Kristin Gillies - 5 questions

Kristin is the founder and director of For Purpose. He is a specialist in Digital Campaigning, Communications and Strategy with over 10 years experience in campaigning, building organisations, and creating change on environmental and social issues. 

1. You co-founded For Purpose almost a decade ago. Can you share a bit about the journey that led you to creating one of the first advocacy and campaigning agencies in Aotearoa?

Well, actually, I never set out to set up an agency at all and I still have to pinch myself sometimes to check where we’ve got to. My journey started with grassroots campaigning, the most formative being the Save Happy Valley campaign against an opencast coal mine near Westport almost 20 years ago. We occupied the mine site and held up coal trains in protest. I’d also been involved with other social issues as well when I lived in Ōtautahi. From there I began coordinating climate campaigns at Greenpeace such as the 6-week flotilla off the East Cape alongside local iwi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, to stop Brazilian oil giant Petrobas’ plans for offshore oil exploration. 

After the 2014 General Election campaign, where I had been Campaign Manager for the Greens, I found myself looking for a change in employment. I had some new digital organising skills I’d built up there on top of years of campaign experience and found there was a real need across the broader progressive movement for digital campaigning support. Along with two former colleagues, Ryan and Lou, we started For Purpose as a banner to run our own projects and freelance for a while.I never imagined I’d end up holding the reins of a fully-fledged campaigns agency. It's been a wild ride and I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills along the way but in those moments when I pinch myself, I’m super happy with where I’ve ended up and that I get to work with so many good humans doing exceptional things to make the world a better place.

2. You’ve supported a bunch of advocacy groups, political parties, unions, NFPs, built campaigns and capability in your role as a digital campaign strategist. What advice would you give an organisation that may be new to campaigning, and is looking to engage audiences with an online campaign?

It’s first about knowing exactly what strategy and tactics are, developing your own, and then checking progress against them regularly. There is an often-quoted line from Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Too often we get approached by organisations with a great idea for a campaign, but they can’t answer how it works toward their organisational strategy - they haven’t contextualised the idea within a theory of how and why change will happen. We work alongside them to develop a strategy then go back and measure that great campaign idea against their new framework for creating change - sometimes it still fits but often it doesn’t. The point is to stop and check that exciting new idea you have measures up against your strategy before rushing off and putting a whole lot of resources into it. This is especially true online where it's easy to lose sight of whether all the clicks and signups are actually contributing toward meaningful change. 

3. What is one thing we can do to help shift Aotearoa to a more equal, just, and sustainable place?

Toitū te Tiriti. Mātauranga Māori offers alternative ways of imagining, valuing, and caring for people and the planet. Honouring the Treaty of Waitangi is not only a way to redress history but also an opportunity to work together toward a future with a different set of values.

4. Are there any favourite podcasts, books, movies, TV shows that you're digging into right now that you want to share?

I like to read fiction before bed, something completely removed from my daily reality. I’m currently reading my second novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled, which I’d recommend. Podcasts for sure, when doing the dishes in the evening mostly. Mata with Mihingarangi Forbes is a fav that isn’t released often enough, also enjoying 30 with Guyon Espiner. And I geek out on YouTube mountain biking content, torturing myself by watching pros riding expensive bikes in exotic locations - just search ‘downhill mountain bike’ and head down a wormhole.

5. If you weren’t sitting at your computer right now answering these questions, what would you be doing?

Riding my bike, preferably in a forest but anywhere really. It’s what keeps me sane.

Kristin is going to talk about campaign strategy at our free online Lunch & Learn series. Register your interest here:

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