Youth talks gives a voice to the youth

The ABCs of activist techniques

This week, we continue our series of articles on activism, to imagine four main families of activists, based on their ways of action. Whatever cause motivates you – human and minorities’ rights, climate and social justice, economic inequality, or else – it’s up to you to decide if you want to take action, and if so what family suits you in terms of time, will, and energy. Online or on the ground, individually and at a local level, or as part of a collective with global reach, anything is possible!

📚 First things first, a quick reminder on the basics of activism(s)

It is important to make the distinction between the two following main categories of activism:

Traditional activism, where activists engage through an intermediary that is a public actor, a political party or a union. Here, all actions are always framed by the rules of the political apparatus. 

Activism where activists use direct action, meaning they challenge an organization (e.g. governments, universities, companies, etc.) without going through the traditional intermediaries described above. It can be many things, like tweeting political representatives or striking in front of headquarters. It’s also a moral attitude, where actions are guided by values, even if it means making compromises, such as disrespecting the law.

And between the two main types of activists:

Direct activists want to overthrow the power in place. They are typically violent and lead illegal movements (e.g. anarchists, terrorists, independentists).

Activists mostly want to change their society’s way of life and consumption and are typically non-violent (e.g. environmentalist, human rights, and anti-capitalist movements). 

In this article, we give examples of direct action and of non-violent ways of action.

→ If you’re lost in translation, you can read the first article of our Activism series, an overview of everything you need to know on the topic. And if you remember it all, keep on reading to learn all about activist techniques.

Click on the name of the actions to find out more.

🕸 The Internet Family

🤟 The In Real Life Family

🕺 The Show Must Go On Family

💰 The Money Family

💥 Getting started

Inspired? If you’d like to take it a step further, you can subscribe to workshops that teach you how to transform your political ideas into action, for example by joining a program listed on this international index

Or you could start small and participate to our consultation! We provide you with all the necessary info to do so just below.

📢 We need you

  • Why do we need to hear from you?
    • From October, 14th to April 30th, young people (15-29yo) worldwide are invited to take part in Youth Talks, a massive collective intelligence consultation
    • The Higher Education for Good Foundation, which is launching this initiative, is expecting tens of thousands of respondents, hopefully including you!


  • Why should you participate?
    • The results of the consultation will help the Foundation imagine new higher education models to grow future generations into empowered individuals able to overcome the challenges of their times.
    • Thanks to an online platform and offline activities, you can share your ideas, concerns, dreams, and expectations for the future.


  • Any other reason?
    • Plenty! First, we believe that asking yourself such questions will provide you with a framework to better understand who you are and what you want for the future.
    • Second, participating in the consultation means your answers will co-construct the educational policies of tomorrow: they will nourish a white paper that will be read by the OECD, the European Commission, and other major youth organizations.
    • Third, thanks to the online open data platform we will publish thanks to your answers, it’s the occasion to show the rest of the world what young people want.


Finally, it helps plan trees as every 10 people responding to Youth Talks, we will finance the planting of 1 tree to help restore forests, create habitat for biodiversity, and make a positive social impact around the world.

Campaigns (aka “neo-pamphlets”)

Before the Internet existed, activists used to secretly transmit pamphlets to each other, such as political manifestos or cartoons that questioned those in power. Now, any criticism can be quickly and easily transmitted online, thanks to social media and other tools like online petitions. Whether you create your own #campaign or just support someone else’s online, this is a great way to get started!

  • The #OccupyParliament campaign is led by Nigerian women asking for better representation in politics. 
  • The French movement On est prêt publishes videos to promote a new, optimistc storyline that defends environmental and social justice.
  • #DiasporaVote is a European-based association that helps racialized communities understand EU policies and political organizations to obtain better representation and inclusion.


From the streets and paper to web platforms and electronic signatures, online petitions aim to gather as many signatures as possible to put pressure on an authority (a company, government, etc.) to push it to change its policy or to take action on a certain topic.

  • Amnesty International is an international human’s rights organization that regularly publishes petitions to demand certain governments free political prisoners.
  • is a platform that enables anyone to publish a petition about anything.


Usually perceived as a negative concept, slacktivism designates activism that can be motivated by a desire for self-promotion, which is limited to taking a stand on social networks. However, as long as it’s done in a genuine way, it can be a good tool to demonstrate support for a cause on which you are not an expert. In a way, slacktivism is the new bumper sticker and peace & love necklaces!

