Create Your Own Effective Activist Plan

Now that you’ve learned about what makes social movements successful, the most effective tactics for campaigns, how to build strong progressive movements, and the most impactful acts of everyday activism, it’s time for you to create your effective activist plan. You may wish to complete the plan on your own, or have your organizing or activism group complete it together.


This plan could influence your activism for months, years, and maybe even decades to come. This is where you will make the move from information to action. We do not want you to walk away from this guide with only a few interesting statistics or anecdotes—we want you to create change, build progressive power, and fight for the rights and freedoms of all. Set aside some time to really dig into your plan, and grab some paper to write out your answers. You (and the world) will get out what you put in.


Step 1: Clarify your cause

Being able to clearly and concisely articulate the problem and the solution is critical to social movement success. You may need to revisit the messaging strategies section to help you plan your responses here.


The problem I want to address is:



The solution I want to advance is:



Here’s how I can effectively frame the problem and solution to an outsider who knows little about my movement:



Here’s how I can effectively frame the problem and solution to a policymaker:



Here’s how I can effectively frame the problem and solution to a business:



Step 2: Develop a deep understanding of context

Nothing inhibits efficacy like neglecting the context of your actions. If you aren’t familiar with the landscape of a particular issue, you won’t be able to determine the best route forward. Developing a deep understanding of context is an ongoing process that will take time, but it’s worth the effort. Consider the following contextual aspects and do whatever research is needed for you to grasp the big picture.


What are some other local organizations working on this issue area? If you’re unsure, you should spend some time researching or asking around.



What progress has been made on this issue so far?



Which individuals or groups stand to benefit from your activism?



Who is in a position to make impactful decisions related to your cause? These may be policymakers, government officials, businesses, board members, etc.



What sources of funding do you have?



What skills do you have within your group or organization?


Step 3: Establish your strategy

Now it’s time to establish your strategy. This is the most in-depth portion of your plan—you do not want to skimp here. Thoughtful planning will go a long way in making your activism more effective, so you may need to consult with others or revise your plan over the course of several days, weeks, or even months.

1. Identify your broad vision for an ideal world.


2. Brainstorm many different goals and objectives that could help you reach your vision. Be creative—there are no wrong ideas at this stage.


3. Which of these goals and objectives seem achievable and realistic, given the context of your issue, your local environment, and your current skills?


4. Narrow your list down into 1-3 specific, achievable, and realistic goals that are the most likely candidates for helping you reach your vision.

  • Goal #1:



  • Goal #2:



  • Goal #3:


5. Identify how you will use to measure your progress towards your goal.

  • Goal #1:



  • Goal #2:



  • Goal #3:


6. Break your goals down into 1-4 even smaller, manageable objectives. For each objective, identify your targets (who you will be influencing), your tactics (what methods you will use), and how you will measure your progress.

  • Objective #1:



  • Targets:



  • Tactics:



  • Measures of success:



  • Objective #2:



  • Targets:



  • Tactics:



  • Measures of success:



  • Objective #3:



  • Targets:



  • Tactics:



  • Measures of success:



  • Objective #4:



  • Targets:



  • Tactics:



  • Measures of success:


7. Identify the most important organizational factors you will use to bolster your movement. You may wish to revisit your organizational checklist.

  • Recruiting strategies:



  • Strategies to prevent burnout and support activists:



  • Strategies to combat oppression within our movement:


8. Identify the individual acts you will take to help boost your impact. You may wish to revisit your individual actions checklist.

  • Career choices:



  • Giving choices:



  • Lifestyle changes and small individual actions:



Step 4: Act

Now that you have a clear understanding of your cause, context, vision, strategy, goals, and tactics, it’s time to put the act in activism.


Actions will take many diverse forms, involve varying numbers of people, and garner different types of attention and response based on their unique contexts. Keep in mind how you plan to measure success and enjoy each victory, no matter how small.


My first small milestone of success will be:



Here’s how I will celebrate:



Step 5: Check back in

Set a date to check back in on your progress. Write it down in your calendar. On that date, answer the following questions:


Was your actual action different from your planned action? If so, why?



What measurable progress did you make? Did you achieve any of your goals?



Overall, what have you learned? Are there any changes you want to make to your strategy, goals, or tactics moving forward, or any skills you need to develop?




It’s okay if you find that you need a new plan after you’ve taken some action or learned more about your issue area. Paradoxically, it’s often only through creating and following through on a plan that we learn how our first plan was inadequate. Give yourself permission to explore many different tactics and try different paths to see how you can best create change.


Now that you have at least an idea of your next steps forward, let’s review the research on your impact as an activist.


NEXT SECTION: Your Impact as an Effective Activist