Campaign principles that shift the world
- Project background
- About the author
- A brief primer on campaigning (particularly for newbies)
- General notes on strategy v. tactics
- The principles
- General principles of influence
- Principles of conduct and integrity
- Guiding strategic principles
- Ideas for strategy and tactics
- Specific campaign ideas
- Negatives to positives
- Critical campaign risk factors and risk mitigation
- Media and Communications strategy
- Guiding principles for campaign planning and formation
- Critical risk factors for the campaign organization
- Guiding principles for managing and sustaining a campaign infrastructure
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Ideas for Change is an independent project to help improve the effectiveness of citizen activism. You might think of it as a ‘tool kit’ of strategic principles and campaign tactics that – across the centuries – have changed the world for the better.
The project builds on the influential Rules for Radicals, created more than forty years ago by pioneering US rights campaigner Saul Alinsky.1 It updates and expands those principles for the modern era.
Although Alinsky’s rules articulated the basis of grassroots community activism, some of those concepts have increasingly become less relevant to present day campaigning. In the light of changing political environments, some have even become risky.
Ideas for Change emerged from the arenas of information rights and privacy, but its principles will benefit any aspect of direct action. If you look closely at the most successful privacy and information rights campaigns of the past forty years, you’ll see a clear reflection of the most celebrated actions of the peace movement, consumer rights and environmental activism. The principles of strategy are immutable.
The project started life in 2011 and since then has been enriched by input from hundreds of campaigners, academics and activists who participated in meetings in London, Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome and Copenhagen.
An outline of this work was first discussed at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection conference in Brussels in January 2014 and was then tested at a public meeting in Copenhagen the following month. A March meeting hosted by the University of Amsterdam launched and evaluated the first set of draft principles.
As a result of this input, the project has changed substantially. Originally, the work was to be a compilation of rules in common to all campaign environments. Over time it became clear that this format was too rigid, introducing conflicts and inconsistencies. It was decided after the Amsterdam meeting to create a far more relaxed and informal structure that can be adapted to various campaign types.
This publication is the forerunner of a larger wiki site that will be launched in the first quarter of 2015.
About the author
Simon Davies has been a controversial campaigner on the international stage for more than thirty years, most notably in the fields of civil liberties, consumer rights and privacy, which since the mid 1980s has become his full time career. His media commentary on economic policy, information technology and social change reaches back to the 1970’s.
Even before then – from his teenage years – Simon worked in wildly diverse arenas such as drug law reform, police accountability, housing reform and historical sites preservation, building skills as a networker and activist. Since then he has led hundreds of actions from massive national campaigns to legal actions, campaigns of civil disobedience and wildcat strikes against some of the biggest corporations in the world. Since 2012 he has led the Code Red initiative, which brings together many of the world’s leading whistleblowers and activists to bring greater accountability to national security and police agencies. Code Red will be launched in January 2015.
Simon has founded a vast number of NGO’s and initiatives, including the influential watchdog Privacy International, which exposed him to dozens of countries and campaigning environments ranging from conflict zones and refugee camps to the highest levels of government and corporations in more than fifty countries. He also publishes the popular Privacy Surgeon blog site www.privacysurgeon.org
Simon has also been a visiting Law Fellow at Essex and Greenwich universities, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at George Washington University and for fourteen years until 2012 was a Visiting Senior Fellow in information systems at the London School of Economics, where he continues to work through Enterprise LSE. He has also recently been a visiting professor at John Cabot University in Rome, a visiting researcher at IVR in the University of Amsterdam and a visitor at LSTS at theVrije Universiteit Brussel.
This resource will help you successfully challenge power and authority.
Whether it’s local officials trampling on your rights or a national government destroying our dwindling freedoms, there is always a need – and a right – to confront power. Intrusive bureaucrats, bullying corporations and intemperate lawmakers all need to be reminded that authority requires respect for dignity and rights. Empowered citizens help ensure that this reminder is never far away from their consciousness.
Sometimes we can influence change in a gentle and conventional way, but there are times when the only message is one that’s more relentless and even disruptive. That’s often the way the world is changed for the better. We’ll explore all possible options throughout this text.
In short, this booklet is an activist’s armoury. It brings together the wisdom of hundreds of campaigners throughout the centuries to provide a strategic shop front that lays out campaigning techniques from gentle moral persuasion, to breathtakingly potent non-aggressive power strategies.
The purpose is to equip all campaigners – and particularly those involved in protecting civil rights, consumer rights, privacy and freedoms – with a step-by step guide to enable effective, responsive and confident activism. It sets out dozens of core principles that will guide decision-making and management.
Some of these ideas are self evident. Some are intuitive. The aim isn’t to create a long thesis out of them, but to itemise them in a bullet-form that might trigger the imagination.
We can’t tell you what’s wrong or right, and we can’t tell you what campaign tactics are ethical or not. That’s a decision you must make for yourself. But there is one rule that – in my view – applies to all situations: campaigners should never hurt people or endanger life. Beyond that, almost any action can be morally justified.
So, explore and enjoy. I’m sure you’ll discover a wealth of exciting and powerful ideas in these pages.
Nestled in the heart of the Yorkshire moors in the North of England is a secret that the British government has been trying to keep under wraps for more than half a century.
Among the peaceful cow fields stands a stark eyesore sprawling over a square mile. The world’s biggest electronic spy station – the Menwith Hill base – hosts a giant complex of computers and radomes that monitor the communications of a third of the world.2 Although on British soil, the base is occupied and controlled by American authorities – most notably the National Security Agency (NSA).
To some people, the existence of this base in an obscenity. Protests are regularly staged outside (and sometimes even inside) its gates. But there’s one campaigner in particular who has been a dogged and persistent activist there for more than two decades, providing a constant public reminder that the individual can make a difference.
Lindis Percy,3 a 73 year old former nurse, midwife and health visitor from the nearby town of Harrogate, decided to make a stand against the Menwith Hill base at a time when few people had even heard of the NSA or its now infamous global communications spy network. She stalked the base year after year, inviting prosecution.
Fifteen prison sentences and nearly five hundred arrests later, Lindis became a catalyst for public awareness of the base and what it represents. With tenacious colleagues from the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) she not only humbled the defence authorities, but she also succeeded in highlighting the hypocrisy and unfairness of laws that protect powerful overseas interests at the expense of the rights of British citizens.
