In this chapter, you will find a list of over 100 creative protest ideas for your next action. From nonviolent civil disobedience to political activism, we have a guide for your type of activism.
Also check out our guide on how to organise a protest.
Types of activism
Before picking your protest tactic, you first need to decide what type of activism you would like to do. We organised our creative protest ideas into the following categories, loosely ordered from most to least rebellious:
✊ Civil disobedience: challenging the system by breaking the law on purpose, for example using blockades, occupations or strikes.
🛠 Alternative building: envisioning a different future, for example by building community gardens, introducing alternative local currencies, and constructing off-grid homes - alse called constructive program.
🎨 Cultural activism (artivism): using creativity to draw attention to your cause, for example using theatre, music and brandalism.
💻 Digital activism: making use of online platforms or using hacktivism to disrupt the digital world to make a point.
💬 Raising awareness: Educating the public about the issues and solutions, for example using speeches, petitions, slogans, symbols and media campaigns.
🗳 Political activism: acting within established political institutions to create change through policy, for example by running for office or organising succesful election campaigns.
⚖️ Legal activism: forcing change by applying existing laws, for example through climate litigation (suing companies and governments based on environmental and human-right laws) .
🤑 Financial activism: using monetary pressure to create change, for example through boycotts or shareholder activism
Whatever your action, these practices will come in handy:
🚔 Resisting arrest (Going floppy)
🎨 Painting banners
🏳 Creating flags
The local context across countries can impact activists trying to choose their protest tactics in various ways. For example, the level of repression, the media coverage, the public opinion, the legal framework, and the cultural norms can all influence the effectiveness and the risks of different forms of protest. Activists need to consider these factors carefully and adapt their strategies accordingly to achieve their goals.
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Choose your tactic
You should pick your tactics based on your strategy. To help you get started, we created four broad categories. Tactics may fall under multiple categories. Also make sure to read our guide on how to choosing your tactic.
I want to…
📢 Challenge the system, through disruption and disobedience
🛠 Build alternatives, through creation of new spaces for communities
📚 Change our culture, through education, art and awareness campaigns
🏛 Work within institutions, through election campaigns, lobbying, legal action and financial pressure
People marching - Generated using OpenAI
List of tactics
Protesting is great way to attract the attention of the public, either by gathering a large crowd or by doing something out of the ordinary.
Topics: March | Flash mob | Occupation | Direct action | Civil disobedience | Cultural disobedience | Human banner | Cacerolazo | Hunger strike | Banner drop | Citizen's arrest | Distributed action | Hoax | Lamentation (mourning) | Nonviolent resistance | Walking blockade
Activism can be beautiful. By using creative tactics you can make your movement stand out from the crowd.
Topics: Visual Identity | Posters | Stickers | Stamps | Film | Photography | Art | Theatre | Music | Artistic vigil
There are many ways of digital activism. Some of them include sharing pictures and stories, building a network or sharing a certain hashtag, getting as many people as possible to sign a petition.
Topics: Petitions | Hacktivism
Sometimes having a conversation is better than shouting slogans. Informational tactics are there to start a public debate about certain topics, in the hope that the outcome of the debate will lead to societal change.
Topics: Education | Door-to-door canvassing | Leafletting | Hosting a talk or debate | Journalism | Whistleblowing | Blogging | Novels
By joining existing institutions one can make change happen from within. Institutional tactics create societal change while following the rules of the existing system.
Topics: Voting | Running for office | Judicial | Corporate
Topics: Boycott | Divestment | Shareholder
“A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”
Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals, p.94)
What is a protest tactic?
A tactic is a specific action or method that is used to achieve a goal or objective in the context of activism and protesting. Tactics can be diverse and creative, such as marches, sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, petitions, graffiti, banners, etc. Tactics can also be violent or nonviolent, depending on the situation and the message. The choice of tactics depends on various factors, such as the target audience, the resources available, the risks involved, the ethical principles, and the desired outcome.
What types of tactics exist?
There are many tactics that activists use. To bring order into the chaos, we chose one particular categorisation based on search engine optimization research. In other words, we created our categories based on the terms people use to find various types of tactics on Google. However, other ways of categorising tactics are also possible. Read chapter 3 of Civil Resistance in the 21st Century by ICNC for more context.
Improve this page
When improving this chapter, focus on the following:
Find a better way to organise this list of tactics
Make a default article template for how to discuss a tactic, so that every article has the same structure setup (e.g. examples, materials needed, steps to organise)
Suggested new chapter organization
Goals of the chapter:
Helping people connect the dots between their strategy and the tactics they use (the actions you organise should
Encourage creativity and diversity in tactics (if activism is boring, it's not newsworthy)
Filter our recommended tactics based on the way you would like to achieve change (using a combination is recommended! Tactics may fall into multiple categories):
🎨 I want to use creativity (cultural disruption) to get attention: useful to be visible and put things on the agenda
- Suggested SEO title: not sure (possibly: "Creative protest ideas", we might also want to change the title of the chapter to "protest ideas" which is much more popular than "protest tactics")
✊ I want to use civil disobedience (legal disruption) to create pressure: useful if you want to force decision makers to listen to you, to challenge those in power -
- Suggested SEO title: 'Civil disobedience' would be a perfect title, lots of monthly searches, 'direct action' is a good second choice, but it's searched less and there's some clothing company that would be competing with us and would probably win.
🛠 I want to build alternatives to show a different world is possible: useful if people cannot envision what a better world might look like, not to accept the status quo
- Suggested SEO title: not sure, 'alternative building' has an acceptable number of monthly searches, but we might want to look a bit further to see if there are any other terms more frequently used to describe this type of activism
💬 I want to encourage conversations with bystanders: useful if you want to grow and broaden your movement, if you want to change minds
- Suggested SEO title: raising awareness
🗳 I want to work within governmental institutions to create change: useful if you want to convert public support into policy
- Suggested SEO title: not sure, 'political activism' has an acceptable number of monthly searches (downside of course is that all activism is political. On the other hand, 'politics' is commonly understood as 'governmental institutions'. We might want to look a bit further to see if there are any other terms more frequently used to describe this type of activism.
⚖️ I want to work within legal institutions to create change: useful if you see an opportunity to create change by applying existing legislation
- Suggested SEO title: legal activism?
🤑 I want to work within financial institutions to create change: useful if you see an opportunity to make decision makers listen to you through monetary incentives
- Suggested SEO title: financial activism?
And a section called 'action toolbox', that covers tools you can use with many different tactics. For example:
Artist tools: Painting banners, paper mache,
Digital tools: Hacktivism
Questions activist may have
What tactic should I use?
What tactics are most effective?
How to I use this tactic?
Step-by-step, how do I organise this tactic?
Give me some inspiration for creative activist tactics
Monthly global searches
creative protest tactics
hand signals protest
hand signals activism
*According to Semrush
Civil resistance tactics in the 21st century by International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (2021)
being climate activist as scientist https://twitter.com/thierryaaron/status/1399327351918432256
Radical gardening: https://youtu.be/\_g2CaF12xxw
Global Nonviolent Action Database, published under creative commons
Global Protest Tracker by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
[New Tactics in Human Rights](/tactics/ https://www.newtactics.org/tactics) by Center for Victims of Torture
Article: Six Tools for Climate Change Art by Franke James (2010)
Video: Inflatable carbon bubble by Tools for Action (2014)
Video: How to make banners by Peaceful Uprising (2012)
Video: Reverse graffiti by 350.org (2009)
Creative Activism: Start Here by Commons Library
Creative Activism 101: An Antidote to Despair by Iain McIntyre