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Looking for articles, books, case studies, tips about social change and activism? You’ve found the right place – The Commons Social Change Library.

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.

Two transmasculine people sitting together and having a serious conversation

Relationships are the Glue of Organising

This post reviews Marshall Ganz’ approach to craft of relationships in organising. Relationships foster the commitment that is needed for success and allow us to understand the interests, values and motivations of others.

A group of people gather under a tree with clipboards.

Is personalised political communication manipulative?

“Personalized political communication” refers to when the medium for a message is a person, not media such as television, pamphlets, or billboards. The electoral arms race is seeing a renaissance of PPC and greater engagement of voters in campaigns and the political process.

Cover of the book 'How Organizations Develop Activists'.

How Organizations Develop Activists: A book review

Joel Dignam reviews Hahrie Han’s How Organizations Develop Activists. A key finding of Han’s research is that high-engagement chapters practise both organizing and mobilizing. The Voice for Indi campaign is considered as an Australian example of combining these two approaches.

A number of African American students sit along a lunch counter.

Lessons from the Greensboro Student Sit-ins

The Greensboro student sit-ins had nonviolence at their heart and succeeded, not only in their immediate goal, but also in building a lasting organisation in the SNCC. It stands now as yet another example of the successful use of nonviolence to stand against oppression.

Cover of 'In the Tigers Mouth'.

Book Review of In the Tiger’s Mouth Empowerment Guide

A review of Katrina Shield’s ‘In The Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action’. What most distinguishes this books is its emphasis on three elements not often considered in other campaigning texts: self-awareness, collaboration, and self-care.

A large crowd marches behind a banner reading 'Peoples Climate March'. The march is led by First Nations people. Marchers hold colourful placards depicting sunflowers. A large banner is held high reading 'Frontlines of Impact, Forefront of Change'.

Networked Change Campaign Grid

The Networked Change Campaign Grid provides a clear path for integrating top-performing approaches into your strategic planning and design process. This worksheet helps you apply the principles of the directed-network campaigning.

Protestors walk across the street with Stop Adani banners and placards.

Six building blocks of distributed organizing campaigns

To support organizations rolling out distributed organizing efforts, NetChange have put together a new campaign design framework drawn from best practices of the dozens of successful networks they have advised or studied closely.

Photograph of a group of people having a meeting.

On Conflict and Consensus

Making collective decisions and navigating conflict and are core activist skills. Conflict is usually viewed as an impediment to reaching agreements and disruptive to peaceful relationships. However, it is the underlying thesis of Consensus that nonviolent conflict is necessary and desirable.

Photograph of multiple coloured plastic balls.

The Pt’chang Games List

Games are great for energising a group, lightening the mood, promoting playfulness, and building morale. This list is an excerpt from the Nonviolent Community Safety and Peacebuilding Trainers’ Manual which is also available for download on the Commons.

Legal Handbook for the Victorian Coal and Gas Movement

The purpose of this handbook is to help you understand your rights and what risks you might be taking, including when you could be arrested and what you could be charged with, if you choose to participate in protests and other actions.

A group of people sit together around a table.

Maintaining Group Morale and Motivation

Group morale is a key contributor to the success of a group, increasing cohesion, reducing burnout and preventing activist turnover. Build team relationships; resolve conflicts and improve communication; and celebrate success.

A group of friends stand with arms around each other looking out across a valley.

Activist Support and Debriefing

Activists need to individually and collectively deal with feelings such as loss, grief, frustration, anger and despair. We can set up our groups to provide support to each other including emotional support, support for action, and educational support.

Close up photo of three hands holding small autumn leaves.

Group Strategies to Prevent Stress and Burnout

A group’s culture can have a big impact on the likelihood of stress and burnout for members and staff. It’s possible to create a group culture that supports self-care, balance and sustainable work loads and patterns.

Stress Management and Burnout Prevention

High stress levels and burnout are very common among grassroots activists and community workers. Stress management and physical, emotional and spiritual renewal is crucial to looking after ourselves for the long haul.

A city scene at night. There are bright lights and people walking with their features blurred. Arrows are painted on the road, pointing downwards.

De-escalating Conflict

Many conflicts get worse than they actually need to be because the participants lose control of themselves and retreat into self-reinforcing patterns of attack and counterattack. Here are some suggestions, drawn from the literature of conflict resolution and psychotherapy, that can be used to de-escalate conflicts.

Two transmasculine people sitting together and having a serious conversation

Giving and Receiving Feedback

‘Feedback’ is a communication to a person or a group which gives that person information  about how they affect others. It is important to be able to give feedback in such a way that people can hear it, take it in, evaluate it, and change behaviour which affects their relationship with others.

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