Today, we’ll be talking about how you can write guides for Activist Handbook. We will need you to explain how to write activist guides to your hub participants, so today’s training is quite important, don’t forget to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
You can follow this training by watching back the recording of our Livestream, or by reading the article below.
You can find the slides here 👉 take me to the slides
You and your hub participants will be writing articles for Activist Handbook or improving existing articles. During today’s training sessions, we will talk about what content we’re looking for on our website while explaining more about the organisation that we follow in Activist Handbook, we will also give you some tips on how to write good guides and articles. Today’s training will be divided into four parts:
- First, we’ll talk about Activist Handbook content, what kind of articles we write on our website, and of course, we will show you some examples so you can fully understand. We will also talk in this part about our approach in reusing existing resources.
- We will then talk about Chapter organisation, this part is basically about how we organise the content on our website in various chapters, and we’ll go through each chapter individually.
- After that, we will discuss How we can write good articles for activists by using well-structured sections to organise our ideas while writing.
- And for writing good articles, you definitely need some materials, and that’s what our 4th part is about, we will go through all the materials that we provide for you and for the participants of your hub. And to start working concretely, we will give you a practice writing exercise.
And to conclude our training, we will do a Reflection round & talk about the Next steps that are waiting for us.
Activist Handbook content
So in this first part of the training, we will talk about what kind of articles we publish on Activist Handbook. We will also discuss how exactly all our articles are organised into chapters.
So to get started: what kind of articles will we write during the International Rebel Assembly?
✅ We write practical guides for activists. So how do you know if your article is a practical guide for activists? Well, they usually answer a question that starts with ‘how to…’. So if you are brainstorming about what kind of articles to write, always start with the question ‘how to…’. For example: how to organise a campaign, how to reach more people with my Facebook page, and how to get funding for my activist movement.
We do not write:
❌ Opinion or advocacy essays. For example: I think we should introduce a carbon tax.
❌ Inspirational interviews. For example: Blogs or personal stories.
- We are all activists. The people reading Activist Handbook are all activists. We already know that there is a lot of injustice in our society. We don’t need more motivation to act. We need practical advice that helps us make a positive impact. Chapter organisation
So who are we writing for? We write for all change-makers
- We do not write specifically for one cause:
❌ Climate activists
❌ Human rights activists
❌ Women's rights activists
- “To clarify, we do write guides for climate activists, for human rights activists, for women’s rights activists. But just not for those causes individually. Instead, we try to write guides that are useful for as many activists as possible.
It is really important that all of us understand what kind of articles we want to publish on Activist Handbook. So we have provided a few examples that should help you. But if you are not sure if your article ideas would be suitable for Activist Handbook, send us a message.
✅ How to organise a protest
✅ How to use social media effectively
✅ How to deal with climate depression
❌ How to stop the climate crisis → too general, you would never be able to write a practical comprehensive guide about this topic.
❌ Facts about the climate crisis → it’s not a how-to guide for activists
❌ I joined a climate protest yesterday → it’s a personal story. Instead, it’d be better to share any lessons you learned being at that protest in our general guide on how to organise a protest
Example: women's rights
✅ How to make my movement inclusive
✅ How to empower women in my movement
✅ Sexism & sexual harassment in activism
❌ Why women's rights are important → People reading the handbook are progressive activists, they already know that women’s rights are important. Instead, talk about what practical things they can do to protect women’s rights.
❌ I want abortion to be protected by law → Again, instead talk about what practical things activists could do to advocate the cause that they’re fighting about.
❌ Politicians should listen more to women → Politicians are not reading the handbook, activists are. Instead write about how activists can make politicians listen to them.
✅ How to organise crowdfunding
✅ How to apply for subsidy
✅ Free digital tools for activists
❌ The rich should pay more taxes → Well, cool, I agree, but this doesn’t fit in the handbook. Instead talk about how we can make that happen as activists.
❌ I want more affordable housing → Same story, talk instead about what activists can do
❌ Why a basic income is a good idea
New articles vs improving articles
- So another really important thing to know about writing for Activist Handbook is the following: you do not have to write new articles, you can also improve existing articles.
- A lot of us are used to having to write papers for school, starting with a blank page. We think that is stupid. We think it is way more efficient to build upon the work that other people have been doing.
- So if you have a topic that you want to write about that is not on Activist Handbook yet, then of course, fine, you can create a new article. But if there is already an article about the topic, we recommend you to improve that one instead. So all of our articles have a section that is called ‘Improve this page’. In that section, you will find some advice on how you can improve that page.
