In this guide, you will learn how to get people to be more involved with your movement. And we explain how to make sure people stay involved in the long run.
Successful movements don’t overpower their opponents; they gradually undermine their opponents’ support. Start at the receptive end of your spectrum, working your way through higher and higher thresholds of resistance. In other words, begin by mobilizing your active allies and core supporters. Reach out to passive supporters, and then bring neutral groups over to your side. Once you start winning over the passive opposition, you’re on the brink of victory.
“Power has always derived from two main sources, money and people. Lacking money, the Have-Nots must build power from their own flesh and blood.”
Saul Alinksy (Rules for Radicals, p.93)
Climate Strike in Jakarta, Indonesia – Climate strikers in Jakarta, Indonesia, take to the streets, broadcasting the realities of the climate crisis on some colourful rain gear (Andrew Daniel, 2020)
Active, passive and core membership: What are they?
Core Membership is exactly as it sounds. A group of 10 – 20 people that are the core of your group. They will help organise events, run social media, maintain your website, produce leaflets and the faces of the movement. They are the cogs of the organisation and it would not function without them.
Active memberships are people that attend speeches/non arrestable events. They do not organise events or have a priority role in the organisation but are willing to march during protests and show that there is a need for the priority you are fighting for.
Passive membership is when someone supports the movement but has not participated in an action you have organised. They generally are supportive online and through peer to peer discussions. To grow your organisation, converting these passive members to active members is crucial.
The membership dilemma
Your core membership should be the easiest group of people to notice. They should be as motivated as you and have enough free time to contribute to running the organisation. You need to find out their talents and abilities and assign a role that they would have the greatest impact on (coder should be assigned to website creation and maintenance, background in politics should be policy advisor, Social media manager should manage social media etc…). Try to assign two or more people to a role to split responsibility.
A role that should be available is activist, they should attend as many events as possible and become a jack of all trades. Activism is not a full-time job so people will not be able to commit 100% of their time so ensuring that people can fill into roles with as smooth of a transition as possible can increase efficiency.
Active members support you on the streets and on social media but will not be the most radical members of your group. Maintain contact with them by posting on Social media and updating them on what you are doing AND by having “mini actions” in the weeks leading up to the event. This will motivate them to attend events and therefore show the system that there is public support for the movement These “mini actions” consist of sticker bombing, canvassing, holding introduction events where you explain your movement and why people should get involved around the city. Extinction Rebellions build up events to their .((first London Bridge Shutdown) is the best example of this In conclusion, a spontaneous march with little awareness will not gather enough people for your movement to work. Have mini actions before hand that get the attention of the media and general public increase turnout!
Passive membership are the people who recognise that the movement is trying to create positive change in society but have no interest in action. Converting them to the cause requires the long-term breakdown of that inaction. The resultant consequence could be simply just voting or signing a petition. All you need is to for them to show that they agree with you, that they do not support the opposing system. This is the hardest membership base to measure but generally there is a correlation between an increase in active and passive support.
The path to victory is not to create a coalition through awkward comprises, but rather to develop your values with such clarity that you persuade others to join your cause. Empires fall not because people oppose them, but because they find their support eroded. To win, you need to convince others to defect.
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How to keep members in your movement, organisation?
The main asset of a movement are their members. Members bring not only more power and recognition it also is crucial for better organisation:
Without active members there is a lot more organisational work for a single people. So the more active members the better. To keep them active and supportive of your movement you should:
Create a sense of community
Being an activist can be exhausting sometimes but having a community can be a big changer in this topic- in order to create that sense of community**😗* Take your activists feel that they belong in your activist social circle. Combine activism with fun events, make your work as memorable and enjoyable as it is effective
Specialise and Promote
Not every activist can know everything but specific knowledge can be really effective. Also activists who have that knowledge can teach other activists about it. Try having activists in your unit specialise on a certain topic, practice on it, and have them take on tougher and more demanding roles if the shoe fits.
Don’t Stress over Scheduling
Be gentle on your activists, they have a life outside of your movement. So try to give them the time they need and be accommodating.
Read more here
In order to keep members extra motivated there are a few tricks you should keep in mind:
prevent confusion and make especially new members feel welcome, do an introductor/ induction workshop for all new members so that they understand the organisation and its work, Welcome and introduce all new members at the beginning of each meeting
encourage your activists for higher tasks so that they don’t feel underestimated(like trainings, projects, campaigns) and keep their interest, give people responsibilities and tasks and team them up with experienced members - they will feel useful and valued
How to bond and build stronger relationships in your movement
life-cycle of relationship in a movement:
Building strong relationship with members of a movement is key in order to get members to the next level to become real organisers. We identified three steps in the developement of a member and how to help member achieve that milestones and how the relationship in this steps could be.
