73 inspiring campaign reads - by Kathleen Christie

A few days ago, Kathleen put out a speculative tweet asking for suggested inspiring campaign reads. The response was incredible

A few days ago, I put out a speculative tweet asking for suggested inspiring campaign reads. The response was incredible – 70 recommendations on every aspect of campaigning, from digital to movement building; behavioural change to political campaigning in the UK and US. And 3 more since then – this is co-creation in action, folks! Contributions came from as far afield as New Zealand, the US, Italy and Turkey, as well as a good number from the fabulous UK campaigning community. The list is rich and wide-ranging. It deserves to be shared widely.

Thank you to everyone who contributed – you are name-checked at the end.

Starter for six

My initial 6 suggestions were (in no particular order):

New Power by Henry Timms & Jeremy Heimans; Be the Change by Gina Martin; How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett; How to win campaigns by Chris Rose; Good Guide to Campaigning & Influencing by NCVO and Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende.

Whilst one respondent identified New Power as ‘one of my favourite books of last year’, Be More Pirate’ is like marmite, with one respondent dismissing as ‘a gimmicky beast’, while another passionately endorsed how it ‘resonates with thousands of people and cuts to the heart of co-creating the right conditions for change’.  Several respondents endorsed New Power and others recommended the books by Chris Rose and Gina Martin.

Anyway, here goes with the response list. The librarian in me has attempted a crude categorisation – but do let me know where things could be improved or where I’ve got things plain wrong.  


  1. ActBuildChange – their on-line books that might change lives reading lists especially ’10 books every community organiser needs in their toolkit’

2. Do Something: Activism for everyone by Kajal Odedra

3.Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit.  Described as ‘a good reflection on activism’

4. How We Win: a guide to non-violent direct action campaigning by George Lakey

Behavioural change

5. A Matter of Fact: Talking Truth in a Post-Truth World by Jess Berentson-Shaw.  Explores the science of communicating and presents innovative ways to talk effectively (and empathetically) about contentious information.

6. How Change Happens by Cass Sunstein

7. Messages: Who we listen to, who we don’t and why by Stephen Martin & Joseph Marks

8. The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

9. The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy.  Ipsos MORI study exploring the gap between people’s perceptions and reality since 2012.

10. Stop Raising Awareness Already – Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR). Too many organizations concentrate on raising awareness about an issuewithout knowing how to translate that awareness into action, by getting people to change their behavior or act on their beliefs.

Digital campaigning

11. Analytic Activism by Dave Karpf

12. The Networked Non-Profit: Connecting with social media to drive change by Beth Kanteer

13. The Revolution that Wasn’t: How digital activism favours Conservatives by Jen Schradie

14. This is New Power by Henry Timms & Jeremy Heimans described by one respondent as ‘one of my favourite books of last year’

Iconic Figures

15. Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

16. Strength to Love by Martin Luther King

17. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch on Martin Luther and the civil rights movement

18. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

19. Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai

Impact assessment

20. No Royal Road – pathways in advocacy evaluation by Jim Coe and Rhonda Schlangen

21. Campaigning for success – how to cope if you achieve your goal by Jonathan Ellis.  Lessons learnt from 8 leading UK campaigns.

22. Using Evidence to Influence Policy: Oxfam’s experience by Ruth Mayne for Palgrave Communications

Issue-specific campaigns

23. Be the Change by Gina Martin on the campaign against upskirting, was endorsed by one campaigner saying ‘sharing lessons learned and a providing a road map for a successful single issue/solo activist campaign is incredibly helpful to those of us in the field’.

24. Bury the Chains by Adam Hochshild, which details the story of the campaign to end the slave trade.  One enthusiast said ‘everything we do and talk in terms of movement building, strategy and tactics, they pioneered.  Gripping stuff’.

25. Blueprint for Revolution by Srdja Popovic.  One of the unexpected leaders of the student movement Otpor! that overthrew dictator Slobodan Milosevic and established democracy in Serbia all by avoiding violence and opting for something far more powerful: a sense of humour.

26. Climate Resistance Handbook (or I was part of a Climate Action, now what?) by Daniel Hunter

27. How to Survive a Plague: How activists and scientists tamed AIDS by David France

28. The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the hostile environment by Amelia Gentleman

29. Winning Marriage: Inside story of how same-sex couples took on politicians and pundits – and won by Marc Solomon.  May well stand as the definitive political history of marriage equality.

30. Common Enemies: Disease campaigns in America by R.K. Best

Movement & network building

31. How Organisations Develop Activists by Hahri Han (particularly amongst UK-based activists)

32. Networked Change: How progressive campaigns are won in the 21st Century  by Jason Mogus & Tom Liacas

33. Engagement Organizing: The old art & new science of winning campaigns by Matt Price

34. Political Action: A practical guide to movement politics by Michael Walzer

35. Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky.  Still an influential text, this 1970s book by a community activist tells how to successfully run a movement for change

36. No Shortcuts: Organising for power in the new gilded age by Jane F McAlevey

37. This is an uprising: How non-violent revolt is shaping the 21st century by Paul Engler & Mark J Engler

Political campaigning

These divide neatly into UK-based experiences and those from over the pond.