Throughout history, remarkable people like Lindis Percy have inspired societies to peacefully challenge authority. To achieve this end they have looked across military and political history to discover keys that can unlock social reform – the triggers to create mass movement of thought and action. Most important of all, such people consistently prove that a combination of astute tactics, collaboration, persistence and a deep respect for truth and ethics can make a real difference – regardless of the odds.
We see this influence today as the spark that challenges regressive power. It manifests in even the smallest and most controlled communities, urging us to work together to achieve a greater vision. You will see this spirit embodied in countless campaigns that strive to reform corrupt power or bad practice.
Hidden behind most of these movements of thought there’s at least one strategic blueprint for action. Such concrete plans are the focus of Ideas for Change.
In most cases an idea – no matter how powerful or inspiring – does not magically turn into a movement. And a movement does not naturally shift human thought and behaviour. Laying out the enabling strategies will help all campaigns to become more successful.
These tools are essential. In spite of the good intentions that inspire them, most campaigns do not survive long enough to achieve even a partial victory. Many die at an early stage through lack of direction or sustenance. This mortality rate improves when campaigners gain a greater understanding of the opportunities and options open to them.
For rights to change for the better, the odds of campaign survival need to improve. Cataloguing specific campaign strategies helps build a stronger narrative between activists and accelerates collaboration on campaign development.
The need for direct action to protect human rights and freedoms is as pressing now as in any time in recent history. Privacy is under constant threat, while freedom of expression is assaulted daily by new forms of control and censorship.
Meanwhile, the idea of individual autonomy is becoming more theoretical. Freedom of movement, association and speech is increasingly subject to the constraints of licence and law as governments quietly build a regime of control that – in many nations – is closed and unaccountable.
To prevent the creation of societies of total control and surveillance, citizens must take action that is effective, potent and at times combative. Such is the history of democracy and freedom. Action to protect rights must be at least as influential as the tactics of fear that take those rights away.
This work has been thirty years in the making and draws not only on personal campaign experiences – along with those of countless colleagues – but also on thousands of years of military and political campaigning history. It seeks to distil the lessons from successful – and failed – strategies, and presents principles that are common to the most outstanding and influential actions.
A brief primer on campaigning (particularly for newbies)
I’m guessing some of you are reading this resource because you’re angry and frustrated about an issue that matters to you. You intend making a difference. Somewhere, there’s an enemy and a target – even if you haven’t quite figured out exactly what the target is. But one way or the other, you intend confronting the problem.
Presumably, you intend to challenge authority. You may imagine a confrontation with corporations or with government – their rules or their plans.
Your goal may be to remove a bad government scheme – or even a bad government. It could involve confronting a local council over its corrupt administration or overturning a dangerous surveillance initiative. Whatever the issue, it makes sense to take a deep breath and look around to see how other people have confronted similar challenges. That awareness will help identify the most effective and relevant strategies. Ideas for Change argues for an ethical approach to whatever action you decide on, but it doesn’t take sides – and it certainly doesn’t advise against more blatant measures such as lawbreaking or civil disobedience.
Some of you are seasoned campaigners. You will be accustomed to the measured energy that’s often needed to prevent burnout over a long term campaign. For those who are new to campaigning and activism though, you’re probably feeling charged up, whether through fury, indignation or a longing for retribution.
Friends may cruelly say you’ve become a little obsessed. Proceed regardless. Obsession is merely a term used by disinterested people to characterise highly driven reformers. It’s only when this ‘obsession’ turns into neurosis and paranoia that the resulting poor judgement may fatally compromise your goals.
With such emotions it’s a fair bet you have an identified enemy and a defined target, but you may need to reassess. Sometimes the enemy and the target aren’t quite what you expect. Ask any military leader. Disabling a bakery may have more value than sinking ten ships. And just because someone wears the uniform of the enemy, that doesn’t make them the best target. Focusing on a highly visible underling in local government is one approach, but a more appropriate adversary may be the senior central department official who signed the administrative order or budget approval. More likely, the true enemy is the invisible policy adviser who created the political environment that made the whole mess possible.
During the bitter battle over the UK identity card several years ago, the campaign group NO2ID decided that instead of focusing all firepower on government ministers responsible for the ID policy, attention should be drawn to the traditionally invisible bureaucrat who was making the scheme possible.4
As a wealthy former consultant seconded to the government to manage the identity card proposals, James Hall – together with his castle-like home – could easily be portrayed as the real enemy. The more pressure that was placed on Hall, the more ministers felt uncomfortable publicly associating with him. Saul Alinsky embodies this tactic in the principle: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”.
A word of caution however. Be fuelled by your emotions, but don’t let them lead you into false optimism or a worthless action. Think of yourself as a cold strategist and look at the entire spectrum of possibilities before making a choice.
Whether you’re a moderate reformer or a hard-line militant has relevance to the strategies you’ll decide on. Strategies and tactics are tools for everyone, but any good strategist of whatever genre needs to know the supreme importance of commitment, staying power, the popularity of your cause and whether you can be realistic in your campaign management.
Militant, reformer, activist or advocate?
Radical action is far more common than most people imagine. There are very few people who can go through life without challenging authority in one way or another. Even those who appear submissive by nature have probably taken a stand. At a certain moment, even the most anally retentive conformist will resist forces that threaten a quiet life.
We were influenced in childhood by an empire of films, plays, books, philosophies, ideologies and folklore, all celebrating the lives and legend of law-breaking individuals who took hold of powerful ideas and – against great odds – influenced and improved the world. They tell us that much of what we cherish – including our rights and freedoms – was made possible because of the maverick activist. But in the adult mind, those important lessons degenerated into fairy tales.
It’s all too often the case that ‘other’ people’s crusades are viewed even by friends and family as selfish and pointless. It’s not surprising therefore that people who do something radical are often portrayed so poorly. This is disheartening and unfair. The stereotype of the radical as a corrosive, left-leaning obsessive is far from the truth. In reality people who take radical action are found right across the human spectrum – and often in the most surprising forms.
Standing up to authority is one of the defining processes of a healthy mind. Taking steps to challenge regressive or unfair power is a natural response for any reasonable self respecting member of society. Indeed through the course of human history every step forward required a brave challenge to rules and conventions. The great movements that shaped society were made possible because a mass of people supported a radical idea and abandoned the way things used to be done.
To defy unfair power doesn’t make you “a” radical or “an” activist, it just means you took action in support of something you believe. The stereotype is a convenient way for entrenched power to devalue those who seek to reform bad practices. Doing something radical does not define you; it enhances you.