Reuse the work of others
- And speaking of improving the work of others: even if there is no article about a certain topic on Activist Handbook, there might still be many other articles written on other websites, books or videos about the topic.
- And we encourage you to reuse that work as well, and incorporate_, include it in your article. You can do research online, and then add the most useful information to your article as well._
- However, there is one problem: usually, articles have copyright. This means that you cannot just copy text from those articles into your own, because of legal reasons. Luckily, there is a solution to this problem: the creative commons licence.
- So what is a Creative Commons licence? Well, the author of an article decides that they want to publish their work under a creative commons licence. And if they do that, it means that everyone can reuse their work without any problems. Underneath their article, they will write something like ‘this article is available under a creative commons licence. If you see that the writer has done that, then you can just copy and paste their work into your article. You only have to credit the original author, by saying in your own article that you reused their work.
- So let me show you an example of an article that is available under a creative commons licence:
- And like I said before, make sure to credit the original author, in the attribution section of our website. I will also show you an example of what that looks like
Writing in your hub
So how will this writing process work during the Rebel Assembly?
The first step is to explain to your hub participants how to write good articles. You will share what we shared with you today with your hub participants. We will prepare materials for you that will help you train your hub participants.
The next step is to divide your hub into small groups. About 2-3 people can work on the same article.
The third step is to divide the work so that everyone works on something else. We recommend you to do it this way, because that way everyone is able to contribute, and everyone will be able to be proud of what they worked on afterwards.
How the content is organised
In this part of the training, we will talk about how we organise all our content into chapters. This is important for you to know because that way you know what kind of content already exists on Activist Handbook. And if participants ask what new articles they could write, or what articles they could improve, you will be able to answer them.
We will not go very much in detail into all the content that is on Activist Handbook, because it is way too much. But we strongly recommend you to try and visit as many pages on our website after the training, especially the chapters that you are planning on writing for during the event.
So how have we organised the content on our website?
Our website is organised into various chapters, you will find lots of articles. Sometimes, we also create sub-pages. Inside your article, we recommend you to link to other articles that are on Activist Handbook. That way, people can more easily find the content they are looking for, and it encourages people to read more. That helps also to organise your work because putting all information on a single page might be too much.
To explain further how we organise our website; basically all the content that you can find on Activist Handbook is structured into 8 chapters.
- Theory: This chapter is about theory of activism. At Activist Handbook, we focus on writing practical guides for activists, but this chapter is a bit of an exception. In this chapter, we explain some difficult terms related to activism, and we explore what they mean from a theoretical perspective. If you are interested in philosophy, this chapter will be interesting to you. We answer questions like:
- What is activism?
- Does activism work?
- Why do we do activism?
- What does a ‘theory of change’ mean?
- What does ‘intersectionality’ mean?
- Organising: This chapter focuses on how to transform a group of individuals into a powerful movement. In other words: we explain how you can make much more impact if you act together with others, if you organise your group well. We talk about :
- how to recruit more volunteers,
- how to keep people engaged,
- how to work together with other activist organisations,
- how you can train your fellow activists to become more effective,
- how to raise funds,
- how to facilitate meetings so you can make the atmosphere welcoming for everyone
- And finally we explain how to set up an organisational structure for making decisions, in an effective and fair way
- Strategy: With a good strategy, your movement or campaign makes more impact. We talk about :
- how you can find out who has the power to make the change you want to see
- How you can target them in the most effective way, and force them to listen to you
- How you can find out who are your allies, and who are your opponents
- What kind of tactics to use to achieve your goals
- How you can evaluate if what you’re doing is effective
- In this chapter, we also provide you with some workshops that activists can organise to make an impactful strategy together with their fellow movement members. We also talk about some strategies that other activists are using, so you can get inspired.
- Tactics: This chapter is a continuity to the previous one because you won’t be able to choose a tactic without your strategy; your tactics will be based on your strategy. In this chapter, we have a very long list of all sorts of different tactics. For example, we talk about:
- How to organise a protest march
- How to organise a blockade
- How to paint banners
- How to set up a blockade
- How to organise a civil disobedience action
- How to use art and music as a form of protest
- We explain to the readers that it is important to use creative tactics, because that way you will more easily get the attention of news media and politicians. For each tactic, we explain in steps how to organise it from beginning to end.
