!15 sensitive & serious strategy tips for heroic activists

  1. Do not be afraid of leadership. Make it strictly boundaried and accountable where it has to exist. Lead yourself and encourage others to lead themselves. If you are part of a social movement, let it be leaderful! The leaderless social movement or revolution is a myth. Balance horizontal with fluid vertical organising.
  2. Do have a strategy! Bookchin is one good source to expose the myth of ‘spontaneous revolutions’ i.e. it turns out that these revolutions are always guided by highly organised militants.
  3. What do you personally mean by global systems change(s)? Make sure you are working to a definition that is intelligible to others in your group / movement.
  4. Don’t confuse your (possibly romantic) vision of global systems change(s) with what is strategically possible.
  5. Do use narrative thinking in the important work of the creative envisioning of global systems change(s), as well as scenario planning; include the envisioning of realistic pathways as opposed to just utopian end-states, important though those visions may be for keeping us emotionally engaged with our activism.
  6. Use scenario planning in a specific, boundaried way and don’t let that detract from a realistic strategy responsive to currently unfolding events.
  7. Know the difference between Grand Strategy, campaign strategy, tactics and tactical methods. This classic book by Gene Sharp is a good place to start.
  8. Improve your propositional / logical thinking and research skills. See through media spin, and critically analyse deeper deliberate or unconscious media narratives and other narratives that serve ruling elites -including some CEO’s and bankers- but also don’t be co-opted by totalising conspiritual ‘conspiracy narratives’ that encourage you to ‘come to your own conclusions’ by rejecting logical thinking to link together disparate emotive events and facts that have been presented to you as related, for obscured and potentially right wing anti-globalist ends. Seek out anti-globalist narratives which are intelligent, scientific, and directed by social justice. Encourage others away from dodgy narratives and towards narratives of global systems change(s) to post-capitalism.
  9. Become aware of the cognitive function of narrative thinking. Become aware of when you are using narrative thinking in a strategically useful way, and when you are not. Become aware of the cultural narratives that may have co-opted and disintegrated your life and your mental health. This will be highly person- and context- specific.
  10. Beware falsely siloed and polarised, tribal and memetic narratives and identities, manipulated if not created by social media companies and Big Tech. These narratives and identities divide our capacities for collective civil disobedience. 
  11. Be less of a fairy-tale consumerist, keep getting back to Nature and mend some broken stories -this will help ground your activist strategy.
  12. If you are privileged enough, develop a more conscious activist life strategy. By ‘activist life strategy’ I refer to the unconscious or conscious strategies, tactics and practices that we use to move forward in our lives towards the strategic activist ends that we wish to see, such as achieving targets of social and environmental justice within the movements we are involved in, in a way which simultaneously meets our requirements as holistic human beings, for balanced lives in respect of our homes, families, communities and our overall well-being -including the prevention or mitigation of ‘activist burn-out’. Travel if you can.
  13. Develop an understanding of ‘narrative integration’ as potentially key to strategic goals, as well featuring in the means to achieve those goals.
  14. Be a rational heroine.
  15. Celebrate victories and anniversaries!
Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan climate activist

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