Of course there’s a stereotype to conveniently fit any campaigner. The advocate wears a suit and advances his quite reasonable cause through reasoned argument. The campaigner sold his suit on eBay and presses his dubious cause through protest. The activist wears his father’s suit to court and pushes his unreasonable cause through aggressive action. And so on.
It’s impossible to accurately profile the radical. I once met a gentle great grandmother who caused hell for her local council for months by standing on a busy street corner every day with a placard that read “City hall thieves… give my house back” . I’ve met others who occupied a rubbish dump outside Manila and turned it into their home, defying military and police efforts to remove them. I knew a family who stood by the father as he militantly defied his employer over discrimination, and watched helpless as the bank took away their home.
I’m pleased to tell you that in all those examples the underdog eventually won, though victory is often at the end of a long and painful road. How you define such people depends on how you resonate with them.
Contrary to popular imagination, people become activists not by sitting in on a local meeting of radicals, but through personal life experience. It might be a bad exposure to management of a shopping centre or a sudden awakening that it’s wrong for the police to collect DNA from everyone in an entire area. Some people become activists because their children came home from a camping trip with industrial waste on their clothes, and others because they lost their job in a multinational takeover.
These are people who could best be described as ordinary folk with extraordinary beliefs. They are characterized by institutions as dangerous radicals, but are more often what one judge in a recent UK trespass case over environmental activism described as “decent men and women with a genuine concern for others” who “acted with the highest possible motives”.5
For many people though, the instinct to act radically is often subdued by powerful influences from childhood. Those influences set a default acceptance of authority that can be shifted only by exceptional circumstances.
In the reform activity that you might call “action for change” there are seven main labels for the challengers. These, in order of severity, are: advocate, reformer, campaigner, activist, radical, militant and extremist. In reality the activities of each of them intersect, but the general social image of each is clearly defined and the stereotypes are fixed.
How you’re labelled often depends on the person labeling you. You might bet if you were campaigning for better work conditions your employer would almost certainly affix a different label than the one your workmates would choose, though sadly, that isn’t always the case.
In my own speciality of privacy I’ve been all seven, sometimes at the same time. At a conference in San Francisco a few years ago, the direct marketing industry condemned me as an “extremist” for my views on data handling, while praising me as a “reformer” for my work in developing countries and then went on to say I was a “activist” for fundamental rights. The hard core campaigners simply said I was a “moderate” while an FBI officer generously called me a “militant”. I’ve given up on any hope of making any one of those labels stick for more than a moment.
In the end, it barely matters how you are categorised or by whom. The integrity of your beliefs and the outcome of your actions will define you.
General notes on strategy v. tactics
Campaigners, understandably, can become uncertain about the difference between strategy and tactics.
In short, strategy is the overall game plan to an outcome, while tactics are the individual techniques used within that plan. A political election strategy may involve hundreds of tactics set within an overall blueprint with a single strategic objective.
Sun Tzu expresses the difference in the words “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Most new campaigns start with a discussion of tactics – and that’s where they often end. Tactics are fun; strategy can be hard work.
Strategy is critically important, particularly in the early stages of any campaign. It’s your reference point, your blueprint and your anchor line. Any action you take may trigger a spectrum of adverse consequences. A solid strategy anticipates such risks.
This doesn’t mean strategies should be static. Indeed, campaigns often disintegrate because they fail to see alternative strategies. Like nations, campaigners can develop a fixed view of the world and then become institutionally blind to new types of opportunity and risk. Campaigns also fail because their leaders affix their ego to a preconceived way of doing things.
The processes of victory for any campaign can be counter intuitive. Strategy is a living and responsive integrated stream of reasoning and imagination, rather than a set of static equations.
True, the object of good strategy is to win, but the classic approach of aggressive combat is only one possible approach. The first rule of strategy reminds us that the justification for battle is not self-evident; it must be proved. There are times for battle, and there are times when doing nothing can be the most effective tactic of all. Open combat of any kind can hand the opponent a fatal advantage. That approach should never be pursued unless the strategic or symbolic basis is overwhelmingly in your favour.
A good strategist never decides the nature of engagement until all the options have been considered. Deciding a strategy before calculating both its risk and its benefit to the opponent will create an uncertain outcome. Almost any action you will take involves risk. For example (adopting a military maxim), a functional force fighting a dysfunctional force is best just to lay in wait. An agile and adaptive force needs to do little other than play mind games against a monolithic force. Think… Vietnam War.
In thinking this way, an informed and empowered new generation of rights advocates is making a real difference. However (just considering for a moment the converse of what I said above), those campaigners are stretched thin and are often – perhaps advisedly – required to adopt genteel and conventional strategies that can miss opportunities for more successful aggressive action.
Intelligent stories from military history tell us precisely how technology and strategy fail, why the effect of politics and law are often illusory and the sometimes infinitely random outcome and consequence of strategy. However they also tell us about the nature of chaos caused by unexpected grit in the machine.
Becoming grit in the machine is sometimes all that campaigners can hope for: an unanticipated, unwelcome and disruptive irritant. This is often a valuable achievement in its own right.
The need for smart and effective activism is as great now as ever before, particularly in fields characterized by highly complex technology and regulation. Apart from notable exceptions – often triggered by political transition – powerful institutions are resistant to all but symbolic change. For example, the trend for companies to develop Corporate Social Responsibility policies has shifted in many cases toward a public relations exercise 6 while corporate spending on political lobbying in the US has more than doubled since 1998.7 Corporate lobbying in Europe remains a largely opaque and unregulated activity.8
Lobbying for legal and regulatory change in the favour of large organizations is now a complex industry in its own right. Meanwhile, the institutional consumer protections such as regulators and watchdogs are frequently becoming more timid and less effective. And, of course, corruption, secrecy, intrusion and denial of rights have become part of the institutional DNA of many countries.9 Little wonder then that there is need for more effective activism.
Given the task required to challenge this dysfunction, this publication argues the case for a resurgence of more empowered activism and more potent strategies aimed at destabilization and disruption of regressive institutions and ideas.
The arguments in favour of ethical conflict are not unique or even unusual. They borrow from countless sources and are embraced to varying degrees by many activists and reformers. The packaging can vary, but the principles are ancient.
