Category Archives: Informing Activists

Teaching Youth & Activism- Online Materials

These are additional online materials (videos, articles, radio reports, etc.) that you may draw on to supplement ideas and issues raised in class.

Additional material are available here.

A link to a word version of this post is available here

Henry Jenkins – By Any Media Necessary:

This website is a companion to Jenkins’ book of the same name. It offers articles that elaborate and exemplify concepts from the book. It also provides links to videos and examples of how youth have used culture and media to convey political ideas and issues. Finally, the website offers teaching and learning guides and conversation starters for instructors interested in incorporating these materials into the classroom.

Black Youth Project:

The Black Youth Project is a platform for highlighting the voices of young black people and the issues that they are concerned about. The site offers a collection of news articles and videos that sit at the intersection of youth culture and black culture. The site is connected to the activist group BYP 100, and so it also acts as an opportunity for exploring the connection between an activism, information, and media.

Youth Radio:

Youth radio is an organization that helps get youth involved in telling their own stories. They have had stories shared on NPR and other media channels. The site offers tips and information for educators (including a wide range of “How To’s” such as fact-checking, controlling online presence, getting great interviews, etc.).   The site also includes links to a range of youth-created, youth-oriented journalism, and youth telling their own stories that can be used in several ways in the classroom.


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Teaching Youth & Activism- Focus Questions & Annotated Readings

We offer some suggested focus questions to help synthesize sections of the course, as well as a subset of annotated readings and discussion questions to help organize class discussion. The discussion questions are intended to highlight the core points of each article, and build connections to contemporary movements.

Additional material are available here.

A link to a word version of this post is available here

Focus Questions

How does youth political engagement compare with overall political engagement?

What challenges do youth face as they begin to get politically involved, and how do they overcome them?

Why is college such a significant time for youth political activism? Do you see that changing as the role of college changes in society?

What issues have youth brought to greater public attention in the last five years? How have these issues been received by politicians, presidential candidates, and the news media?

Annotated Readings

McAdam, Doug. 1986. “Recruitment to High-Risk Activism: The Case of Freedom Summer” American Journal of Sociology. 92(1): 64-90.

This article proposes a distinction between low risk (cost) and high-risk activism, and outlines who gets recruited to participate in the latter using the Freedom Summer campaign as a test case. McAdam argues that participation in high risk activism is driven by social connections—specifically the strength of one’s ties to activism (via personal or organizational contacts or activist participation) and their biographical availability—, and not strong individual beliefs. In order to show this, McAdam looks at the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964 where hundreds of northern college students went to Mississippi to help register black voters. To study participation, McAdam takes data from participants (1068 in total), and codes for participants (720), rejects (55), withdrawals (239), and those with unclear statuses (54), and compares across them to understand the differences. McAdam finds that motivations for participation between withdrawals and participants did not differ significantly, but they did differ in the number and types of organizations that they were a part of. McAdam also finds that participants with strong ties to other Freedom Summer participants or known activists were more likely to participate than those with weaker ties, and that those who had participated more in the past were more likely to participate. Lastly, McAdam finds evidence of what he calls “biographical availability” or that those with more time to engage and fewer personal responsibilities will be more likely to participate. Specifically, he finds that the youngest applicants were more likely to withdrawal in comparison to “older” mid-twenties applicants.


  1. What does McAdam mean by high risk and low risk activism? What are some additional examples that we can give for movements that are operating today?
  2. What was the Freedom Summer campaign? What did the movement ask participants to do? Would you have gone?
  3. How important were youth for the Freedom Summer campaign? Generally, how important do you think young people are for social movements?
  4. McAdam finds some counter-intuitive findings for age. What does he find? Do you think that there is a “sweet spot” for high risk activism?
  5. Are there examples of high risk activism that are currently happening? How do they shape who we think of as activists and protesters?
  6. Is high risk activism enough for a movement to succeed?


Van Dyke, Nella. 1998. “Hotbeds of Activism: Locations of Student Protest”   Social Problems. 45(2): 205-220.

This paper explores why student protest occurred on some campuses during the 1960s, but not others. The article proposes that the cultural history of universities (i.e. the history of activism on campus) shapes where protests occur. Van Dyke argues that campus activism is due to longstanding activist subcultures that endure across generations (specifically clubs and organizations that keep activism going), the availability of resources (possible acting as a proxy for students’ ability to take classes without working), as well as other factors like school size and selectivity. To show this, the author draws on data from 423 colleges and universities as the unit of analysis. 187 had student activism (measured as the presence of an Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter (105 schools) or contributing Freedom Summer participants) (146 schools) between 1960 and 1965 (236 did not). Van Dyke finds that schools with a history of activism (in the 1930s), some degree of selectiveness, and large student populations are more likely to have activist organizations, and religiously affiliated schools are less likely to have student activism in the 1960s. Van Dyke also finds that the presence of SDS organizations prior to the summer of 1964 predicts participation in Freedom Summer, and Freedom Summer participation, in turn, predicted the founding of SDS chapters supporting the argument that campus cultures facilitate activism broadly.


