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Effective Advocacy Tactics: Mobilizing and Organizing Others

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Community mobilizing is a strategy for engaging people and organizations to take one or more actions toward a common goal, and it’s an important tactic for effective systems-change advocacy.

There are a variety of ways to engage and mobilize others. Mobilisation Lab outlines ten types of “people power” engagement:

  1. Consumer Pressure (e.g., boycotts)
  2. Corporate Pressure (e.g., divestment campaigns)
  3. Political Pressure (e.g., contacting legislators)
  4. Raising Awareness (e.g., social media campaigns)
  5. Organizing (e.g., mass protests)
  6. Volunteering (e.g., working on particular projects or campaigns)
  7. Crowdsourcing (e.g., using expertise across boundaries for a common project)
  8. Donating (e.g., peer-to-peer fundraising)
  9. Changing behaviors (e.g., modeling ethical consumer choices)
  10. Non-violent direct action (e.g., sit-ins)

Here are some things to consider when you’re planning how to mobilize others:


1. Be sure you’re ready.

Mobilizing and organizing large groups to work together toward a common goal is challenging.

Especially if you have a large campaign team and/or ambitious mobilization goals, The MobLab has an extensive checklist that may be helpful in determining your readiness or where you might have gaps. They include the following categories:

  • People power (having a clear understanding and plan for engaging people)
  • Strategy (having a clear strategy and plan for achieving your goals)
  • Storytelling (having a clear and effective story and means for others to tell their stories)
  • Acts of courage (having strategies and plans for people to take courageous action)
  • Work with allies (having a plan for working with allies and partners)
  • Experimentation and innovation (having strategies and plans to be nimble in taking action and engaging others)
  • Communications channels (having clear strategies for where, when, and how to engage with others across various communications channels)
  • Data (having a plan that is data- and evidence-based)
  • Engagement capacity and culture (having a system for engaging and collaborating with others)


2. Learn more about the people you want to mobilize.

The Commons Library outlines using community mapping as a tool to learn more about a community so that you can mobilize community members.


3. Get people motivated and engaged.

Strategically use stories, language, and framing to motivate people to take action. Consider how you can convey

  • what the shared vision is
  • why this issue should matter to them
  • what they need to know
  • what the solution is and how it will benefit them or others
  • what kind of power they have to make a difference
  • what actions you want them to take and how those actions will matter

Beautiful Rising outlines how using a public narrative of the story of self, us, and now can motivate others.

This Engagement Pyramid from the Mobilisation Lab highlights different ways that people can get engaged and how you might measure the success of that engagement:


An engagement pyramid for inspiring others to engage in your social change work
Image via Mobilisation Lab CC BY-SA 4.0.

Mike Pulsford has adapted a useful Circles of Commitment model, which outlines five different levels of possible engagement, from being part of the core—those people without whom the campaign would fall apart—to being part of the community—those people the campaign is trying to reach.


4. Use service learning.

A service-learning model is a useful tool for getting learners engaged in an issue they care about and helping them mobilize in their community.

This brief outline from AmeriCorps highlights how to move young people from students to citizens to volunteers to engaged citizens to student advocates.


5. Build coalitions.

Bringing together multiple organizations—especially when they reflect a variety of interest groups—to take collective action can be a powerful way to influence systemic change.

Amanda Tattersall describes coalitions as always having three characteristics:

  • Two or more organizations come together (organizational relationships)
  • To do something in common (common concern)
  • To make an impact on these concerns (scale)

In her book Power in Coalition, Amanda notes five lessons about when coalitions are more likely to be successful.

  1. When there are fewer groups making decisions, sharing resources, and focused on a narrower agenda.
  2. When there are individuals from each of the coalition groups who can work well together and who are good at building bridges.
  3. When the coalition is focused on setting an agenda that feeds “the direct strategic needs of their organizational partners and simultaneously connect to the public interest or common good.”
  4. When coalitions have long-term strategic plans for building their strengths and manifesting their goals.
  5. When coalitions take action at multiple scales and have a clear system for gaining and addressing feedback from different scales, as well as for managing all the moving parts.

Gemma Mortensen offers 10 principles of “clever” coalitions.

Community Toolbox has a helpful guide to building coalitions.

If you’re working as part of a larger coalition, you may find The Mobilisation Integration Toolkit by Mobilisation Lab helpful.

And Blueprints for Change has a useful guide for building networked coalitions.


When you’re thinking about building your coalitions, look beyond your “silos”—be sure to seek out Take note iconpeople and organizations that intersect with your work—those with whom you share common values and goals. For example, there is an increased understanding in both racial justice and animal advocacy groups that there are important commonalities of oppression and justice that make these groups essential allies.



10 Ways People Power Can Change the World by The Mobilisation Lab
Doing Democracy by Bill Moyer
How We Win by George Lakey
The Mobilisation Cookbook by Greenpeace


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