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Coffee is poured from a metal jug into a large and unstable stack of coffee cups sitting on a wooden table.

Balance or Burnout?

A useful model for understanding activist burnout and how to avoid it from the Transitions Towns movement. Includes a downloadable worksheet with prompts for reflection.

A group of people stand with their fists in the air. Children sit at the front of the gathering.

Reclaiming a segregated city in Cape Town, South Africa

Reclaim the City are desegregating the inner city suburbs of Cape Town by fighting for housing for the poor. They do this by occupying sites to create emergency accommodation while also campaigning for the building of affordable housing.

Photograph of hands holding cups with lit candles against the dark sky.

After Florida Can America change its gun laws?

The massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida is similar to many that have happened at schools across the USA. But there is a hope here in Florida that feels different to previous tragedies, because of the powerful political analysis and leadership coming from students.

A group of people filling a street and stopping traffic.

Reflections on #FeesMustFall movement

#FeesMustFall movement was very diverse and rich with dialogue and conflict. This letter by a student leader, Anzio Cameron, gives a live account of some of the tensions that divided the movement.

Sally McManus wears a 'Change the Rules' tshirt in front of a large crowd of workers holding banners and flags.

Breaking bad laws is how good laws get made

Sally McManus came under a fair bit of flak when she declared on her first day in the job that she didn’t have a problem breaking bad laws. Her comments reflect an understanding of how democracies negotiate social change.

Pro-democracy protesters hold umbrellas in front of police cordon line outside of the Hong Kong Government Complex.

Umbrella Movement Reflections

In 2014 the Hong Kong Umbrella Occupation shook the world. The 79-day occupation of the Admiralty political and commercial district ended on 11 December 2014, with the police arresting hundreds of protesters.

What does it take for everyday people to shift an election?

The story of how GetUp successfully organised in the seat of Bass to remove sitting MP Andrew Nikolic at the 2016 federal election. Lessons include the power of mixing online and offline; the power of mixing local with national; and have the local lead the national.

People stand in a line in front of a crowd. Their tshirts each have a letter spelling out INDIVISIBLE.

How Indivisible Helped Paint America Blue

The midterm elections in the US have delivered the House of Representatives to the Democrats. Why did this happen? The nation got organised into opposing Trump. And one of the major forces behind that organisation is Indivisible.

Large crowd gathered in front of the library. In the foreground someone holds up a placard reading 'Let Them Stay'.

Can we do politics better than this?

When we leave politics to the politicians, we get The Canberra Show. But when people organised in their communities, acting on their deep concerns, have the skills and knowledge to act powerfully a new political life might finally be possible.

Photo of the cast of Brooklyn 99.

What ChangeMakers can learn from Brooklyn Nine Nine

Who knew that TV could teach you how to change the world! Embedded in Brooklyn Nine Nine’s approach to sitcom writing are a few lessons about how we can successfully communicate important, difficult issues to a wider audience.

A large pile of books has a circular space cleared with a floating open book in the middle.

The Role of Stories in Organising

Joel Dignam reviews Marshall Ganz’ approach to story as fundamental to organising. Through story we understand happenings, communicate our values, and make sense of our choices.

Cover of the book Ground Wars.

Ground Wars Electoral field campaigning

Joel Dignam reviews Ground Wars, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen’s hands-on ethnographic study of two competitive congressional campaigns in the 2008 US election. The book is a richly-detailed portrait of contemporary field campaigning.

A view of from a vantage point in Mount Buffalo, with rolling forested hills framing a valley, in which there is a small clearing.

Work less: You’ll get more done

Overwork has heavy costs. Working longer hours is dangerous and ineffective. But poor management, the subconscious, workplace culture, and work volume, can each be a barrier to better workplace practices. Thankfully though, these barriers can be overcome.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Joel Dignam reviews Jo Freeman’s “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” which explores some of the key structural problems facing groups. Recognising that power dynamics are present in all groups Freeman proposes formal structures, transparency and accountability.

Photograph of two people standing on pavement, taken from above. Written on the ground is 'Passion Led Us Here'.

Retain volunteers with intrinsically motivating work

Civic associations depend upon volunteers to get their work done. Joel Dignam distils insights from Ruth Wageman and Richard Hackman’s “Designing work for individuals and for groups” from Perspectives on Behavior in Organizations.

Diagram of 5 concentric circles labelled from outside to inside: Community; Crowd; Congregation; Committed; Core.

Circles of Commitment: A Model of Engagement

This article outlines a model for thinking about the different levels of engagement of people involved in a campaign; what kinds of things people at each level can do, and what support they need to do those things; and how people can move from one level to another, aka a ‘ladder of engagement’. It also has implications for how we think about events and capacity, and for how well a campaign can scale.

A diagram with three organisers at the centre. From each organiser arrows go to a Leader, from the Leader there are arrows to 5 team members.

How to Structure Teams for Organising

Joel Dignam reviews Marshall Ganz’ treatment of structure as a craft of organising. As Ganz notes “Developing leadership requires structuring the work of the organization so it affords as many people as possible the opportunity to learn to lead.”

Aerial photograph of huge crowd filling Federation Square and surrounding streets.

Hahrie Han on How Relationships Improve Mobilisation

Insights from The Organizational Roots of Political Activism: Field Experiments on Creating a Relational Context. In her paper, Han demonstrates that a relational context affects civic engagement, arguing that decisions like voting or other forms of activism aren’t based upon a simple cost-benefit analysis.

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