A lifetime of activist experience from a civil rights legend informs this playbook for building and conducting nonviolent direct action campaigns
In an era of massive worldwide protests for racial and economic justice, it is important to remember that marching is only one way to take to the streets. Protest must be supplemented with the sustained direct action campaigns that are crucial to winning major reforms.
Beginning as a trainer in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, George Lakey has spent decades helping direct action tactics flourish and succeed on the front lines of social change. Now, in this timely and down-to-earth guide, he passes the torch to a new generation of activists. Lakey looks to successful campaigns across the world to help us see what has worked, what hasn’t, and why: from choosing the right target to designing a creative campaign; from avoiding burnout within your group to building a movement of movements to achieve real progressive victories.
Drawing on the experiences of a diverse set of ambitious change-makers, How We Win shows us the way to justice, peace, and a sustainable economy. This is what democracy looks like.
About the Author
GEORGE LAKEY has been active in direct action campaigns for six decades. Recently retired from Swarthmore College, where he was the Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues of Social Change, Lakey was first arrested at a civil rights demonstration in March 1963, and his most recent arrest was on March 29, 2018, as a participant in the Power Local Green Jobs Campaign. His previous book was Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right—and How We Can, Too. He lives in Philadelphia.
“George Lakey’s Manual for Direct Action was literally a lifesaver for many during the height of the struggle for Black freedom and dignity in the 1960s. How We Win has arrived to us at another key moment in our human journey. It is a guide for our collective liberation, informed by decades of Professor Lakey’s ongoing research and teaching since the ’60s. Following these steps will indeed help us achieve a more just and humane society.” —Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
“If you want to be a soldier, you can go to West Point. If you want to be a nonviolent change-maker—well, this is an awfully good place to start. George Lakey has been near the center of American resistance for decades, and so he has both remarkable stories and remarkable insights—not to mention some remarkable colleagues who add their perspective to this necessary manual!” —Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org
“This book is a chance to sit around the supper table with a living legend of U.S. social movements, a mentor who speaks from experience yet honors the young. His lessons and stories leave us all stronger, wiser, and more hopeful about our capacity for making a better world.” —Nathan Schneider, author of Everything for Everyone
“Hard-won advice for community organizers … Clear, encouraging, and potentially empowering.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Lakey doesn’t make it sound easy, but he employs a reasoned, seasoned perspective to clearly convey principles of organization that have proved their value to activists worldwide.” —Publishers Weekly
“Inspiring stories of effective, successful campaigning … I recommend George Lakey’s How We Win.”—Peace News
“Essential reading for anyone who seeks to contribute meaningfully to social movements … Reading it will be well worth your time. Applying its insights is even more useful.” —Friends Journal
“George is a true elder; one that shows up to support the diverse, youth-led nonviolent direct action campaigns of today.” —Sarah Nahar, scholar-activist, interspiritual theologian, direct action trainer
“Everyone who envisions a better world needs to read this book.” —Margaret Flowers, MD, National Coordinator, Health Over Profit for Everyone (HOPE)
“This is, hands down, the single best book on building people-power campaigns for change. ” —Ken Butigan, Pace e Beneand Campaign Nonviolence
“We're lucky to have mentors like George Lakey, and lucky for the many lessons and insights he shares in this book. Read it! Better yet, use it.” —Yotam Marom, former leader in Occupy Wall Street, co-founder, IfNotNow and Wildfire Project
"Movement-building is a craft. But since you can't get a degree as a Movement Builder, we have to make do with trial and error while learning the lessons from those who have walked this road before. That's where George Lakey comes in." —Yonah Lieberman, founding member of IfNotNow.
“If you feel lost and unsure about what to do to help make positive change in our troubled times, reading this book may well provide you with a new sense of hope and purpose.” —Mark and Paul Engler, authors of This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the 21st Century
“Inspirational, practical, readable, with the distilled wisdom of generations.” —Kate Evans, author of Red Rosa and Threads from the Refugee Crisis
“A timely book that balances ageless organizing strategies while addressing many of today's specific challenges.” —Kazu Haga, founder, East Point Peace Academy
“How We Win is both practical and visionary. It offers useful stories, tools, and tips for on-the-ground organizers while advancing how campaigns can build transformative movements.” —Zein Nakhoda, Director, Training for Change, and filmmaker, Grounded While Walls Fall
“A powerful guide in these perilous times from a master of social change!” —Judy Wicks, activist, entrepreneur, and author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business
“How We Win doesn’t just challenge us to think big. It gives us the tools we need to win big.” —Milan Rai, Co-editor, Peace News, London
“Every person who wants to bring about fundamental change in our society needs to read this book.” —David Hartsough, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist
“This excellent book will give you insights through personal stories and thoughtful analyses of successful campaigns, and you will learn how ‘to win major changes rather than small reforms,’ how to move on from mere protest to ‘sustained power to force a real shift.’” —Angie Zelter, co-founder of the British nonviolent direct-action network Trident Ploughshares
“George Lakey, a respected peace worker of experience and long standing, has given us a book that deserves a place on the bookshelves of any peace-minded activist.” —Bruce Kent, Vice-president of the UK Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
“An interesting and useful contribution to the growing literature with ideas to inform and inspire present and future activists.” —Rebecca Johnson, founding President of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
“Lakey gels strategy lessons for successful nonviolent direct action into a single convenient reading with stories and tips from his lifetime of study and practical experience (ideal for study groups).” —Mary Elizabeth King, Director, James Lawson Institute
“George Lakey distills hard-won insights from a lifetime of social movement work around racial justice, queer organizing, nuclear disarmament, civil rights, peace, environmental justice, in a staggering breadth of contexts around the world.” —Joshua Kahn, Executive Director, The Wildfire Project
“This book could not arrive at a better time for those of us who wish to overcome the political and planetary challenges before us.” —Lissy Romanow, Momentum
“This book is a gift to progressive organizers everywhere!” —Mary Lou Finley, sociologist, co-editor of The Chicago Freedom Movement