Tips on how to organize rallies and marches

Thanks to Tools for Change trainer and NOII Toronto organizer, Syed Hussan, for this guest blog post. 

Protests are an integral and necessary part of our social movements. They are the means to assert power, to take power, to pressure a target and to do get what our communities need. Doing them right is easy, and powerful.

The basics

Here are some things to consider:

Why are you organizing the protest? How will you know you have succeeded? By being clear about what winning looks like in this case, you can determine what kind of protest or demonstration you should organize.

Who are the people involved. Who is your community that will definitely come, who are people you want to try and reach out to, who are some allies you can bring in to this process, who are the decision makers and targets?

Where is the best place to get at the things you’ve identified in the Why and the Who discussions.

When is the best time? Decide whether you need to do it during the day or in the evening, during a work day or on a holiday? Is there a specific day – the Refugees Rights Day or World Water Day – that is coming up?

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New Ruckus Society How-to Guide on Strategic Direct Action

Check out this nice little brochure for people interested in designing creative direct actions.   The booklet was developed by  myself (Jessica Bell) and Joshua Kahn Russell, as well as Ruckus Society staff Sharon Lungo and Megan Swoboda.  (And thank you to Cam Fenton for designing.)  Instead of drilling into the nuts and bolts of executing an action, we decided to write a guide to help you dream up the ‘what’, meaning a direct action idea that is strategic, effective, doable, and awesome.

The brochure draws upon and fleshes out a whole host of ideas, stories, exercises and resources, including Gene Sharp’s 198 examples of non-violent action, Beyond the Choir’s Tactics Star, and Training for Change’s classic Spectrum of Allies – well I think it’s classic because I use it so much.

Check out the little booklet and tell us what you think – jessicambell at gmail dot com.

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Best practice petition-writing is one of those advocacy organizations that specializes in gathering signatures online in order to secure victories for people and causes alike.   The organization is very good at it what it does, and its success is being recognized.  Non-profits can pay to gather signatures for them.  That’s how operates as a business.  Anyone, however, can use’s excellent online petition tool for free, and access their useful online resources, including:

Need help deciding what tactic is best for you?

This is a great handout that you can print out and use to help you and group think through what action or tactic might be useful for your campaign.  It’s a great tool for facilitators as well.  Basically the tool asks you a series of questions to help you identify the components and consequences of your tactic, from messaging to building the capacity of your group.

Most experienced campaigners know to think through these steps, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a piece of paper and a set of guiding questions to help focus your group’s conversations about strategy.

When I facilitate this exercise, I often have groups discuss the questions with people they typically work with, and then report back to the larger group. To liven things up, I sometimes ask groups to tell a story about the action as if it has already happened, keeping in mind that they should share their answers to some of the questions in the tactics star as they do so. I’ve also had groups draw a picture of their action and report back to the larger group by referencing their drawings.

This tool was originally designed by Beyond the Choir (see the original here), and there have many adaptations, including my own and a tool developed by Josh Kahn Russellthat is geared to groups working in solidarity with frontline communities, such as a community living next to a coal mine they are campaigning to shut down.