Articles & papers

Most people become involved in campaigning and social movements spontaneously, to protect something they care for or resist an unwanted change. We often learn about campaigning by doing. It comes as a surprise to learn (sometimes years later) that there is a wealth of written material on campaigns, social movements and strategy. “I wish I’d read that before we set our on our campaign!”

The Change Agency team have been collecting and writing articles, papers and case studies for almost 20 years. We welcome your contribution. Let us know if you’ve written about social change and are willing to share, or if you stumble on a terrific resource. We’re especially interested in papers that focus on process – how people work for change, rather than the details and content of particular campaigns.



PDF resources:

“One of everything”: Reconciling the individual and the collective in Australian climate activism

Georgina Woods (2012) draws on personal experiences from her collective organising in Rising Tide Newcastle, at Climate Camp 2008 and in the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate talks. Her article points to the reconciliation between the individual and the Tags: climate action, research,

A tale of two movements? Environmental non government organisations and community action on climate change

Cassandra Star (2012) argues that the rise and success of community action on climate change opens a space for critical reflection on current ENGO efforts to secure effective public policy outcomes on climate change. Tags: climate action, movement building,

Adult Education and Community Change

James Whelan (1994). A critical assessment of Friere, Knowles and community development. Tags: activist education, James Whelan, research,

Advocacy and Lobbying

John Murphy (2003) Workshop paper presented to the Sense of Place conference hosted by the Network of Inner East Community Houses, Victoria. Tags: community development, lobbying,

Advocacy evaluation: Review and opportunities

Justin Whelan reviews the emerging literature in this field, noting the points of convergence and divergence and suggesting some limitations of the frameworks and opportunities for effective evaluation that meets the needs of interest groups. Tags: advocacy evaluation, research,

Are academics irrelevant? Strategies for community university collaboration

James Whelan (2004): A discussion of obstacles to activist scholars and engaged academics, and proposes strategies to bridge this unhelpful divide. This paper was presented by Sam and James during the 2004 ‘Inside Out’ conference. Tags: James Whelan, research,

Assessing advocacy

Justin Whelan (2006). Extracts from ‘Work Justice’, a case study of the campaign by Uniting Justice to influence Industrial Relations legislation in Australia. Tags: advocacy evaluation, case study,

Beating a SLAPP suit

Greg Ogle examines recent legal cases against Australian environmentalists – the lawsuit initiated by Tasmanian forestry giant Gunns Ltd, and the litigation proceedings by David Jones against the Australia Institute. How do these suits impact on public de Tags: case study, legals,

Bringing About Change

James Whelan (2001) A thought starter for the 2001 National Environment Movement Conference Tags: action research, James Whelan, theory of change,

Community action and engagement

James Whelan (2006). Case studies of Maleny and Gold Coast environmental campaigns. Tags: case study, community organising, James Whelan, lobbying, research,

Community based, environmental sustainability initiatives

John Hepburn’s (2005) Churchill Fellowship Report examines community based, environmental sustainability initiatives in North America and Europe. Tags: action research,

Community organising by the book

James Whelan (2002). A critical appraisal of the Midwest Academy community organiser training program (a modified version of this paper was published in Applied Environmental Education and Communication) Tags: activist education, community organising, James Whelan, research,

Community organising for climate action

James Whelan (2012) describes how parts of the environment and climate change movements are adopting the techniques and logic of community organising. This challenges them to learn new habits of political analysis and engagement, and unlearn old ones. Tags: climate action, community organising, James Whelan, research,

Confronting Climate Change

Nina Lansbury Hall and Ros Taplin (2006): A review of theoretical perspectives on environmental NGOs and their campaign effectiveness, Presented at the Ecopolitics XVI conference, Griffith University, July 4-6, 2005. Tags: climate action, research,

Conservation enterprise: lessons for corporate engagement

Does engaging with corporations compromise  independence and integrity or reduce pressure on nature, and mobilise resources for conservation?  Pepe Clark’s 2016 paper discusses key lessons for conservation leaders, including the need for conservation organisations to develop robust analytical frameworks to inform engagement with the private sector, and the importance of building movement wide capacity to […] Tags: corporate campaigns, strategy, theory of change,

