A short course on peaceful but determined activism
- Get hold of any and all necessary id.
- Register to vote and vote.
- Encourage others to register to vote on grounds of gaining representation and making a valued contribution, instead of along party lines.
- Encourage the same people to actually vote once they’ve registered.
- Go beyond reaching out to friends or people online by letting an elected representative know what you want through emailing them or through social media.
- Provide representatives with short details of what you are concerned about. It helps to be calm, to offer good evidence to support your case and to clearly state what you would like done about your concern.
- Keep the heart and politics tucked away; and wear the issues on your sleeve.
- With emails, where relevant copy your concerns to local, regional, national and international levels of representation.
- Become an ‘on the ground’ canvasser for a worthwhile party or issue.
- Support credible and consistent activist groups, which lobby politicians about your concerns.
- Get elected and become a representative.
- Act often and across a range of issues. Fifteen minutes of activism every day over a year stacks up to a whole lot more than one day a year at a demonstration.
Posting and Sharing
- Choose a social media platform/s you’re comfortable with. E.g. for some Twitter can be more argumentative than other platforms, because of the short posts and media attention.
- Research and check topics on sites which are consistent - so you can at least adjust for bias.
- Select memes and posts which have a meaningful message.
- Build a meme bank on social media and/ or a desktop folder with ready to share infographics, posters, motivational posters and cartoons. This makes it easy to mix your replies and to avoid typing answers to the same questions over and again.
- Avoid time spent on countering opposing posts.
- Share posts with reliable information, which offer humour, key facts and meaningful quotes.
- Share pictures of activists being constructive and/ or entertaining.
- You can make feeds less argumentative while raising awareness by including posts and memes about consensus issues, e.g. about saving wildlife or tax evasion.
- Share posts and ideas mapping practical suggestions on how people can act peacefully and get results.
- Emphasise key points. In passing people often only consider a maximum of three points at a time, so pensions, childcare, child poverty, and that’s often the most to cover in one meme or post. Or three points within one of those topics.
- Likes are free, so let others know you value their contributions.
- Find images to accompany your posts. Numerous sites now offer good quality, free to use images - e.g. Unsplash, Wikimedia or Pixabay.
Topics Trolls Do Not Want Us to Talk About
One of the favourite tricks of trolls is to post and comment on threads about their own preferred topics, while ignoring those posted on a wider variety of topics. The troll can then stir away on a familiar theme and both aggravate and bore the majority of those using a forum or group. One easy answer lies in starting or commenting on threads that don’t constantly cover the same ground.
Trolls tend to avoid seeking solutions or kicking around ideas. Unsurprisingly, they are going to struggle if you’re discussing change and how to make change actually happen. Topics extremist trolls really don’t like include the following:
- Universal healthcare.
- Preventative healthcare.
- Lacking short, medium or long-term planning.
- Corporate tax avoidance.
- Dealing with debt realistically.
- Delivering on renewable energy’s successes.
- Discouraging aggressive behaviour.
- Fair and open elections based on reasoned debate.
- Preventing hate crime.
Memes are a valuable way to gain reach and to link on to more substantial content. Messages lose their bite and memes become tiresome if you simply churn out slogans or rely on repetition. However, when memes are on topic, clear and get an immediate reaction they can connect to far more people than most lengthier or wordy content. When looking for good memes or thinking them up the following considerations might be worth considering:
- A picture that puts people on the spot in terms of encouraging them to step into other people’s shoes/ see the other side of an argument beats text almost every time.
- Crisp, colourful images are the basis of most posts that will get high views and that carries over into the use of effects on images.
- Don’t spoil a good image by posting a gallery or multiple thumbnails.
- Less is more with text both in terms of sticking to covering one to three points and visual clarity.
- Placing messages on a picture is often an improvement on sticking a text on as a footer, but only if the text stands out on the picture without drawing all the attention away from the picture.
- Steer clear of angry, confrontational messages and pictures. Present hard facts, information and humour to build community rather than dig trenches.
- While care is needed to avoid offence, your sense of humour, a touch of parody or even an old joke retold can get some of the highest reads and interactions online.
- And #tag your posts.
Surfaces carry messages and a certain amount of badging and ‘brand’ building contributes to the fun side of campaigning as well as putting information across. There are situations when a full costume might be just the thing, e.g. during some flash performances, but for the most part less is more. A badge on a lapel, a phone cover and a sticker on a car is probably enough on an everyday basis.
- Wear scarves, badges, temporary tattoos or t-shirts in support of your concerns and carrying relevant messages.
- Phone cases, tablets, cars and motorbikes are among the devices which can convey messages, including visual display and sound.
- Make stuff. For some that's sawing out giant wooden signs for others it’s baking iced cakes and handing them round.
- Chalk boards are great for leaving messages around for visitors and for practicing chalk art. Chalk art and other types of flash art like water on a dry wall need to be on your own/ permitted surfaces.
- Paper art can be left in plenty of places without littering. For example, a pamphlet in a book you're passing round, an origami design left on a table or a decorative bookmark handed out with something else.
- Make your own fridge magnets and signs using magnetic paper.