  1. How do Van Dyke’s findings about political culture fit with your school?
  2. What do you think of Van Dyke’s argument that “long standing activist subcultures” contribute to activism on campus? Her work focuses on the 1960s, do these matter as much now that we have the internet and social media?
  3. What do you know about the history of activism on your own campus? Are there any groups or locations that are associated with protest?
  4. Van Dyke finds a symbiotic relationship between SDS and Freedom Summer participation. Is this unique, or do social movements on campus still “spillover” into one another?
  5. In line with previous work in the area, Van Dyke finds that schools that are more selective are more likely to have activism. Why do you think that is the case?


Gordon, Hava. 2007. “Allies Within and Without: How Adolescent Activists Conceptualize Ageism and Navigate Adult Power in Youth Social Movements” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 36(6):631-668.

This article focuses on how young people experience and respond to ageism directed against them for their activism. The article argues that youth politicize the ageism they face, but they do so in different ways based on where they fit in race and class hierarchies, and these positions inform their organizational structures and mobilizing strategies. Gordon argues that “adolescence”—like race, class, and gender—is as much a socially constructed category as it is an immutable part of development, and has long been constructed as oppositional to adulthood. Indeed, treatment of youth often emphasizes adult identities, value systems, and power at the expense of young people’s lived experiences, and young activists must often develop ways to negotiate the ageist expectations of the social movement organizations they are a part of. To demonstrate this empirically, Gordon draws on qualitative analysis of two youth movement organizations between 2002 and 2004: the Coalition of Student Activists (CSA), a mostly white middle-class network of teenage activists in Portland OR, and United Youth (UY), a multiracial working class network of teens in Oakland CA. Gordon finds that the youth participants in UY saw ageism as a form of systematic oppression, and tried to emphasize youth empowerment with the support of adult allies, rather than youth autonomy from adult allies. In contrast, middle class CSA did not integrate adult allies, making its youth-centered mission particularly empowering for participants, but the lack of adult mentors also left members bereft of guidance and historical perspective when they faced obstacles and failures. In sum, Gordon argues that teenagers recognize, politicize, and criticize ageism and their social subordination as a result of living in an adult oriented society, and that young people’s collective understandings of ageism guide their social movement tactics and organizational strategies.


  1. What were the pros and cons of incorporating adult allies into youth activist organizations? Are the benefits worth the costs?
  2. Are adult allies and connections to history particularly important for working class activists, activists of color, or poor activists of color?
  3. Does ageism matter more or less for youth who are minority members of society in other ways (e.g., class, race, and gender)?
  4. What role have adults played in the political and activist organizations you have been involved with?
  5. For those who have never been active with a group, how would you perceive an activist group that was entirely run by youth?


Crossley, Alison Dahl. 2015. “Facebook Feminism: Social Media, Blogs, and New Technologies of Contemporary US Feminism.” Mobilization 20(2): 253-268.

This article explores how online social and friendship networks shape social movements, and argues that Facebook and online blogs enlarge and nourish feminist networks, create online feminist communities, sustain solidarity, and expand recruitment bases for online and offline mobilization. Crossley argues that interpersonal networks are important for collective action, but there are questions about whether online communities are sufficient for establishing close enough ties for mobilization. Despite these concerns, it is increasingly difficult to research offline movements without considering their online dimensions (255). To demonstrate this, Crossley focuses on college students’ feminist organizing and networking on Facebook and blogs. The author collected data on individuals and organizations at three different universities, and conducted in depth semi structured interviews with 75 undergraduate students (25 at each school). The author finds that respondents reported regularly visiting feminist blogs, and that these blogs aided in developing online communities and connecting activists across diverse geographic locations. Blogs offered information on feminism and feminist ideas, and helped to build offline relationships and connections. Crossley also finds that Facebook allows members to circulate substantive and personal information, and helps them to build solidarity with one another. It was also a medium for advertising to new members; in contrast to more traditional paper flyers. Of course, Facebook also brought members into contact with adversarial people, but participants viewed this as an opportunity to share information and ideas. In sum, these online sources reinforced participants’ commitment to feminist causes, and allowed them to express these beliefs to one another.


  1. Do you follow activists or activist organizations on social media? How do they influence your beliefs and perceptions?
  2. Can you think of other cases of online communities developing close ties and strong commitments? How do the activist organizations that Crossley describes compare?
  3. What do you think of the benefits of online organizations that Crossley outlines? Had you thought of all of these before? Do they make online communities more important, or are they still the same?
  4. Why do you think youth gravitate toward online activism?
  5. Do you think negative perceptions of online activism have anything to do with adults associating it with youth? Why or why not?