General principles of influence
- Focus on the ‘Big Five’ emotional triggers: hypocrisy, unfairness, deception, secrecy and betrayal. Most actions succeed not because of specific campaign issues, but because of underlying factors that trigger the public psyche. Time and time again, offenses related to deceit and hypocrisy by authorities emerge as common lightning rods for public anger. Making these the bedrock of a campaign will magnify the chances of success several fold.
- A truly influential campaign will not only disrupt bad initiatives, it will also shift underlying beliefs. Destructive projects and corrosive policies often stem from beliefs and fears that are misplaced or ill informed. Changing how people see the world creates an evolutionary step that prevents the viability of future bad initiatives. Shifting public perception this way, however, requires ingenuity and effort that is parabolic in nature. For many campaigns, winning over the first tenth of the population might require ten units of effort, but the second tenth requires one hundred units of effort and so on until a critical mass is achieved, after which increasingly fewer resources are needed to ensure the momentum. That critical mass of public opinion varies from issue to issue and is almost impossible to predict.
- Your size isn’t as significant as how you use it Some of the most influential agents of change are small operations working on the basis of ingenuity, simplicity and flexibility. Many of these players exhibit characteristics that define them as militaristic strategists. Margaret Mead expressed this dynamic as: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Privacy International, for example, shifted the global privacy environment throughout the 1990’s with only two staff who were equipped with little more than a ruthless strategic tenacity.
- The lone maverick can have more punching power than large institutions. Following the “size doesn’t matter” principle, a single individual has the advantage over even the biggest campaigning organisations. Media loves a ‘David and Goliath‘ scenario, while governments and corporations struggle with the concept of fighting flesh and blood rather than an entity. Austrian student Max Schrems10, for example, has been deified by media over his struggle to bring Facebook to account over its data practices. And even though Schrems has many supporters, the press continues to promote him as a lone maverick, a situation that the social media giant cannot easily grapple with. In a similar vein, US privacy campaigner Katherine Albrecht almost single-handedly traumatised the American retail sector over its covert use of RFID “spy” technology, and forced industry-wide reform through astute strategy.11
- Power is not only what you have, but what your opponent imagines you have. In the absence of hard information, the opposition can only guess what resources and support you can attract or what strategies you might be capable of deploying. Expressed by Sun Tzu as “all war is deception” this conventional military tactic has potential to create uncertainty and poor judgment by the opposition. This is, however, a tactic rather than a strategy and it has a limited shelf-life
- Imagining the scale of a threat is rarely accurate and can be infinitely manipulated Perception of the scale of a threat from a campaign, whether real or imagined, can be magnified through the use of disinformation to produce either false anxiety or a false sense of security among the opposition. This was highlighted to great effect when Saul Alinsky threatened to occupy all the toilets at Chicago’s O’Hare airport unless the Mayor addressed the housing issue for poor people. The major, aware that there was no legal basis to stop the activist, caved in rather than risk a potential international embarrassment.
- The bigger they come, the harder they fall The more powerful and better known your opponent, the higher the stakes. Contesting such an opponent has immediate political and media currency and attracts support from the opposition’s existing combatants. The right action against a big name, say the NSA or Google, will cause waves. A big name, however, has probably already considered most possible combat scenarios. You need to find a claim, an injustice, a danger – and then frame it in a surprising way. Media will take notice.
Principles of conduct and integrity
- Be scrupulous with the truth Never lie or yield to the temptation of making stuff up. A group claiming to represent the public interest does itself – and the public – a disservice by manipulating the truth. The long-term credibility damage can be substantial. Using colourful metaphors or exaggeration is fine as long as the description occurs within a calculated margin.
- Check your facts until it hurts. Fact checking is critically important. For example, the influential London School of Economics analysis of the UK national identity card scheme, which was credited with creating the foundation for the demise of the scheme, was almost fatally compromised because it inadvertently cited “retina scan” instead of “iris scan”, an oversight that was then relentlessly exploited against the report by the inventor of the iris algorithm.
- Develop a profile of quiet confidence. Particularly at the early stage of a campaign, when you’re trying to win over an ambivalent audience, try to avoid being shrill or dogmatic. Maintain your rage but focus on facts and arguments rather than loud rhetoric. A group that can look confident without being brash – or win and not go over the top – will carry more support. As with any public speaking engagement, strive to get your audience to resonate with your message before turning up the heat.
- The strength of your argument depends on the integrity of your commentary. Unless you are strategically playing to extremes, make sure your commentary is engaging and polemic, but grounded in reality. Saying the Home Secretary is like Hitler may get a giggle in some quarters, but half the listeners will instantly dump you – even if he is like Hitler. Saying that the Home Secretary’s plans are similar to those Hitler forced through in 1939 is more likely to win you support.
- Lawbreaking must rest on a solid ethical foundation. If you intend breaking the law, find the moral basis, look for judgments that question that law, read parliamentary debate and be very visible. Don’t waste yourself serving time invisibly in prison. A carefully researched act of law breaking resting on solid ethical grounds can be potent for a campaign. For example, in 1996 four women peace activists entered a British Aerospace hangar and – using domestic hammers – disabled a Hawk jet that was about to be sent to Indonesia, where it would have caused the deaths of innocent East Timorese people. In the trial that followed, the women successfully argued that undertaking the ‘criminal damage’ was a duty rather than a crime. They were in fact acting to prevent a crime of greater magnitude. All were acquitted.12
- Never make a threat you aren’t prepared – or aren’t able – to follow through. It’s bad practice to do so. You might get away with it one time in three, but you’ll soon get a “the sky is falling” reputation if you persist.
- Never breach your own ethos This is a key risk area that would allow an opponent to play the hypocrisy card, which can be highly damaging. Make sure all volunteers and staff are regularly informed about possible areas of risk and that they know the principle and practices of the campaign. Scrupulously observe the standard you demand of your opponent.
Guiding strategic principles
- Robust activism is driven by goals, excited by tactics and calmly guided by strategy. Campaigners should never fall into the trap of confusing strategy with ingenious tactics. Tactical initiatives can be crucial for raising awareness and sensitivity on a subject, but they may be ineffective in the longer term is they are not connected to an integrated strategy.
- The rationale for conflict is rarely self-evident; it must be strategically and ethically tested. There are times for battle, and there are times when doing nothing can be the most effective tactic of all. Open combat of any kind can hand the opponent a fatal advantage. Such an approach should never be pursued unless the strategic or symbolic basis is overwhelmingly in your favour.
