CAMRA has been one of the biggest and most influential consumer organisations in the UK. It has shaped the future of beer and has been vocal in consultations in the interest of real ale drinkers and pubs. However, its efforts to shape its own future and conduct its own consultations seem less impressive. This feeling is reinforced by the recent announcement on the progress of its revitalisation project.
According to the recent revitalisation project report, the initial survey attracted 20,000 responses in total. The two-month-extension of the survey deadline resulted in only 4,000 additional submissions, which is rather weak response compared to the first two months with 16,000 submissions. Despite the obvious survey fatigue, the membership is invited to respond to yet another survey that is newly introduced to the consultation process. Nevertheless, this is not the only new element to inform the final revitalisation proposals:
The [revitalisation project] committee has commissioned analysis on the key economic, political and social developments that influence the world that CAMRA operates in. This includes the threats and opportunities presented by changes in society, in consumer spending habits, in the way people socialise, developments in brewing technology and how we are likely to be affected by anti-alcohol campaigning and a changing attitude to health risks.
The above analysis could provide the description of an actual problem, a justification to the whole revitalisation that has been missing until now. Nevertheless, the membership has already been surveyed given only retrospective facts and figures in the consultation document but not this wider context.
Although the consultation is still underway, there are indications where the revitalisation might be heading. The suggestion from the previous survey to represent of ‘all pub-goers, regardless of what they prefer to drink’ appears to have been discarded. The current questions in the report do not mention drinks other than cider, perry or beer.
We’ve got some big questions to tackle. Should CAMRA continue to support and promote real cider and perry, or would both campaigns benefit from being run separately? Is it better to focus our campaigning on real ale, or do we need to widen our support to other types of beer to follow developments in consumer trends and brewing technology?
Furthermore, the considerations about establishments are specific to beer alone.
Do we limit our campaigning to encouraging the drinking of beer in pubs and clubs only, or would it support the brewing industry more effectively to stretch our activity to advocating buying and drinking beer in a wide variety of different establishments?
The committee also needs to know what sort of activities should be central to that positioning. Do we need achieve our objectives through lobbying politicians, forming partnerships with other people and organisations in the industry, becoming an educational and information service, or by promoting certain drinks and licensed premises?
However, the new survey does not contain any questions related to how CAMRA’s future objectives can be best achieved.
All in all and at first sight, the revitalisation project is proving a poorly thought-through process, but from another perspective it might appear a smartly steered one to deliver a specific outcome. The words of CAMRA Chief Executive, Tim Page from a recent interview with The Morning Advertiser underline this suspicion:
For the future, I hope we attract a wider group of people (…)