Herding Cats: Keep the Train Moving

I’ve previously talked about how to motivate libertarians to activism and how to foster relationships to organize a truly powerful community. Now, I’m going to tell you how to keep your movement from crumbling. Here’s how to keep your activist train moving.

1: Find ways of saying thanks

Everyone needs to get paid. Nonprofits and community efforts pay few to none with money, but any organizer worth their salt will recognize the necessity of compensating their activists in one way or another. Because these are volunteers that will be helping you mainly because they believe in the cause, instead think of it as saying “thank you.” Sometimes this is as simple as verbal thanks from you, but it can include a written card, public recognition, a special gift, official titles and responsibilities, and so on. Just make sure you provide some kind of reward mechanism to keep your activists wanting to come back.

2: Maintain a sense of purpose

Humans respond to a sense of struggle against an enemy in defense of their own tribe. Though you might have a non-confrontational mission, remember to keep it framed as fighting for a cause with high stakes and some resistance to overcome. People will help you once or a few times, but without a continuing sense of mission they will fall away. Keep every action tied into the greater narrative of your titanic struggle of good versus evil.

3: Cycle activists to avoid burnout

Though you might have the most happy, hardworking, determined bunch of rabble-rousers out there, you will need to rotate around the workload from time to time. Even the greatest activist will get burned out eventually, either from physical/mental exhaustion, boredom, financial reasons, or a toll on their work/life balance. Have at least three contacts for every one role, so if something comes up for one and another has been relied on too much you still have someone to carry the torch. This means you’ll have to over-recruit for what you need, and occasionally hold back your most energized activists slightly in order to involve others. It’s a lot of work, but few things are worse than building incredible momentum and then having it collapse before your eyes.

4: Keep pushing forward

Alright, so you’ve thanked all your activists, kept them deep in your greater purpose, and made sure none get too burned out. Guess what though, your operation can still stagnate. Why? Lack of forward momentum. Simple maintenance of a task is what jobs are for. Activism thrives on energy, something you can’t maintain by keeping a basic task covered. Keep building, climbing, achieving, outdoing yourselves. A revolution without momentum disbands.

5: Maintain recent personal contact with as many activists as possible

If you’ve done your job and hustled as an activist organizer, your friends should reach far beyond people with whom you’re able to maintain regular contact. That doesn’t, however, mean you shouldn’t make trying a priority. Don’t forget about your loyal liberty warriors on the geographical fringes of your operation. The leader must visit the frontlines regularly, and you can use this opportunity to see if any problems have been cropping up, encourage/energize your activists, and draw from knowledge outside of your centralized bubble. In fact, unless you’re absolutely tied down to one spot for your regular organizing, try to constantly move around your area of influence so you can keep contact as fresh as possible with all activists.

Follow these principles and your merry band of activists will continue on, growing all the time. A movement that doesn’t fizzle is a powerful thing indeed.

This is the third part of a three-article series on organizing activism. Read the first one here and the second one here.

Herding Cats: It’s All About Relationships

This subject will be covered during the talk “Herding Cats: How to Organize a Liberty Activist Army” at Liberty Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire. Event details are here.

So few movements get off the ground because of a lack of volunteer activism. To get anything done you need to put in hours of work multiplied by the number of people you have involved. Companies make this work by making money and then paying employees as they expand. Nonprofits use a similar model by asking big donors for funding, and then using that to pay their own employees, but their growth is limited because such organizations don’t inherently make money.

To really make a difference you need a vibrant grassroots movement of volunteers, and in order to build one you need to be a superior community organizer. But how can you make that work? How do you get good at getting lots of people to work very hard for free? In two words: building relationships.

[Read more…]

How to Herd Cats: Organizing Libertarian Activism

This subject will be covered during the talk “Herding Cats: How to Organize a Liberty Activist Army” at Liberty Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire. Event details are here.

Leading libertarians can be like herding cats. They’re solitary, stubborn individualists who do precisely what they want and nothing else, and therefore take directions poorly. Leading an organized and efficient liberty activist army is supposed to be next to impossible.

Yet it can be done, and done well, just as cats can be effectively herded. The Moscow Cats Theatre bases its entire act around getting house cats to perform tricks. Director Dmitry Kuklachyov explained that the key to training cats is that you can’t force them to do anything, but instead must nurture what they already want to do:

“You can’t force a cat. My job is to see the specialty, the spark that is inside it and develop that. You see, I already can see that this one can roll a little barrel”

The same goes for libertarians. Here’s how to get the staunchest of individualists to go along with your activism:

[Read more…]

Effective Liberty Activism: Crash Course

Fighting for liberty is a tough job. We’re new to the scene, hopelessly outnumbered, and are up against a system that’s inherently hostile to just about all our goals. The good news is that liberty lovers tend to be perfect activist material: passionate, energetic, and committed. The bad news is that very few of us have any clue what we’re doing. Well, that’s about to change. I’m here to give some pointers as to how to get the most out of your activism buck. Follow and internalize these simple guidelines and your activism efforts will soon become much more effective.

Quick background about myself: I’ve been involved in liberty activism for all my adult life, and for a significant portion of my pre-adult years as well. I spent my early teen years writing to heads of state around the world appealing for religious and political prisoners to be set free. During my mid-teens I studyied grassroots activism, and during my late teens and early twenties I worked at various liberty-advocating nonprofits. In 2013 I moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, and have worked as a liberty activist in the years since. I founded the Rights Brigade, and continue to loosely direct its fearless band of activists (more on how below). Over my many years of work on the liberty frontlines, I’ve learned a few lessons on effective activism. They are summarized below, broken down into two phases.

Note: All the nuts and bolts of effective activism could fill books. Think of this as best practices or guiding principles. [Read more…]

Back to the Frontlines

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I took a break from my life of tireless activism in the Free State to visit my former home of Arizona. I was soon reminded of why I left, why I went Galt.

People the world over remain preoccupied with survival. With finances. With hobbies and fulfillment. And, most importantly, with the eternal quest for meaning. An unlucky few of us see the world as it is, in a state of slavery and oppression. Yet, we are powerless to change that unfortunate human condition. And so we are forced to live out our constant quest for fulfillment, only with the added weight of knowing the world to be fallen.

That was me most of my young professional life, only I lacked the realism to give up on the world. When all my aspirations for success in love and labor fell away, all I had left were dreams of a better tomorrow. Instead of attempting one last futile grasp at what I had lost, I made a desperate search for the frontlines of liberty, to spend what was left of my life in service to a mad dream. [Read more…]

Activism vs. Slacktivism

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“The winner in a political contest is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists on the respective sides.” -Morton Blackwell

Activism is a great way to effect social and political change. Unfortunately, it’s often confused with its lazy, ineffective, poser cousin: slacktivism.

Are folks struggling just to get by? Are the wars still going on? Is there an acute deficiency of low-carb bread at your local supermarket? Wrongs aren’t going to right themselves. Get some markers and some cardboard and take it to the streets!

With a couple of caveats. First, note the key element in the word “activism”: “active.” If the key to effecting social and political change involved inactively complaining about all of society’s ills, it would be called passivism. And while there is a place for us keyboard warriors to attempt to convince friends and family and debate the finer points of philosophy without cease, it’s no substitute for real activism. At some point you have to leave the house, engage with real people, and make your voice unforgettably heard. [Read more…]