I’m hosting a campaign planning workshop in Toronto. Register today.
At this year’s awesome George Brown College Labour Fair Conference, I shared five things I wish I knew when I first became politically active. What do you think of what I’ve learned? What have you learned that you wish you knew when you started being an activist?
Let’s start with what I’ve learned.
I host public workshops in Toronto. Join my email list to get the latest updates as well as a list of useful resources and events for social change types.
I also host tailored workshops for groups so you, your staff and volunteers can achieve their goals.
If you’re interested in collaborating to host a workshop [...]
Are you facing a tough campaign? Are you seeking practical advice to help you strategically decide what to do and what to prioritize? We should talk.
I have a background in legislative campaigns and corporate campaigns. I enjoy working on Canadian campaigns, especially those in Toronto or Ontario. I specialize in mobilization, pressure, communications, [...]
I believe almost all groups have the capacity to make great decisions efficiently.
My desire to be a facilitator stemmed from my frustration in restlessly sitting in a meeting that didn’t go anywhere. We spent an hour talking about what the ticket prices at our next fundraiser should be, and a sub-committee had already decided [...]
Check out this nice little brochure for people interested in designing creative direct actions. The booklet was developed by myself (Jessica Bell) and Joshua Kahn Russell, as well as Ruckus Society staff Sharon Lungo and Megan Swoboda. (And thank you to Cam Fenton for designing.) Instead of drilling into the [...]
This excellent post was written by Kyle Henri Andrei and funded by the Annie E Casey Foundation.
Advocacy organizations often encourage their grassroots supporters to influence politicians and corporations using different methods, from promoting a cause or opposing legislation to challenging ad campaigns or policies. A large display of public opinion can have a powerful message, [...]
Marshall Ganz is one great social movement elder. He organized with Caser Chavez to build the United Farm Workers of America Union in the 1960s. He helped set the grassroots strategy that underpinned Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. And Ganz has also spent the last decade or so teaching and writing about social movements [...]
VSU is an international development agency that relies on volunteers. The organization has developed a beautifully designed guide called “Participatory Advocacy” to help its network of volunteers harness the power of advocacy. Thanks Jen Muldoon from Earthroots for sending this guide to us.
The holistic guide has sections on:
Change.org is one of those advocacy organizations that specializes in gathering signatures online in order to secure victories for people and causes alike. The organization is very good at it what it does, and its success is being recognized. Non-profits can pay Change.org to gather signatures for them. That’s how Change.org operates as a [...]
The Democracy Center has just published a free downloadable 55 page guide called “Beating Goliath: a resource for corporate campaigners.”
I think this “Beating Goliath” guide does a very good job at selling the strategy of corporate campaigning and also explaining the basic components that make up a corporate campaign.
I co-run the Tools for Change training program with folks from Earthroots, Greenpeace Canada, and OPIRG Toronto. Our winter workshop schedule is now open for registration. Sign up for workshops on facilitation, organizing rallies, grassroots financial management, and more.
Tools for Change Winter Workshop Schedule
Suggested donation: $10 for unwaged. $20 for [...]
I’m teaching “NGOS and World Governance” in Ryerson University’s public administration and political science department this winter.
Very exciting. Find out more details about the course.
NGOs and World Governance
This course investigates the expanding role of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the creation and implementation of public policy at a global level. First [...]
The Toronto & York Region Labour Council has just published Mike Balkwill and Rob Fairley’s campaign planning guide for activist leaders and union organizers.
Written by and for activists, the beautifully designed and pragmatic 32 page guide contains some useful tools and tips, including:
One of the many obstacles (and opportunities) facing the occupy movement is the challenge of facilitating massive public meetings in a setting where:
many people don’t know each other; many people haven’t worked together before; there are few rules; organizers and participants have varying levels of experience participating and facilitating non-hierarchical meetings; and consensus [...]
I don’t think social media tools are the magic bullet! If you’re in doubt, read Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Revolution will not be Tweeted“. Gladwell argues that facebook, twitter and other online tools build weak ties between a lot of people. But what we need for revolution, Gladwell argues, are people [...]
It is useful for campaigners to assess their political landscape as they go about setting their goals, and re-evaluating their plan.
I like to use the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) framework. This framework was originally developed for the business sector, but it is useful for advocacy groups as well.
I like to use [...]
NOI organizes trainings every summer on online organizing, online communications, political technology, new media, and testing/evaluation. They are working with a wide array of U.S. state-based partners for these “Organizers Summits.” The goal is to share share some of the lessons learned by organizations on the forefront of online organizing and political technology. [...]
