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What makes some protest movements more effective than others?

How important is the size of a protest movement, relative to the tactics used, level of nonviolence, or diversity of groups participating? We try tackle this question using a variety of methods, namely a literature review, expert interviews, policymaker interviews and a case study, seen below.

We compiled a literature review of existing sociological and political science literature on success factors for protest movements. We examine work primarily looking at nonviolence, numbers, the radical flank effect, and external contextual factors.

Social Change Lab has undertaken an extended research project trying to identify what factors, tactics and strategies make some protest more effective than others. In this report, we synthesise our research, which we conducted using various research methods, such as literature reviews, public, expert interviews, policymaker interviews and a case study. 

Our report on success factors

You can also read a Google Docs version here.


The reports below are individual research projects that make up our summary report, which contain further information on our specific methodologies.

We've interviewed 12 academics and movement experts to elicit answers to questions that we believe are not yet answered in existing literature. Examples include:

  • How important are external factors relative to a movement's own strategy and tactics?

  • To what degree does existing literature generalise to other countries, issues or time periods?

See an analysis of our interviews here and our full summary notes of our conversations here.

We interviewed 3 UK Civil Servants to understand the impact of protest movements on UK policymaking. We wanted to elicit questions such as

  • What role do protest movements play in policymakers' perceptions of public opinion?

  • Why do some social movements seem to be more successful in influencing policy?

See an analysis of our interviews here and our full summary notes of our conversations here.

Abstract Sand
Sand Dunes

Case Study: Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

We conducted a case study into the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign, a campaign against animal testing facilities which started in the late 1990s. We review the academic literature, talk to experts studying it, as well as activists who took part.

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