  • Blackout Tuesday consisted of publishing a black square on individuals’ social media profiles to demonstrate support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which denounced the security forces’ systemic racism against the American black community. 


Watchdogs are people, usually social media users with enough followers to be political influencers, that build bridges between scientists, or experts, and the public, ​​to alert the latter about facts and events that are not covered by the traditional media.

  • In France, Bon Pote is a media that vulgarized scientific reports on climate change for the public, thanks to digestible graphs, amongst other easy-to-read pieces.
  • Economist Timothée Parrique explains, thanks to books and his social media, what a post-capitalist society could look like.

Civil Disobedience

The principle of civil disobedience is to disobey a law in order to destabilize the authorities, or at least express a disagreement towards its policies. This form of non-violent activism can be more or less dangerous, depending on the level of freedom authorized by the power in place.

  • Chinese citizen Peng Lifa hung a banner to denounce the Chinese government’s overly restrictive anti-covid policies. This gesture triggered a grassroot movement and effectively pushed the authorities to soften their anti-COVID practices, notably by reducing systematic testing.
Civil desobedience in the street

Protests and marches

Demonstrations bring together people who share a common cause, typically signaled by the signs they carry. Protests take place in a limited area, whereas marches are mobile. When they take place in countries where they are allowed, the activists who organize it warn the public authorities of their route or location beforehand, so that they can protect them as well as limit disturbances.

  • Protester Sophia Kianni, 20 years old, is the youngest advisor to the UN Secretary General on climate. With her fellow young activists, she protested climate inaction in front of the building where COP27 was taking place this year, in Egypt.
  • In Germany, there is a citizen movement protesting the exploitation of a mega coal mine, to challenge the use of exhaustible natural resources that emit CO2.
  • French association Nous toutes organizes marches against gender-based and sexual violences, to push the government to better fund policies fightng against this ssue.


This practice consists of not showing up – to work, to school – to put political responsibilities back on the shoulders of an organization that did not sufficiently protect its citizens, its workers, or its students, from a threat. 

  • Teenage and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg alerted on her government’s lack of action concerning the climate crisis, thanks to school strikes that she led in front of the Swedish Parliament. The practice became global and eventually gave birth to “Fridays for Future Climate Activists from Most Affected People and Areas” in the Global South countries.
  • Emma Sulkowicz, “the mattress girl” as she was dubbed by the American media, is an American student who skipped classes, with a mattress on her shoulder to get attention, to denounce the lack of protection offered by her university after she was raped on campus by another student.


As the term shows, this way of action involves activists making art to spread their messages. It can be done through street-art and graffitis, guerilla poster campaigns, music…

  • The most famous artivist probably is the anonymous street-artist Banksy.
  • The Dutch and German designer collective RAW Colors knits blankets to socks and scarves to illustrate data about the climate crisis.


Happenings are performances organized by activists, but which seem to take place spontaneously in a public space, typically to shock passers-by. The objective of these stagings is to attract the attention of the media so that they speak of the cause defended to a greater audience.

  • Recently, the group of climate and social justice activists Just Stop Oil managed to generate wide media coverage around its happenings, namely throwing canned tomatoes on paintings exhibited in major national museums. Strongly criticized, these actions however did not damage the pieces of art as they were protected by glass.
  • The international group Scientists Rebellion reunites engineers and researchers, specialized in climate studies, that regularly block roads to get their governments’ attention on their work about climate change and push for a “political and economic revolution”.


This practice consists of a group of people occupying a public space to claim socio-politcal change.


Boycotting means not paying a tax to a government, or not buying a service or a product from a company, or not participating in an event, to financially penalize the organizations that profit from them and put their authority into question.

  • This year, many cities around the world refused to welcome fan zones to express their opposition to the organization of the FIFA world cup by Qatar, as it raised many controversies such as the respect of migrant workers’ rights, corruption allegations, and more.

Consumer activism

This way of action is a bit similar to watchdogs, but focuses on protecting consumers from the health hazards arising from their consumption of certain products (e.g. pharmaceuticals, food, water, etc.).

  • In France, Foodwatch “advocates for more transparency in the food sector, and defends our right to food that does not harm people or the environment.”

Shareholder activism

A shareholder activist uses his equity stake to bring change within the company. Shareholder activism typically targets companies with high costs and a negative impact on society (e.g. pollution, discrimination towards their employees, disrespect of their factory workers’ rights, etc.).

  • Say on climate is a collective that reunites shareholders of a company that challenge their managers at general meetings to improve their environmental, social and governance practices.