Principles – a Pathway to Designing Successful Actions & Campaigns

How can we stay CALM with so much beauty at stake? Earth-loving social action elevates our imaginations and guides us to live in the mythic terms of a new story.

By aligning ourselves with the Creative, not the Reactive, and by setting intentions and infusing this movement with meaning, we cultivate and amplify the change we want to see happen in the world.

A Pathway to Success 

Adapted from Beautiful Rising

Veteran creative activists have acquired a set of shortcuts for how to design successful actions and campaigns. These hard-won insights are not strict rules, but rather loose guidelines to assist you as you design your own actions.

Elements of Transformative Activism

To explore specific Elements, click on their green subject headings below.

The goal of creating a safe space is to build a movement where everyone feels fully able to express themselves without the fear of judgment or intimidation.

Whether in our own meetings or in the streets of our cities, we can advance our struggles for justice by creating safer spaces for everyone, and by challenging the norms and power dynamics that make spaces unsafe for some people.

Load More

A safe space is somewhere people come together and wrestle with the chicken-and-egg problem of how to change themselves and the world at the same time. 

Although it may be naïve to think that power will change its ways because of a sweet appeal or a considerate gesture, the philosophy of non-violence tells us to recognize the humanity in everyone and seek to connect with it.

Weaving acts of kindness into our political actions matters at a human level, and over time they add up, sowing seeds of beautiful trouble, and creating allies in the most unexpected places.


Black Lives matter protest, 2020, USA 

Load More

Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible. —Dalai Lama

Playing piano to riot police, the Ukraine, December 2013

Show people what’s at stake by using creative visuals, telling powerful personal narratives, and highlighting local costs. This may motivate them to care and to act on their concern.

An Example

Gun violence activists lined up 7,000 pairs of empty shoes on the lawn at Capitol Hill to memorialize the 7,000 children killed by gun violence in the US.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]


Load More

Make an abstract issue visceral and personally relevant.

An often overlooked aspect of campaigning is the patient work of building a skilled and committed base of support through the repetition of regular events.

Each iteration of the event has the potential to become bigger and better, growing into a reliable part of a social movement’s infrastructure and culture.

Load More

Regular events build a connection to your members and the movement you are creating.

As change-makers, we need to be ambitious, but not so unrealistically ambitious that we set ourselves up for dismaying failure. Set your sights on goals that are both significant and winnable.

Load More

Set intentions big enough to matter, small enough to achieve.

Nothing is more demoralizing to folks who have put many long hours into a fun and creative action than to hear the target of the action say: “I don’t have the power to do that for you, even if I wanted to. The guy you want is next door.”

When we plan our actions and campaigns, we have to understand our targets and what makes them tick, taking care to focus on the person with the power to meet our demands: to sign the check, to introduce the legislation, or to cancel the contract.

Load More

Correctly identify the specific person or entity with the institutional power to meet your demands. 

If you want media coverage of your event, give them a story they can’t refuse: one that makes your point very clearly, with great visuals, an unexpected twist, or a lot of humour. If a journalist already wants to cover an issue, this assist will give them the excuse or extra ammunition they need to sell their editor on it.

Find Inspiration Here:  Constructing a New Story

and Here: Launching a Media Campaign

Load More

Gain more control of the story and make the media’s job easy by providing them with print and video materials.

With nothing more than confidence, an activist can make a security guard look the other way, or convince thousands of people, including a BBC news anchor, that he is a Dow Chemical Company spokesperson. With the right attitude, much more becomes possible than you might have thought.

Know the rules, suspend the rules. A powerful person is one who has the ability to transgress, trespass, or otherwise do what they shouldn’t with complete self-assurance.

Load More

Act like you belong.

Where you choose to do an action is as important as what you choose to do. A point of intervention is a physical or conceptual place where pressure may be put to push for change.

Here are five types of Points of Intervention:

  1. Points of Production (for instance, a factory)
  2. Points of Destruction (a logging road, a small cell tower site)
  3. Points of Consumption (a retail store) Actions include consumer boycotts and storefront demonstrations.
  4. Points of Decision (a corporate headquarters, a government office) to put pressure on key decision-makers
  5. Points of Assumption (a foundational narrative or a place of symbolic importance).

