In our tactics chapter, we have a long list of tactics to get you inspired. But how to choose which one to use? In this guide, we will explain how to choose the right tactics for your protest movement, ensuring it fits within your strategy.
- Reach: in news media, one-on-one conversations
- Engagement: The more people actively engage with your action (instead of just merely hearing about it or walking by), the more likely you are to recruit new active supporters.
- Disruptiveness: The more disruptive an action, the more you are forcing decision makers to either respond to your demands or attempt to stop you (eg. by means of police force).
- You are temporarily taking up a certain physical space, depending on the number of people participating and duration of the march
- You are creating disturbance with noise
- People willing to act: De
- Financial resources:
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“In the world of give and take, tactics is the art of how to take and how to give… how the Have-nots can take power away from the Haves”
- Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals, p.92)
This section was based on the chapter 'Using your power' in Youth Activist Toolkit, by Advocates for Youth (2019). Insight from Gene Sharp has also been added.
Here are some quick steps to help you decide what tactics to use. These steps can also apply to strategies, i.e. overall plans that include collections of tactics:
- Make clear within your team and to the public, what the tactical aim is. You are calling upon others to do something, so make sure they know exactly what you want. (Unless you are using deliberately covert tactics and strategy)
- Get the attention of your targets. Who are affected by this tactic? Who might support your cause? Who has power to decide on the issue?
- Use your power and act collectively. Whatever you do, do it together with others. The harsh truth: you will probably not achieve your goal after a single tactical action, so make sure to build your power every time, escalating to achieve your GSA (see Defining your strategy section above)
- Allow people to contribute in their own way. Enable supporters to contribute to your cause / tactics / strategy in whatever way they feel comfortable. You might be willing to chain yourself to a tree to save it, but others might prefer to organise a theatre play to create more awareness about the importance of not cutting trees.
In his oft-cited book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky includes a chapter on tactics containing 13 rules for choosing your tactics.
- “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” (p.127)
- “Never go outside the experience of your people." (p.127)
- “Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.” (p.127)
- “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” (p.128)
- “Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.” (p.128)
- “A good tactic is one that your people enjoy” (p.128)
- “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” (p.128)
- “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.” (p.128)
- “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” (p.129)
- "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” (p.129)
- "“If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter side; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.” (p.129)
- “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” (p.130)
- "“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” (p.130)