The five top activist tools of 2013

photo: flickr/theindignants

This year has seen many movements break into mainstream consciousness, take on new digital forums and grow in an ever more volatile political landscape. Now more than ever, using media and social networks is vital to activist organizing. Grassroot struggles have defined 2013. Here are the top tools activists have used to bring their message to the masses.

1. Twitter

 With steadily increasing popularity as an organizing tool since the success of the Arab Spring and Occupy, twitter has shaped how movements inspire action. This year, activists used twitter beyond a call to action, creating hashtags that spoke to specific problems in activist communities themselves. #solidarityisforwhitewomen was started by writer Mikki Kendall in response to the persistent exclusion of voices of colour in feminist organizing, epitomized by Hugo Schwyzer’s racist meltdown. The hashtag quickly caught on, becoming an ongoing space to critically discuss how feminists of colour are erased, minimized or otherwise ignored in the mainstream movement. Most recently, the hashtag inspired #notyourasiansidekick . This guide to twitter will help you get the basics down.

2. Protecting your Privacy

Activists have always been rightfully leery of online tracing systems and the potential of police to track and criminalize organizing for justice. However, after the leaks released by Edward Snowden, it’s now an understood reality that governments are spying on their own citizens. Protecting whistleblowers like Snowden and Chelsea Manning is of the utmost importance. Folks continue to fight for their freedom and status as heroes rather than supposed enemies of the state . But the resistance starts at home. This tool to encryption  will help you start to making your information a little safer even if the NSA is watching.  

3. Exploiting the Mainstream Media

Grassroots stories have garnered mass media attention thanks to the skill of activists. From minimum wage workers sharing their stories and access to condescending insider company blogs to trainers at Marineland risking death threats to speak out against animal cruelty, activists have been using the mainstream media to spread their message for change. This guide to exploiting the mainstream media and guides from the Centre for Story Based Strategy will help you tell your story in a way that mainstream media can’t resist.    

4. Direct action

As the recent anniversary of Idle No More has shown us, direct action can keep a movement energized and strong. Whether it’s workers striking, marching for lower tuition fees, or anti-homophobia protests at Russian embassies, direct actions are an important tool for organizers. Plan your perfect direct action with this guide courtesy of the Ruckus Society.

5. Boycotts

With Russia hosted the Olympics this year, the discussion of the country’s violent homophobia is a very valid reason (among many others) to boycott the winter olympics. This boycott, started by queer activists, is now catching on. Politicians feeling the pressure are joining alongside. Boycotts are a fantastic tool to attract attention to unjust practices. This guide to boycotting is a perfect place to start.


Born in Nova Scotia, Steffanie Pinch was inspired by her favourite aunt to start questioning the status quo and causing a ruckus. A journalism major in her fourth year with a minor in gender studies, she has been covering and participating in protests throughout her time at Carleton University. Steff spent her summer as the editor of the National Campus and Community Radio Association’s disAbilities Handbook. 

photo: flickr/theindignants

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