Point-of-assumption actions can take many different forms, such as exposing hypocrisy, reframing the issue, amplifying the voices of previously silenced characters in the story, or offering an alternative vision. If the basic assumptions and the story being told about an issue can be exposed as contrary to people’s lived experience or core values, entire belief systems can be shifted. 

Addressing Points of Assumption and Wireless Tech

The story we are being told is we need more and more wireless infrastructure to provide us with faster data. The lived experience is that more and more people are getting ill as a result of  24-7, involuntary exposure to this infrastructure.  

Read the stories of some of those harmed by wireless technology here: We Are The Evidence

Intervention at the point of decision. Image by Grassy Narrows Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek

Load More

Decide where you want to focus your action and attention.

Singing simple songs together is a great way to bring unity, emotion, and fun to an action. Or invite a choir to sing.

For inspiration, visit our Music Toolkit Here

Drums, poetry, or pot-banging  — cacerolazo – what other ways can you raise noise for safe tech?

In Montreal, thousands of demonstrators bang pots and pans in response to an anti-protest law, May 2012

Load More

From a noisy, chaotic free-for-all to a coordinated sonic experience – sound has power.

Cacerolazo (noise-making protest) in Santiago, Chile, 2011

Actions speak louder than words. Protests should have an obvious logic to the outside eye. Action logic creates powerful stories that move hearts and change minds.

An Example

For 738 days between December 1997 and December 1999, Julia “Butterfly” Hill, lived in a 180-foot (55 m)-tall, roughly 1500-year-old California redwood tree, affectionately known as Luna, to prevent Pacific Lumber Company loggers from cutting it down.

Julia Butterfly Hill and Luna, 1998, California.

Load More

Create actions that speak for themselves and make immediate, natural sense to onlookers.

In a perfect demonstration of “action logic,” a group of mixed-race students in Virginia sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in 1961. Photo by Virgina Museum of History and Culture

Protest can be fun! As attributed to Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”…

Black Lives Matter activists dance the electric slide in Stockton, California, 2020. Photo: Twitter@shumensa13

Load More

Infuse your process with pleasure, creativity and delight.

WERK for Peace holds a dance party outside the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to protest a Republican health care bill, 2017.

If you’re organizing a participatory art piece, a mass action, or a viral campaign, you don’t need to script it all out — even if you could. All you need are a few simple rules that participants can sign on to. If you hit on the right rules, they can lead to a surprisingly robust, effective, and beautiful happening.

Flash mobs operate by the same logic. The call for a 2008 flash mob pillow fight on Wall Street consisted of two rules: Bring a pillow, and don’t hit anybody who doesn’t also have a pillow. Enough said!

A more politically focused mass street action, however, often needs a stronger framework. The nature of your action, its complexity, and the degree of risk will determine the exact rules required.

Wall Street Pillow Fight Flash Mob, 2008~ New York City

Load More

Sept 17. Wall Street. Bring tent.  Adbusters

Electromagnetic radiation cannot be seen by the naked eye, yet causes great harm. If you can’t see it, you can’t change it, so the first task of an activist is often to make the invisible visible. 

While dreaming up ways to bring that harm into public view, draw on these examples:

  • The makers of the movie Gasland, lit some Pennsylvania tap water on fire, powerfully refuting years of industry denial with a single powerful visual demonstration.
  • Forest activists filled several city intersections with the stumps of cut-down trees.
  •  When Kodak was caught discharging toxins from its manufacturing plant in upstate New York, Greenpeace created a public fountain that brought the effluent from the pipe — normally out of site below the water surface — cascading into public view.

    Iranian environmental activists and artists planted these stumps on a street in the city of Kerman to protest against deforestation.

Load More

Exposing hidden problems is an essential step towards resolving them.

Way too often, activism is like a drum circle. For the people involved in the creation of an action the experience can be rewarding and transformative. Viewed from the outside, it can be painfully unimaginative or even annoying.

One way to reach your audience is to entice them to become participants by expanding the creative part of the action to include ways for observers to meaningfully involve themselves. Whatever the nature of your action, it’s worth looking for ways to make passersby feel that it’s more about them than about you. No matter how good a drummer you are.