Earl, Jennifer, Thomas V. Maher, and Thomas Elliott. 2017. “Youth, Activism, and Social Movements” Sociology Compass. 11(4)

This article synthesizes and summarizes the article on youth political socialization, campus activism, and rising issues related to youth activism including fan activism, online activism, and issues of race, gender, and intersectionality. The article addresses the role that college campuses play for fostering political activism, the broader political science and political communication literature on political socialization, the complex role that youth organizations play for fostering political activism, and how issues of race, gender, and intersectionality are particularly important for creating inclusive activist experiences. The article concludes by highlighting several areas where the authors anticipate the field will grow. Namely, through fan activism—the process of getting politically engaged through culture or media (like Harry Potter or soap operas) rather than a political issue—and the use of social media for activism. The authors contend that these are the areas where youth are most comfortable and most active, and, because youth with set the tone for political activism into the future, they will be crucial for understanding the future trajectory of activism.


  1. Are perceptions of the lack of youth political socialization based on an actual lack of youth socialization or adults looking for forms of political activism that are familiar to them?
  2. How does the intersection of age with more recognized forms of inequality (race, gender, and class) make it harder for youth activists to get recognition and respect for the issues they care about?
  3. Do you think that tactical innovations developed by youth have more or less chance of having an impact? Why?
  4. Have you ever experienced ageism? Have you ever experienced ageism in connection to your political beliefs and opinions?
  5. Why would youth be more mindful of issues of race, gender, and intersectionality for activism? What do you think of the authors (and Gordon’s) argument that age is an aspect of identity that should be considered alongside race, class, gender, and sexuality?
  6. What are the advantages of fan activism and online activism? Have you ever participated in these actions? Do you think they will lead to street protest disappearing?


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Teaching Youth & Activism- Semester long project: Research paper on youth activism

This seminar asks students to collect data on and write about a youth social movement. There are four assignments that help to structure the project. The assigns are designed to help students with three of the major tasks associated with a long research paper: identifying a case, think about data that they can use to answer specific questions, identify relevant research, and combine these elements together into a final paper.

Additional material are available here.

A link to a word version of this post is available here

Assignment 1: Case proposal

Youth movements are movements that are focused on young people’s issues, where the majority of participants are young people, or where the movement organization is youth-directed. One of the first steps in any research project is the identification of case or data source for analysis. For this assignment, you will accomplish four tasks: you will (1) identify your case, (2) explain how it is youth-oriented, (3) identify one or two aspects of it that are interesting to you, and (4) describe a two or three specific places that you know about for collecting data.

 Assignment 2: Research Proposal

After selecting a case, the next step in the research process is to specify your research question, identify the data you will use, and explain how it will answer your research question. For this assignment you will accomplish 4 tasks. You will (1) identify two answerable research questions about your case, (2) identify at least two sources of data, (3) explain why this data is good for answering your research question, and (4) propose a timeline for conducting data analysis. If you are going to use interviews, you should describe who you will interview, if you are going to use newspaper data, you should identify which newspapers, the time frame, and provide 4 or 5 exemplar articles, and if you are going to use surveys, you should provide an outline of who you will survey and the major questions you will include.

 Assignment 3: Theory Proposal

After selecting a case and making methodological decisions, a researcher must investigate the existing data on their topic. For this assignment, you will restate your research topic and conceptual interest, and identify four academic journal articles. Your paper should identify one or two major concepts from class, define them, explain how they are related to youth movements or youth participation, and then summarize four articles that are related to this (these) concept(s).

Assignment 4: Research Paper

The final assignment for this course will be a research paper on one aspect of a youth movement or youth oriented movement. The paper includes several parts: an introduction to your case, an explanation of your methods, a description of your data as well as how you conducted your analysis, the results from your analysis, and a thorough engagement with one aspect of the social movement literature.


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Informing Activists: “How can I actively work against racism within social movements and Social Movement Organizations?”

Pam Oliver:

“How can I actively work against racism within social movements and SMOs?”

Morris, Aldon D. 1986. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Simon and Schuster

Pamela Oliver (2017) The Ethnic Dimensions in Social Movements. Mobilization. December 2017, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 395-416.

Zakiya Luna (2017) Who Speaks for Whom? (Mis) Representation and Authenticity in Social Movements. Mobilization. December 2017, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 435-450.

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Informing Activists: What should I know about reaching a diverse group of people online?

Thomas Elliott

What should I know about reaching a diverse group of people online?

