In this article we explain what exactly a strategy is, and why it is important to think about it for your movement or campaign.
🧠 This article explains the theory behind activist strategies. Ready to get your hands dirty? Start developing your own strategy.
The purpose of a strategy is to help you determine the best approach to achieving your goals based on the situation you’re in, your values, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.
There are various ways how to define a strategy. Generally speaking, a strategy is made up out of the following components: vision, stakeholders, goals, objectives, tactics and evaluation.
On this page, we give a brief overview of all the components of a strategy. Make sure to check our the more detailed pages that are linked below.
Your vision is your analysis of the root problem, and your big ideas how to make the world a better place.
For example, you might argue that the climate crisis is caused by a political system that gives more power to people with lots of money. However, you still believe there is the possibility changing this unfair system, by getting together enough people. You want to build a new political system that gives a voice to everyone, especially those impacted most by the climate crisis.
Stakeholders are all the individuals, groups of people and organisations that are relevant to your movement.
For example, you might want to analyse who are the stakeholders for your climate justice campaign. First of all, there are the people who are impacted by the climate crisis. Secondly, you have a list of allies, such as other environmental organisations. Thirdly, you have opponents because they profit from the current system, such as fossil fuel companies and politicians that get funded by them. Finally, you have targets, such as political parties that usually get a lot of votes from people who care about the climate.
Your goals are the concrete things that you want to achieve with your movement.
For example, your movement has the goal of letting people decide about the future of our planet, instead of the lobbyists of fossil fuel companies.You want to do so by demanding from your politicians to organise a citizens assembly that has the power to implement new environmental policies.
(Measures of success)
Your idea of a Utopia. It might sound silly to imagine an ideal world that doesn’t exist, but the image of that world is the best way for you to make sure you share people in your organization or movement share values and vision of what you’re trying to achieve. Sharing visions between activist movements is a good way of building relationships and developing networks of camaraderie.
Our goals are the checkpoints along the way toward our vision, getting us closer and closer to the world we want to live in.
As we said in the first passage, the choice of strategy depends on the purpose and long-term goals. Unlike vision, goals should indeed be achievable, and when thinking about them, we should keep them realistic. This means we should be able to answer the questions about our own experience and skill level, capacities, as well as the nature of our political and social environment. Tactics and strategies that worked in the past don’t necessarily have to work for us. The same goes for tactics that work in different political environments today. This article can help you learn about some of the tools you can use to answer these questions.
The best way of understanding objectives without confusing them with goals is to identify them as specific tasks that explain exactly how the goals are achieved. Objectives are the most specific elements of strategies and are mostly used to decide on action plans.
These are, in the context of strategy, always people. Whether the politicians whose decisions we’re trying to influence, or managers of companies who leave us no choice but to organize a strike. Bear this in mind when thinking about targets. You want to know the culture, goals and purpose of institutions you’re aiming to put pressure on. Targets can be broadly categorized as primary and secondary, primary being the decision-makers you want to influence and secondary being all potential allies and people who would benefit from the changes you’re trying to install as well as people with influence over the issue who are not decision-makers (institutions).
Tactics are something we have an entire chapter about. They are, in a nutshell, concrete series of actions that we plan and execute in order to meet our strategic goals. Depending on your strategies some tactics might be more relevant than others. Different tactics attract people with different values and have varying degrees of success. Make sure not to confuse tactics and values. Solidarity or youth participation aren't tactics, those are values that tactics such as cooperatives or student parliaments might help strengthen.
The least fun but still essential part of the entire planning is the measurement of success. We want to have reliable ways of evaluating our own success and that can help us see our weak spots so we can improve them. Metrics play a very important role in this type of measurement.