Directors’ duties to the company and minority shareholder environmental activism

Aidan Ricketts, Shelley Bielefeld, Sue Higginson and Jim Jackson investigate the use of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and the common law that applies to companies as mechanisms to discourage environmentally destructive activities of corporations.Publish Tags: corporate campaigns, research, strategy,

Does popular education have a past: Radical adult education and the Communist Party of Australia

Bob Boughton (1996). Presented at the UTS Popular Education Conference, Sydney Tags: activist education, research,

Ecofeminist strategies for change

Jarrah’s (1998) study of ecofeminist activism in Western Australia examines the practical strategies of women who embrace ecofeminist philosophies and ideals. Findings from this research are discussed in relation to ecofeminist theory and contextualised w Tags: ecofeminism, gender, research, strategy,

Education and training for effective environmental advocacy

James Whelan’s (2002) PhD thesis: an action research project to develop an understanding of and model for activist education and training in the Australian environment movement. Tags: action research, activist education, James Whelan,

Effective Action for Social Change | The campaign to save the Franklin River (Part 3)

Claire Runciman, Harry Barber, Linda Parlane, John Stone, and Gill Shaw, 1986 “Too often activists only develop critiques of campaigns which fail. This implies that successful campaigns use the best of all possible strategies and tactics, and that the reasons for success are clear to all onlookers. Even a quick look at the Franklin Campaign […] Tags: action research, activist education, case study, direct action, nonviolence,

Environmental democracy up for grabs: Crossroads for the Australian environment movement?

James Whelan (2005) A crossroads for the Australian environment movement? Twenty forest activists are being sued by Gunns Ltd, Australia’s biggest logging company. Government grants for conservation groups have been withdrawn and the charity status of outspoken groups is on shaky ground . The emerging picture suggests a strategic assault on environmental activism and civil […] Tags: action research, backlash, James Whelan,

From Cape York Peninsula to British Columbia

Lyndon Schneiders (2003). Churchill Fellowship Report: an investigation of land use planning in remote areas to apply to the resolution of environmental, native title and development disputes in Northern Australia Tags: Aboriginal rights, action research,

Fun, fast and fit: teenagers who cycle to school

Arthur Orsini and Catherine O’Brien’s (2006) interviews with teenagers reveal their strategies to influence their peers. Tags: behaviour change, case study, research,

Funding advocacy for social change: Clarifying the rules for grantmakers

Changemakers Australia and Leslie Falkiner-Rose (2007) note that many grantmakers shy away from funding advocacy for fear of losing their charitable tax status and advise that it’s important to distinguish between organisations and projects with a political agenda Tags: fundraising, philanthropy,

Influencing climate policy: The effectiveness of Australian NGO campaigns

Nina Lansbury Hall and Ros Taplin (2006) evaluate the effectiveness of Australian environmental non-government organisations’ (ENGO) campaigns on climate change, and examines their influence on climate-related policies in Australia. This research clarifies the role of NGOs and other interests in forming public policy on climate change, and makes recommendations about how NGOs may increase their […] Tags: advocacy evaluation, climate action, lobbying, research, strategy,

International Nonviolent Direct Action: the middle path between war and appeasement

Marty Branagan (2003) argues that it is possible for the international community to end a dictatorship or totalitarian regime nonviolently, given the many but largely unrecognised historical successes of nonviolence. Such a solution would be more fundamental and long-term than a violent one. However, better research, funding, preparation, and international coordination of nonviolence are needed […] Tags: civil resistance, nonviolence, research,

Keeping it Real: University collaboration with community based environmental advocates

James Whelan (2003): The higher education sector has been urged to demonstrate community relevance by engaging with community problem-solving and action for social justice and by acting as ‘significant allies’ of the community advocacy sector. Despite these urgings, most academics remain strangely silent on social and environmental issues. Although universities may not overtly discourage speaking […] Tags: action research, James Whelan, research,

Lessons from the Lock the Gate Movement

Veteran campaigner Drew Hutton (2012) identifies lessons the traditional environment movement might learn from the Lock the Gate ‘green-farmer’ alliance. Tags: case study, coal and gas, research,

Make Copenhagen a starting point

How can the popular movements involved in climate change become a social movement for building a sustainable society? Tord Bjork argues there will be no agreement in Copenhagen with substantial content that will bring about changes necessary for stopping Tags: climate action, direct action, nonviolence, research, strategy,

Making a difference: Factors that influence participation in grassroots environmental activism in Australia