A far from exhaustive list of events or performances, which can carry messages either as a central theme or as a backdrop. For example, you could have a day of face painting or decorating nails with your message just on the tickets or you could also theme the decorations to invite comment on your chosen issues and proposed solutions:
- Bake Off
- Book Sale
- Cake Sale
- Greetings Cards
- Coffee Morning
- Collaborative Art
- Concert or Recital
- Domino/ Book Drop
- Face or Nail Painting
- Fashion Show
- Fun Run or Walk
- Halloween Party
- Judo Demonstration
- Midnight Movies
- Obstacle Course
- Seasonal Fair
One well-established way to put across a message while avoiding confrontation is to create a festival or family atmosphere. Marches, meetings and rallies which cater for kids, involve shared activities and parade colourful banners immediately reduce tension. Options include:
- Batches of activists wearing similarly coloured or styled clothing or accessories. Not on the level of a uniform, but a dash of colour, a badge or a garment, which suggests a strand of unity running through the group.
- Graffiti or sig petition/ idea walls made from card or demonstrators wearing white t-shirts.
- Chalking-out and playing street/ traditional games like hopscotch.
- Sharing sets of differently coloured glow-sticks to spell out a message at night.
- Applying temporary water-based tattoos or large vegetable stamps.
- Traditional challenges or ordeals/ sponsored activities.
- Live recording and uploading or streaming a demonstration as it happens through sketches or sketch and photo-collage.
- Carrying out f2f Like Attacks where some form of ‘gift’; qualifying statement identifying common ground; or a positive performance is put to political opponents.
Art and Performance
We can all become performance artists through using shared performances to provide strong focal points for issue-based activism. Examples of possible approaches might include:
- Asking everyone to complete a postcard commenting on the topic at hand and then displaying them.
- Giving out several colours of card and displaying the results as a rainbow or such like.
- Inviting everyone to bring along a message or sketch on a card.
- Setting-out a giant chalk spider diagram or infographic about an issue.
- Displaying messages which need simple decoding.
- Showing an over-sized, high correction QR code at a resolution that reads straight-off TV screens.
- Placing a QR code inside or on either side of a campaign logo.
- Using seasonal weather to form visual logos and messages, including leaves in autumn and water on dry, sunny walls.
- Preparing and sharing food related to or decorated to support an issue.
- Setting-up flash art, music, dance or poetry appearances and/ or slams.
- There are many options for scaling up a fairly standard meetup and chat or a larger gathering including:
- Arranging blog carnivals related to particular activities and issues.
- Arranging dynamic performances with the potential to go viral in terms of content and social media topicality.
- Co-ordinating online and offline events to focus on highlights, e.g. a dramatic conclusion to a march.
- Holding online competitions with ‘prizes’ related to the event that can be worn at meetups or demonstrations.
- Holding short online discussion forums with deadlines, e.g. 100 posts or 24 hours.
- Organising performances with online and offline components.
- Screening examples of the full range of a good cause's activities at a meetup or demonstration.
- Revealing a surprise guest.
- Introducing options for participation at every opportunity.
Games and Activism
Looking at events and activities in terms of gameplay is another easy route to fostering community-driven activism. This includes emphasising participation while delivering issue-related information as messages within game, quiz and search activities.
- Options available to those with a PC and smartphone include:
- Hosting events with teams and groups of teams to enable networking and shared engagement.
- Placing community and issue-focused events and content within the home and local community.
- Offering collections of virtual objects such as badges, wallpapers and apps during games or search activities to form personal accounts and galleries of participation.
- Building a campaign around consensus through activities that promote fun and consensus over confrontation.
- Blending demonstrations into virtual and local community network activities.
- Using personal area networks, (e.g. Bluetooth/ messaging apps/ QR codes), to turn activists into mobile content distributors.
- Trying out augmenting reality apps that are able to pull interactive presentations out into physical space.
Explaining Tricky Ideas
People who like and are familiar with detailed arguments and technical information are entirely good with keeping explanations as bite-sized, accessible and concise as possible. So you won’t lose views or readers as a result of boiling things down to the essentials and using accessible presentation.
- Complexity is not a fixed point and the gap between your audience’s current understanding and the understanding you wish to put across is the key factor. If the gap in understanding is considerable the more straightforward and step- by-step your explanations the better.
- The content and the messages it puts across have to be crisp and engaging. Body language and lots of encouragement won’t serve much purpose if the message is not getting across.
- Voice, dress and other forms of expression on many levels are best thought of from the likely audience’s point of view rather than on relying on a standard code. With anything a bit complicated it’s all the more important to keep the audience’s attention consistently on your line of argument.
- If things get technical consider what is necessary to put across understanding and, where included, state what acronyms mean and define terms.
- Diagrams, visualisations, charts and visual notes are vital, as we take information in both visually and semantically, interpreting it through both channels. Without visual explanation you end up ‘talking’ with one ‘voice’ instead of the two readily available.
- Your body language will be just fine if you are encouraging, expressing to the whole audience and balanced between relative calm and enthusiasm.
- An authentic, ‘this is how I am’, presentation usually adds to the interest and engagement of your audience. Trying to adopt a role or personae of some kind is offering only a stock model and involves having to think on two levels while presenting - instead of just getting on with the presentation itself.
- Metaphors, analogies and anecdotes which serve as examples can be good options for covering a tricky point.
- If you’re anxious about how you will present give yourself realistic expectations and use music, reading, whatever relaxes you, to take breaks from overthinking your presentation. If your preparation is good, (in terms of content and any visuals or props you plan to use), you are likely to be much less nervous in the first place and on the occasion.
Changing understandings and building mutual understandings calls for learning that enables change.