Protest Against Divisiveness ~Times Square, NYC – June 2019

Load More

Don’t ask people to watch you have fun — get them involved!

If you’re going to challenge an injustice, be ready with your alternative. Never let your opponent score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

The best solution to corporate-owned small cells and a wireless infrastructure is community-owned fiber optics connected directly to each premise. (Safe G ™ instead of 5G.)

Learn more here: Connected Communities

Load More

The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

In a media-saturated world, the audience you are playing to is rarely the one witnessing your action but the one you’ll reach through mass and social media. Design your action with them in mind.

Load More

Your key audience is not in the room. 

If you design your action well, you can force your target into a situation where they have no good options: where they’re “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.” This is known as a decision dilemma.

Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March presented the British authorities with a classic decision dilemma: either beat up and arrest Gandhi and his supporters and turn them into martyrs for the movement, or let them march to the sea in open defiance of British authority and the hated Salt Act.

Many actions with concrete goals (such as a blockade or a sit-in) require a decision dilemma in order to be successful. A sit-in at a corporate HQ, for instance, should leave your target with only two options, if they are not willing to meet your demands:

1) Evict your forcibly and face the negative public attention this would cause, or

2) Wait you out, allowing you to gather more attention and support while business as usual grinds to a halt.

When done skillfully, decision dilemmas can help win major concessions from powerful targets.

Potential Risks

In a repressive environment, or against a powerful target, you need to be sure that your action actually puts them in a decision dilemma, or you may just put yourself at serious risk.

Protest outsideTelstra in Melbourne, Australia,| June 2019

Load More

Out of the frying pan and into the fire….

The powers-that-be usually go to great lengths to frame their agenda in a way that is favorable to their interests.

Reframing is a process of replacing an old story with a new one. It is often a critical step to winning a campaign and making real change.

An Example

Fossil fuel-backed scientists call themselves “climate skeptics”.

Rather than going down the dead-end road of accusing them of lying, climate activists have been able to frame these voices as marginal by using analogies like “tobacco science” and labeling them “climate deniers.” A denier (as opposed to a liar) makes an active choice to refute a difficult truth that society has already accepted.

White Coasts for Black Lives ~Med Students protest Police Brutality

Load More

Redefine the terms of the debate.

Seek shared ground with those who have a different point of view and communicate common values in a language that holds meaning for large numbers of people.

Learn More Here: Finding Common Ground

Load More

Recognize yourself in another.  —Eckhart Tolle

Successful movement-building hinges on being able to see a society in terms of specific blocs or networks, some of which are institutions (unions, churches, schools), others of which are less visible or cohesive, like youth subcultures or demographic groupings. Determine the social blocs at play on a given issue, and work to shift them closer to your position.

Image credit: Joshua Kahn Russell

An Example

In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a major driver of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, conducted a “spectrum-of-allies style” analysis. They determined that they had a lot of passive allies who were students in the North: these students were sympathetic, but had no entry point into the movement.

To shift these allies from “passive” to “active,” SNCC sent buses north to bring folks down to participate in the struggle under the banner “Freedom Summer.” Students came in droves, and many were deeply radicalized in the process.

Many wrote letters home to their parents, who suddenly had a personal connection to the struggle. This triggered another shift: their families became passive allies, often bringing their workplaces and social networks with them. The students, meanwhile, went back to school in the fall and proceeded to organize their campuses. More shifts. The result: a profound transformation of the political landscape of the U.S.

Load More

Build alliances and expand your circle of support.

photo: Getty Images

A picture is worth a thousand words.

In today’s image-driven news cycle and mass media culture, this is truer than ever. Effective creative campaigns must be image-driven, too. In other words, show, don’t tell. And there are a lot of ways to do it:

  • Lead with story, not facts. Facts rarely speak for themselves
  • Use powerful metaphors
  • Speak with actions. A well-designed action explains itself, and ideally offers multiple ways into the issue. You want your audience to reach their own conclusion, rather than feeling like they are being told what to think.

Load More

Example moves the world more than doctrine. Henry Miller

Message discipline is the art of communicating what you set out to communicate, clearly, memorably, and consistently.

