Social Movement Technologies
Personal Security Training for Activists: October 12 & 19, 2023
  • October 12: for people in Africa, Asia, MENA, Europe, Oceania

  • October 19: for people in the Americas

2 hr session | Recording available to all who attend live
Interpretation to French, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Spanish & Portuguese

Protester tagging an advertisement with spray paint

The @animalrising movement in the UK uses ∀ as its symbol meaning “for all” life. Goal of the action pictured here: to stop horse races where horses are dying. [Photo: A. Hickson, flickr April 2023]

Some of us face threats to our personal safety when we take action or speak out, or even when we go about building relationships to build community power or when we’re laying the groundwork for a campaign as we gather information. Threats might come from state/government actors, private militias, far-right actors, or people whipped up by disinformation campaigns.

What can we do to increase our safety in the face of these threats? That is what this training addresses. We won’t be talking about digital security. (Here’s a free digisec training for activists subtitled in 7 languages if that’s your interest, and here’s an intensive digisec team implementation series coming up.)

In this personal security training we’ll cover:

  • Analyzing and identifying security risks
  • Holistic protection mechanisms
  • Building an organizational security plan

Instructor: Zia Kandler, SMT Staff Partner

Zia Kandler (she/ella) is a Pittsburgh-bred, Bogotá, Colombia-based social justice organizer. Zia specializes in designing and facilitating risk analysis with a differential approach to best support front-line communities. Since 2016, she has worked in international organizations dedicated to accompanying human rights defenders threatened by state-sanctioned violence, most recently in charge of security and protection with Peace Brigades International in Colombia. Zia believes that collective safety is constructed through creating co-responsable community-based alternatives to militarized protection mechanisms and is deeply passionate about accompanying organizations and communities in constructing these agreements.  Zia began organizing as a youth in the environmental justice movements in the Rustbelt and continues to support survivors of sexual violence and create accountable spaces for white folks to show up for racial justice and the environmental justice movement.

Jean-Claude Vignoli works with activists to help them pursue their goals with less risk. He recently trained a group of activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo over two months, teaching them how to raise their physical security awareness and help them use various techniques to protect themselves and their relatives. He worked as national manager at EAGLE, an NGO fighting against traffickers in endangered species. In this role, he was responsible for infiltrating criminal networks and setting up physical and digital security rules for securing his team, and led investigators in high-risk settings in order to arrest mobsters. He is the author of “Pour une poignée d’ivoire,” a book about this fight against trafficking in animals in Africa. He is also a freelance journalist, notably helping indigenous communities to make their voices heard. Previously, as a volunteer journalist and activist for Amnesty International‘s Swiss chapter, he wrote and organized many activities to denounce the death penalty and torture across the world.

We’re interested in connecting with others with deep expertise in personal security. If you have experience to share, please email [email protected]

Session times & language for global access

  • Oct 12: for people in Africa, Asia, MENA, Europe, Oceania (instruction in English interpreted to French, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia) See your timezone here
  • October 19: for people in the Americas (instruction in English interpreted to Spanish, Portuguese) See your timezone here


In order to support a movement organization learning space, SMT trainings are for activists, and staff of non-profits – NGOs, unions and electoral campaigns. Trainings are not for consultants or agencies. Consultants & agency staff who register will have their registrations refunded. Alternatively, on demand trainings are available to all on SMT’s course platform.

No one will be turned away from the live session due to inability to pay. Contact [email protected] to access the live training at no cost.

Requested contribution to cover preparation and instruction, language access, and outreach costs:

Region Organizational Budget (USD) Early

(Ends Oct 1st)

Early Outreach Partner referral (Ends Oct 1st) Regular
North America & Western Europe
$2M+ $80 $40 $100
$500K-2M $72 $36 $90
Under $500K $64 $32 $80
Global (outside North America & Western Europe) $2M+ $64 $32 $80
$500K-2M $56 $28 $70
Under $500K $20 $10 $30
If unable to pay, contact [email protected] for free access to the live session Free


