Tools for Activists

The tools on this page provide practical advice for community activists working to protect rivers and stop destructive river-engineering projects.

The Basics

If you're just getting started, a good place to do so is Dams, Rivers and Rights: An Action Guide for Communities Affected by Dams. This guide provides general information about dams and their impacts, shares lessons and ideas from the growing international anti-dam movement, and gives concrete ideas on how to challenge dams. (Available in 18 languages.)

Maps can be a valuable campaign tool. To learn how to get started in mapping, read Making Maps that Make A Difference: A Citizens' Guide to Making and Using Maps for Advocacy Work.

How do dams alter rivers? For a look at basic dam impacts, check out, where you can explore the components of healthy rivers and what happens when a dam is built. Check out the latest research on reservoir emissions and a Google Earth 3-D tour to understand how dams can worsen the impacts of climate change.

Learn how Thai groups do community based research on fisheries to protect their resources when dams are proposed, and learn how you can design your own citizen science monitoring project. Many communities and campaigns have used a variety of legal tools in their struggles to protect their rivers and livelihoods.

And check out our growing library of infographics, which cover a number of key topics about dams – from the basics of environmental flows to the World Bank's history of damming – in simple, graphic form.

Regional guides

Proposing a Better Way

If you want to propose alternative planning processes: our Citizens’ Guide to the WCD summarizes key findings of the World Commission on Dams' final report, and describes how community groups can use the report to improve water and energy planning. Our Protecting Rivers and Rights activist briefing kit provides concrete examples of where and how the WCD principles have been applied, and what happened when they were ignored. 

If you want to propose better solutions to meeting water and energy needs:

If you are working to decommission a dam:

If the aluminum industry is the primary motivator for a dam: Foiling the Aluminum Industry: A Toolkit for Communities, Activists, Consumers and Workers. This toolkit provides a variety of information fundamental to understanding the aluminum industry. Includes case studies, practical suggestions on tactics that may be useful for activists, and consumer tips on reducing the impacts of aluminum products.

If you are looking for pro bono lawyers to assist you in a court case involving dams or mining: Environmental Defenders Law Center Pro Bono Program. This group enlists top American and European lawyers and law firms to provide pro bono assistance to protect the human rights of individuals and communities in developing countries who are fighting against harm to their environment.

Information for Grantseekers:

If you are seeking funds to support a particular campaign or program, Global Greengrants Fund has a compilation of resources for grantseekers. If you interested in launching a new project, check out Earth Island Institute's Project Support Program.

Telling Your Story:

Telling a compelling and effective story about your work is key to raising awareness about your issues, growing your network of allies, and increasing funding from your supporters. If you have a story you wish to share, you can submit it to our online story collection. If you would like to make a video about your campaign or organization, apply to Positive Exposures – if accepted, they will produce media projects that help you tell your story free of charge. If you are interested in learning how to write an op-ed, there are a number of good online resources that provide tips on how to write an op-ed. Learn how to tell a compelling story through visuals, and then get your story out through social media.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Visit our resources page for our complete library.


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