Everything from your talking points for an interview (Click Here for some Talking Points for 5G) to the slogans on your banner (Click Here for some Slogans) to the visuals you create for an event (Click Here for some Visuals) should all align to support your core message.


In interviews: Spokesfolks should practice the ABC’s: Acknowledge the question; Build a bridge from the question to your talking points; and Communicate your message.

For example:

  “That’s a great question,” or “I’m glad you asked that.”

B     “I think the important issue is . . ” or “The real question is . . ”

C     Insert your clear, concise, powerfully worded message.

At events:

Everything your audience sees or hears at your action is inevitably a part of your message, so pay attention to details. What are your spokesfolks wearing? Are they talking or texting on cell phones? A bit of mindfulness as your event unfolds can ensure the impact you desire.

New York Police Department communicating a very clear message, 2020

Load More

Communicate exactly what we want our audience to know.

Sanitation workers on strike in 1968, Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Richard Copley

From graffiti, to stencils, to paper plates, to bed sheets, to costumes, to using your bodies, how can you include visuals in your action?

For Example

At the 2020 i Light Marina Bay Festival in Singapore, artists crocheted giant Sea Urchins, nearly as tall as 4-story building – and displayed them across the city to evoke wonder and promote sustainability.

Load More

The right balance of art and politics can move both hearts and minds.

A 5G protester in Bern, Switzerland, in 2019 wears a foil outfit,.Photo: Fabrice Coffrini AFP, Getty Images

Facts alone are seldom enough to move public opinion. We are narrative beings that grasp the world through stories. People respond to a story not because it is true, but because they find it meaningful.

Thinking narratively means building our campaign out of the core building blocks that make for a good story, things like:


  • What is the problem or conflict we are addressing? How is it framed, and what does that frame leave out?


  • Who are “we”? Who are the other characters in the story?


  • What powerful images can help convey the story? Is there a metaphor or analogy that could describe the issue?


  • What is our vision of resolution to the conflict?


  • Every story is built on unstated assumptions. Sometimes the best way to challenge a competing story is to expose and challenge its unstated assumptions.

Learn more about challenging the dominant narrative around wireless technology and Constructing a New Story here.

Load More

Sometimes the best response to a powerful adversary is a powerful story.

Training in social movements spans a diverse spectrum of activities and formats. It may include everything from deep political education work; to strategic planning, analysis, and theory development; to specific skill and capacity building sessions, including: nonviolent action, leadership and team development, logistics exploration, cultural and arts work, media skills development, and more.

Depending on the campaign’s goals, needs, and organizational resources, a training session could be a 45-minute action prep for 300 people prior to a mass action, or a multi-day strategic planning event with a core group to frame a new campaign.

The best training sessions— especially for campaigns dedicated to transformational work — are experiential.

War Resisters International has compiled a host of valuable training ideas on their site Empowering Nonviolence.

An Example – The US Civil Rights Movement

Below is a potent excerpt on the power of Training from an interview done by Krista Tippett of On Being Studios with Democratic congressional representative and key civil rights activist John Lewis.

Listen to or read the full transcript here.

Study Non-Violence

“Long before any sit-in, any march, long before the freedom rides, or the march from Selma to Montgomery, any organized campaign that took place, we studied. We studied what Gandhi attempted to do in South Africa, what he accomplished in India. We studied Thoreau and civil disobedience. We studied the great religions of the world.”

Role-playing as Preparation, Cultivate Internal Discipline

“We went through the motion of someone harassing you, calling you out of your name, pulling you out of your seat, pulling your chair from under you, someone kicking you or pretending to spit on you. Sometimes we did pour cold water on someone, never hot — but we went through the motion.

This was drama because we wanted to feel like they were in the actual situation, that this could happen. And we would tell people, whether young men or young women, that if you’ve been beaten, try to protect the most sensitive part of your body. Roll up, cover your head and look out for each other. So when the time came, we were ready. We were prepared.”

Honour Human Dignity

“We did go through the motion, the drama, of saying that if someone kicks you, spits on you, pulls you off the lunch counter stool, continue to make eye contact. Continue to give the impression, yes, you may beat me, but I’m human.”

Become Non-Violence

“Be friendly, try to smile, and just stay nonviolent. First of all, you have to grow. It’s just not something that is natural. You have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.” 


