Progressive activism

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Progressive activism: resources and essays


There are a lot of books out there, but this is my "most critical to read" list. Every social change activist needs training on strategic plan development, organizational structure, fundraising, meeting facilitation, and working with the media. The books below are the best that I know of on these topics.

FREE! Thinking Strategically: A Primer on Long-range Strategic Planning for Grassroots Peace and Justice Organizations. Available at last on the web! The strategy development bible recommended by George Lakey of Training For Change. WARNING: this is a 10 Mbyte PDF file

Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership : A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times, New Society Publishers, 1995. Co-authored by four long-time progressive activists, this book is an essential handbook to dealing with organizational structure issues that activist groups must deal with as they grow.

Fundraising for Social Change, 4th edition, Kim Klein, Chardon Press, 2001. If you're doing any form of fundraising for a social change group, you really need to own this book. 400 pages. Includes an extensive section solely about how to host a successful house party. Also see Kim Klein's web site at

Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Sam Kaner, New Society Publishers, 1996. If you're tired of attending lousy meetings where there's no agenda, no structure, no agreed-upon way of making decisions, lousy facilitation, verbal intimidation tactics, lack of focus, or general dysfunction, you and your group leaders need this book. An easy read with lots of simple charts - provides crucial insights into why so many group meetings are so badly executed, and what to do about it.

Spin Works! A Media Guidebook for Communicating Values and Shaping Opinion, Robert Bray, Spin Project, 2000, published by special arrangement with NGLTF. Every progressive activist needs to get some media training, and this is the book to read on the subject.

Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy, Rinku Sen, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2003. Sponsored by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

Organizing for Social Change - the Midwest Academy Manual for Activists, 3rd edition, Kim Bobo, Seven Locks Press, 2001. Written by trainers at the Midwest Academy

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky, Vintage Books, 1971 (1989 edition). A classic text on community and social change organizing by an early and highly effective innovater.


March 20, 2003 essay: "Beyond this War, and the Next: Waging Peace for the Long Haul". PDF version Text version A slightly edited version of this essay will be published in a summer 2003 issue of Fellowship magazine.


Training for Change, based in Philadelphia, offers some of the best leadership training classes available for social change activists. They often offer classes in cities other than Philadelphia, so check their web site periodically to see if they're coming to your neighborhood.

The Spin Project offers media training classes in San Francisco. Also see their free online tutorials and their book.

The Midwest Academy is one of the nation's oldest and best known schools for community organizations, citizen organizations and individuals committed to progressive social change. They offer organizer and leadership training classes throughout the country.

Wellstone Action offers annual political activist and campaign worker training classes in Minnesota.

Compasspoint Nonprofit Services offers bread-and-butter classes for nonprofit leaders in a wide variety of areas. Classes are only offered in the San Francisco Bay area.


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