A comprehensive and broad range of books to read if you are Interested in activism, campaigning, organising, social change and justice. These recommendations come from the Commons Library and a multitude of other social change organisations and networks (see Explore Further below). We would love to hear from you if you have one to recommend to add to the list. The books are organised in a list from A – Z by title.
Active hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy
Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, 2012. Active Hope is about finding, and offering, our best response to the crisis of sustainability unfolding in our world. It offers tools that help us face the mess we’re in, as well as find and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.
Activism, Inc. : How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America
Dana R. Fisher, 2006. Fisher examines the history and rationale behind political outsourcing on the Left, weaving together frank interviews with canvassers, high-ranking political officials across the political spectrum, and People’s Project management. She compares all of this to the grassroots efforts on the Right, which remain firmly grounded in communities and local politics.
Sarah Maddison and Sean Scalmer, 2014. Peace marches, protest demonstrations and campaigns for or against every cause imaginable have long been part of the Australian social and political landscape. This lively book blends the voices and experience of insiders involved in particular causes with a bigger picture, analysing successes, failures and political impacts.
A Gift of Love
A is for Activist
Innosanto Nagara, 2013. In the children’s book “A is for Activist”, author Innosanto Nagara uses an alphabet book format to teach young children about progressive social issues and activism.
David Karpf, 2016. In this book, David Karpf offers a rich, detailed assessment of how political organizations carefully monitor this online activity and use it to develop new tactics and strategies that help them succeed in the evolving hybrid media system. Karpf discusses the power and potential of this new “analytic activism,” exploring the organizational logics and media logics that determine how digital inputs shape the choices that political campaigners make.
Mark Bray, 2017. A detailed survey of the full history of anti-fascism to the present day—offering insight into the growing but little-understood resistance fighting back against fascism in all its guises.
- Book Review
- Publisher’s website
- Antifa: The History and Politics of Anti-Fascism – A Lecture by Mark Bray
Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution
Andrew Boyd, 2012. Brings together ten grassroots groups and dozens of seasoned artists and activists from around the world to distill their best practices into a toolbox for creative action.
Be the Change: A Toolkit for the Activist in You
Gina Martin, 2019. An empowering toolkit for activism from Gina Martin, who led a year-long campaign to make upskirting a criminal offence. BE THE CHANGE is an essential handbook for the modern activist, whether your campaign is big or small, local or global, or somewhere in between.
Blueprint for Revolution: How to use rice pudding, lego men, and other non-violent techniques to galvanise communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world
Srđa Popović, 2015. A handbook for anyone who wants to effectively (and peacefully) improve your neighbourhood, make a difference in your community, or change the world.
Campaigning for Change: An Essential Guide for Campaigning Around the World
Jonathan Ellis, 2017. Based on Jonathan’s experience supporting people around the world, it offers a very simple and practical approach to developing a campaign for change. If you have a burning desire to campaign for change, then this is the book for you!
Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know
Erica Chenoweth, 2021. Explores what civil resistance is, how it works, why it sometimes fails, how violence and repression affect it, and the long-term impacts of such resistance.
Climate Action: A campaign manual for greenhouse solutions
Mark Diesendorf, 2009. Responding to the global flowering of commitment to environmental issues, this handbook shows activists and citizens how to pressure governments and businesses to create a framework for large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Resistance Handbook
Daniel Hunter, 2019. The Climate Resistance Handbook brings together a wealth of learnings from the climate justice movement. It starts with breaking social myths about how social movements win. Then dives into campaign tools and frameworks you can use. It closes with how to grow your group and use creative, impactful actions and tactics.
- Download from the Activist Handbook
- Order from 350.org
- Article in the Commons Library
- Interview with Daniel Hunter
Confronting Power: The Practice of Policy Advocacy
Jeff Unsicker, 2014. Confronting Power draws on cases in Peru, Ghana, and elsewhere to illustrate a practical, comprehensive framework for planning, implementing, and evaluating policy advocacy.
