Choosing and Applying Tactics

Training participants analyzing a tactical mapA tactic is a specific action or combination of actions taken to affect a given situation. Tactics are the actions that move the strategy forward. A strategy without well-planned tactics will fail.

This website gives you a place to explore tactics that organizations from around the world used in their work. Use our online Strategy Toolkit to develop your strategy and select effective tactics.

Why is it important to expand your toolbox of tactics?

Here are six important reasons:

  1. What we know how to do influences what we think is possible to do. If your cookbook only has one recipe, that’s all you can cook. But if your cookbook has hundreds of recipes, you have more choices of what to eat.
  2. Different tactics are effective against different targets and in different situations. Trying to create change in a police department requires a different approach than creating change in a school.
  3. Different tactics appeal to different groups and communities. For example, college students and lawyers have different interests and are involved in different types of activities.
  4. Having a wide choice of tactics allows you to be flexible and surprise your opponents. Otherwise said, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
  5. Tactics teach people how to engage in the world by thinking about a situation and participating in ways to change it. Like a musician learning a new piece of music, it gets easier as we practice.
  6. Tactics provide an opportunity for more people to get involved. As systems of acting, tactics create opportunities for many people to be involved, to learn and to become more committed to the work.

Choosing Tactics

When reviewing tactics that you might use, ask yourself several questions:

  • Have I ever seen or used a tactic like this?
  • Can I use some part of this tactic?
  • What might this tactic help my organization do?
  • How could this tactic help me achieve my goals?
  • How risky would this tactic be for my organization or me? Am I prepared to accept the level of risk involved in this tactic?

These are just a few questions to consider before using a tactic. Ask yourself --  and answer -- more questions before you decide to use a tactic.

Join us for online discussions about tactics and strategies and share your own experience so other human rights defenders can learn from you.