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We offer here a collection of helpful words: strategic ideas, words of encouragement, wisdom, etc., in hopes that it will be useful and empowering. This is only the beginning - please look again at this page for updates.

Table of Contents

ENCOURAGING WORDS

It won't happen quickly - it takes a lot of persistance. But very often persistence pays off with success.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead, well-known anthropologist

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident." -- Schopenhauer, German philosopher

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." -- Gandhi

"It always starts with a small group of committed people. They raise their feeble voice. The media ignore them, the politicians laugh at them ("a tiny, marginal and vociferous group"), the respectable parties and the established old organizations crinkle their noses and distance themselves from their "radical slogans." But slowly they start to have an impact. People leave the respectable (meaning linked to the establishment) organizations and join the militant groups.

This compels the leaders of the mainstream organizations to radicalize their slogans and to join the wave. The message spreads throughout the parties. Politicians who want to be reelected adopt the new slogans. "Important" journalists, serving as weathercocks, smell the change and adapt themselves in time to the new winds." -- Uri Avnery, Israeli activist opposed to the oppression of the Palestinians, 2/02

Hope and despair are human notions - they don't exist in nature. They are projections into the future, and they don't exist when one is totally living in the present moment. So it's enough to simply do one's work and be the best you can be. In moving beyond hope and despair, one also moves beyond fear.

STRATEGIES

Chris Rose (London), Former Strategic Advisor to Greenpeace International has written extensively about Campaign Strategies

A local strategy may not accomplish much nationally at first, but if it's good and effective locally, it can serve as a model and inspire others to do it on a larger scale.

Our thinking needs to be dramatic - unexpected - outside the box. That is what the Seattle protests, the Zapatistas, and the WTC attackers have done so successfully. We need to use the element of surprise ourselves - that can be a creative new tactic, a surprisingly rapid response, or a suddenly increased response.

Activists need to be more professional - it makes us more credible to the public. Improve our scruffy attire, sloppily painted signs, and naive slogans (But we also shouldn't be too slick.)

People already know "something's wrong;" they need to hear that someone's working to fix it, and that they can help. Start with an issue that has a good chance of success, that people really care about (e.g. police brutality), and where opposition is vulnerable, and where coalitions are possible. Then move on to others later.

Understand and use the Tipping Point concept. Many things grow as undercurrents with little visible response, and actions seem to be futile. But if one keeps feeding energy in, it can reach a critical point and suddenly turn in the desired direction, seemingly out of nowhere.

Increase networking with other local groups around the state, around the country, and around the world. There are good, thinking people everywhere. Share good materials, op ed samples, etc.

BUILD BRIDGES - find common ground and form a coalition with others, maybe even those with whom we don't agree on other issues. We can soften those who believe differently or are uncertain, by establishing rapport - hearing their fears, and finding points of agreement. We should also make our connections with other groups solid by showing up at their meetings, helping them hand out flyers, etc.

THE CONDITIONAL COMMITMENT STRATEGY: There are many schemes based on the idea that "if half the people only did xxx it would be fantastic." But it often doesn't happen, because few are willing to stick their necks out. A way around this is by means of a conditional commitment - ask people to make a firm commitment to do or pay something, but only if a certain number also do it. That's much easier to agree to. Then the organizers only have to reach that critical number to trigger those commitments and they're on their way.

Multipronged actions have a synergistic effect: demonstrations + op eds/letters + legal action all happening together will get results much better than would be possible with a single action.

Keep them busy - follow them around - be in their face at every move, raise their cost of what they're doing, maybe to the point where it's not worth it anymore and they drop that approach.

Practice Jiu-Jitsu or Aikido - use your opponent's own energy and help him along - just redirect it a bit so he misses the mark and maybe falls on his face.

Give the right tools to the powerful, to make it easier for them to make better choices.

Increasing public awareness is essential. One way is to encourage people to join a delegation to a critical area to see for themselves and report back to their friends/church groups (a la Witness for Peace and Global Exchange)

Create buzz phrases and relentlessly insert them into the media (via op eds, letters, call in shows, etc.). The goal is to repeat them so much that they fall into common usage. For instance, "Right to Life" sounds much better than "Anti-abortion", and was a brilliant move by the antiabortionists. We need to invent such phrases that will catch on, like "War is Stupid" (and a lousy way to spend half your tax money). Maybe invent our own or get good phrases from national groups or writers. Get them going here, and maybe they'll get picked up and get used elsewhere as well.

Take advantage of our strengths - numbers, truth, openness, the goodness of our cause.

Work on leverage points - vulnerable spots, where a small effort can tip the balance.

Try using "relentless pressure" - hammer on one theme rather than trying to push everywhere at once:

  • Pick an issue/action with a good chance of success, where opposition is vulnerable.
  • One that appeals to many potential coalition partners and has general public appeal
  • Related aspects of the issue will also be helped, since they are usually interconnected

The Media

Create new ways for the public to grasp what's going on. Two examples:

  1. Animate world trends - deforestation, loss of indigenous cultures, world poverty, etc. Show not just graphs but also computer-generated animation superimposed on a map of a country or the globe, showing the effect over time.
  2. Add sound - for instance, a graph of exponential growth doesn't come across too well, and an animated progression along the graph does better, but adding sound whose pitch follows the growth parameter could be unforgettable, especially if the intensity increased as well.