- Wellbeing: This chapter is basically about taking care of fellow change-makers and how to safeguard their wellbeing, their mental and physical health.
In the process of trying to make a change, you might forget about your own wellbeing.
But you need to know that your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your fellow change-makers is vital for the long term effectiveness of your movement.
This chapter is basically about how to prevent burnout, how to deal with anxiety and stress, how to give first aid during protests.
- Communication: It’s all about making sure that your message comes across. This chapter discusses how to keep in touch with your fellow activists, how to formulate a message for your target audience and how to reach out to the press. We talk about:
- How to get people involved with your movement, from the very first time they hear about you on social media, to communicate with them using chat messages and newsletters once they are more active members.
- How to use inclusive language
- How to create illustrations and a certain design language/visual language that stands out and which people can easily recognise.
- And to share your message more effectively, you need to know what platforms you should use, for example: instagram, facebook, twitter, reddit, tiktok, chat apps (such as WhatsApp, Telegram..), SMS campaigns, phone banking.
- We also talk about how you can make sure your actions get picked up by news media, by learning how to write good press releases.
- Digital tools: It consists of digital tools that activists can use for their movements, I’ve already talked about few of communication tools in the previous chapter, such as social media and chat apps, but there are other applications that can help you if you need pictures to post on your socials like: Wikimedia Commons Images, FreeImages, Open Peeps and many other amazing tools.
There are also some other productivity apps that help you organise your files and documents, create some good presentations and all sort of collaborative documents. We also talk about how you can set up a website for your movement, and how to take into account issues such as privacy and digital security.
- Legal rights: As an activist, knowing your legal rights is an enormously powerful tool to have when dealing with authorities. In this chapter, we talk about what are the legal protections that activists have. We also discuss in this chapter how police and law enforcement usually treat activists. Of course, laws and police practices are different in every country, so we have guides that describe your local context. Examples of laws that protect the rights of activists are the right to protest, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the right to freedom of speech.
How to write good articles
In this part of the training, we will discuss how you can write good articles that are helpful to activists around the globe. We will talk about how you can structure your articles, we will give you some general tips & tricks, and we will show you some real-world examples of articles that are already on our website right now.
Structure of articles, article sections
So let’s start by showing you how we organise our articles, using a default set of sections that are in every article. Every article has a title, subtitle, introduction, a main section with headings and subheadings, an ‘Improve this page’ section, some related articles on Activist Handbook, some external resources and an attribution section. Let me go through each of them now to explain what all of them are, and why they are important to include in your article.
Title & subtitle
- Short (under 30 characters)
- The reader should be able to understand what the article is about, even if they don’t know anything about the topic
✅ Organise election campaign
✅ Social media for activists
✅ Write press release
❌ ToC for activists (avoid abbreviation, not clear what this article is about)
❌ Writing a Theory of Change: six important lessons for activists (too long, clickbait)
❌ From Single Roads to Crossways - Adopting an Intersectional Approach (too creative, way too long, not to the point)
- Tell the reader what the article is about
- Outline its contents.
- Max 4 sentences
✅ In this guide, you will learn how to organise a protest or demonstration. This article for activists explains step by step how to organise an action to draw attention to your cause.
❌ I once organised a successful climate protest, and now I will tell you how to organise one too.
Main content: (sub)headings
- Short, should tell the reader what
✅ Mobilise people for protest (in an article on how to organise a protest)
✅ Talk about your feelings (in an article about wellbeing)
❌ Getting organised: how mobilise people for a protest from A to B
❌ Positive Expression
Improve this page
- Add instructions on how other people could improve that guide in the future
- Search engine keywords: things that people look up in Google often, which indicates to us how many people are interested in that topic. That way, we can prioritise topics that lots of people have questions about, so we can help as many activists as possible.
- Again: we highly recommend you to try and improve existing guides that we have on our website.
- List of similar articles on Activist Handbook
- These help activists find the content they are looking for on our website more easily
- List of external web pages, books and videos (so anything that is not on the Activist Handbook website)
- These resources are interesting for activists who want to learn more about the topic after reading the article. They are also a great way to do research when you are writing a guide, as you can include the most useful information from those external resources into your article.
- Use format: Title by Author (year)
- Say which creative commons resources you reused
- Example webpage Organise a protest action
General tips & tricks
- Short sentences (20-25 words)
- Avoid difficult words
- Avoid abbreviations
- Make the text easier to skim through
- Use sub-headings
- Use bullet points
- Use emoji
- Reuse existing resources, don’t try to reinvent the wheel
So I will show you a few good and bad examples of articles on our website to help you understand what exactly we are looking for.
