“Beautiful Trouble is essential reading for the socially engaged artist.”Ken Krafchek, Graduate Director, MFA in Community Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art
Anger is potent. Use it wisely. If you have the moral higher ground, it is compelling and people will join you. If you don’t, you’ll look like a cranky wingnut.
Effective creative interventions require a judicious balance of art and message. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. If the role of the artist is to “deepen the mystery,” what is the role of the political artist?
Sometimes the least structured group can be the most tyrannical. Counter by promoting accountability within the group.
Branding is one of the more misunderstood communication concepts, especially among anti-corporate activists, who can and should use branding to their advantage.
Creative activists can make an otherwise abstract, far-away issue relevant by making it personal, visceral and local.
Holding regular events permits activists to build strength through repetition, because with each iteration, the event has the potential to become bigger and better.
Like all other unjust and arbitrary systems of authority and power, patriarchy must be actively challenged in political organizing if we are to achieve collective liberation.
Don’t let an individual tactic distract from a larger strategy. Strategy is your overall plan, and tactics are those things you do to implement the plan — a distinction critical for structuring effective campaigns.
We increase our chances of victory when our actions target the person or entity with the institutional power to meet our demands.
The two foundational values of consensus decision making are empowering every person’s full participation in decision making, and respecting and accommodating diverse opinions. These values are more important than the form itself, which activists should modify as needed to uphold these values.
If a banner drops in the forest and your target audience isn’t around to see it, will it make a difference? Probably not.
Today the burden of debt unites millions in common struggle, providing the basis of a new mass movement and new forms of large-scale organizing.
Often journalists want to cover an important issue, but can’t for editorial reasons. The right creative action (that you photograph or film yourself) can give them the excuse or materials they need.
If you look like a stereotypical protester, it’s easy for people to write you off. If you look like someone who doesn’t usually hit the streets (the guy next door or an airline pilot in full uniform), people can more easily identify with you. Therefore, don’t dress like a protester.
When seeking to awaken collective intelligence, brainstorming can only get you so far. “Artstorming” invites participants to jump directly into the unmediated experience of creation, engaging the full spectrum of our creative intelligence. Better ideas, and often amazing creations, result.
Don’t get too caught up in trying to make your little activist group “inclusive,” “democratic,” or other qualities that we all want for society. Why? Because your group isn’t society.
If dissident political groups tend to become more extreme over time, then good leaders should help define that ‘extreme’ in constructive ways.
When standard dissent is made impossible by overwhelming state repression, find ways to make ordinary acts subversive.
Kindness, smiles, gifts and unicorns (well, maybe not unicorns) can be potent weapons in the struggle against evil-doers.
The first rule of guerrilla warfare is to know your terrain and use it to your advantage. This holds true whether you are fighting in an actual jungle or in the metaphoric wasteland of mass culture.
Recruitment and retention go hand in hand. A few simple procedures for orienting new participants can go a long way to ensuring their ongoing involvement.
Many injustices are invisible to the mainstream. When you bring these wrongs into full view, you change the game, making the need to take action palpable.
Concrete tactics have measurable goals and are designed to have a direct physical impact. Communicative ones can be more symbolic. Knowing the difference and planning accordingly is important.
Participating in a drum circle is amazing, transformative and fun. Watching a drum circle, on the other hand, is torture. Don’t ask people to watch you have fun: get them involved!
Taking care of ourselves and having fun in our work for social change are essential to building stronger, larger, more effective movements.
In a hyper-mediated world, often the audience you care about is not the one in the room with you, but the one you’ll reach through mass and social media. Design your action with them in mind.
Theory without action produces armchair revolutionaries. Action without reflection produces ineffective or counter-productive activism. That’s why we have praxis: a cycle of theory, action and reflection that helps us analyze our efforts in order to improve our ideas.
By telling a personal story, documentary film can make an otherwise difficult-to-approach issue accessible. Filmmakers and activists, working together, can collaborate to make a film a story-driven lever for change.
Design your action so that your target is forced to make a decision, and all their available options play to your advantage.
Love your country, and fight so that its flag and other national symbols evoke its most egalitarian and noble values.
In search of allies and points of agreement, we must grow comfortable adopting the rhetoric of worldviews we might otherwise oppose.
Movements seldom win by overpowering the opposition; they win by shifting the support out from under them. Determine the social blocs at play on a given issue, and work to shift them closer to your position.
Use metaphor, visuals and action to show your message rather than falling into preaching, hectoring or otherwise telling your audience what to think.
Movements, viral campaigns and large-scale actions can’t be scripted from the top down. An invitation to participate and the right set of simple rules are often all the starter-structure you need.
When we stay on message, we communicate exactly what we want our audience to know. We create harmony between our words, visuals and actions and we deliver a clear, powerful and irresistible call to action.
Effective activism requires providing appropriate support to, and taking direction from, those who have the most at stake.
Needlessly endangering the safety of you or the people around you hurts the movement. Don’t sacrifice care of self or others for the sake of being “hardcore.”
Cultivating a fluid, symbiotic relationship between activists and experts is key to organizing effective interventions into complex issues.
When taking on a big and well-known target, it is often the target’s reaction to your action that’s the key to success. Therefore, anticipate your target’s reactions and write them into your script.
Sky-high artistic expectations can not only slow you down, but can also critically impair execution of your tactic and strategy.
Sometimes the most compelling way to expose an injustice is to flip it around and visit it upon the powerful.
The Jedi mind trick worked for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and it can work for you, too. You just have to believe in yourself, and others will, too.
Rituals like weddings, funerals, baptisms, exorcisms and vigils are powerful experiences for participants. By adapting sacred and symbolic elements you can use the power of ritual to give your actions greater depth and power.
By drawing on the cultural assets of the community, organizers can deepen the involvement of participants, disorient opponents, and shift the cultural terrain in their favor.
The Overton window is the limit of what is considered reasonable or acceptable within a range of public policy options. Slide the window of acceptable debate by focusing attention on a position that is more radical than your own.
An otherwise healthy distrust of hierarchy can lead to a negative attitude toward all forms of leadership. Actually, we want more leadership, not less.