Betsy Greer, 2014. Through examples that range from community embroidery projects, stitching in prisons, revolutionary ceramics, AIDS activism, yarn bombing, and crafts that facilitate personal growth, Craftivism provides imaginative examples of how crafters can be creative and altruistic at the same time.
Clare Land, 2015. In this highly original and much-needed book, Clare Land interrogates the often fraught endeavours of activists from colonial backgrounds seeking to be politically supportive of Indigenous struggles. Blending key theoretical and practical questions, Land argues that the predominant impulses which drive middle-class settler activists to support Indigenous people cannot lead to successful alliances and meaningful social change unless they are significantly transformed through a process of both public political action and critical self-reflection.
- Decolonising Solidarity website
- Publisher’s website
- Review in Overland
- Clare Land and Bogaine Spearim in conversation
Aric McBay, Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, 2011. A manifesto for environmental activists, arguing for a more confrontational and aggressive approach to defending the planet from the threats of climate change and environmental destruction.
- Deep Green Resistance website
- Entry in the Activist Handbook
- Get the book
- DGR news service
- The Green Flame podcast
Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements
by Bill Moyer with Joann McAllister, Mary Lou Finley and Steven Soifer, 2001. Doing Democracy provides both a theory and working model for understanding and analyzing social movements, ensuring that they are successful in the long term. Beginning with an overview of social movement theory and the MAP (Movement Action Plan) model, Doing Democracy outlines the eight stages of social movements, the four roles of activists, and case studies from the civil rights, anti-nuclear energy, Central America, gay/lesbian, women’s health, and globalization movements.
- Read online on the Internet Archive
- Borrow from a library near you (WorldCat)
- The Four Roles of Social Activism by Bill Moyer (The Commons)
- Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements by Bill Moyer (The Commons)
- Purchase from publisher’s website – New Society Publisher’s
- Read in other languages
- Arabic – ممارسة الديمقراطيّة: نموذج خطّة عمل الحركة من أجل تنظيم الحركات الاجتماعيّة
- Chinese – 社会运动的八个阶段和四种角色
- Indonesian – Menjalankan Demokrasi: Model MAP untuk Mengorganisir Gerakan Sosial
- French – Chapitres 2 à 4 du livre
- Krygyz – Игиликтүү коомдук кыймылдардын сегиз баскычы
- Portugese (Brazilian) – A Prática da Democracia: o Modelo MAP para Organizar os Movimentos Sociais (Capítulos 2 a 4)
- Russian – ЗАНИМАЯСЬ ДЕМОКРАТИЕЙ: Модель ПДД для организации общественных движений (главы 2-4)
- Spanish – Hacer la democracia (Capitulos 2-4)
Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy
Stephen Duncombe, 2007. ‘Dream’ makes the case for a progressive political strategy that embraces a new set of tools.
Engagement Organizing: The Old Art and New Science of Winning Campaigns
Matt Price, 2017. This book is written for grassroots organizers, NGOs, civil society organizations, unions, political parties, and anyone seeking to mobilize people politically.
Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
George Lakoff, 2004. In this book Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but are often unable to articulate. Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate.
- Frame the Debate: Insights from Don’t Think of an Elephant! (The Commons)
- Buy the book
- George Lakoff discussing his book
Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns.
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, 2012. Political campaigns today are won or lost in the so-called ground war—the strategic deployment of teams of staffers, volunteers, and paid part-timers who work the phones and canvass block by block, house by house, voter by voter. Ground Wars provides an in-depth ethnographic portrait of two such campaigns, New Jersey Democrat Linda Stender’s and that of Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, who both ran for Congress in 2008.
Handbook for Non-Violent Campaigns
by War Resisters’ International, 2014. Social change doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of the work of committed people striving for a world of justice and peace. The work gestates in groups or cells of activists, in discussions, in training sessions, in reflecting on previous experiences, in planning, in experimenting and in learning from others. Preparing ourselves for our work for social justice is key to its success.
