The Making Shit Happen Guide

The Making Shit Happen Guide

Rough version

I have been an activist for over 20 years and I periodically forget that a lot of what I now think is obvious, isn’t. I thought it would be useful to write a short guide about organising events, campaigns, materials etc. I am posting this to discuss so everyone else can add their ideas and we can thrash out a final version to be shared widely.


I find that most of my motivation comes from getting pissed off at stuff that is proposed by a major party or politician, or possibly business person or celebrity and I need to ‘do something’. Sometimes I am motivated because I like an idea and want to promote it. If you are motivated to do something political, there is a good chance that other people will be too and you might just be the spark required to make something happen, so try!

Do you need help?

Just ask! If you are motivated to campaign for something, there is a good chance that others will be too! Post on the discussion board, share links on social media, ask your friends, post on irc. If you don’t reach out, people won’t know what you are trying to do.

Brain storm

Having an idea isn’t necessary to make something happen. Call a meeting to brainstorm ideas. Good ideas are often generated from bad ideas, if everyone makes suggestions, even terrible ones, it might be the spark required to inspire the subsequent good idea.


What is your overall goal? What can you do to make it happen? Can you do something to work towards it?

If your goal is limited, you might be able to do something significant with one action, if your goal is long term or requires significant change, you must be realistic about what you can achieve in a single action. Raising awareness and organising a follow-up event may help build on momentum.


It is important to remember the five W’s and H. Who, What, Where, When, Why, How? Need these all answered to run a successful event.

Who? Does it need a lot of people? A few? Numbers required will determine how hard you have to advertise.

What? What sort of event? This depends on the Who really. Small events are good to use as media stunts or as a base to draw people in to organise bigger actions.

Where? Events need a place, even a vague place like the Internet.

When? Timing is everything, or can be. You need to specify it in order for the event to be successful.

Why? What do you hope to achieve? Does the action work towards this in some way?

How? How are the Who, Where and When going to combine to make the event happen? What will happen at the event?

Propaganda / Marketing*

Some people don’t like the negative connotations of the word propaganda, some don’t like the negative connotations of the word marketing. Whatever you want to call it, it needs to be done. (*Start another thread if you want to try and police my usage of the word propaganda ;))

Politics is about convincing people of ideas. Sometimes a sharp image and a good idea is all you need and the goal is to just make good propaganda, sometimes you need to do some marketing to promote your event. Sometimes the event is the propaganda or the marketing. Whatever the situation, there is a very high chance that if it is political, you will want people to know about it.

As I mentioned above, brainstorming sessions are a good way to come up with stuff to share.
Don’t get hung up on details in the brainstorming session, people can make those their own as they try ideas.

It is good to get feedback before sharing. You might miss a mistake because you were staring at the image too long. You might like Comic Sans, and everyone who hates it needs a chance to stop you before you get ridiculed by a horde of design majors. Layout adjustments can help make the image clearer, someone might come up with punchier wording, it is good to get a bit of input.

Don’t be an arsehole criticising other people’s work. People get emotionally attached to their ideas, so criticism should be constructive.

Try to avoid just saying ‘No’. It throws down a roadblock in front of the project and can suck the momentum out of an action. If you don’t like an idea, try and come up with another idea, or criticisms that suggest how to make the idea work.

If you are organising a media stunt or a protest, write a press release and invite the media.

Press Releases

Must include the five W’s and the H. Must include contacts who will talk to the media.

It is good to include quotes because it helps journalists to construct a meaningful article.

We have our own guide:


If you have an idea that you think can really capture the zeitgeist, you can take a step back from the activity and put the superstructure in place, then get people to contribute their own ideas to make it all happen.

Swarms need a way to get people involved and some ideas about what they can do. This can be website, a hashtag on twitter, even a group on Facebook or something you come up with yourself.

The key thing to remember with swarms is that you can’t control the output, they will become their own beasts. You may be the initiator, but you don’t own the idea. It becomes the property of the swarm.

A simple example of this is calling a day of action and setting up a location for people to promote their own activities for the day. Someone can put on a band night, another person can organise street theatre, in another city someone plans a mass protest, while people make images to promote the day, then get re-purposed to promote individual events.


Good, sound advice. And activism is the key. Ordinary citizens can really make a difference.

When I was a Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party in 2009-2014, we scored several victories. All of them were made possible by ordinary citizens outside the parliament, working their ass off as activists.

One of our victories was when the European Parliament said no to the ACTA agreement. Just like TPP, TTIP, CETA and others, ACTA was one of those agreements that are labeled as "free trade agreements", but in reality just give more power to big corporations, at the expense of citizens, democracy, and freedom on the Internet.

I wrote an article about how we won ACTA, as it looked from my perspective inside the parliament. The activism by ordinary citizens outside the parliament was the key factor. Rick Falkvinge, founder of the first and Swedish Pirate Party, has translated it into English. You can find it here: