To build a social change movement, start with a campaign issue that is tangible, relatable and winnable. Find an issue that is local and addresses everyday problems that people really care about. Taking small steps and achieving incremental victories can build people’s confidence and give them a feeling of accomplishment.
When I asked Gene Sharp—the guru of nonviolent action—if he thought violence was ever justified, his answer baffled me. He said it’s a question that doesn’t interest him. The conflict between Hamas and Israel has seen a cycle of “justified” attacks and retaliation. But does the fact the violence is justified make it right?
Unlike one-off PROTESTS with broad, generalized goals (climate, peace, racial justice), social justice CAMPAIGNS have specific objectives and limited timespans. Campaigns are designed to achieve tangible victories. This is a re-post from activist Daniel Hunter’s blog where he writes about why campaigns can be powerful tools for social change.
While walking on the beach late one night, nineteen-year-old George Lakey had a revelation. At that moment he knew what his life’s purpose would be: to help social movements bring more peace and justice into the world. Now 85, Lakey has written a memoir called “Dancing with History.” Among the lessons he conveys to activists: have both a vision and a strategy.
An interview with George Lakey: After sixty-plus years of leading social justice campaigns, Lakey can clearly recall one of his big strategic blunders. It happened in connection with a couple of anti-militarism struggles he was involved with in the 1980s. The mistake? Not being revolutionary enough.
Read an interview with Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe of the Center for Artistic Activism. I talk to them about their new book, “The Art of Activism,” and the importance of incorporating both visionary creativity and rational strategic planning into social change campaigns. “All effective activism has to involve creativity and culture,” Lambert tells me.
If you are engaged in a social change campaign and your opponent’s words are at odds with their actions, consider dramatizing their hypocrisy with a dilemma action tactic. Watch the video of two environment activists doing exactly that—in front of dozens of reporters—after a speech by the CEO of General Motors. Very embarrassing!
Formed in November 2018, the Better Bulawayo Initiative is using creative, low-risk protest measures to agitate for better city services. Their goal is to address the kinds of simple but important issues that affect the lives of residents every day, like access to clean water, better sanitation services, regular garbage collection and safer roads.
The Fragments website features videos, graphics, stories and essays. Unlike the Nonviolence 3.0 blog, where I feel constrained to focus primarily on civil resistance strategy and tactics, Fragments allows me to post content of a more creative nature. The aim is to merge art and activism in the belief that creativity and culture can drive political transformation.
Read excerpts from some interviews I did with a couple of activists in Zimbabwe who are trying to create social change while living under an authoritarian government. They give their thoughts about the benefits of using nonviolence to confront a violent state, the advantages of using creative protests, and the stupidity of property destruction and riots.
Elections can sometimes bring superficial reforms, but they can’t create deep, lasting social change. The electoral system is carefully designed to keep all choices well within the status quo guardrails. Real change can only be achieved through the hard work of organizing and direct action. Participating in electoral politics should be a tactic, not a strategy.
Founded by artist Steve Lambert and scholar Stephen Duncombe, the Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA) teaches artists how to be more effective activists, and activist how to be more creative in their tactics strategies and organizing. In this interview, Lambert and Duncombe explain their philosophy on art, activism, culture and social change.
Stories can be powerful. Stories are how we organize reality. They inform our identity, how we think, what we believe and how we relate to the world. In social change campaigns, challenging your opponent’s narrative and promulgating a more compelling story can help you achieve success. This post was inspired by the Center for Story-based Strategy and the book “Re:Imagining Change.”