- Risk-assess your strategy to anticipate turbulence. The art of campaigning imagines an elegant victory, but the science of campaigning devises a robust, shock resistant bus for the journey. Be a bus! Build risk mitigation and disaster recovery into your strategic framework. Anticipate turbulence and disappointment.
- Never decide the nature of engagement with an opponent until you’ve looked at all the options. Deciding a strategy before calculating both its risk and its benefit to the opponent will create an uncertain outcome. Almost any action you will take involves risk. For example (adopting a military maxim), a functional force fighting a dysfunctional force is best just to lay in wait. An agile and adaptive force needs to do little other than play mind games against a monolithic force. Think… Vietnam War.
- Your campaign target may not be what you first imagine – and the targeted opponent rarely is. Sometimes the enemy and the target aren’t quite what you expect. Ask any military leader: sometimes disabling a bakery has more value than sinking ten ships. And just because someone wears the uniform of the enemy, that doesn’t make them the most worthy target. Shooting at a back-office underling in local government is one approach, but the more worthy enemy may be the senior official who signed the administrative order or budget approval. More likely, the true enemy is the invisible policy adviser who created the political environment.
- Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of your opponent. This is a crucial principle. It involves drawing the opposition out (for example at public meetings) to deal with questions that they are incapable of answering. Given the moral authority that large organizations attempt to assert, inability to engage broad issues of social concern does not reflect well.
- Make the opponent live up to its own book of rules. Government in developed nations is a soft target here, given the extent of internal and external rules that are publicly available. Being signatory to an international convention, for example, provides opportunities to assert hypocrisy. Companies are also vulnerable due to their published environmental, CSR or community partnership policies. Find the contradictions and then hammer then as loudly and as often as you can.
- A campaign won in the blink of an eye can be lost in a heartbeat With rare exceptions, campaigns that achieve their objectives tactically without winning the hearts and minds of all stakeholders tend to be pyrrhic and can become redundant with the first high-profile media scare story. The massive 1987 national campaign against the Australian national identity card – possibly the biggest rights campaign in the country’s history – overturned the scheme in a mere fourteen weeks, but this was not a long-enough period of public exposure of the issues to prevent the government introducing the even more intrusive Tax File Number scheme the following year.
- There is rarely an outright victory, only an outright shift. It’s important to understand the difference between disrupting a project and destabilizing a broad agenda. For example, European privacy regulators have consistently swatted Google over its poor data protection practices. Initially confident that the advertising giant has been humbled into complying with EU law, they later discovered that the company had outflanked them with new and more aggressive data practices.13 Many regulators now recognise that there has been no outright victory over the company’s illegal practices, only a shift in public perception. No campaigner or reformer should ever assume outright victory on any issue.
- Any criticism by a major opponent can be turned into a campaign endorsement. Even the slightest reference to a campaigner by a government or corporation should be seen as the jewel in the campaigning crown. Such a reference can be exploited in numerous ways to create the impression of intimidation or bullying.
- When big organizations respond in frustration, they usually fail. One aim for every serious campaigner should be to goad and intimidate a big opponent to the point where they “lose it”. In reality this means goading one small part of the organisation. When Privacy International repeatedly accused Google of “criminal intent” over its interception of private WiFi content as part of its Street View operation, the organisation went off the rails, calling private press briefings, making ad hominem attacks and losing its usually cautious PR balance.14
- Engage real people at every opportunity. The public is a time consuming body to deal with, but they’re also potentially the richest resource you have. Brainstorm to work out how to reach them and how to best engage them.
- Use the legal system, but with caution Legal action is one the true bottom lines of activism and is an approach that will find common cause with many people. If you’re working in a cutting edge field like privacy, remember that law firms will be prepared to consider taking on cases on a pro bono or no win no fee basis, particularly if the issues are unusual or could enhance the companies reputation. Many well known (and even lesser known) NGOs have law firms at their disposal for this purpose. Self-representation in court is also a possibility in some countries. Consider also, even without free legal help, the potential value of exploiting legal avenues such as injunctions. You’d need to be wary of the cost implications but these can be a low risk, high gain strategy.
- Create win-win situations against your opponent. Particularly when resources are scarce and pressure is great, adopt the tactics and actions that provide a guaranteed result. Such situations occur when an action is beneficial regardless of its outcome. Writing a letter to a head of government will result in either a celebration of progress, new information, a nil response or a negative. Whichever way, a news peg is created. Likewise, a complaint to a regulator, regardless of win or loss, results in either more information or an opportunity to attack the competence of the regulator.
- Know your opponent and know their past. This of course is a game anyone can play, and they do play it. Check public records. Find out how the target is structured and how it functions. Who does what? Where’s the money? Anything that will give you an edge.
Ideas for strategy and tactics
- Overload the system This is a type of lawful ‘denial of service’ attack on a bureaucracy. It can also be crowdsourced so loads of people can share in the fun. Select the activity on the basis of sensitivity and importance to the organisation. It’s worth keeping in mind that while a complex letter to a bureaucracy may take you X minutes to write, it could consume X x 50 person-minutes to action at the other end.
- Think global, act local An important and valuable framework to adopt. Build with local communities to support and enliven a broader campaign.
- Build an ethical framework. This is the moral foundation that will help guide you over what could be dark and rocky roads. Don’t treat your issues and actions as self-evident. By creating a moral foundation you can more easily communicate your message. And if you’re going to break the law, the framework may be admissible as a defence in court – and certainly would be considered by a jury.
- Information is the new gold A smart activist, unless overwhelmed with current projects, will devote a set period every week to fishing around information sources. Industry and government publications, public records, parliamentary debates, court records etc. This might be targeted or speculative. The exercise is usually productive and yields data that can open up a broader landscape of interest.
- Don’t be afraid to make it personal. Saul Alinsky described this exceptional tactic as “Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarise it”. Ensure that adequate thinking has been done before choosing the individual offender, along with aspects such as personal circumstances – and do not lose confidence when the sympathy card is played. This is not a tactic to be undertaken lightly or without ethical consequence.
- Timing is the most important and least understood factor in campaigning – and often it’s the only factor that matters Launching an initiative or releasing a report depends on at least two factors. 1) when not to launch it, for example during a major competing event or national news crisis and 2) understanding ideally when an initiative should be launched, for example during a related event in the relevant field so media outlets have a news peg to hang the story.
Specific campaign ideas
- Ridicule and satire are potent weapons It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. It also infuriates the opposition, which then react to your advantage. Satire is also conditionally immune from prosecution (but don’t count on that).
