Campaigning tactics in a time of social distancing

Lockdown and Social Distancing have meant that some campaign tactics and approaches aren’t now possible – but as campaigners our craft is always about looking at what else is in our tactics toolkit.

Thinking about this challenge, I took to looking at legendary campaign strategist, Gene Sharp’s list of the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action for some ideas and inspiration about what approaches to take.

Sharp put this list together saying ‘Wise strategy, attention to the dynamics of nonviolent struggle, and careful selection of methods can increase a group’s chances of success’

The full list is available here from the Albert Einstein Institution that Sharp founded and I’ve used it in this post with gratitude – You can learn more about Sharp here.

The idea of the original list was simple, with Sharp arguing that far too often activists weren’t aware of the full range of methods possible to achieve change.

Although the list was written in 1970, so well before digital campaigning became an approach, it’s still very relevant and helpful, and something I’ve found to be a good source of inspiration.

Looking at his list around 30 methods are very hard or impossible to do in a period of a lockdown or social distancing, for example, marches, parades, or group lobbying is difficult when there are limits to the number of people who can gather together on the advice of health authorities.

Another 50 or so would need to be adapted to work in an age of social distancing, for example with schools closed a traditional School Strike isn’t possible, but as Friday for Future has shown it’s not stopping them continuing to highlight the climate emergency each Friday as they have been doing so for over a year, or teach-ins which need to move online, as Mobilisation Lab have done.

But that means over 100+ of Sharp’s proposed methods are still possible – indeed, at this time many of the methods that Sharp suggests around ‘Symbolic Public Acts’ or ‘Communications with a Wider Audience’ could be especially effective, as we’ve seen with actions like Clap for Carers every Thursday.

I’ll aim to get a thread going on Twitter of examples of different approaches, but the full list revised to take account of social distancing is below. I’d love to know what approaches and methods you’re thinking about using.

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