Hahrie Han (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Why are some organizations better than others at getting—and keeping—people involved in activism? From MoveOn.org to the National Rifle Association, Health Care for America Now to the Sierra Club, membership-based civic associations constantly seek to engage people in civic and political action. What makes some more effective than others? Using in-person observations, surveys, and field experiments, this project compares organisations with strong records of engaging people in health and environmental politics to those with weaker records. To build power, civic associations need quality and quantity—or depth and breadth—of activism.

They need lots of people to take action and also a cadre of leaders to develop and execute that activity. Yet, models for how to develop activists and leaders are not necessarily transparent. This project provides these models to help associations build the power they want, and support a healthy democracy. In particular, the project examines organising, mobilising, and lone wolf models of engagement and shows how highly active associations blend mobilising with engagement organising to transform their members’ motivations and capacities for involvement. This is not a simple story about the power of offline versus online organising. Instead, it is a story about how associations can blend both online and offline strategies to build their activist base. By investing in their members, they build the capacity they need to build their membership. The book describes how.

Hahrie is the Anton Vonk Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Her research examines the politics of social policy, especially political organizing, political activism, power-building for social change, civic associations, and environmental politics. She is the author of How Organisations Develop Activists (Oxford University Press, 2014), Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 million Activists Transformed Field Campaigns in America (Oxford University Press, 2014, with Elizabeth McKenna) and Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation and Inequality in American Politics (Stanford University Press, 2009).