Organisational structure

From Activist Handbook

If you want to achieve social change, it is advisable to think about how you are going to organise yourself in the long term. In many cases, you will not achieve your goal after a single protest. Sometimes movements grow very fast and lose focus. Setting up a proper organisation will help you to work more effectively and prevent future problems.


You cannot achieve change alone. It is very likely there are other people out there who want the same thing as you, the difficult part is to find them. As a start, you do not need a large number of supporters. If you start with two or three people, you can combine their social networks with yours. In chapter 5, you will find more information about growing your movement.


This is an important topic, but not much has been written yet. Feel free to create a page on Diversity and share your knowledge and experiences.

Working together with a diverse group of people will allow you to make use of different skills, experiences, identities and perspectives. If you want to reach a big audience with your message, it is important to be include various voices from the start.


Even if there is a large number of people who support the message of your movement, it might still be difficult to find people who are willing to commit their time and energy to your organisation.

Having the time to spend your time as an activist is a privilege. In many places around the world, people have to work all day just to pay their monthly rent. In chapter 6, there is more information about how to actively engage people with your cause.


Any organisation should have a core set of widely agreed-upon set of rules and norms which guide everything the organisation does and which all members are expected to follow until it is agreed that these are changed. There are various forms that this can take, most obvious of which are a written constitution or rules of procedure.


Define your aims (or goals/objectives). This will help guide everything the organisation does, including the structure, messaging and tactics. There is extensive accessible literature on goal-setting frameworks to use. For one example which is directly applicable to politics, and written by a former political communications strategist, see chapter 1 of Winners: and how they succeed[1] by Alastair Campbell. Campbell sets out a framework he calls "OST" (objective, strategy, tactics), which has its merits in political organising regardless of Campbell's political leanings.


An organisation’s conditions can be thought of as its consistent and unwavering strategy. While these may be altered at some point, they are not to be changed regularly. Therefore, they are not to be confused with tactics, which are chosen under the guidance of conditions and are highly changeable. In this respect, the conditions help guide the choice of tactics. Once more, see chapter 1 of Winners: And How They Succeed by Alastair Campbell for a full discussion on how strategy relates to tactics, as well as goals. For an example of an activist organisation's conditions see the Core Principles and Values in Extinction Rebellion's "How to" Actions, Art, Logistics: towards the decentralisation of XR.

Organisational Structure

The decisions about organisational structure will be highly variable depending on a number of factors. Some of those worth considering are the cause with which the organisation is concerned, the local context, the size of the organisation the ideology and beliefs that drive the organisation.

Identity Representation and Regional Balancing

The extent to which an organisation creates structures to promote identity representation and regional balancing will vary based on a number of factors. These factors may be considered in terms of ethics as well as in terms of organisational productivity and democracy. It is important to ensure that your organisation is diverse in order to allow various perspectives and avoid narrow thinking. This is particularly true of any bodies which are most influential in decision-making.

One clear example of a set of identity representation measures which all organisations should consider is gender balancing. The organisation may choose not to implement any system, either because they feel it is unnecessary in their organisation or because they believe it to be counter-productive, but in the world of political organising, gender balancing measures are increasingly pervasive. There is tremendous variety in the gender balancing measures that exist and, sometimes, even tremendous variety within different levels of single organisations.

Two more examples of representation measures to take is those regarding experience and age balance. While experienced members are desirable, balancing this with inexperience helps to avoid organisational staleness and instead allow new ideas from individuals who haven't been institutionalised. This is part of the reason that a balance in age is also desirable, though it is, of course, important to note that age and experience are not necessarily correlated. Moreover, people of different ages will have different life experiences and different abilities to reach people different ages. Even youth organisations would do well to keep this in mind, given it is often natural for much older and more experienced young people to dominate decision-making.

Other examples of potential representation considerations are ethnic representation, regional representation, or any other representation for different identities which are present in your organisation.

Decision-Making Structures

This subsection is unwritten. When writing, a non-exhaustive list of factors worth considering is the creation of a central decision-making body, division of roles, and extent of centralisation.


Internal Communication

As a movement, you will have to communicate internally. There are many digital tools out there that can help you with this. In our article on internal communication we discuss various tools that can be used.

Local context

Local circumstances may make it difficult to assemble large groups of people. Feel free to add information about your local context.