- Use complaint processes whenever possible This technique is used by many groups as either forward intelligence or a fishing expedition. Whether a supermarket or a rail company, the responses (or lack of one) to complaints can indicate the sensitivity of the company and whether further action should be taken. Response data should also be collected.
- Where possible, create tangible or physical evidence of an assertion Don’t just say it, do it. If you are claiming a risk or a product failure or anything that can be replicated at the physical level, test it out and have the television stations notified. Privacy campaigners in the US demonstrated a hacking technique on the new US passports in front of a government official at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference which resulted in the passport rollout being immediately suspended.
- Be a stakeholder manager One of the most useful, productive and cost effective projects you can undertake is to set up a multi-stakeholder meeting on a topical issue. You’ll receive kudos, build contacts and potentially build networks and coalitions.
- Make your opponent an offer it can refuse There’s a degree of brinkmanship in this enjoyable point-scoring exercise that can be played from both sides, but is definitely worth a try. If you’re in battle with an identified target, invite it to participate in a meeting that has proposed circumstances that you are sure they won’t agree to. Wait a few days then ask them again to a similar meeting. Two refusals looks to the public to be bloody-minded.
- Re-brand the opposition’s brand This is one of the most popular and powerful consumer activist techniques. Play with the branding and then claim legal exemption (if it’s available) under the satire rule if they come after you. It’s also a win-win technique. Unlike a single piece of satire, rebranding should be a longer-term project. Campaigners have rebranded McDonalds to McDiabetes, Burger King to Murder King, American Idol to American Idiot and Shell to Hell.15
- Become a shareholder An old tactic, but a useful one. Buy a share in your most hated company and you get an invite to the ball! Well, the AGM anyway, where you can plant questions and distribute helpfully worded material before being roughly escorted out of the building.
- My enemy’s enemy is my friend, Track down people who have an issue with an executive at the target organization – aggrieved business partners, court combatants, former employees. But be cautious. Those could be turbulent waters.
- Never underestimate the power of prayer Yes indeed, or king and country for that matter. Rich, powerful and corrupt people often keep a foot in one religion or another. Let’s see how many religious rules they break in an average week. With the right advice you might even uncover a blasphemy or a serious breach.
- Conduct Comparatively good research: If you want to really frustrate and anger your opponent while also inflicting real damage, produce a report which compares its customer service (or whatever) with that of its rivals. This needs to be done with care. Unless you’re a well know group – or connected with a university – you’ll need to confine yourself to customer-led responses. The biggest press storm to hit Google in its then eight-year history was such a report that placed them bottom of the internet privacy league.16
- Strike an emperor, strike to kill If you’re planning a serious action on a major target with even medium security, keep in mind a fundamental rule of high-Stakes activism: higher stakes leads to higher risk which results in greater complexity requiring greater research and planning. Actions against large corporations, police and security agencies need to be well thought out. And if you intend shooting at such targets, make sure your action is more than just symbolic.
- The great walk-out The action of walking away from something is powerful, particularly if you walk away in disgust on the basis of a sound ethical principle. Setting up a meeting then leaving it at the right moment is symbolically strong. Be careful though. That’s a game two parties can play.
- Slur by association Not as powerful as guilt by association through directorships and the money trail, but a lighter slap based on what the target celebrates, what causes it supports and the way it indulges itself. Check out the background of each. Find negative coverage and see if a pattern can be found.
- Use the party political system Powerful people with even a mild interest in politics often have powerful enemies. Find them. Talk with them. Discover what they know.
- Follow the money. Ask questions. Find specific relationships with banks, vendors and investors.
- Create strange bedfellows It’s worth keeping in mind that there’s an inexplicable fascination internationally for atypical collections of people. Bringing together a rare diversity of people or natural enemies into the same room creates powerful images of you being politically neutral, a facilitator or even a peace maker. The remarkable 1987 “people’s victory” against the Australian identity card proposal was made possible in part because of an unprecedented meeting of high profile political enemies to discuss the card and then telling a wildly curious media that the meeting was secret. That gathering, together with its secret nature, provoked comment from the prime minister and drew mainstream attention to the issue.17
- Leverage the police The police are a free resource. Use them. Reporting a company to police under a specific part of law throws cats among the pigeons and is a strong media draw. Lodging a claim with police usually generates a crime reference number and provides media with a powerful news peg. This was achieved, for example, by UK internet privacy campaigners who filed criminal complaints against British Telecom over claims of unlawful computer intrusion.
- Target influential people If you’re in the business of activism, that means you have a cause. You have a cause too that other people care about, including celebrities. And as a campaigner you have a mandate to reach out to these people. People with a cause need a champion. Or a hundred champions. Write ten letters a day, twenty. TV stars, MPs, celebrities. Some will get back to you, maybe just to say they support the cause in principle. Then write to parliaments, the UN, the OECD. Names of great institutions are just as valuable. The letters you get back will be important tools that you can leverage to achieve further support.
- What you don’t know can be as important as what you know All serious activists at one time or another learn to turn ignorance to an advantage. In a public forum if asked any question about the company, you should respond “we don’t know. We’ve been asking but they refuse to disclose the facts”. Creating a list of questions to which there is no obvious answer is also a technique, and although a cheap shot, can have an powerful effect.
- Force the opponent to threaten you. This is another one of those win-win strategies. You’ll need some legal support for the content, but tactical goading can pay off spectacularly. A basis of satire is best. This tactic is best done using physical material in a public place. Doing it online will probably result merely in a notice and takedown request to your ISP. There’s limited advantage in that.
- Publish unanswerable technical questions This is a more highly evolved version of the ignorance = knowledge point above. No matter what your issue, there will be unresolved technical, scientific, health, safety, economic or legal issues. If it’s a large target there will already have been debate over some of these. The tactic here is to use those points as a basis to cast doubt on others. Find new material that, no matter how thinly, connects an issue to the target, Ask questions that are actively framed: “To what extent does…”, “What is the precise relationship with…”, “On how many occasions have..”.
- Test the system. Investigative journalists – the few that remain at least – are fond of this strategy, Wait until a claim is made, a statistic published or an answer provided in parliament, and then road test the assertion. If, say, a stat is published saying MPs respond to constituents letters on average in 5 days, test it and then openly contest the official figure. You can leverage the resulting interest to launch a deeper or broader campaign.