- Download the book from the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict
- Empowering Nonviolence website
- War Resistors International website
- War Resistor’s League (USA) website
Heart politics Revisited
Fran Peavey, 2014. “Heart politics revisited” is part autobiography, part manifesto, and it dares to dream about a new politics with people at the center. “Heart Politics Revisited” is a new and expanded edition of the classic 1985 handbook for activists. Peavey’s approach shuns careerism, rigid ideologies, revenge and recrimination–and offers a pathway towards reconciliation and living with difference through empathy, non-violence, co-operation and person-to-person contact.
Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals
Jonathan Smucker, 2017. Hegemony How-To is a practical guide to political struggle for a generation that is deeply ambivalent about questions of power, leadership, and strategy.
Hope In The Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
Rebecca Solnit, 2004. Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.
- Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit – Book Review (The Commons)
- Buy the book
- Author’s website
- ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown’: Interview in The Guardian
Duncan Green, 2016. How Change Happens helps us to understand the events, individuals & systems that have changed the world.
How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century
Hahrie Hahn, 2014. An in-depth look at the models and strategies civic associations use for engaging activists in the Internet Age.
How To Be A Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest
Sarah Corbett, 2017. Learn how to do activism in a slow, kind and beautiful way using craft.
- Purchase the book
- Publisher’s website
- Craftivist Collective
- Sarah Corbett talks about Craftivism: video
Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, Jenny Brown, Jane Slaughter and Samantha Winslow, 2014. In less than two years, newly-elected leaders transformed the 27,000-member Chicago Teachers Union. Learn how they organized as rank-and-file members then ran for office to chart a new direction for their union.
How to Make Trouble and Influence People
Iain McIntyre, 1996. This book reveals Australia’s radical past through more than 500 tales of Indigenous resistance, convict revolts and escapes, picket line hijinks, creative direct action, street art, media pranks, squatting, etc.
- Commons Library review
- Purchase from PM Press
- Excerpt: Interview with Uncle Kevin Buzzacott
- Book review
How To Resist: Turn Protest to Power
Matthew Bolton, 2017. This book offers encouragement to would-be activists everywhere to get involved and offers seven practical principles that can help people effect change.
Chris Rose, 2011. A practical guide for creating and running successful campaigns. Written for the new campaigner and the experienced communicator alike, it explores what works (and what doesn’t) and shows how to use principles and strategy in campaigning as a new form of public politics.
How We Win: How cutting edge entrepreneurs, political visionaries, enlightened business leaders, and social media mavens can defeat the extremist threat
Farah Pandith, 2018. Farah Pandith presents a revolutionary new analysis of global extremism as well as powerful but seldom-used strategies for vanquishing it.
Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change
Cynthia Kaufman, 2003. Ideas for Action gives activists the intellectual tools to turn discontent into a plan of action. Exploring a wide range of political traditions—including Marxism, anarchism, anti-imperialism, postmodernism, feminism, critical race theory, and environmentalism—Cynthia Kaufman acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of political movements and the ideologies inspired by or generated through them.
In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business
Charlan Jeanne Nemeth, 2018. An eminent psychologist explains why dissent should be cherished, not feared. We can make better decisions by embracing dissent. Dissent forces us to question the status quo, consider more information, and engage in creative decision-making.
In the Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action
Katrina Shields, 1991. Katrina Shields guides you through the big issues that show up in activism: how to avoid burn-out, network, create stable groups, as well as how to approach listeners with bad news that they may not want to hear. The guide includes exercises that encourage discovery and growth, both for individuals and groups.
- Borrow from the Internet Archive
- Read Chapter 11: Survival tactics – How to spark without incineration (Burnout) (PDF)
- Activism Inside the Tiger’s Mouth
- The Commons Library Book Review
- Purchase book
Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence
Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward, 2008. Sooner or later, we are all called to lead in some capacity. Leadership skills are vital in corporate settings, small businesses, church or community organizations, and even within the home. Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward have recognized this need and have jointly created an in-depth, step-by-step guide for developing leadership skills.
Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements
Aziz Choudry, 2015. What do activists know? Learning Activism is designed to encourage a deeper engagement with the intellectual life of activists who organize for social, political, and ecological justice.
Learning and Mobilising for Community Development: A radical tradition of community-based education and training
Peter Westoby and Lynda Sevellar, 2012. Introduces the reader to different ways of thinking about, and organising community-based education and training within different settings. Stories from the global south and north illustrate approaches to collective learning and collective action.
Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society
Alberto Alemanno, 2017. By using our skills and talents and mobilizing others, we can bring about social and political change.
- Author’s website
- Video: Alberto Alemanno speaking about Lobbying
- Buy book
- Interview with the author
- Book Review
Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2008. Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas.
Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead
Cecile Richards, 2018. From the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a memoir about learning to lead and make change, based on a lifetime of fighting for women’s rights and social justice.
Merdeka and the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua
Jason Macleod, 2015. In Merdeka and the Morning Star, academic Jason MacLeod gives an insider’s view of the trajectory and dynamics of civil resistance in West Papua. Here, the indigenous population has staged protests, boycotts, strikes and other nonviolent actions against repressive rule. This is the first in-depth account of civilian-led insurrection in West Papua, a movement that has transitioned from guerrilla warfare to persistent nonviolent resistance.
Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation and Inequality in American Politics
Hahrie Han, 2009. Wealthy, educated, and more privileged people are more likely to participate and be represented in politics than their poorer, less educated, and less privileged counterparts. To reduce these inequalities, we need a better understanding of how the disadvantaged become motivated to participate. Moved to Action fills the current gap in this area of research by examining the commitments and pathways through which the underprivileged become engaged in politics.
Networked Change. How Progressive Campaigns are Won in the 21st Century
Jason Mogus and Tom Liacas, 2016. The Networked Change Report maps out the strategies and practices that made 47 of today’s most successful advocacy campaigns work. These campaigns achieved success because of their ability to open up to the new cultural forces which favor openness and grassroots power, but also because they framed and strategically directed this power towards concrete policy outcomes. In short, these “directed network campaigns” married old power with new.
(The) Neutrality Trap: Disrupting and Connecting for Social Change
Learn about systems disruption and constructive engagement: how to develop the relationships and change strategies that help people, systems, and societies confront their most important social challenges.
New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You
Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, 2018. Why do some leap ahead while others fall behind in our chaotic, connected age? In New Power, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms confront the biggest stories of our time–the rise of mega-platforms like Facebook and Uber; the out-of-nowhere victories of Obama and Trump; the unexpected emergence of movements like #MeToo–and reveal what’s really behind them: the rise of “new power.”
No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need
Naomi Klein, 2017. Klein explains that Trump, extreme as he is, is not an aberration but a logical extension of the worst and most dangerous trends of the past half-century. In exposing the malignant forces behind Trump’s rise, she puts forward a bold vision for a mass movement to counter rising militarism, nationalism, and corporatism in the United States and around the world.
No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age
by Jane McAlevey, 2016. Jane F. McAlevey investigates the reasons behind the recent failures of unions and lays out a way forward for the progressive movement. McAlevey, an experienced community, electoral, and labor organizer, presents a dozen case studies of unions and social movements seeking to effect change in the twenty-first century. As she analyzes each case, she identifies the reasons for the movement’s success or failure
- No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age – Author’s webite
- No Shortcuts: Organising for Power in the Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey – Book review
Brian Martin, 2020. Official channels are things like grievance procedures, ombudsmen and courts. They are supposed to resolve problems and provide justice. However, trust in official channels can be misplaced: in many cases they may give only an illusion of a solution. In Official Channels, Brian Martin tells what he has learned about formal procedures set up to deal with problems associated with whistleblowing, sexual harassment, plagiarism, Wikipedia and other issues. He says it is unwise to put too much reliance on official channels and that more emphasis should be put on developing skills, changing cultures and exploring alternatives.
Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists
Kimberley A. Bobo, Jackie Kendall, Steve Max, 2001. A comprehensive manual for grassroots organizers working for social political, environmental, and economic change at the local, state, and national level.
Organizing: People, Power, Change
Marshall Ganz, 2014. This guide aims to support you in developing your capacity for effective community organizing to build people power for change. It is originally adapted from the work of Dr. Marshall Ganz of Harvard University and resources from the Leading Change Network and the New Organizing Institute.
- Access Organizing: People, Power, Change
- Leading Change Network
- Guide to Organizing from the Leading Change Network
- Online teambuilding course from Marshall Ganz
People Power Manual
James Whelan and Jason Macleod, 2016. A guide to using people power to achieve social change. It covers topics such as organising, campaigning, and networking, as well as providing case studies of successful people-powered campaigns.
People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky
Aaron Schutz and Mike Miller, 2015. Saul Alinsky, according to Time Magazine in 1970, was a “prophet of power to the people,” someone who “has possibly antagonized more people . . . than any other living American.” People Power introduces the major organizers who adopted and modified Alinsky’s vision across the United States.
Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer
Eric Mann, 2011. An organizing manifesto for the twenty-first century, Playbook for Progressives is a must-have for the activist’s tool kit. This comprehensive guide articulates pragmatically what is required in the often mystifying and rarely explained on-the-ground practice of organizing. Here, Eric Mann distills lessons he learned from over forty years as an organizer, as well as from other organizers within the civil rights, labor, LGBT, economic justice, and environmental movements.
Pleasure activism: The Politics of Feeling Good
adrienne maree brown, 2019. How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience? How can we awaken within ourselves desires that make it impossible to settle for anything less than a fulfilling life? Author and editor adrienne maree brown finds the answer in something she calls “pleasure activism,” a politics of healing and happiness that explodes the dour myth that changing the world is just another form of work. Drawing on the black feminist tradition, she challenges us to rethink the ground rules of activism.
Power in Coalition: Strategies for Strong Unions and Social Change
Amanda Tattersall, 2010. The labor movement sees coalitions as a key tool for union revitalization and social change, but there is little analysis of what makes them successful or the factors that make them fail. Amanda Tattersall-an organizer and labor scholar-addresses this gap in the first internationally comparative study of coalitions between unions and community organizations. She argues that coalition success must be measured by two criteria: whether campaigns produce social change and whether they sustain organizational strength over time. The book contributes new, practical frameworks and insights that will help guide union and community organizers across the globe.
- Review on the Commons Library
- Five Principles for Building Powerful Coalitions, by Amanda Tattersall
- RAINBOW framework for coalition building
- Access on JSTOR
- Buy a copy
Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in Twenty First Century America
Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa, 2021. Grassroots organizing and collective action have always been fundamental to American democracy but have been burgeoning since the 2016 election, as people struggle to make their voices heard in this moment of societal upheaval. What’s the difference between a movement that wins victories for its constituents, and one that fails? What are the factors that make collective action powerful? Linking strong scholarship to a deep understanding of the needs and outlook of activists, Prisms of the People is the perfect book for our moment—for understanding what’s happening and propelling it forward.
- Book Review on the Commons Library
- Publisher’s website
- Watch the recording of the book talk with Elizabeth McKenna
- Book excerpt and review
- Listen to book talk with co-authors Elizabeth McKenna and Michelle Oyakawa
Re:Imagining Change: How to use story-based strategy to win campaigns, build movements and change the world.
Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough, 2017. Re:Imagining Change provides resources, theory, hands-on tools, and illuminating case studies for the next generation of innovative change-makers. This unique book explores how culture, media, memes, and narrative intertwine with social change strategies, and offers practical methods to amplify progressive causes in the popular culture.
- Centre for Story-Based Strategy website
- Watch the Author Talk
- Buy a copy from PM Press
- Download the E-Book
Resistance Guide: How to Sustain the Movement to Win
Paul Engler & Sophie Lasoff, 2017. Social movements of the past can teach us how to shape the future. Resistance Guide will equip you with the essential strategies to shift public opinion, change laws and decisions, and elect new leaders. This is a handbook for anyone who wants to understand what makes movements succeed, and how we can use this knowledge to fight for a better America.