WISDOM

Twelve Principles of Spiritual Leadership

The following is adapted from a presentation given by Will Keepin at Schumacher College, Totnes, England, July 17, 1997. Keepin, who has a Ph.D. in physics, is president of the Satyana Institute (formerly Shavano Institute) in Boulder, Colorado, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate spiritual principles and practices into social change leadership. He leads training workshops for Satyana's programs in Leading with Spirit and Gender Reconciliation, and has published over 30 articles. Keepin is on the adjunct faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies.

In the course of working with social-change advocates and ecological activists, we have developed a provisional set of "principles of spiritual leadership." These are neither definitive nor authoritative principles, but rather the beginning of a collective inquiry into how we can apply spiritual teachings in social change work.

First  The first principle is that the motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. This is a major challenge for the environmental movement, for example. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil. The Dalai Lama says, "A positive future can never emerge from the mind of anger and despair."

Second  The second principle is a classical spiritual tenet, though challenging to practice. It is the principle of nonattachment to outcome. To the extent that we are attached to the results of our work, we rise and fall with our success and failures, which is a path to burnout. Failures are inevitable, and successes are not the deepest purpose of our work. This requires a deepening of faith in the intrinsic value of our work beyond the concrete results. To the extent that our actions are rooted in pure intention, they have a reverberation far beyond the concrete results of the actions themselves. As Gandhi emphasized, "the victory is in the doing," not the outcome.

In our workshops, we have had several environmental leaders react strongly to this principle. As one lawyer put it, "How can I possibly go into court and not be attached to the outcome? You bet I care who wins and who loses! If I am not attached to the outcome, I'll just get bulldozed!" His words underscore the poignant challenge of implementing these principles in practice. Yet he keeps coming back to our retreats, and he actively seeks ways to love his adversaries. He acknowledged that, although it is difficult to love some of his adversaries, one way he can do it is to love them for creating the opportunity for him to become a strong voice for truth and protection of the natural environment.

Third  The third principle is that your integrity is your protection. The idea here is that if your work has integrity, that will tend to protect you from negative circumstances. For example, there are practices for making yourself invisible to the negative energy that comes toward you in adversarial situations. It's a kind of psychic aikido, where you internally step out of the way of negative energy, and you make yourself energetically transparent so it passes right through you. But this only works if your work is rooted in integrity.

Fourth  The fourth principle is related: the need for unified integrity in both means and ends. Integrity in means cultivates integrity in the fruit of one's work; you cannot achieve a noble goal using ignoble means. Some participants in our workshops engage regularly in political debates, testimony, and hearings. We have them experimenting with consciousness techniques for transmuting challenging energy into compassion and love - right there in the hearing room. Early indications are that this is helpful in defusing charged psychological situations, and reducing tension in heated debates.

Fifth  The fifth principle is don't demonize your adversaries. People respond to arrogance with their own arrogance, which leads to polarization. The ideal is to constantly entertain alternative points of view so that you move from arrogance to inquiry, and you then have no need to demonize your opponents. This is hard to do, as we often feel very certain about what we think we know, and the injustices we see. As John Stuart Mill said, "In all forms of human debate, both parties tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny." Going into an adversarial situation, we can be aware of the correctness of what we are affirming, but there is usually a kernel of truth - however small - in what is being affirmed by our opponent. We need to be especially mindful about what we deny, because this is often where our blind spots will be.

Sixth  The sixth principle is to love thy enemy. Or if you can't do that, at least have compassion for them. This means moving from an "us-them" consciousness to a "we" consciousness. It means recognizing that I am the logger: when I write these principles of spiritual activism and publish them in this newsletter, I give the command to the logger to fell the trees, to produce the pulp, to produce this paper so that I can publish these spiritual principles about how best to save the trees. It is seeing the full circle of our interconnected complicity, and discovering all the problems of humanity in our own hearts and our own lives. We are not exempt and we are not different. The "them" that we speak of is also us. The practice of loving our adversaries is obviously challenging in situations with people whose views and methodologies are radically opposed to ours, but that is where the real growth occurs.

Seventh & Eighth  The seventh and eighth principles are a bit contradictory. The seventh is that your work is for the world rather than for you. We serve on behalf of others and not for our own satisfaction or benefit. We're sowing seeds for a cherished vision to become a future reality, and our fulfillment comes from the privilege of being able to do this work. This is the traditional understanding of selfless service. But then the eighth principle is that selfless service is a myth. Because in truly serving others, we are also served. In giving we receive. This is important to recognize as well, so we don't fall into the trap of pretentious service to others' needs and develop a false sense of selflessness or martyrdom.

Ninth  The ninth principle is: do not insulate yourself from the pain of the world. We must allow our hearts to be broken - broken open - by the pain of the world. As that happens, as we let that pain in, we become the vehicles for transformation. If we block the pain, we are actually preventing our own participation in the world's attempt to heal itself. As we allow our hearts to break open, the pain that comes is the medicine by which the Earth heals itself, and we become the agents of that healing. This is a vital principle that is quite alien to our usual Western ways of thinking.

