Beautiful Trouble is more than a book, it’s the serious artivists’ wikipedia.

Ann Narkeh

Joshua Kahn Russell


Joshua Kahn Russell is an organizer and strategist serving movements for social justice and ecological balance. He is an action coordinator, facilitator & trainer with the Ruckus Society, and has trained thousands of activists. Joshua has written numerous movement strategy essays, chapters for several books, and a few organizing manuals, most recently Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis, with Hilary Moore (PM Press 2011). He has helped win campaigns against banks, oil companies, logging corporations, and coal barons; worked with a wide variety of groups in a breadth of arenas, from local resiliency projects, to national coalitions, to the United Nations Climate Negotiations.


Contributed Modules

Tactic: Occupation

Contributed by and
June 12, 2012

To hold public space; to pressure a target; to reclaim or squat property; to defend against “development”; to assert Indigenous sovereignty.

Case Study: Tar sands action

Contributed by and
June 10, 2012

Because tar sands oil emits four times the carbon dioxide as standard crude, renowned climate scientist James Hanson has declared that if the Canadian tar sands were fully developed, it would be “essentially game over for the climate.” Seeking to draw a line in the (tar) sands, activists successfully organized   …Continue Reading

Principle: Take risks, but take care

Contributed by
June 5, 2012

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.”

Principle: Take leadership from the most impacted

Contributed by
June 5, 2012

Effective activism requires providing appropriate support to, and taking direction from, those who have the most at stake.

Principle: Shift the spectrum of allies

Contributed by
June 3, 2012

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.

Principle: Put your target in a decision dilemma

Contributed by and
June 2, 2012

Design your action so that your target is forced to make a decision, and all their available options play to your advantage.

Principle: Praxis makes perfect

Contributed by
June 1, 2012

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.

Principle: Make your actions both concrete and communicative

Contributed by
June 1, 2012

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.

Theory: Expressive and instrumental actions

Contributed by , and
May 23, 2012

Political action tends to be driven by one of two different motivations: expressing an identity, and winning concrete changes. It’s important to know the difference, and to strike a balance between the two.

Tactic: Media-jacking

Contributed by , and
May 17, 2012

To undermine your opposition’s narrative by hijacking their event; to draw attention to your side of the story; to capitalize on your target’s media presence; to reframe an issue; to be a jackass.

Tactic: Direct action

Contributed by
May 15, 2012

To shut things down; to open things up; to pressure a target; to re-imagine what’s possible; to intervene in a system; to empower people; to defend something good; to shine a spotlight on something bad.

Theory: Action logic

Contributed by and
May 15, 2012

Your actions should speak for themselves. They should make immediate, natural sense to onlookers. They should have an obvious logic to the outside eye.

Principle: Anger works best when you have the moral high ground

Contributed by
May 15, 2012

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.

Tactic: Blockade

Contributed by
May 15, 2012

To physically shut down something bad (a coal mine, the World Trade Organization), to protect something good (a forest, someone’s home), or to make a symbolic statement, such as encircling a target (the White House).