Sat. Nov. 19, 11am – 5pm
This workshop will address the challenges of facilitating debates about tactics, strategy and other priorities. Participants are encouraged to arrive with specific challenges they have or are navigating in their activist work. This workshop is geared to people with some facilitation experience.
Location: University of [...]
Sun. Oct. 9, 11am – 5pm
Campaigns interact, influence, and are influenced by the media. This workshop will provide participants with tools to develop a media strategy, write compelling press releases, give great interviews, and develop frames and messages that are in line with their goals.
Location: University of Toronto St [...]
Organized by myself, Earthroots and OPIRG University of Toronto, the Tools for Change Training Program provides activists in Toronto the practical skills they need to advance social and environmental justice. Workshop topics vary each cycle, but usually include: direct action, facilitation, grassroots fundraising, financial management, social media, graphic design and more. This [...]
Ryerson University’s non-profit and voluntary sector management program is one of those innovative schools that believes in having practitioners teach practitioners. This program is geared to teaching knowledge that is practical and usable in the non-profit sector. You can complete a certificate program or you can just take one or two courses. [...]
I want to put it out there. I don’t think social media tools are the magic bullet! If you’re in doubt, read Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Revolution will not be Tweeted“. Social media must create real change that affects real people’s lives.
That said, there’s some serious value in harnessing the power of [...]
Dismantling Racism is an excellent organization committed to anti-racist and anti-oppressive training.
I greatly enjoy the honesty and practicality of their resources. Check out Tema Okun’s handout on “White Supremacy Culture”. Until reading that article I had no idea that workplace practices, like perfectionism, a sense of urgency, an avoidance [...]
Spitfire Strategies has released a campaign planning guide called “The Just Enough Planning Guide A Roadmap to Help Nonprofits Reach Their Campaign Goals” Spitfire Communications Strategies“.
The author, Grimm, sells the guide as having the minimal amount of information you need to effectively plan a campaign. I like that approach. Campaign planning can [...]
Choose a goal
Choosing a goal is often the first step to creating a campaign plan. But we shouldn’t just choose a goal out of thin air. It’s often wise to develop a set of criteria that you can use to evaluate a list of possible campaign goals. Ideally, everyone in your group understands and [...]
The Catalyst Project is a center for political education and movement building based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project is committed to anti-racist work in majority white sections of left social movements with the goal of deepening anti-racist commitment in white communities and building multiracial left movements for liberation. They offer a four and a [...]
House parties typically involve someone in the campaign or organization – think board member or active volunteer – hosting a one to two hour party at their house to raise money and recruit volunteers and allies to the cause. People are encouraged to bring their check books (you can have people pay at the [...]
I wrote a guide on security culture with Dan Spalding. Dan and I are both affiliated with the Ruckus Society. Thank you Jacob Conroy for designing the guide. We wanted to create a guide specifically for non-violent direct action campaign groups. We also wanted to talk about the people-side of security culture, which [...]
This is a great handout that you can print out and use to help you and group think through what action or tactic might be useful for your campaign. It’s a great tool for facilitators as well. Basically the tool asks you a series of questions to help you identify the components [...]
Freeman wrote “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” in response to her experience as an activist in the feminist movement in the 70s.
At that time, many radical feminist groups did away with formal governance structures, and moved to a fluid informal decision-making process that reflected their enthusiasm to build support networks composed of friends [...]
A Resource Manual for a Living Revolution is an all time favourite of activist educators. To quote the Change Agency’s website “It remains one of the best sources for trainers working around facilitation, decision making and group maintenance. Out of print, but generally available from second hand through online bookstores.”
Marshall Ganz was an organizer with Caser Chavez during the fight to build a farm workers union in California. He has spent the last while at Harvard University as a sociologist. He was also integral to Obama’s winning 2008 presidential campaign. He recently came to Toronto to host a workshop on the power of narrative [...]
Saturday, May 21
University of Toronto
Direct action has played an integral role in most movements for social change, from the civil rights era to the suffragettes, and from forest defence to worker justice movements. This workshop is for people who are newer to direct action, and are interested in learning [...]
Grassroots Financial Management 101
Saturday May 7
1pm – 4pm
University of Toronto
In the whirl of everyday demands, it’s easy to loose track of our finances. The consequences are bad enough when we mismanage personal money,and the stakes are just as high when we’re dealing with the limited budgets of grassroots activist [...]
Check out some great tactics on my youtube.com channel.
Chris Rose’s Campaign Strategy
Based in the UK, Chris Rose, an ex-Greenpeace campaigner, writes easy-to-understand and insightful books, has a great resource-intensive website, and still issues frequent newsletters on the topic of campaign strategy for activists. Most of his work is geared to climate change campaigners. I am totally on his [...]