38. All out war: the full story of how Brexit sank Britain’s political class by Tim Shipman (Political Editor of the Sunday Times)

39. Everywoman: One woman’s truth about speaking the truth by Jess Phillips MP (about to be made into a TV drama – you heard it here first folks)

40. Truth to Power: 7 ways to call time on B.S. by Jess Phillips MP

41. A View from the Foothills: the diaries of (former Labour MP) Chris Mullin

42. Decline & fall: Diaries 2005-2010 by (former Labour MP) Chris Mullin

43. 101 Ways to Win an Election by Mark Pack


44. Don’t think of an elephant!  Know your values and frame the debate by George Lakoff.  The antidote to the last forty years of conservative strategizing and the right wing’s stranglehold on political dialogue in the United States

45. Hacking the Electorate: How campaigns perceive voters by Eitan Hersh.  Most comprehensive study to date about the consequences of campaigns using microtargeting databases to mobilize voters in elections

46. Rules for Revolutionaries: How big organising can change everything by Becky Bond & Zack Exley.  Tells the story of a breakthrough experiment on the fringes of the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign.

47. The Political Brain: The role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation by Drew Western

48. The Victory Lab: the secret science of winning campaigns by Sasha Issenberg. How cutting-edge social science and analytics are reshaping the modern political campaign.

 Planning tools

49. How to Win Campaigns by Chris Rose.  A practical guide for creating and running successful campaigns.

50. Creating your theory of change: NPC’s practical guide

 Systems Change

51. How to resist: turning protest to power by Matthew Bolton The politics and strategy of protest

52. How Change Happens by Duncan Green

53. Getting to Maybe: How the world is changed, by Brenda Zimmerman ‘a practical, inspirational, revolutionary guide to social innovation’

54. Radical Help: how we can remake the relationships between us and revolutionise the welfare state by Hilary Cottom.  Re-designing the welfare state for this century

55. Social Power report by SMK Foundation.  Asks what can we learn about how social change is happening today that can strengthen civil society’s future efforts? Urges civil society to unleash its ‘social power’ by being much bolder and braver.

56. Thinking Systems: a primer by Donella Meadows ‘especially the list at the back of 12 key places to intervene in a system’

57. The Turning Point by Fritjof Capra.  Perceived scientific and economic crises are examined through the perspective of systems theory.

 Thought pieces

58. Complaint: from minor moans to principled protests by Julian Baggini

59. How To Fail With Elizabeth Day.  A podcast that celebrates the things that haven’t gone right. Every week, a new interviewee explores what their failures taught them about how to succeed better.

60. How to Do Nothing: resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell ‘the opposite end of the spectrum – doing nothing as a form of resistance’

61. Power by Stephen Lukes.  An assessment of the three dimensions of power on the Philosophy Bites podcast.

62. The Optimists Telescope: Thinking ahead in a reckless age by Bina Venkataraman. How to make smart decisions for the long run.

63. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman ‘it really helped me understand how we all process information and make decisions’

634 The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better by Kate Pickett & Richard G Wilkinson.  Highlights the pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption.


65. My Paper Chase by Sir Harry Evans outlining the role of newspapers to campaign for change

66. How to Jump-start Your Union; Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, a Labor Notes Book

67. Rebels at Work: a handbook for leading change from within Tools for use in campaigning for change in your workplace

68. Who Moved My cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and life by Spencer Johnson


69. No one is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

70. You Can Change the World! Everyday teen heroes making a difference everywhere by Margaret Rooke

And finally, a few recommendations which aren’t exactly campaigning, but are definitely compatible approaches:

71. Daring Greatly, Rising Strong & Daring to Lead all by Brene Brown

72. Working with emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman

73. This is Marketing: you can’t be seen until you learn to see by Seth Godin, described as ‘relevant for anyone wishing to engage an audience about an idea’

In reading this, are you reminded of other campaigning books that should be on this list?  Let me know.

Thank you to everyone who contributed.  Let’s keep connecting and sharing:

@actbuildchange; @AliceFuller; @antoniabance; @CatDRees; @cerismith; @DavidBurgessFR; :d_hsu_work; @DigiCharityLab; @EllieSimba; @FBuckingham; @HansPSchmitz; @ifundraiser; @jim_coe; @karlwilding; @KateSlater2; @KatherineSJ; @KirstyWarwick;@ladylaxton; @LAlcockFerguson; @LynRomeo_CSW; @marciawalks; @MaxfieldEd; @NaomiFuller2; @ndeanstockport; @ollybenson; @pauldegregorio; @qwertnewto; @rachaelannems; @roz_davies; @SianWilliams41; @tasherhester