At this year’s awesome George Brown College Labour Fair Conference, I shared five things I wish I knew when I first became politically active ten years earlier. What do you think of these things? What do you wish you knew when you started being politically active?

Here they are: 

1. Understand the political campaign

The anti-corporate globalization action against the World Economic Forum in Melbourne in September 2000 was the first protest I attended. Naively, I called the protest a failure because the protest failed to do what was intended, which was to successfully block the entrances to the building hosting the meeting and stop the three-day meeting. After the media frenzy had subsided, I went on thinking that nothing had changed.

What I know now is that a protest is a tactic that makes up just one small part of a political campaign. Those mass protests in the late and early 2000s catalyzed an anti-corporate globalization movement that has continued to stall efforts to alter trade rules to benefit multinational corporations.

This is the political campaign.

There’s the VISION which is big and bold. The vision represents what we want the world to be. A Toronto free of poverty is a great vision.

A CAMPAIGN GOAL is what we think we can achieve to solve our problem within six months to five years. Increasing the minimum wage in Toronto to $14 an hour is a good campaign goal.

The CAMPAIGN STRATEGY is our plan to get from where we’re at now to our goal. Pressuring the provincial government to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage is a campaign strategy.

TACTICS are steps taken to execute our strategy. Typically, campaigns start with steps like hosting meetings to establish campaign goals and organizing workshops to educate members about the issue. Groups also engage in tactics to build the organization by, for instance, hosting fundraisers. Organizations often negotiate with a power-holder or target, and, only after negotiations have been deemed unsuccessful, do groups move to pressure tactics, such as hosting rallies or marches or doing civil disobedience. After a time, ideally, the target and the group will engage in negotiations again. Once some victory has been achieved, groups must monitor the implementation of their goal.

Campaigns don’t win through the execution of one tactic, but through the implementation of many tactics that usually follow a certain order. Social change rarely happens through one tactic alone but it can happen when you launch a political campaign.

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