“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets
Holding regular events permits activists to build strength through repetition, because with each iteration, the event has the potential to become bigger and better.
A crucial skill for campaigners is the ability to react quickly to time-sensitive issues. For example, a government threatens to declare war, so peace campaigners respond by organizing an anti-war protest, or an oil and gas company announces a plan to build a pipeline, so activists organize to stop it from being built. Another important and often overlooked aspect of campaigning, however, is the patient work of building a skilled and committed base of support through the repetition of regular events. Holding regular events permits activists to build strength through repetition, because with each iteration, the event has the potential to become bigger and better.
For example, activists working on a campaign might commit to putting on a conference each year so that supporters can share insights and decide upon their priorities for the coming year. Or activists might decide to hold regular film screenings on their issue of choice. Given the vast number of documentaries on climate change, you could screen one a month for several years and still never run out. Every time you run the event, it becomes easier: you gradually build up a network of attendees and supporters who can help distribute posters and flyers to ensure a good turnout. Maybe after a few events, word of mouth points you towards a better or cheaper venue nearby. Other, similar organizations hear about your event and start coming in greater numbers, giving the added benefit of networking.
The UK-based group Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) produces an annual newspaper called Palestine at Christmas, which features accounts of life under occupation by leading human rights NGOs. JFJFP organizes a network of Palestinian human rights groups to hand these newspapers out at train stations across the country. Hundreds of thousands of copies are distributed, with circulation increasing each year as word spreads and more activist groups volunteer to help out.
If followed too religiously, this principle can lead your organization to become rigid, boring, and disconnected. While stability and repetition are useful for recruiting and building an activist base, it’s also important to be able to recognize when it’s time to do something different, and to organize one-off events in reaction to timely, front-of-mind issues.