Tenth  The tenth principle is: what you attend to, you become. If you constantly attend to battles, you become embattled. On the other hand, if you constantly give love, you become loving. We must choose wisely what we attend to, because it shapes and defines us deeply.

Eleventh  The eleventh principle is to rely on faith. This is not some Pollyannaish naiveté, as many "realists" would interpret it. Rather it entails cultivating a deep trust in the unknown, recognizing the presence of "higher" or "divine" forces at work that we can trust completely without knowing their precise agendas or workings. It means invoking something beyond the traditional scientific world view. It implies that there are invisible forces that we can draw upon and engage, firstly by knowing they are there; secondly, by asking or yearning for them to support us - or more precisely, asking them to allow us to serve on their behalf. Faith is understood not as blind adherence to any set of beliefs, but as a knowing from experience and intuition about intrinsic universal principles beyond our direct observation, and relying upon these principles, whatever they are, to support us in creating what we aspire to create. This actually brings great relief when we realize it really isn't up to us to figure out all the steps to manifest our unfolding vision, because we are participants in a larger cosmic will. Nevertheless, it is our job to discover what our unique gift is - our unique role - and for each person to give their gift as skillfully and generously as possible, while trusting that the rest will all work itself out.

Twelfth  Finally, the twelfth principle is that love creates the form. As Stephen Levine says, "The heart crosses the abyss that the mind creates." It is the mind that gives rise to the apparent fragmentation of the world, while the heart can operate at depths unknown to the mind. So, if we begin imagining with our hearts, and work from a place of yearning as well as thinking, then we develop an unprecedented effectiveness that is beyond our normal ways of understanding because it doesn't have to do with thinking. When we bring the fullness of our humanity to our leadership, we can be far more effective in creating the future we want.

In closing, as we enter the third millennium, we are urgently called to action in two distinct capacities: to serve as hospice workers to a dying culture, and to serve as midwives to an emerging culture. These two tasks are required simultaneously; they call upon us to move through the world with an open heart-meaning we are present for the grief and the pain - as we experiment with new visions and forms for the future. Both are needed. The key is to root our actions in both intelligence and compassion - a balance of head and heart that combines the finest human qualities in our leadership for cultural transformation.

From TIMELINE March/April 2002, p. 10

MISCELLANEOUS

Keep in mind the Taoist insight that everything carries the seed of its own undoing. To reverse something negative, find those seeds and help them sprout and grow faster.

Emulate germs: treat the globalism phenomenon as vulnerable to infection by germs. Germs are individually weak - the body can easily ignore individuals - but in aggregate they can bring their host down. Also, germs can fool body defenses and gain entrance by mimicking acceptable cells or by disarming the body's alarms.

Mass resistance is like crabgrass - each blade is no big deal, but if it just pops up everywhere, it can't be stopped. Consider what happened to Gulliver with the Lilliputans, or what a tiny snowflake can do when joined with others in an avalanche. A cloud of mosquitoes can send a rhinoceros running.

The globalism machine is too big and powerful to confront headon, but it runs on a roadway of people - workers, consumers, etc. Grass roots efforts can make the road so difficult and muddy that the machine bogs down, or that it goes so slowly that it is no longer worth driving. Maybe we can put out some nails for the tires, or slip aboard and put some sugar in the gas tank. We need to find our equivalent of the mud, nails and sugar.

Perhaps we can find leverage points, vulnerable spots, or use an Aikido approach (help the adversary in his effort, just redirect it somewhat so he completely misses his target).

Understand the adversary: when the opportunity arises, look inside financial institutions - understand their framework of thinking and their tactics.

Cultivate leaks and other internal info sources. The bad actors among large corporations rely on secrecy and subterfuge to do their work, and are vulnerable to having the real facts exposed.

RESEARCHING GROUPS

Eight Ways To Get Information About Groups You're Investigating

Adapted from an article by Art Kleiner

  1. Read everything you can about the organization especially inhouse newsletters or magazines, if you can get them, and trade journals. Then call the writer, or other sources, and specifically ask about what was hinted at in the articles.
  2. Find as many people as you can who work in the organization, and talk to them all, even those who annoy or intimidate you. Ask all your friends if they know anyone. Ask each person if they know others. Be honest but mild about who you are and why you're there. Ask each person about what the others said.
  3. Consider the feelings of the people whom you interview. If your consideration shows, they will tell you more. Keep sensitive stuff secret if they specifically ask you to, but ask someone else to confirm it, without saying who told you originally.
  4. Hang around a place during its daily business and observe. Be genuinely interested in the daytoday affairs, or pretend to be, while you're there. Gossip.
  5. Make up wildly exaggerated lies. Call the people in charge and ask if this rumor you've heard is true. When they correct it, they may inadvertently tell you something less extreme, but which you needed to know.
  6. Ask their competitors and critics about their sins. Ask the people in charge about what their critics said, without mentioning the critics by name.
  7. Ask questions that require lengthy answers no matter what the answer is.
  8. Assume that all your starting assumptions will be wrong.

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