Sam La Rocca’s Honours study (2004) found that the important motivations and catalysts that inspire activism include ecological experiences, a sense of personal responsibility and a desire to make a difference. Barriers to participation include paid work priorities, competing time commitments, ‘cliqueness’ and alienation. Sam’s study finds the main factors that sustain activism are strong […] Tags: community organising, movement building, research,

Popular education for the environment: Restoring confidence in education as a strategy for social and environmental change

James Whelan (2002). The significance attached to the expressions ‘education’ and ‘activism’ by distinct communities of practice amplifies their difference and separation. Environmental activists tend to refer to their media releases, lobbying, rallies and petitions as campaign tactics, not education. Although environmental educators promote awareness, commitment and action and are motivated by similar concerns, their […] Tags: action research, activist education, James Whelan,

Reformers, Reactionaries and Reinvention

Activist groups have traditionally relied on the mechanisms of liberal democracy to influence decisions. Some are now asking whether this is enough. While the more established groups become professionalised and potentially coopted through their close relationships with government and industry, the reinvention and revitalisation at the fringes of these movements are expressed through culture jamming, […] Tags: action research, activist education, James Whelan, theory of change,

Revolution or inch by inch? Campaign approaches on climate change by environmental groups

Nina Lansbury Hall and Ros Taplin (2006). The question of whether NGOs are undertaking an ‘incremental’ or ‘revolutionary’ approach, or any other dichotomy is too simple: none of the NGOs appear to intentionally favour one type of strategy. Presented at the 9th annual Environmental Research Event, University of Tasmania, 29 Nov – 2 Dec, 2005. Tags: climate action, research, strategy, theory of change,

Strategies, programs, policies and organisations promoting sustainable transport

Christine Laurence’s (2003) Churchill Fellowship Report: Community action is essential to develop the political will needed for healthy transport and that this will be more successful if it is based on a comprehensive strategy that includes a set of guiding principles, a vision, focus, a robust analysis of the issues, goals, clearly targeted decision makers […] Tags: action research,

The ‘circumstantial’ activist: holistic practice, learning and social activism

Tracey Ollis has researched the ‘social learning’ of social and political activists. She argues that activists’ learning is holistic and embodied. Activists learn through cognition, emotions and the physical body. Tags: activist education, research,

The accidental activist: Activism, community and social change

Tracey Ollis researched how adult activists learn to become more expert through socialisation in a ‘community of practice’. This article focuses on ’emancipatory learning, radical adult education and popular education. Tracey focuses on the differences and similarities between ‘circumstantial activists’; those activists who have come to activism because of a series of life circumstances, and […] Tags: activist education, research,

The forest protest protocol: An outbreak of participatory democracy

Aidan Ricketts (2000) examines how the North East Forest Alliance has successfully combined uncompromising direct action strategies in the form of blockades and occupations with sophisticated lobbying and litigation. Published in the Alternative Law Journal. Tags: environment, forests, research, strategy,

The Toppling of Slobodan Milosevic

Marty Branagan (2004) exploring the role of nonviolent political action in overthrowing the Serbian dictatorship. Tags: civil resistance, nonviolence, research,

The World Social Forum: another world is possible

James Whelan (2003). Reflections on the 2003 WSF in Porto Allegre, Brasil. Tags: James Whelan, social movements,

Theatre of protest: The magnifying effects of theatre in direct action

Aidan Ricketts (2000) examines how devices such as imagination, ritual, ceremony, romance and symbolism, when combined with bold physical acts of protest, disobedience and defiance produce a powerful medium for asserting dissent. Published in the Journal. Tags: nonviolence, research, tactics,

Towards a scholarship of advocacy

James Whelan and Sam La Rocca (2003). Presentation at Ecopolitics, Melbourne, 29 November. Tags: action research, activist education, James Whelan,

Union coalitions: Stronger together, Amanda Tattersall

Everyone knows the principle behind collective organising is that when people work together they are stronger than those working alone. But this principle also applies to organisations. Coalitions between unions and community organisations are not new. Tags: coalitions and alliances, community organising, research, unions,

Working as Allies

Jen Margaret’s (2010) Churchill Fellowship report explores the term ally, the ally role, the qualities of an ally, and challenges and responses faced by those who work as allies of Indigenous people and/or undertake anti-racism work. Tags: anti-racism, coalitions and alliances, diversity,