Recommended Readings:


Cohen, Cathy J., and Joseph Kahne. 2012. Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action, Youth & Participatory Politics. Chicago, ILMacArthur Foundation

Review (note: this is a review of digital divide work more broadly. It is not specifically focused on activism)

DiMaggio, Paul, Eszter Hargittai, Coral Celeste, and Steven Shafer. 2004. “Digital Inequality: From unequal access to differentiated use.” In K. Neckerman (Ed),  Social Inequality (p. 355-400). New York: Russell Sage Foundation


Elliott, Thomas, and Jennifer Earl. 2016. “Online protest participation and the digital divide: Modeling the effect of the digital divide on online petition-signing.” New Media & Society 20(2):698-719.

Schradie, Jen. 2018. “The Digital Activism Gap: How Class and Costs Shape Online Collective Action.” Social Problems 65(1):51–74.

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Informing Activists ~ Table of Contents

Welcome to the home page for the Informing Activists video project! Below you will find links for videos of social movement scholars (and social scientists) answering questions relevant for young activists.

Each page contains at least one video that we hope will help young activists make informed decisions about their engagements, a bio about the presenter, and some suggested readings if someone is interested in a deeper dive into the topic area.

The list is regularly curated, and so please check back regularly for updates!

The most recent additions to the collection include: 

Nancy Whittier- “What are the challenges and opportunities that girls and young women should consider when getting involved in social movements?” (4/30/19)

Lisa Martinez- “Applying social movement concepts to immigration activism” (12/10/18)

To visit the original introduction to the series from the Mobilizing Ideas editors and the series curators, please click here.

We hope you find these to be helpful, and welcome suggestions about new videos. You can email us at Good luck on making the change you envision!

Table of Contents

Do movements make a difference? 

In what ways do social movements make a difference? – Thomas Elliott

How/When do movements make a political difference? – Katrin Uba

How/When do movements affect culture? – Jenn Earl

When do movements shape public opinion? – Neal Caren

How does movement participation affect people’s lives? – Marco Giugni

How do movements influence elections? – Fabio Rojas

How do I support movements in other countries? – Dana Moss

How do I get (more/new/different) people involved?

Who Participates in Movements and Why? – Bert Klandermans and Ziad Munson

How do I get people involved in my movement  — Katrina Kimport

What can be done about activist burnout? – Sharon Nepstad

How can activists avoid burnout? – Hava Gordon

How do I build identity and solidarity in a movement? – Rachel Einwohner

How can I build coalitions and increase diversity? – Rich Wood

What should I know about reaching a diverse group of people online?– Thomas Elliott

What should I focus on when I am trying to create change? 

How much does the political environment affect my cause? – David Meyer

What are the best tactics for my cause? – Catherine Corrigall-Brown

How do I use online tools to help my cause? – Lissa Soep

What are the best targets for my cause? – Tom Maher

How do I adapt my tactics to the political environment? – Holly McCammon

What should I think about when I am creating an organization?

When do I need an organization? – Jenn Earl

How do I work with existing organizations? – Grace Yukich

How can I build coalitions and increase diversity? – Rich Wood

“How can I actively work against racism within social movements and Social Movement Organizations?” Pam Oliver

What are some considerations for youth in organizations? – Sarah Gaby

What are the different types of leadership I can choose from? Belinda Robnett

What responses should I expect from adults when I get involved in activism? Jessica Taft

“What are the challenges and opportunities that girls and young women should consider when getting involved in social movements?” – Nancy Whittier

How can I be more convincing? 

How do I talk about my cause? – David Snow

What ways are more or less effective for agreeing or disagreeing with others? – Kate Kenski

What do I need to know about the media environment? – Deana Rohlinger

How do I stay safe? 

What are the risks of activism and can I reduce those risks? – Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

How can I protect myself legally when I am active online? – Derek Bambauer

Applied Examples in Current and Historic Movements 

How might these topics apply to a specific campaign? – Elizabeth Armstrong

What can activists in the West learn from the Arab Spring? – Atef Said

Applying social movement concepts to immigration activism – Lisa Martinez

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Informing Activists: How do I get people involved in my movement?

Katrina Kimport



How do I get people involved in my movement? 


Recommended Readings

Luker, Kristin. 1984. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Vol. 3. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Joffe, Carole E., Tracy A. Weitz, and Chris L. Stacey. 2004. “Uneasy allies: pro‐choice physicians, feminist health activists and the struggle for abortion rights.” Sociology of health & illness 26.6: 775-796.

Luna, Zakiya, and Kristin Luker. 2013. “Reproductive Justice” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 9:1:327-352

Kimport, Katrina. 2016. “Divergent Successes: What the Abortion Rights Movement Can Learn from Marriage Equality’s Success.” Perspectives on sexual and reproductive health 48.4: 221-227.

Youth Participatory Politics Network- How can we make [political participation] easy and engaging?

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