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Joel Dignam

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.

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.

This is an Uprising

Joel Dignam reviews Paul and Mark Engler’s 2016 book This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century. TIAU is an analysis of social change, how it has occurred, and how contemporary campaigners may make it occur again.

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 personalized 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 'Launching a Leadership Revolution'.

Launching a Leadership Revolution

Joel Dignam reviews Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward. Joel distills the key lessons that are relevant to social change organisations.

Cover of the book 'How Organizations Develop Activists'.

How Organizations Develop Activists

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'.

In the Tiger’s Mouth: Activism, Self-Awareness, Self Care

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.

Cover of the booklet 'Moved to Action', includes a photograph of two smiling people wearing union tshirts.

Lessons from Hahrie Han’s ‘Moved to Action’

Joel Dignam reviews Hahrie Han’s Moved to Action. Han tackles the question of what motivates political participation by people who face significant barriers. Han provides a toolkit for those seeking to empower and work with, or within, marginalised communities.

Cover of the book 'The Starfish and the Spider. Features a drawing of a starfish.

Decentralisation: The Starfish and the Spider

Joel Dignam reviews Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s ‘The Starfish and the Spider’. The book delves into ideas and language around decentralisation with useful examples from history, social movements and commerce. It also includes practical tips for putting decentralisation into practice.

Protestor holding Stop Adani sign on stage with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Stop Adani and the Suffragettes: Reflections on targets and tactics

Joel Dignam analyses two campaign moments: Stop Adani’s targeting of the ALP in the 2018 Queensland state election and the UK women’s suffrage campaign targeting of Liberals in 1905. The lesson? Target those most likely to give you what you want, and sometimes that means creating political risk for them.