Reveille for Radicals
Saul Alinksy, 1946. Legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky inspired a generation of activists and politicians with Reveille for Radicals, the original handbook for social change. Alinsky writes both practically and philosophically, never wavering from his belief that the American dream can only be achieved by an active democratic citizenship.
Roots for radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice
Edward T. Chambers, 2003. Roots for Radicals is a distillation of the Industrial Areas Foundation philosophy and its unique approach to community organizing.
Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing
Lee Staples, 2004. Written for those who want to improve their own lives or the lives of others, this thoroughly revised how-to manual presents techniques groups can use to organize successfully in pursuit of their dreams. The book combines time-tested, universal principles and methods with cutting-edge material addressing new opportunities and challenges. It covers basic concepts and best practices and offers step-by-step guidelines on things an organizer needs to know, such as how to identify issues, formulate strategies, set goals, recruit participants, and much more.
Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky, 1971. A book by community activist and writer Saul D. Alinsky about how to successfully run a movement for change.
Rules for Revolutionaries
Becky Bond and Zack Exley, 2016. Lessons from the groundbreaking grassroots campaign that helped launch a new political revolution.
Secrets of a Successful Organizer
Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner and Jane Slaughter, 2016. This book will show you how to fight back where you work and win. You’ll learn how to identify the key issues in your workplace, build campaigns to tackle them, anticipate management’s tricks and traps, and inspire your co-workers to stand together despite their fears. It’s a step-by-step guide to building power on the job.
- Publisher’s website: buy the book and view related resources
- Author Talk recording
- Trainer’s guide to go with the book
Speaking Frankly, Acting Boldly. The legacy and achievements of charity campaigning
ACEVO, 2017. Charity campaigning is not a new phenomenon. Charities have been at the forefront of the movement for social change for hundreds of years; from the campaign to end slavery to the introduction of the smoking ban. Despite this charities have been repeatedly publicly criticised for ‘meddling in politics’. This report calls for charities reclaim ‘campaigning’, ‘advocacy’ and ‘lobbying’ as positive and distinct words which are necessary to enabling charities to achieve their purpose.
Strategy and Soul:A Campaigner’s Tale of Fighting Billionaries, Corrupt Officials and Philadelphia Casinos
Daniel Hunter, 2013. This riveting David versus Goliath story is a rare first-person narrative, giving unparalled access to the behind-the-scenes of campaigns: the fervent worrying in late-night meetings, yelling matches behind church benches, and last-minute action planning outside judges’ chambers. Written by an experienced and unusually self-reflective direct action organizer, this book might be the most enjoyable way you’ve ever empowered yourself to change the world.
- Book’s website
- Strategy and Soul – How to un-do a ‘done deal’ with Strategy and Soul by Daniel Hunter,
- Moving the rock: Shifting power for sustained change,
- Strategy and Soul Insights
- Author’s website
- Buy the book
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Chip and Dan Heath, 2010. In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.
The Activists’ Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Participatory Democracy
Aidan Ricketts, 2012. A powerful guide to grassroots activism. A priceless resource for everyone ready to make a difference, environmental activist Aidan Ricketts offers a step-by-step handbook for citizens eager to start or get involved in grass-roots movements and beyond.
The Empowerment Manual
by Starhawk (2011): A guide to personal and collective empowerment. It offers a model for understanding power and how to use it effectively. The book provides tools and techniques for building community, creating change, and managing difficult situations. It also includes exercises for practicing self-empowerment.
The Gift of Anger
Arun Ghandi, 2017. Discover ten vital and extraordinary life lessons from one of the most important and influential philosophers and peace activists of the twentieth century—Mahatma Gandhi.
The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church Is Big in God’s Eyes
Rick Warren, 1995. Rick Warren shares a proven five-part strategy that will enable your church to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry, and larger through evangelism.
- Purpose Driven Campaigning: 40 key principles for Growing Social Movements
- Being Purpose Driven
- Levels of Commitment from Community to Core
- Buy the book
The Purpose of Power
Alicia Garza, 2022. An essential guide to building transformative movements to address the challenges of our time from a co-creator of Black Lives Matter.
