Corporate and government insider activism

By Animal Ask, George Bridgwater @ 2024-04-26T16:56 (+2)

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Executive summary

Although often seen as outsiders, activists represent values that can be found in all strata of society including the very institutions that are targeted by social movements. Individuals inside these institutions are often faced with uncomfortable moral dilemmas when their values as citizens conflict with their responsibilities at work. While some respond by repressing or compartmentalising these conflicts many will push against the problems in the system from the inside. There have been many instances of these insiders coordinating internal interest groups or cooperating with external organisations to help create change, including within animal advocacy. 

While these natural allies are a well regarded resource, more work could potentially be done to seed or cultivate allies within targeted institutions including corporations and governments. We examine the impact naturally occurring existing insiders have in various movements with the aim to investigate the potential impact of pursuing this as a route to activism. 

Broadly, we find that Insider activism is an inherently difficult phenomena to study and thus few attempts have been made to evaluate its impact empirically. Instead the majority of the existing evidence in favour of this approach is from theory and case studies. These broadly support employee and bureaucratic activism as viable approaches for achieving change. However, it’s still unclear how often attempts are successful. Even in cases where they are, the past success of the environmental or feminist movement may be more difficult to replicate for non-human animals, given the broadly lower levels of support.  

Given uncertain direct impact and the skill building available in such roles for more proven external advocacy tactics, this would still be a reasonable initial career path for activists to consider. In certain corporate roles, we also consider the value of the knowledge and information gathered. Although ultimately boosting the impact of these roles significantly, the information sharing approach comes with some risk. Whether this is worth it will depend on the legality of sharing this information in specific jurisdiction and the risk aversion of the individual.