What do we mean by people power?
People Power can take many forms depending on what kind of change you’re looking to achieve and who has the power to make that change happen — whether it’s a government, company, community or individual.
So we’ve come up with this list. We’re hoping that it will help you define your strategy and generate ideas for tactics to harness this powerful force for good.
Here we go, in no particular order:
1 Consumer Pressure
The voices of many can now match the marketing budgets of even the biggest brands, making consumer pressure an effective way to influence companies to change their ways.
Companies, and the brands they own, are more and more responsive to people power in the digital age. Studies show that people prefer brands they know and trust. As a result, brands are sensitive to public pressure and will go to great lengths to protect their reputation.
A brand includes the entire experience a person has with a product or service—including the name, visuals, feel, communication style, taste and sound. For example, Coca-Cola’s brand is not just the word Coke, but also the design of the bottle, the special recipe, the sound of the bottle opening, the history and the advertising around it. Any of those brand elements are subject to pressure.
Consumer Pressure in Action
2 Corporate Pressure
People can also directly influence companies by asking for the help of shareholders, employees, investors or partners of the company. Anybody who has the potential to pressure a company’s investors, leaders or even employees has the ability to influence corporate behaviour.
Because of its directness, corporate pressure can work quickly if you can engage these special groups of people.
Corporate Pressure Campaign Examples
3 Political Pressure
There are many ways to influence governments and politicians, all of which can shift laws, policies and regulations. Governmental and political structures are complex and vary widely across the globe and local laws can restrict the ability of organisations to engage in politics. Here are some widely used (and effective) political pressure tactics.
Political Pressure in Action
4 Raising Awareness
Exposing a problem is often the first step to harnessing people power. People will only invest energy and time in a campaign when they understand why it’s important, how they can help and what the solution is. Awareness campaigns are often combined with other people-powered change strategies that give people ways to act.
Organising is a form of leadership. Identifying, recruiting and developing skills that help others act and become leaders themselves builds a community’s ability to control the forces that affect it. Large-scale change is possible when organising is coordinated across many communities at the same time.
There are many great examples of organising that have captured headlines and brought about real change on the ground.
Organising Campaigns Around the World
Volunteers bring new skills, energy and ideas to a campaign or organisation (and may also increase how much you can get done). The benefit goes both ways: volunteers give skills, knowledge and time while receiving experience, new friends and satisfaction.
Volunteers in Action
The Internet is enabling large groups of people to take on tasks, get involved in decision making, and contribute to solving specific problems. Crowdsourced campaigns organise efforts across communities, social networks and groups to draw on a deeper pool of creativity, knowledge and resources.
Examples of Crowd-Powered Change
Donations allow campaigns and organisations to conduct sustained research, investigations, and education, pay for equipment and much more. Money is important, of course, but people can also donate goods that can be used or sold. Donations also offer a way for the donor to connect with a cause they are passionate about and see the good their money, goods or services can do out in the world.
Examples of Donations and Other Ways to Give
9 Behaviour change
Behaviour change has been (and remains) a goal of many advocacy campaigns. Activists have, for example, urged people to choose tap water over bottled water, recycle their waste, or purchase fair-trade products.
Online platforms and social networks are rewriting the role people play in behaviour change campaigns. Word of mouth is more powerful than ever in the digital age: People can quickly learn what family, friends and colleagues believe through social media like Facebook, Twitter, or even text messages.
Furthermore, people are increasingly making decisions based on the influence of peers and people like them as trust in brands and more traditional institutions like media or government plummets.
Smart campaigns are using networks as social proof platforms and engaging more people than ever in behaviour change campaigns – like using online review sites to challenge corporations.
People powered behaviour change campaigns
10 Non-violent Direct Action (NVDA)
Individuals and groups of people can disrupt or stop the work of companies, governments and other actors causing harm. These non-violent direct actions can raise the level and quality of public debate, engage people and provoke action from those with the power to change law and policy. Efforts led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are often used as classic examples, but NVDA has a long history around the globe with thousands more examples big and small every year.
Types of NVDA
Everything mentioned here has been used successfully many times and almost every campaign involves a mix of these tactics. People are out there changing the world in these and other ways every day.
So tell us, what’s missing from this list — and what’s next?
If you’re looking for some more inspiration, here are a few books about strategies, tactics and tools for harnessing people power that we think are great:
- Beautiful Trouble by Dave Oswald Mitchell and Andrew Boyd
- Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky
- The Politics of Non-Violent Action by Gene Sharp
- Revolution 2.0 by Wael Ghonim
- How to Win Campaigns by Chris Rose
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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