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Be active! – A Toolkit for Activists

 How to become an activist

Try to believe that you can make a difference - but be realistic. Never get frustrated if you don't see immediate changes and consider that, even though you may not see change occurring immediately, you are paving the way for it. When facing global challenges it's important to think big, but also to consider that a gradual change can be as important and often more enduring than massive changes that happen quickly.

Think through all the possible places where change may be required; your school, workplace, community, town, region, country, continent, or the world.

Become an expert! Read books, search the internet and watch videos:

  • about activism, in particular seeking out books written by well-known activists who have tips for activism derived from their personal experience;
  • about the causes you are dealing with;
  • on how to use and work with different media.

iam3Choose the method of activism: Ask yourself what is your goal, how much time do you have and how confident do you feel about taking different approaches.

Don't reinvent the wheel: most causes already have some action going on at local, regional, national, or international level. Find out what exists now and try to connect with existing efforts, deciding your level of independence.


Be focused!    Be organized!    Be creative!


Organise your activist group: Gather committed people together and create a plan of action. Decide from the beginning what your goal is: do you want to form a permanent group that works on different projects or do you want to work together for a single action?

  • Write up the group's goals.
  • Sketch the plan of action.
  • Schedule meetings, setting dates in advance and making sure you have a location reserved (school/classroom, the public library, the park, municipal/community building, youth center, community center, coffee shop/cafe, etc.)
  • Publicise meetings widely


When working with other people, consider the needs of the group and be ready to listen to different points of view, willing to compromise not on the values, but on the details.


Respect other opinions!

If you involved many people in the group, organize different sub-groups, each one dealing with a specific task:

  • Sub-group Public Relations (communicates events, create posters, book venues, keep contacts with media)
  • Sub-group Outreach (links with other organizations and anyone that might be able to support the event through advertising, funding, in-kind donations of space or food, etc.)
  • Sub-group Logistics (takes care of all practical matters such as scheduling, booking performers, finding needed equipment and services, getting necessary permits, organizing transports, taking care of food, etc.)
  • Sub-group Financial (creates a budget, pays service providers, identifies fundraising needs and methods).


  • When talking about global challenges, the risk is to blame people for their way of living, feeding their resistance. Instead, it's better to show what you are for, not just what you're against and to focus on existing societal and individual practices, providing alternatives that are realistic and achievable.  Paint a scenario and let people be inspired by it!
  • Choose a method:
    • Create a flier that describes the cause you are dealing with, your group, the scheduled meetings. Deliver the fliers around school and in the neighborhood (check if there's a city code about where public info is allowed or you risk a fine).
    • Find a place where you can show colorful posters to attract people.
    • Use the web and spread your message text messaging, blogging, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
    • In order to get people interested in your cause look for face-to-face contact, introducing yourself and your group and explaining what you are doing for the cause. 


Possible Actions


• Communicate through music
• Conduct a survey on what students think about specific global education topics
• Take photographs in your neighborhood to document problems and organize an exhibition
• Promote a Flashmob
• Produce a video
• Create a Blog: description of experiences and actions
• Create an international Blog: discuss specific "global challenges" with your teens of other countries of the World
• Realize a scientific survey on a local specific problem related to environment and present the results to the local community
• Interview relevant stakeholders (inhabitants, experts, local administrators, etc.) on specific local social / environmental problems – present the collected data on the web and during one or more event
• Organize a campaign addressed to school and community


• Partner with environmental organizations to clean up streams and waterways, measure pollutants and share this data with regulators
• Establish a partnership with a NGO and use the specific expertise of your school to support "sustainable development micro – projects" in other countries of the World; if convenient, organize a fund raising campaign to grant such projects


• Launch a "Teens as Teachers" speakers' bureau on an issue you care about (eating disorders, child abuse prevention, rainforest preservation, etc.)
• Hold a candidates' forum where young people ask questions of those running for school board, city hall, etc., followed by an election. Release the results of this youth vote to the press
• Advocate for school district-wide policies pertaining to global education topics


• Require automatic distributors in school with fresh fruit and fair trade products
• Require by your School Board a set of policies "environment friendly"
• Partner with city planners to propose to the local institutions specific new opportunities connected with the idea of "smart and sustainable cities": public art space, community center, etc.
• Meet with transportation officials: student bus fares, sidewalks, bike lanes, "Go to school with friends" paths, etc.


Take note: What does ADVOCACY and LOBBYING mean?
The whole complex of measures aimed at supporting a policy or policy change: inform, raise awareness, build consensus, develop position papers, gather signatures for petitions or similar documents, mobilize the most important stakeholders through events, conferences, comparison tables, etc.
Those specific actions aimed at influencing a specific legislative procedure of any rank (constitutional, legislative or regulatory): meet parliamentary / local administrators, prepare amendments to a draft law / regulation, collect signatures in support of a popular initiative law or a referendum.


What others do? Take a look!

'Il rap anticamorra degli studenti di Giugliano piace al ministro: domani esibizione a Roma'
What is outreach?
British Youth Council Resources
'Education is central to ending FGM'

These are just some examples. Research and find out more ideas!