Successful Strategies for Changemaking
Identify widespread outrage about injustice that violates deeply held values, such as it’s not fair that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer or that school food is unhealthy. Define the problem: The unequal economic system is the focus of recent activism. People also need to have hope, Obama’s campaign slogan along with “Yes We Can.”
Reach out to potential activists on social media to organize face-to-face meetings. Include incentives such as food, live music and raffle prizes.
Make activities fun and attractive to media, such as Chilean student demonstrators dressed as superheroes. They also held a kiss-a-thon and danced to Michael Jackson songs.
Decide on your top priority and action to achieve this goal. Think of planning a non-violent battle strategy including gaining allies, coalitions, and mentors. Create a power chart of who has control around your issue, such as a principal, school board, or city council. Who are the pillars of support for the power holders and celebrities that you can enlist? Soccer fans helped out in uprisings in Egypt and Turkey and Leonardo Decaprio speaks for the environmental movement. Pope Francis is an ally for youth who told a Brazilian crowd of young people, “The young people in the street are the ones who want to be actors of change. Please don’t let others be actors of change.”
Form a local organization based on an issue: Models are Quebec and Chilean student groups working for affordable education. Study successful campaigns such as the Civil Rights Movement or the campaign for GLBT acceptance. Read Gandhi’s autobiography, and Bill Moyer’s and Gene Sharp’s analysis about how to create a sustained movement.
For example, the women’s movement in the US greatly changed attitudes. Betty Friedan named the problem that had no name in The Feminine Mystique. Women and male allies held huge marches and lobbied politicians to change laws. They organized influential groups like NOW and the Moral Majority and many local groups on campuses. They publicized concepts with skilled speakers like Gloria Steinem who advised doing an outrageous act daily.
To organize, involve people by giving them specific tasks that they report on to the group. Teach skills like how to facilitate a meeting, rotate leadership positions and manage conflict resolution. Successful groups like the immigrant rights’ groups. Dreamers provide direct action training. Large meetings can use hand signals such as a twinkle with fingers for approval or thumbs down. People are more likely to get involved if their friends are participating and they think success will result. Celebrate small successes and give praise for good work. Why Civil Resistance Works review of resistance movements indicates they succeed if 3.5% of the population participates and non-violent tactics are the most effective because they invite more participation.
Brand your campaign as if it were Nike shoes. What do you want potential supporters to learn? Educate them. Pick a logo, symbol, color, and slogan. A popular symbol is a flag or a black fist, created by the Serbian group Otpor to overthrow their corrupt president. Otpor said, “We’re trying to make politics sexy.” Quebec students used a red felt square pinned on shirts to symbolize being in the red. Create graffiti, and T-shirts with your slogan and logo. Popular slogans during the recent youth-led uprisings were “Enough” and “We’re the 99%.” Create a “frame” or identity such as it’s cool to be an activist like Che Guevara.
Create stickers, posters, flyers and YouTube videos that educate about the facts. See the Arab Spring slogans and art.[i]
Create polls and petitions where people give input into decisions and feel they have influence.
Get attention from many people and media with marches, demonstrations, boycotts or “buycotts,” strikes, sit-ins, and occupations of public spaces—the main tactic of recent uprisings. Think in terms of photo opps for media with banners, costumes, and symbolic actions such as presenting a petition to a city mayor. Environmentalist Bill McKibben advised keep up the pressure, be a pain in the neck, and never give up as 350.org did with their campaign against the XL oil pipeline. Organize fun fundraisers such as a race. German high school students raised money with solar panels on their school.