- Buy it online
- Author’s website
- Interview with Alicia Garza
- Book Review from Washington Post
- Author interviewed on NRP radio
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
Ori Brafman, Rod A. Beckstrom, 2008. An exploration of the implications of the rise of decentralized organizations such as Grokster and Wikipedia. The book contrasts them to centralized organizations, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, using compendia of knowledge as examples.
- Decentralisation: The Starfish and the Spider Book Review on the Commons Library
- Resources for Decentralised Organising on the Commons Library
- Buy the book
- Watch: Rod Beckstrom on decentralisation
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Malcolm Gladwell, 2002. The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
The Tyranny of Structurelessness
Jo Freeman, 1972. An essay which was highly influential in the feminist and anarchist movements, arguing that informal structures in activist groups can allow informal hierarchies to develop.
- The Commons Library Review
- Author’s website
- Read the essay online
- Download from JSTOR
- Listen to the essay
A Theory of Nonviolent Action: How Civil Disobedience Works
Stellan Vinthagen, 2015. In this ground-breaking and much-needed book, Stellan Vinthagen provides the first major systematic attempt to develop a theory of nonviolent action since Gene Sharp’s seminal The Politics of Nonviolent Action in 1973.
Mark Engler and Paul Engler, 2016. From protests around climate change and immigrant rights, to Occupy, the Arab Spring, and #BlackLivesMatter, a new generation is unleashing strategic nonviolent action to shape public debate and force political change. When mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media consistently portrays them as being spontaneous and unpredictable. Yet, in this book, Mark and Paul Engler look at the hidden art behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest.
Tools for Grassroots Activists
Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers, 2016. A guide for grassroots activists, aimed at helping them to be more effective in their work. It covers a range of topics, including how to build relationships with others, how to communicate effectively, and how to organise and plan campaigns. The authors also offer advice on how to deal with difficult situations and overcome obstacles.
Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising
Starhawk, 2002. Writing from the front lines, Starhawk chronicles the global justice movement sparked by Seattle’s 1999 anti-World Trade Organization protest. A life-long activist, Starhawk is deeply involved as a direct action participant and trainer in the antiglobalization movement.
We Will Not Cancel Us and Other Dreams of Transformative Justice
adrienne maree brown, 2020. Most critiques of cancel culture come from outside the milieus that produce it, sometimes even from its targets. Brown explores the question from a Black, queer, and feminist viewpoint that gently asks, how well does this practice serve us? Does it prefigure the sort of world we want to live in? And, if it doesn’t, how do we seek accountability and redress for harm in ways that reflect our values?
- Author’s website
- Publisher’s website
- The Commons Library Review
- Video: What is Transformative Justice?
- Transformative Approaches to Conflict Resolution in the Commons Library
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future
Jonah Sachs, 2012. Trying to get your message heard? Build an iconic brand? Welcome to the battlefield. The story wars are all around us. They are the struggle to be heard in a world of media noise and clamor. Today, most brand messages and mass appeals for causes are drowned out before they even reach us. But a few consistently break through the din, using the only tool that has ever moved minds and changed behavior–great stories.
Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, 2011. Successful nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and internally peaceful democracies, which are less likely to regress into civil war.
- Publisher’s website
- Watch video
- Listen to podcast
- Borrow from the Internet Archive
- Erica Chenoweth’s website
- Recommendations from The Citizen’s Handbook
- Recommendations from the Activist Handbook
- Recommendations from Social Movement Technologies
- Recommendations from Momentum
- Recommendations from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation – From Report – Social Power: How Civil Society can play big and truly create change, p.47
- Reviews for Radicals: Book reviews and podcasts for busy organizers looking for insight and inspiration by James Mumm, Organizer and Writer
- How to inspire a young activist? A collection of books for kids and teens
- Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change Project (Books for kids and adults)
- 10 books every community organiser needs in their tool-kit