WE BELIEVE in people power and the game-changing role that creativity, humor, joy, and mischief can play in the struggle for a better world.
WE PRACTICE shared leadership, modified consensus-based decision making, anti-oppression politics, and international and intersectional solidarity.
In our work and the tools we create, we aim to embody the following values:
We — wait, what do you mean we? — are the 99%!
We are living our lives as acts of resistance to unjust systems (capitalism; racism and white supremacy; patriarchy, sexism and heterosexism; ableism; and other forms of oppression).
The Beautiful: From our forthcoming book Beautiful Solutions to amplifying tactics like Prefigurative Politics to supporting small direct actions around the world with our Get Up Rise Up Fund, we seek strategies to simultaneously dismantle the forces that hold us back, while constructing new ways of being in the world together. Wherever people are rising up to defend their fundamental rights we offer our solidarity, support, and tools. At the same time, we remain vigilant to the corrosive effects of the NGO-ization of resistance, and so-called “democracy promotion,” as well as direct efforts by governments or corporations to usurp social movements.
The Trouble: How to lovingly call each other in when we repeat these dynamics in real time inside our teams? How to uplevel our systems (become a 501c3, have real accounting, and pay staff, etc.) without falling into the traps of nonprofit culture?! And what does it mean to sell products while dismantling capitalism?
See Beautiful Solutions Value: Advances Justice.
Put the “art” back in “smart ass.” Put the “resist” back in “irresistible.”
Art seeks to explore the deep questions. Politics demands a clear direction and message. That’s a tough tension to manage. While sometimes quick gimmicks are called for; we believe it pays to dig deeper — in our craft and in ourselves — to mobilize the unique powers of art and creativity. As Toni Cade Bambara said, “It is the role of the artist to make the revolution irresistible.”
The Beautiful: There’s no shortage of organizing manuals. What sets Beautiful Trouble apart, from the beginning, has been our mission to inventory the creative edge of social movement practices. From Guerrilla Projections to the People’s Shock Doctrine, we’ve done just that.
The Trouble: Sometimes creativity can be a real slog, and trying to be funny all the time is no laughing matter. Go on, you try it!
See Beautiful Trouble Principle: Balance Art and Message.
The margins are the center.
We believe in following the leadership of those on the frontlines, and in our work we strive to unravel unequal power relations rooted in historical and structural violence.
The Beautiful: A majority of our toolbox, written by frontline activists, amplifies voices from systematically-oppressed communities. Our decentralized team collaborates around the world and across our many struggles for liberation to share tactical genius and advance long-term strategic action toward a resilient future. We utilize a consensus-based decision making structure across our teams.
The Trouble: Our predominately white, Global North-based, cis-gendered team is on a learning journey toward recognizing power and privilege and dismantling oppressive behaviors.
The revolution will not be colonized.
We recognize the power dynamics inherent in language and any act of interpretation; and we especially acknowledge the historic plundering of Indigenous and traditional sources of knowledge by those with more wealth, power, and privilege.
The Beautiful: As curators of the collective wisdom of diverse practices across many realms and regions, we respect the original sources of ideas and give credit where it is due.
The Trouble: How does a virtual organization pay an indigenous land tax? How do we give a consistent Beautiful-Trouble-esque voice to stories contributed by diverse communities?
A More Radical Commons
Steal this curriculum!
Efforts around the globe to defend and extend the commons are helping us rediscover relationships rooted in cooperation, solidarity and stewardship, rather than competition, egotism and exploitation.
The Beautiful: We use and contribute to open-source software initiatives whenever possible, and our materials are published in the Creative Commons. So, the content you find under the Beautiful Trouble umbrella belongs to you too! We credit those whose work we amplify and hope you’ll credit us when using our tools. We’re working hard so that the toolbox is accessible to all, regardless of limitations of financial resources, bandwidth, language, and technology. As much as possible, we use communication tools that protect our contributors’ privacy. And, heck, our entire book was written in collaborative work sprints across myriad time zones and edited in real time online. There’s always more than one chef in the kitchen when we’re cooking up trouble!
The Trouble: We want to give away all our stuff for free to anyone who can use it, and, um, eat dinner too. Will you become a sustaining donor? We are only actually in the Commons when people like you share our tools — will you?
Mourn, then organize. Then party!
If oppression is a denial of life, a process of dehumanization, then the affirmation of life should be at the center of our efforts to build a better world. As we resist injustice and construct new economic and social systems, we must not forget to dance, sing, play, pray and create.
The Beautiful: We invite one another to bring our whole selves to our work, our passions, our ways of learning and communicating, our everyday joys and sorrows.
The Trouble: How can we provide healthcare (in a country that doesn’t have universal coverage) for our crackerjack team when we can barely keep the lights on in our (virtual) office?! How can we create space to both mourn and organize on a one hour zoom?
See Beautiful Solutions Value: Celebrates Life.
And Beautiful Trouble Principle: Joy is a Revolutionary force!
Tools You Can Use
If the only tool you have is a hammer, it's hard to eat spaghetti.
As Bertolt Brecht famously said, “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to change it.” But if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail. To serve movements well, a toolbox must include a diverse set of tools that can be adapted to the varied contexts organizers find themselves in. No tool should be too heavy to lift up; and all of them should have a good grip. A toolbox full of such tools can make the difference between victory and repeated failure.
The Beautiful: “Sorry about the two-page letter, I didn’t have time to write you a one-page letter,” said no Beautiful Trouble editor ever. From our 500-word “chapters” to our card deck that crystallizes generations of social movement wisdom into 99 cards, everything we write is action-ready, the size of a single idea that you can put to work.
The Trouble: How to write books for people and communities that don’t read much, or at all? How to design a big toolbox of all-purpose tools that still makes it easy for an organizer to quickly grab the specific tool(s) they need? How to pare down content and give it that signature troublemaker tone while preserving the authentic voice of the writer and activist community it originates in?
Regenerating from the Ashes of Empire
Sustainability practitioners do it forever.
To survive (and thrive) as a species, we need to resist extraction, reduce consumption, and build alternative institutions powered by renewable resources and freely associated labor.
The Beautiful: We strive to power our troublemaking with renewable resources wherever possible and to walk our talk in all we do. Our card deck is printed by a worker-owned cooperative using recycled materials. Beyond limiting our footprint, we strive to be members of our species in which the Earth can seek refuge.
The Trouble: We often fly to you for trainings. We store massive amounts of google docs on energy-guzzling servers. We haven’t yet defeated the oil and gas industry with card deck drinking games.
Put our values to work…
The Beautiful Trouble team claims no responsibility for the victories achieved, the defeats suffered, nor any unintended consequences that may arise from the use of our tools.
An Attitude Trigger Warning: We take our work so seriously that sometimes our language goes off the deep end. As we say, Without gallows humor, all you have are the gallows. Use Humor to Undermine Authority.
Though our focus is on achieving social change through movement building and nonviolent direct action rooted in love and solidarity, we do not presume to dictate or police the range of acceptable responses to any given situation. We support each other to experiment and take risks, knowing that risk and its consequences are different for all of us. Take risks, but take care!
This statement of values is a work-in-progress. Living documents need care and feeding for optimal health, so we want to hear from YOU with ideas, gripes, suggestions, and additional perspectives — especially if you have The (beautiful) Solution to any of The Trouble above!