- Guilt by association Check public registers to find directorship and affiliated board relationships of your opponents. Check those at the second layer to discover details of holding companies etc. Search news sites and industry publications. Look for court actions. Check public information on past employment and CV.
- Find a victim, any victim Media needs real people. People who are offended or angry or victimised and will stand up to a big institution. Find victims, whether friends or university mates or in fact anyone. Don’t manufacture one though. You’ll be probably be found out.
- Trap your opponent in a double loss position Known as the percussion trap, this strategy envisions an initial action that triggers into a successful second response regardless of the initial outcome. This strategy is best executed when you have evidence of a company or government’s wrong-doing. Choose an action such as sending a lawyers letter that can result only in a non-response, a confirmation of wrong-doing or a denial. The letter you send initially is non-specific and effectively entraps the target by creating an irresistible urge to deny. If however a confirmation is sent, it can be published as a success for you, and can then be forwarded to a regulatory authority, lawyer or media for second phase action. A denial can be followed up with an attack for deception and lying, again with a legal or media follow-up. A refusal to answer makes the company appear guilty and can be kept as an open case on your website or elsewhere.
Negatives to positives
- If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside… Any attempt by the opposition to intimidate, bully or persecute can be used as ammunition and possibly win over the public. If the incident is pressed often enough it will become the issue.
- Plan for a victorious defeat This is a very important process in the long view of campaigning, which envisions future repeat engagement. Political candidates are familiar with a variation on this theme. A member of Parliament may lose his seat at an election but if a come-back is anticipated the farewell speech will be gracious and empowered. If no come-back is imagined the speech is more likely to be a bitchfest.
Critical campaign risk factors and risk mitigation
- Understand the elastic limit of your supporters. Alinsky describes this rule as “Never go outside the experience of your people”, but there’s more to it. Campaign leaders should always recognise that their own motivation and rewards are not shared equally by all supporters. In a rush to achieve greater progress through new avenues, leaders can easily leave their supporters behind. This has been the unfortunate fate of countless campaigns.
- Don’t risk staking everything on media coverage Media are notoriously fickle on most subjects in terms of what they will cover. Media organisations are subject to numerous variables and any commitments should be treated skeptically, even if the journalist is known to you. Do not make the success of your activities dependent on coverage.
- Keep your messaging consistent and real. Campaigns that don’t carefully manage their messaging will drift from inconsistency to contradiction before swerving into fatal hypocrisy
- Never concede or confess anything to the opponent. While you’re in the campaign phase, whether in public or in private, on or off the record, never concede anything until such point as you’re ready to negotiate formally. Treat a combatant in a campaign like a police officer who has arrested you. You may be lulled into revealing or conceding something, but the general advice is never to do so. In terms of public statements, never give praise unless it is tightly defined (say in a press statement) and never be bullied or seduced into admitting you were wrong.
- Always respond to an accusation of inaccuracy with a counterclaim of secrecy. Corporations routinely accuse campaigners of making false statements. If you get the opportunity, respond aggressively with an assertion that your assessment is a direct result of their own obfuscation and deception.
- Negative campaigns should conceive a constructive alternative to avoid a perception that they are destructive. This isn’t the same as saying that it’s an activist’s responsibility to find alternatives to the schemes they fight, but it’s always a useful strategy to have an alternative in your back pocket, even if you don’t elaborate on the detail. Describing safer and better alternative approaches also presents an appearance that you are knowledgeable and constructive.
Media and Communications strategy
- If your issue can’t be expressed in a nine-word headline, you have a thesis, not a campaign. As an activist striving to win hearts and minds, you’re competing with thousands of other pressing issues – many of them fueled by richly resourced backers. Imagine a tightly compressed ‘elevator pitch’ in which you have three seconds to grab people’s attention. The didactic stuff can follow from that. It’s not intellectually dishonest to win over a potential audience with a captivating teaser, and it’s a substantially better approach than explaining your position by starting with “OK, give me five minutes and I’ll tell you why this is important”.
- A successful first strike in media offers opportunity to the opponent . As with many military actions, never confuse a first strike with a tactical advantage. Opening up an issue to the media provides your opponent with an opportunity to assert that your misguided position is precisely why the particular initiative was undertaken in the first place. A first strike usually has overwhelming value if it is shocking, rather than merely challenging or reportive.
- A good media strategy ensures you’ll always be quoted, but a great media strategy hands you the headline. It’s easy to be happy with being the dingleberry at the end of a news story – the responding quote stuck at the end of a story – but the true science of media moves this responsive add-on into the thrust of the piece. This requires quick thinking before you speak to a journalist. Threaten an action, launch an initiative, send a letter, start a petition. Any action you take has a good chance of stealing the first paragraph of the story, if not the headline.
- Use active language and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Passive and conciliatory words like “worried” or “concerned” do little to advance your cause and serve only to confuse the public. They are just one step removed from diplomatic shockers like “regret” and “unfortunate”. Media love real people with real emotions. Be angry. Be furious. Be incandescent with rage about an issue. But temper this emotion with evidence and reason.
- Images can be more powerful than words. Photographs take up a large (and often fixed) proportion of any news publication and yet few campaigners exploit that resource. Look for innovative opportunities, take your own royalty-free pics and – corny as it sounds – always consider the cliche of children, animals and bizarre scenarios, making a guaranteed photo opp success.
- You are what you write A campaign can live or die on the clarity of its writing. Find someone who is genuinely artistic – and treat that writer as a core team member.
- Get real about the value of media coverage. Don’t get mesmerised by a mention in the media. As a rule of thumb, aim at a hundred mentions to get on the radar screen and a thousand mentions to start shifting public opinion.
- Viral a conspiracy. Everyone loves a conspiracy, so start one. One of the most powerful attack-virals on YouTube was one that drew connections between Facebook’s board and a string of arms companies and national security agencies. In reality those sort of connections can be drawn with most major companies, but the tactic had its intended impact. Doing this is a fun weekend’s work. Make sure you maintain plausible deniability.
- Do all the running for media The more preparation you do, the greater the chance you’ll be covered. Include quotes, good pics, the contact number of an independent expert. High quality graphics guarantee consideration of a feature placement.
- Make your website more than a soap box It’s not just a place you hang your manifesto, but a place to generate ideas and controversy. Make it a resource centre to recruit new supporters in a practical way.
Guiding principles for campaign planning and formation
- Strategically brand your public identity Imagine from the beginning, the characteristics that you feel best represent your group and its ethos and seek broad feedback on the name and other prominent imagery. Branding is not just name and colours, it is the feel – internally and externally – of everything the organization represents.