How to get your member to not just a member but become an active member
How to develop an organiser of an active member
How to develop a leader out of an organiser
Why is it important for an organisation to build tight relationships in your movement
How to keep members in your movement, organization
Sometimes mobilization seems easier (and funnier!) than organization. Though, organization is essential to let your movement grow and achieve its goals. Without it, it is hard to produce changes in decision-making processes and power structures.
One of the main risks that a brand-new movement usually faces is the dropping out of activists. There are many ways to avoid it, especially if you will focus on creating a joyful human environment and a structure able to be both clear and flexible.
Adopt a buddy system to facilitate 1-1 human sharings.
Design a participative internal structure to make your work more efficient and distribute the workload better.
Favor horizontality over verticality, imagine circles rather than pyramids.
“Figure 2” by Jan Jost (2018)
Celebrate progress and express gratitude to your teammates/comrades.
Collectivize facilitation tools and methods: they are not only very useful transferable skills, but also important as an internal good practice among the team to manage conflicts.
Implement the culture of feedback.
Implement a system of mandates.
Make room for rest & recharging.
Every teammate/comrade writes his/her/their own personal-why right after joining the organization or movement. (the onboarding.)
Every teammate/comrade writes his/her/their own personal development vision right after joining the organization or movement (the onboarding): how and to what extent he/she/they imagine contributing to the movement, what are the values which drive him/her/them.
Remind that being an activist can be emotionally demanding: embrace personal and collective limits, do not be afraid of temporality: activism is a relay race, not a solo-competition full of burnouts.
Everyone has a talent that is absolutely essential for the group: valorize the diversity of aptitudes, as the learning process starts there.
Agree on short, medium and long term movements’ objectives. Review it periodically (especially if the members are changing).
Keep the community alive: involve past and present activists to social events, let them feel engaged.
Why is it important to build strong relationships within your movement?
Building strong relationships within your movement means that the members of your movement or organization feel personally connected to it and can identify themselves as a part of it. This is important as personal identification leads to higher motivation. If a person feels like it is possible to fulfill their own values in what they are doing, they are more likely to have a higher commitment. As most activist movements only work by voluntary, engagement commitment is the most important variable for effectiveness.
The second point is that only if a person can identify themself as part of the movement it’s possible to build long-term relationships. Strong relationships in a sense of self-identification are necessary in order to create a long-term connection between a movement or an organization and its members, which is absolutely essential for the effectiveness.
The third aspect to mention is that strong relationships are important in order to solve conflicts and create an environment where everybody feels safe and empowered. Strong relationships are the base of good communication and the ability to talk about problems and mistakes in a constructive way.
As a last point it has to be said that strong relationships are also important for the wellbeing of the members of a movement or organization. Relationship between organization and members also means relationship between members as the organisation consists of it. A movement can only be effective if it’s members feel well. Activism can be hard sometimes and it is important to be able to talk about bad times and help each other. Without feeling strongly related to one's own movement it is not possible to address negative aspects and therefore not possible to care about each other.
How to encourage youth toward activism
In this article, you will gain tips for how to attract future youth activists by either encouraging a potential passion, instilling a few habits, or recruiting youths for an activist project.
Read full article: Train Youth Activism
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Mobilising vs. organising by FYEG (2021)
Increasing Participation and Membership by Community Tool Kit
Can anger change the world by Mindworkslab
Downton, James, Jr. and Paul Wehr. 1998. “Persistent Pacifism: How Activist Commitment is Developed and Sustained.” Journal of Peace Research 35(5):531-550.
How to Recruit Activists — and Keep Them [English, article] by Grassroots Leadership Academy (2018)
Recruiting Activists and Volunteers [English, article] by Effective Activist
Recruiting Members and Keeping them Active [English, article] by Education & Training Unit (ETU)
Schussman, Alan and Sarah A. Soule. 2005. “Process and Protest: Accounting for Individual Protest Participation.” Social Forces 84(2):1083-1108.
The Attraction to Activism: Recruitment and Retention in Progressive Student Organizations [English, thesis] by Waverley de Bruijn, Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects (2005)
11 Elements of a Winning Member Engagement Strategy by Elizabeth Bell (2019)
3 Expert Tips for Building Member Engagement by Wild Apricot
The Correspondent, a news organisation of Dutch origin, has created an open platform on engaging people with journalism. Although the site focuses on news organisations and not on activist movements, there might still be some useful information: https://membershippuzzle.org
Relationships are the Glue of Organizing by Joel Dignam
Levels of Commitment from Community to Core by Nick Moraitis
Retain Members with Intrinsically Motivating Work by Joel Dignam