How to Become an Effective Activist: The Ultimate Playbook by Isra Chaker

Posted on May 09, 2017
Guest Contributor


Since my last birthday, November 9, 2016- the day Donald Trump was elected- my morning routine before I even get out of bed is to grab my phone to check what is trending on Twitter. Once I get my Twitter fix, I move on to Facebook and Instagram to make sure I am well caught up on what is happening around the world, and more importantly, what is happening here at home.

For a while, we were all told that Trump wasn’t going to be all that bad. That he had to be extremely volatile and disgusting and spew islamophobic, xenophobic, and sexist rants throughout his campaign in order to garner tons of media attention. That when he assumed the Oval, he would be more level-headed when leading this country. Who knew he was going to turn out to be so awful? Me. That’s who. And that is why I have made it my life’s mission to organize, mobilize, and speak out in defense of my rights as a Muslim Syrian-American woman.

Activism has increasingly become a trend. It is amazing that so many people want to engage in activism and become advocates for different social justice movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #NoBanNoWall. However, there is a lack of understanding of what advocacy and activism really entail, and how to go about it successfully. The majority of self-proclaimed activists these days are social media activists; they will share a post about an issue but do little or no action beyond that. While this is good for raising awareness, it is not effective.

Because activism and advocacy are so important today more than ever, I wrote this post to bring you an activist manual that will take your advocacy efforts from surface-level to effective and powerful.

Let’s start off with the definition of advocacy:


Advocacy: The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.

For our purposes: Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy is about motivating and mobilizing the community. It starts with a small group of people who share concerns about a specific problem and are willing to devote time, expertise and resources available to reach the desired change.

So how does one successfully become an advocate? Follow this step-by-step playbook:

1. Pick a cause & research the issue by gathering background and local information about the following: context and essential facts

  • This includes things like: how do people feel about the issue, who is affected by the issue, what are the barriers/obstacles to addressing the issues, etc.

2. State the broad goals and specific objectives for the advocacy effort. Make sure to include:

  • Broad advocacy goals (e.g., meet otherwise unmet needs; reverse or correct a situation; prevent the loss of a valued asset; change public opinion)?
  • Specific objectives (how much of what, by when)

3. State the advocacy tactics to be used. Include specific ways that you will use these four advocacy approaches:

  • Conduct advocacy research (i.e. conduct studies, gather data on public opinion, study the opposition)
  • Provide education and encouragement (i.e. offer personal thanks, public support, reframe the debate)
  • Conduct a direct action campaign (i.e. write letters, lobby decision makers, conduct a public hearing, organize a boycott, electronic advocacy)
  • Use media advocacy (i.e. making friends with the media, creating newsworthy stories) Review whether the selected advocacy tactics fit the group’s situation and goals (i.e., fits the group’s style, makes use of available resources and allies, minimizes opposition, is flexible, is likely to work).

4. Identify resources and assets to be used in the advocacy effort. Include:

  • The number and kind of people who are available and committed
  • The financial resources available
  • The communications technologies, facilities and other material resources available
  • The information and ideas that could be helpful
  • Other assets that can be used to support the effort

5. Identify and engage potential allies. Indicate:

  • Likely allies and what they could bring to the effort
  • How allies might be engaged (e.g., what roles, responsibilities, rewards)

6. Identify and counteract opposition. Indicate:

  • Likely opponents and how they might resist or oppose the effort
  • Likely purpose of the opposition (e.g., to block intended change)
  • Tactics that may be used by the opposition, including The 10 D’s (i.e., deflect, delay, deny, discount, deceive, divide, dulcify or appease, discredit, destroy, and deal)
  • How the opposition can be countered with tactics and strategies

7. Describe the evaluation of the advocacy effort. State:

  • The objectives of the advocacy effort
  • How intended outcomes are measured
  • How the information will be used to understand, assess the merit, and improve the effort

8. Develop an action plan for implementation of the advocacy effort. Indicate:

  • What will be done?
  • By whom?
  • By when?
  • Using what resources?
  • Communication- who should know what?

9. Launch effort and implement with passion, drive, and perseverance!

  • Pace yourself
  • Keep your team motivated
  • Track success/failure
  • Recognize milestones

10. Evaluate campaign and write a report. Include:

  • All successes and failures
  • Lessons learned
  • Takeaways
  • Next steps for campaign 

(Source for advocacy steps 1-10: Cambridge Public Health Department)

Now that you have the ultimate advocacy manual, you are on your way to making a difference in this world. It is crucial to remember that advocacy and activism require hard work, patience, perseverance and focus. You have to know exactly what you want to achieve and create a plan following the aforementioned steps so that you can be successful in reaching your goal.

Click below to access a printable version of the guide to take it from your screen to real life! Let’s get out there and empower each other in becoming active members of society today!

Download Guide

Isra Chaker is a campaigns and advocacy expert, social justice activist, and public speaker. She is the CEO of Chaker Solutions, a company that specializes in providing training in leadership, project management, advocacy, policy strategy, and information technology solutions. In addition, she serves as a Campaigns Advisor at one of the leading international NGOs in the world where she uses her campaigns expertise in developing and implementing national campaigns in humanitarian issues facing society today. In 2015, she was appointed to be a Global Ambassador for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency USA for her invaluable contributions to raising awareness and funds for their projects supporting refugee assistance. You can follow Isra on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To book Isra to speak at an event or lead a training for your business, organization, or community, and for all other inquiries - email isra@chakersolutions.com