the public who use services but whose views and insights are rarely acknowledged let alone inform policy. We want a greater legitimacy to policy through how it is developed, but of course others may feel that the institutions are the fundamental problem – discuss.

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