Beautiful Trouble: What Activists Can Teach Us About Leadership (And Crowdfunding)

A newly released book shares the leadership tactics of Occupy Wall Street and other activist organizations with the world—and uses a radically new publishing model to get the word out.

Is it possible to learn leadership secrets from Occupy Wall Street and other activist movements worldwide? Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, a new book edited by Andrew Boyd (of political pranksters Billionaires for Bush) and Dave Oswald Mitchell (Briarpatch magazine), is a dense and highly readable guide to activist tactics and principles ... that came to market via a highly unusual publishing model.

OR Books, the publishers of Beautiful Trouble, have embraced a post-print business model that centers on non-returnable books printed on demand or distributed via e-book. Boyd and Mitchell raised $12,000 for the book via Kickstarter, with the money covering research, editing, production, design, and administration costs. The book's content—written by a host of activists and left-wing organizations—was published under a Creative Commons license which gives authors the right to republish their contributions elsewhere for nonprofit purposes.

According to Mitchell, the decision to license content via Creative Commons helped “distill the common knowledge of large numbers of activists—the common sense of an entire community—[and] we felt it was very important that no one owned the result. We wanted it to be shared and adapted as needed, especially by grassroots trainers in their work.”

Boyd added that raising funding for their book on Kickstarter helped garner a sense of community participation and played an important part in bringing it to market. Contributors include The Yes Men, Code Pink, and more than 75 individual activists. Mitchell told Fast Company that the anthology was compiled as a giant collaborative Google Docs collection, with all authors having commenting rights on all articles, which he says “encouraged everyone to see their small piece as part of a greater whole.” A series of weekend bookwriting marathons, with authors getting together in New York to write and brainstorm, were also held.

The anthology was compiled as a giant collaborative Google Docs collection.

Although the book is geared toward the activist community, many of the tactics and ideologies discussed lend themselves to startups—and even the corporate world—quite easily. At various points in the book, “creative disruptions,” publicity stunts, mediajacking, balancing art and message, and the importance of staying on message, are all discussed. Some sections of the book, such as “Putting Your Target In A Decision Dilemma,” and “Simple Rules Can Have Grand Results,” even fit in perfectly with the corpus of business leadership literature.

Below is an excerpt from Beautiful Trouble's chapter on Guerilla Projection, written by Samantha Corbin and Mark Read.

 

[Main Image: Flickr user Glenn Halog, Top Image: Library Of Congress / Excerpts: OR Books]

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here or find him on Twitter and Google+.

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