How to be an activist

There are many, many ways to push for systemic change. Here are some recommendations from High Tide Don’t Hide’s student strike leaders. 

Choose your focus

What do you want to change? Are there campaigns on this already, that you can join?

“At the very beginning of organising your action, [research] the issue/ cause to better understand the context here. Research which other people/ groups are working in the space now and those who have done so in the past, to have a base understanding of who is also fighting for change. This will strengthen the wider movement for change and also increase impact.” 


Join a group

There’s power in people working together. There are many groups – student, iwi and hapū, Pacific, community and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – that rely on people getting involved to push for policy and other changes. 

Overall your actions should be building up pressure, whether that’s by becoming bigger, more disruptive, more visible, or ideally all three. If politicians think that they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t do what your movement wants them to do, then they’ll do it. This is the difference between having a tactic (like striking) and having a movement (something that builds up pressure on a certain issue).”


Check your process

Who’s beside you? What’s being prioritised? 

On her website Check Your Pākeha Privilege, Helena has compiled resources for learning about privilege and racism

“A successful action must bring people together, especially those most affected by the issue. [A]ll of these movements are interconnected and if you can not see the links between them then you will leave people behind and fail to reach your goals.

“It’s important to know when you need to be speaking out and when you need to be shutting up and listening. If you’re a young person talking to the mayor of your town/city or to the CEO of [a corporation] about their destruction of our planet, then be loud. Know that there’s millions of youth alongside you shouting the same thing. If you’re a Pākehā talking to an indigenous person about the disproportionate effects of climate change on their culture, people, and land, then it’s time to listen.”


Get organised

 “Make sure the work of organising and coordinating doesn’t fall on a few people within the movement. Having people in roles they enjoy and that align with their passion and skills is key.” 


Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t apologise for speaking out. Ask people to do stuff, delegate to other people you can rely on. Go into it with the mindset that there are going to be barriers and just keep going anyway.” 


“I can not stress the importance of mentors enough. We stand on the shoulders of giants who have sacrificed so much to even get us to where we are. So go out and talk to them, make sure you’re not only learning from your own mistakes but their mistakes as well…they also might have done a few things right that we can try to do again.”


Look after each other

If you are feeling climate anxiety, you are not alone. This may help.

If you are feeling desperate, please get help:

Aotearoa New Zealand:


“My friends support me by making sure that I have breaks from mahi….this is one of the most important roles that anyone plays in my life because it helps minimise the chance of me burning out. Rest is productive. Be conscious of how you’re spending your time to ensure you give yourself space to both process what you’ve done and still have to do, but also to rest. In order to be effective in your activism/ advocacy, you need to have the energy to give.” 


“Don’t feel like time spent learning, thinking, reflecting, strategising, getting to know people, resting, and everything else that is part of this work is time wasted.”


Read Helena, Sophie and Luke’s reflections and advice in full here.