“We, from time to time, would discuss if you see someone attacking you, beating you, spitting on you, you have to think of that person, you know, years ago that person was an innocent child, innocent little baby. And so what happened? Something go wrong? Did the environment? Did someone teach that person to hate, to abuse others? So you try to appeal to the goodness of every human being and you don’t give up. You never give up on anyone.”

John Lewis. Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New York Times. Photo from the Nashville Police Department.

Load More

Training is critical to achieving real change. It allows us to develop key components that will lead to our success:  personal growth, effective planning, nonviolence, and unity.

Training session during the Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964.

Humour has been used throughout history to give hope to the subjugated, rile oppressors, and encourage resistance.

Sigmund Freud identified three kinds of humourbody humourmind humour, and spirit humour. All three can be used to undermine power and buoy the spirits of the oppressed.

1. Bodies are funny because they can be uncontrollable. Pictures of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe tripping went viral on the internet, and his futile efforts to control the situation by demanding photographers delete images that had already spread worldwide only fueled the hilarity.

2. Mind humour is useful when freedom of speech is restricted, or direct confrontation with authority is made illegal. Satire, irony, wordplay, puns, and double entendre can communicate at multiple levels, subtly signalling an insult or joke to one audience but being difficult to pin down as offensive or illegal (and thus difficult to punish) by those in power. The subversive power of such forms of humour was on full display in a recent decision by Chinese officials to ban puns and wordplay in news media.

3. Spirit humour refers to our joy in seeing an underdog triumph, particularly if they use the oppressor’s own weapon against them. In Washington DC a group of black and brown trans and queer people called Laughing Color has learned the art of stand up. Their goal is to infiltrate the world of stand up – whose material often offends them – by sharing comedy that affirms who they are.

Figures like the trickster, the fool, or the clown can also be used to flip oppression simply by playfully refusing its mechanisms of control and expressing ideas others are afraid to voice.

The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) is a great contemporary example of trickster humour in action. CIRCA has shown up at protest marches throughout Europe to undermine the macho posturing of police (as well as some of the more aggro protesters) and generally add a carnivalesque, anti-authoritarian atmosphere. At an anti-war protest at a UK army recruitment office, for example, CIRCA members used feather dusters to “clean” soldiers and police cars, and clever mimicry to parrot officers’ walks and gestures, leaving even the officers struggling not to laugh.

Finally, we’re more likely to remember something — and share it — if it makes us laugh. We are hardwired to be more inclined to post something funny on social media than something newsy and informative. 

Here is a fun 5G Commercial Parody by TacoTruck you can share today.


Load More

Humour can nourish resistance, showing that despite bitter odds, the spirit is unbreakable.

Rituals can connect us to the deepest truths of why politics matters.

A ritual harnessed to a political purpose may help people recommit to a cause, find courage and shared meaning, voice dissent, and build trust.

As anyone who has participated in a candlelight vigil will know, sometimes the act of quietly bearing witness to an injustice in the presence of others can carry more moral force than railing against it. A ritual provides a natural script and symbolism. Even complete strangers naturally fall into a rhythm around it. 

Imbuing actions with the pacing and simplicity of ritual increases their power.

An Example

Imagine two characters on the street: a military general and a politician, slowly tossing a huge sack of money back and forth across a wide expanse. In between, a regular Joe, sitting forlornly, watches the sack sail back and forth. Nearby, a spokesperson hands out a fact sheet that tells the rest of the story. Often this kind of nonverbal, ritual-like performance, which repeats a simple but visually arresting motion, can be more powerful and effective than a full-length skit crammed with facts and figures. 

Load More

Harness the symbolic power of ritual to give actions greater resonance and depth.

Defying a ban to gather, Hong Kong protesters make a symbolic hand gesture at a vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre(Kin Cheung/AP- Sept 2020)

Build a culture where everyone feels invited to step up and take initiative.

This means stepping up in ways that make space for others to step up. “Stepping up” can mean actively listening to and learning from others. It can mean taking time to recognize and value many different forms of leadership in the group. And it can mean looking for and nurturing leadership potential in others, who may not feel entitled to step forward uninvited or unsupported.

Load More

The more initiative we each take, the greater our collective capacity will be.