By Peggy McIntosh
This article is now considered a ‘classic’ by anti-racist educators
Super experienced long-time activist, David Solnit, edited a collection of essays written by movement practitioners on how to address questions around organizing, strategy, and tackling organizational and social issues, from anti-oppression to anti-corporate globalization. Authors include: Van Jones, Starhawk, and George Lakey.
Starhawk weaves her unique brand of storytelling, faith in paganism, and years of experience as a direct-action campaigner for peace and sustainability to create a poetic guide for social change activists. Topics range from dealing with oppression and power to building powerful and resilient activist groups.
Great little “how to” guide on executing cheap, creative, and media-savvy actions, from radical cheerleading to delivering mock awards. Very useful when brainstorming your next action.
Fundraising for Social Change has become one of the most widely used books on fundraising in the United States. Fundraising practitioners and activists rely on it for hands-on, specific, and accessible fundraising techniques. this book is catered to groups with little budgets!
This is a comprehensive manual for grassroots organizers working primarily in base-building community organizations advocating for legislative change. Topics covered include: organizing meetings, hosting workshops, facilitating, and strategic planning.
Practical book written by organizers on how to improve your group’s organizational structure, from working with the board to setting up democratic decision-making practices, to managing staff in an empowering manner.
Pragmatic book on base-building organizing in communities, primarily around human rights or worker rights issues. Sen draws on her own experience as an organizer and executive director, as well as the experience of organizers in community-groups across the U.S.
Re:Imagining Change – How to Use Story-based Strategy to Win Campaigns, Build Movements, and Change the World
Insightful book on the power of narrative in campaigning. Offers tools on how to apply techniques like story telling, framing, and messaging to your work. Geared to people with experience doing media and campaigning.
A bit academic, however, Polletta’s extensive research with over 100 activists provides insight into the efforts of social movements, from Students for a Democratic Society, to the feminist movement, to democratize their governance structures provides telling insight into the need to prioritize democracy in our groups, as well as suggestions [...]
Handy guide book geared to activist newbies interested in learning about media, fundraising, campaigning and more. Packed full of inspiring stories by youth activist leaders who can speak from personal experience.
Useful resource by an Australian activist and consultant. The book provides advice and exercises on addressing activist burnout, improving group dynamics, and defining one’s vision and purpose.
Non-violent theorist, Gene Sharp, developed a list of 198 action tactics groups use to advance social change. Useful when brainstorming for your group.
The Yes Men – who are just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant – have a website that documents some of their creative actions. The Yes Men [...]
Direct Action Research and Training Centre
Steeped in the world of congregations and community organizing, DART offers a comprehensive training and work-placement program for people who aspire to be organizers and executive directors at one of their affiliated groups.
Based in SF and Boston, but operating nationally, Smart Meme specializes in teaching activists how to harness the power of the media and story-telling. They also teach campaign strategy. Smart Meme has wicked smart and dedicated trainers.
Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training
Fantastic group committed to helping groups raise money, survive, and thrive. Offers trainings, and produces articles, and a fundraising journal. For a sample, read founder Kim Klein’s article “How to raise $2500 in 10 days”. Any book written by Kim Klein is wonderfully useful.
Through their leadership academy, SPIN provides training in strategic communications for activists and non-profits at very reasonable prices. Based in California.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has fantastically pragmatic resources on recruiting and mobilizing volunteers. Geared for ballot initiatives, but applicable to all intensive campaigning efforts.
Pre-eminent year-long training and internship organizing field school and placement program for young graduates who desire careers in the environmental movement.
The Progressive Communicators Network offers practical website training, advice, and guides to help harness the power of the media, from website 2.0, to media justice, to media strategy. Celia Alario works through the Progressive Communicators Network, and she is awesome.
The Change Agency
Located in Australia so the workshops are not super accessible for Canadians, however, the website contains loads of useful information, including case studies, training guides, resources, and more.
The Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO, pronounced “C-2″) is a racial-justice organization dedicated to building a social-justice movement led by people of color. We were established in 1980 as a training and resource center that promotes and sustains direct-action organizing in communities of color in the United [...]
Rockwood Leadership Institute
Wonderful training program for NGO workers and activists. Focuses on soft-skills and management skills, such as effective listening and communicating, managing burnout and stress, facilitation, and dealing with conflict. Hosts week long workshops, as well as a highly competitive year long training for senior staff working in advocacy organizations. [...]
Organized by myself, Earthroots and OPIRG University of Toronto, the Tools for Change Training Program provides activists in Toronto the practical skills they need to advance social and environmental justice. Workshop topics vary each cycle, but usually include: direct action, facilitation, grassroots fundraising, financial management, social media, graphic design [...]