- A good tactic is one your supporters enjoy. This outcome requires a mix of sensitivity and dialogue to ensure that people know in advance the options that they want to pursue. Given them choice if at all possible.
- Become academic Universities and colleges are finally starting to open up to the real world, even at the community and advocacy level (in some parts of Europe they call this ‘policy engagement’). Indeed in some countries their funding depends on it. Make inroads into an institution and slowly build the relationship.
- Always ensure your campaign lifespan is sustainable. This element is dependent on the motivation of staff and should be reviewed regularly. If your campaign drags on too long without evolution, the support base is likely to fall away.
- Create partnerships to empower the campaign Brainstorm to identify the range of organisations related to your area. Figure out what you can offer them, whether they are likely to work with you and at what likely level. Conduct background research and then seek initial scoping meetings, rather than asking up front for a yes or no. Build the relationship.
Critical risk factors for the campaign organization
- Avoid the hothouse During the early stages of activity, during which much of the framework for a campaign will be formed, it’s always good advice to be particularly conscious that single-issue activists working in a hothouse environment can spark a condition of suspended reality. In this situation, strength of passion can override mature judgment and can often be blind to contrary evidence and risk
- Democratising a campaign can lead to dangerous waters. It’s tempting to presume that any campaign for rights or freedoms must have a democratic structure. And while this is theoretically true, a vast number of campaigns fall apart because of a failure of timing. In practical terms, leadership trumps democracy in the early stages of most actions. There’s an interesting division of view on this topic, with some campaigners believing that actions should arise from a democratic environment, and others who believe that democracy can be an artificial imposition on a functioning campaign infrastructure. Whether you democratise or not, expect this debate to emerge.
- Build and discreetly support a network This is an issue that needs very careful thought. Depending on the nature of your activities, an identifiable network may or may not be a useful or a safe element. Networks can soon turn into informal members, which then tend to push for accountability and representation and inadvertently paralyse a campaign. Be careful about this Pandora’s box unless you seek full accountability at the microscopic level.
- Maintain humility in leadership. The most common campaign fatality is when leaders invests their ego in a flawed strategy kept aloft by hot air.
- Protect the organisation from castration Never put all your eggs into the one basket. Resources or financial support that has been quickly acquired can just as quickly be lost. Create diversification in all areas of your activity.
- When planning a campaign, never assume continued support from any quarter unless you’ve considered all possible circumstances for its withdrawal. Countless campaigns have fallen into the trap of assuming that supporters – particularly supporters from the political and corporate worlds – will indefinitaley embrace their issue. This is historically not the case. Large organisations and political entities are fickle and are prone to reversing their support if even the slightest element of the issue starts to shift. Others may bail at the first sign of controversy.
- No matter how highly you rate your value as a campaigner, your symbolic worth is greater to the opponent. Be wary of being captured by getting too close to your opponent or inadvertently endorsing it through participation or association
- Take full risk and contingency measure to protect your infrastructure. A scan needs to be made from time to time of risk factors in you org. How to mitigate chances of failure, whether survival depends on a single staffer and whether enough progress is being made for sustainability. In high risk situations, look to any weakness in your personal life, and also those of other staff. Ensure that guidelines have been followed. Be aware that success also brings opportunities for attack – internally and externally. With this knowledge, mitigation measure can be taken. Imagine disaster scenarios and create contingency plans. Run a risk brainstorm every so often to identify the elements of your campaign infrastructure that are critical to its success (whether that’s an individual, an IT system or funding), then establish an emergency plan to deal with calamity.
Guiding principles for managing and sustaining a campaign infrastructure
- “Keep the pressure on, Use various tactics and actions and make leaders responsible for finding and supporting team-led initiatives
- Do something surprising Most beneficial of all, surprise yourselves. Set a target to take an action every so often and challenge yourselves to come up with a radical action. This will energise you and break stereotypes. You may even find new activist avenues in the process.
- Know the difference between the need to keep control for your campaign to win and the need to let go of control for the issue to win. No successful major campaign in the history of human rights has ever managed to keep central control of the issue. Once a campaign has become a truly national issue a thousand uncontrolled strands will emerge from the ground. Any attempt to control this dynamic would be fruitless and even fatal. Campaigners should be aware that one consequence of success will be the forfeiture of control.
- Create a project-resource program. This activity supports structural sustainability and organically builds resources. Actively seek out volunteers who are good at digging up anything from paper supplies to free office space. Aim to secure at least one new resource item each day. Within a few weeks this investment will pay off to a sometimes critically important extent.
- Love your team, but fear them equally. If you’re the leader of a team, particularly a small team, treat it as if it were a partnership. Care for it, nurture it, spend time with it, but always remember that with no notice it might take on a life of its own. This shouldn’t make you a hardened cynic, merely an informed leader who wears protective clothing. In a stressed and tight ecosystem many actions and words can be misinterpreted, leading to a sense of betrayal. The reality is that most small campaigning groups, like most rock bands, implode through stress or relationship issues, While being the most precious element of an organisation they can, without care, be its most dangerous threat. Make them feel needed, never take them for granted, don’t act like god – and in victory, give them the credit.
- Do conventionally good things. There’s a few solid reasons behind this idea, particularly if you’re an activist who doesn’t like the stereotype. It’s always sound policy to do nice things beyond activism. This isn’t so much digging flower beds, but sending congratulation emails or letters to people who you noticed doing something useful or praiseworthy. Academics who write a good paper, journalists who run a great story and so on. Your contact list and your reputation can only benefit.
- Lighten up Following on from the principle of team building it’s important to equip yourself with a virtual “frownometer” to check how joyless you’ve all become. Many activist groups fall to pieces because being involved is just too painful. Do fun things. Do Fun Actions – and celebrate regularly.
- Know your technology IT and comms systems are critically important tools for many activists. The technology is also useful to government as a means of finding out what you’re up to, It’s crucial to learn not just what IT gear can do for your operations, but how to use encryption and circumvention techniques to avoid scrutiny.
- Protect your info and your supporters. Adopt security measures as above, but also be aware of physical security. Brief supporters regularly. Help them protect themselves.
Footnotes and links
8 Corporate Europe Observatory http://www.corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2011/lobby-millions-missing-transparency-register-alter-eu-campaigners-say
9 Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2010 http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/gcb/2010