I’m often asked for suggestions of books campaigners should read. I could list hundreds, but here are 6 that I’ve found particularly useful in the last year. I’d love your suggestions and additions.
1 – The Power of Habit – you might be groaning under the weight of books available from authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Nate Silver. I’ve read far too many of them, but I found Charles Duhigg book is one of the most helpful. His book is full of insight about what makes us change our actions, and has a fantastic chapter on why Rosa Parks was successful and how movements start because of the social habits of friendship and grow because of the habits of a community. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to keep a new years resolution!
2 – Victory Lab – I’ve written before about why I think all campaigners should keep a close eye on what’s happening in the US to learn about approaches. Sasha Issenberg book is the best look at the data-drive approach that has been adopted across US politics. It’s a brilliant look at how the Obama campaigns and others have adopted microtargetting, testing and audience insight. Campaigners in the UK have much to learn on this and this book is a great introduction.
3 – A View from the Foothills – Campaigning is political, and its vital that every campaigner has a good idea of how politics work. To be honest, I’m sometimes time surprised about the level of political literacy that exists amongst some campaigners. if we want to win campaigns we need to know how the institutions we’re targeting operate. Chris Mullin’s diaries of his time as a MP and junior minister are one of the best reads out there, but you wouldn’t go wrong reading Alistair Campbell’s diaries either.
4 – Made to Stick – looking for ideas about how your communications can get traction, what the top brands do to ensure that you remember their adverts, then you need to read Chip and Dan Heath’s book. Its a practical, full of great illustrations and the principles will stick with you as you design your next campaign messaging.
5 – The World Is Not Ours to Save – this is a personal choice that I’ve found really helpful over the last year. Although its primarily written for faith-based activists, the premise of the book, that as activists and campaigners we need to recognise our limitations, and ensure we build in habits that allow us to rest and be refreshed is one I’ve found really helpful as I’ve been thinking about how I sustain a long-term career in campaigning. If you don’t find Tyler Wigg-Stephens book for you, perhaps try other authors who’ve written about spirituality and activism.
6 – How Organizations Develop Activists – A late entry into my list, but I adore this book. Hanhrie Han has done the legwork to work out why some grassroots groups succeed and others fail. I found myself changing from nodding in agreement to furiously scribbling down insight from Han’s study of two unnamed organisations in the US, for anyone who wants to think about how they can build a flourishing grassroots network . A good summary of why it works (or doesn’t) here and this by Jim Coe is a fantastic summary.