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Staff and activists of 4,900+ groups
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SMT helped GAIA use LinkedIn to reach a key constituency we were having trouble reaching - thousands of people who play a specific role in the waste management industry. We got responses from key players.
SMT helped us create a social media presence to expand our cannabis worker organizing campaign. Our organizers have enhanced their social media capabilities. We have succeeded beyond our expectations. Working with SMT has been a great experience. They really understand organizing and communications.
Having access to experts through the certificate program was amazing. The course is so practical. I set up google ads for the first time and created our digital security policy and implementation plan. Our whole team uses the campaign strategy template now. Now we know how to improve our email deliverability and started a texting program.
The program gave my team the tools and time to strategise how our grassroots migrant organising translates to a digital context. I picked up tools like source codes, which then enabled us to see that more people were registering from Instagram than through any other platform and caused us to adapt our strategy. We also became SMT an Outreach Partner to enable our network to benefit from trainings at lower prices
I really liked the A.I. custom training session, especially the parts tailored to our workstream and with examples pulled from our staff. It really helped to situate the tools in our work and open our team's minds to the possibilities.
SMT's coaching was incredibly supportive, encouraging and accessible. SMT had a huge impact on evolving La Semilla's storytelling program. Through SMT coaching, we diversified our digital communications. Having SMT as a source of resources and as a thought partner has been incredibly impactful to our work. 
The trainings are terrific–geared for every level of experience. And being rooted in social change movement, especially helpful to organizers.
Our coach was an everyday reminder of what we needed to do. He checked in and followed up on us. It really helped us activate Twitter in our campaigns and tighten up digital security. We moved from just having a Twitter handle to building on a hashtag that saw a jailed human rights activist released from prison.
SMT has worked with us to develop and implement a broad and integrated social media strategy. They helped our leadership understand the importance of such a strategy and taught our activists the basic skills to execute it. From website maintenance to targeted twitter campaigns, they are there when you need them and they understand that it is all about movement building.
We have had a fantastic experience with SMT…they have been highly responsive to the needs of our grantees.
The Design Apprenticeship course helped me become bolder in my design choices. I became confident enough to push for a more systemic approach to design in the team, developing templates and guiding other creative colleagues. This program was pivotal in my development as a designer!
We’ve heard really good things from our grantee partners. SMT has a strong, grantee-focused way of working.
I found a lot of value in this Certificate Program that I use in my everyday work: from using social media effectively; significantly growing accounts and activating people online, pressuring targets in campaigns, and running Twitterstorms. Even when using other tools, I still apply the principles I learned!
SMT’s training on using WhatsApp to activate our bases helped us activate more leaders by creating conversational WhatsApp groups for members and assigning different leadership roles to volunteers.
I strongly recommend SMT. Their strong organizing background, preparation and thoughtfulness made our strategy assessment with them enjoyable and really helpful.
SMT's training helped me use my journalistic skills effectively to highlight people's struggles and create change. Using Twitter more effectively, we supported Syria's refugee camp hospital to get more media attention and raise funds to respond to the hospital's needs as well as build visibility on the issues affecting refugees.
Working with SMT was easy and collaborative. The training helped our Greenpeace Southeast Asia team get new insights into campaign best practices across the globe.
Without SMT we would not have been able to move our organizing from the field to the digital arena during COVID. They helped us set up systems, coached and trained our folks, helped us troubleshoot and launch digital outreach efforts all in crucial campaign moments. Can’t speak highly enough about what their help meant!
The SMT trainings I’ve taken have helped us mobilize and deepen engagement in our communities. Through Twitterstorms, phone banking, and other tactics that I learned through SMT’s trainings, we succeeded in our call to #ExtendtheReg for a million young people who would otherwise be disenfranchised by anti-poor COVID policies.
SMT is the only training I know of that speaks our language of activism and uses the tools we use everyday in the field. They are a go-to resource to help raise the bar for communications in the labor movement.
I implemented lessons on personal narrative, public narrative and emails directly into my campaign, so this was an instant gratification. I loved learning from the other Digital Campaigning Certificate Program participants who came from around the world, working on different topics.
SMT coaching enabled us to expand our presence within human rights spaces in Kenya beyond an LGBTIQ audience. It helped us use Twitter to connect with allies in the environmental justice and land rights movements. It was amazing to have someone to work with who knows our work and give us templates just when we needed them.
I took the workers organizing in the digital age training. We really need this kind of training in Finland, which people in the US have had access to for some years. The training was effective to start organizing for instance on Twitter.
SMT has been a great partner to co-design and launch a set of offerings that meet the growing digital and remote needs of the organizations we support, including bilingual access for our Spanish-speaking partners. The team is relatable, attentive and knowledgeable and their use of case studies helps to make complex information accessible!
We’re starting our third straight year providing grantee partners with Social Movement Technologies training and coaching…our grantees are in good hands.
Our staff took a lot of SMT courses – including the intensive Digital Campaigning Certificate Program. It helped us take our digital campaigning and collectivizing actions to the next level! We used various tools to increase our follower base and successfully target authorities to take action at the village and municipal levels in India.
SMT helped us craft an effective public narrative for our campaign to get a mine closed. SMT helped us finalize a campaign strategy and come up with an effective plan to raise visibility and engage the public. Our campaign led to a pause in the mining. We will keep fighting!

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