The Full Grand Strategy

Grand Strategy


A Grand Strategy is a basic, movement-wide plan for implementing a Theory of Change to win an ultimate Strategic Objective. In the context of a decentralized, popular movement employing escalating nonviolent action, a Grand Strategy is a very important basis of unity that guides all of our actions, enables participants to act in coordination even when not in direct communication, and orients all members within the steps or phases of our work.


The following Grand Strategy is adapted from that developed by 99Rise in the fall of 2015. After the April 2016 mobilization that inaugurated Democracy Spring, that original plan was revised. It is presented here in expanded form, with elaborating elements to flesh out goals, metrics, and possible campaigns or tactics for each Phase.

This Grand Strategy was designed based on a decision to meet what we feel is the moral imperative of this profoundly urgent moment in our history as a nation and planet. We sought to craft a deeply audacious but plausible plan that — if successful — will enable us to win fundamental democracy reform in 2017 and thus create an opening for reforms to address the planetary emergency of climate change immediately after or in 2019, after what would be the first post-reform election in 2018. We understand and accept that we may fail to be successful in any phase of this time-bound plan and thus be required to adapt our strategy and timeline, but we are determined to take that risk in order to pursue a victory that meets the test of urgency of this moment.

PHASE ONE: Lay the Foundation
October 2015 - April 2016
Build the movement’s foundation by forming a core, developing a network of leaders, and recruiting allies to launch first mass nonviolent action campaign. Develop outline of a Reform Agenda to establish political equality for all.


  • Develop a core and network of committed volunteer leaders supported by full time staff; convene extended core for a January 2016 retreat. 
  • Develop basic orientation on Theory of Change and Grand Strategy to absorb new leaders. 
  • Establish outline of comprehensive reform agenda uniting money in politics and voting rights reforms and promote to allies. 
  • Launch April “Democracy Spring” mobilization
  • Launch “Equal Voice for All Declaration” (EVFA) for candidates, members of Congress, and state legislators, and other elected officials to commit or refuse to commit to pursue or fundamental reform to achieve political equality. 
  • Recruit 50-100 committed volunteer leaders, 3-9 core partners, 100+ endorsing organizations, and 20+ high-profile people to risk arrest.

PHASE TWO: Define the Election & Build the Movement
April 2016 - October 2016
Intervene in the 2016 election through mass civil disobedience and decentralized nonviolent direct action to create a national crisis and a popular mandate for fundamental reform. Initiate mass trainings, promote Grand Strategy, build a network of local teams & alliance of affiliated organizations, and complete the Reform Agenda.


  • Execute “Democracy Spring” April campaign, with 1,000+ people pledging to risk arrest and 50+ full-time marchers. 
  • Use EVFA, and other tools or indicators (i.e. co-sponsorship, past votes, public statements of policy support) as necessary, to identify candidates at federal, state, and local level as pro-democracy or pro-corruption. Local teams should decide on the most strategic use of resources with priority on high-profile races, national impact, and goal of generating media attention and electoral results that demonstrate a national mandate for democracy reform. 
  • Use decentralized nonviolent action to expose, brand, disrupt, and isolate pro-corruption candidates. 
  • Use one or more post-April centralized or national nonviolent escalation actions (including DNC action) to create crisis, shape media narrative, polarize the public, and define the election as a referendum on democracy vs. plutocracy. 
  • Build training team up to 50 trainers certified to lead basic DNA training. National DNA training camp for 50-200 volunteer leaders in August. Local trainings in 25 cities/locations across country. 
  • Establish 25 local teams across country, prioritizing major cities. Recruit 50 organizations to join alliance. Build email list to 25K, social media following to 100K, small recent donor base to 2K.
  • Finalize and approve Reform Agenda.


PHASE THREE: Establish the Mandate
October 2016 - December 2016
Mobilize voters to elect a President and federal and state legislators committed to honor the reform mandate. Expand mass trainings and the team network & organizational alliance. Unite the movement around the Reform Agenda.


  • Launch “Get Out The Vote” initiative to mobilize DS movement and public to vote for federal, state, and local candidates identified as pro-democracy and against those identified as pro-corruption via the EVFA or other indicators as necessary. Endorsements of candidates will take into account positions on other issues as well as a measure of competitive viability. Use traditional (i.e. door-knocking, phone-banking, targeted personal voter mobilization within social networks) and/or nontraditional GOTV tools (i.e. earned media oriented marches, fasts, encampments, and visibility events) for maximum voter mobilization and narrative-shaping impact via available resources according to local and national context. 
  • Continue disruption actions targeting pro-corruption candidates as strategic.
  • Help elect pro-democracy President and pro-democracy majorities in both houses of Congress and as many state legislatures as possible. 
  • Unite all alliance organizations and key leaders and organizations in the democracy reform movement(s) and each each sector of progressive movement in support of our Reform Agenda.

PHASE FOUR: Enforce the Mandate
January 2017 - December 2017
Demand that Congress, the President, and state legislatures honor the mandate and enact the Reform Agenda by a specified deadline. Expand movement to prepare for escalation. Escalate to sustained mass civil disobedience and noncooperation if the deadline is not met.


  • Publicly declare demand to Congress, President, and state legislatures to enact Reform Agenda by specific deadline (e.g., first 100 days of new administration). 
  • Expand training program to reach 500 trainers certified to lead basic DNA training. National training & assembly with 500-1000 top volunteer leaders. Local trainings in 100+ cities/locations across country.
  • Build network of local teams to 100+ cities across country. Build alliance to 250+ organizations, including leading organizations from all sectors of progressive movement and 50 organizations to join alliance. Build email list to 250K, civil disobedience pledge list to 100K, social media following to 1M, small donor base to 10K.
  • Target strategic off-year races with intervention via disruption and voter mobilization. Target local or state governments with escalation where there are clear opportunities for momentum-building legislative victories. 
  • If deadline is not met, initiate synchronized or sequenced mass civil disobedience actions and/or occupations at the US Capitol and 35 or more state capitols until reform agenda is enacted.
  • Escalate to days of mass noncooperation (e.g., a general strike) and generalized, high-impact disruptions of business as usual (e.g., blocking freeways, railways, bridges, city centers, government offices, etc.) if necessary. 
  • Mobilize at least 3 million people (~1% of the population) to participate in nonviolent direct action during post-deadline escalation.


PHASE FIVE: Ensure Implementation
January 2017 - November 2018
Monitor and enforce implementation of the Reform Agenda, through further escalation if necessary.


  • Monitor and evaluate the implementation and institutionalization of the reform agenda with movement partners. 
  • Maintain capacity to escalate through mass training and ongoing coordination among movement leaders and supporters. 
  • Ensure implementation of the Reform Agenda through mass civil disobedience and/or noncooperation if it is not instituted fully and expediently.