How can we understand “success” in relation to social justice and environmental activism? How do activists themselves determine or define their effectiveness? Activism That Works shares the stories of eight diverse social justice movements, from Oxfam Canada, to the Calgary Raging Grannies, to the Youth Project of Halifax, as they contemplate their own successes. What we discover is that success is not measured only in large-scale social reform but is also found in moments of connection – in building relationships and raising awareness. Taking the lead from these stories, the authors contextualize and analyze success within social justice activism in Canada. Understanding their work as a contribution to the movements challenging the domination of free market ideology, the authors hope this book will offer a space for reflecting on the contributions and impacts of activist groups – and provide meaningful insights into what success means in the struggle against neoliberal capitalism.
“Activism That Works is a powerful book. It will help both students and activists think about how to pursue social change in new and, ultimately, more productive ways. The editors set the stage with a brilliant introductory chapter (“Building Success in Social Activism”) that insists we must address both power and power inequalities as well as the concrete organizational challenges involved in social justice work. Then a series of contributors demonstrate how to combine these two themes, drawing from grassroots lobbying campaigns, identity building groups, public protest participants, etc. The activist examples recounted here are radical, provocative and often moving. But they are not simply ‘blue-sky’ utopian prescriptions. The analytical framework and examples set out in Activism That Works encourage us to grapple with the concrete challenges involved in trying to change the world, like building up community support, anticipating opposition, making the most of unforeseen events and opportunities, and so on. The book demonstrates that activists don’t have to choose between ideals and accomplishments, though it reminds us that good ideas and intentions are never enough.”
— Dennis Pilon, Political Science, York University