- Trainings for activists
- Short title, clear introduction
- Available in other languages
- Local contexts
- Social media for activists
- Well structured with headings, bullet points & emoji
- Lots of information on how the guide could be improved
- How to organise a flash mob
- Not a very long article, but with quite a few resources, which can be used to improve this article (their contents can be integrated into this article by other people)
- Hunger strike | Activist Handbook
- Quite a short article, but it introduces the topic, and has a lot of opportunity to be improved by other people who know more about this topic.
- Theory of change
- Doesn’t use the right article format (no introduction, incorrect use of headings)
- Using abbreviations
- Using styles that you’re not supposed to use (yellow highlight)
- Recruitment and engagement
- Headings too long
- Really long article, so might be better to split up into multiple articles
- Outreach & mobilisation
- Doesn’t use any headings at all
- Doesn’t have the introduction in bold
- Doesn’t have the ‘Improve this page’, so people don’t know how they could make this article better
Materials and practice article
In this part of the training, we’ll talk about the materials that we’ll provide to you and the hub participants to make it easier to write articles for Activist Handbook. First of all, we provide a Google Docs article template that uses the exact article outline that we talked about today.
Google Docs article template:
- To help you write your articles, we will share a Google Docs template with you. In this template, you will find all the sections that we discussed earlier (show sections).
- “Every hub will have their own Google Drive folder, with the template Google Docs inside. To get started writing, just create a copy of this template document (duplicate it), and change the title to the title of your article. As long as the file stays in this Google Drive folder, we will be able to find it again.
- If you want to improve existing guide, just copy the contents of that article on the website onto the Google Docs template
- Even if you do not have a good internet connection, you can use Google Docs entirely offline with the app or in Google Chrome. If you don’t know how to do that, we’ll include a link with instructions on how you can use Google Docs offline on our website (go to “activisthandbook.org/support/hub”).
- Once you’re done, just send us the link to your Google docs file. We will put all your articles on our website, so you don’t have to do that yourself.
- Headings in google docs feature
List of resources
- Now, you or your participants may think: I’m not an expert in activism. How can I write good guides for activists? Well, don’t worry, we’ve developed an easy way for everyone to be able to contribute to Activist Handbook.
- Instead of only writing from your personal experience, we have a very long list of resources that you can use to do research about the topic that you want to write about. That way, you are able to create guides that help other activists, and in doing so you learn more about the topic yourself.
So where can you find these resources?
- External resources section in articles
- In addition to using those resources, you can actually also share any other skills that you have. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience with activism, you might know a thing or two about using social media effectively, or maybe you are very good at taking care of the wellbeing of others, or perhaps you know how to draw illustrations, or maybe you have experience organising events. All of these skills that you have in your daily life outside activism, are also super useful within activism. So whatever skills you have, definitely share them on Activist Handbook!
Articles are never finished
Finally, it’s important to realise that articles on Activist Handbook are never finished. The guides that you and your hub participants will be writing during the International Rebel Assembly will also change and get better after the event. So even if you don’t know a lot about a certain topic, you can still collect resources and list them in your article. Even if that is all the article is, a list of some resources that you found interesting, that’s great and we’ll publish it on Activist Handbook. Because other people will be able to see your draft, your stub article, and they can improve it.
So it doesn’t matter how complete the articles are that you write for Activist Handbook. Other people will be able to edit them, and over time they will get better. The are like a seed that you plant, and in the future other people can help make the plant blossom. And that way, eventually, together we’ll grow a large forest of guides for activists.
To be ready for our event and to practise what you’ve just learnt during this training, we’ll assign a practice article to you based on the preference you provided in the participation form**,** we will also provide you with the resources that you will need during this exercise.
- We will give you your assigned practice article on June 6th, and you need to finish it before June 30th.
- It would be hard to write an article or a guide in this short period of time, so you'll just need to improve one of the articles/guides that are on our website by reading the “How to contribute” part.
- This practice is just for the hub coordinators so we thought that it would be perfect to write the articles in english for better communication between you and the prep team, because we will review the articles after to see if you’ve understood what content we’re looking for in our website.
- You can use your laptop or computer for this practice, but it’s also doable with a smartphone, you just need to download the google docs app on your phone.