We would first like to clarify that there is no single or official guide to teaching activism within TZM. While there are books and lectures describing the train of thought in TZM, this guide will focus exclusively on tips and suggestions for developing one’s own strategies for being active within TZM, and for creating “branches” in order to expand the movement.
There is also no single guide to being active in TZM, because circumstances and conditions vary and, like nature itself which constantly adapts and innovates, so must activism. It is similarly false to assume that everything that has worked well in one branch will work in another.
The purpose of this guide to inspire and to encourage others to engage in activism within TZM. It includes broad suggestions and working strategies for increasing the productivity and effectiveness of individuals and branches/groups. The sole requirements are to advance the TZM train of thought, while being respectful of those who do not agree with it.
„Founded in 2008, The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) is a sustainability advocacy group that operates through a network of regional chapters, project teams, public events, media expressions and charity operations. TZM's activism is explicitly based on non-violent methods of communication, with the core focus on educating the public about the true root sources of many common personal, social and ecological problems today, coupled with the vast problem-solving and humanity-improving potential, science and technology have now enabled, but yet goes unapplied, due to barriers inherent in the current, established social system.“
-The Zeitgeist Movement Defined, p 09.
As a movement for global sustainability, TZM is not a political party. TZM does realize the current system is unsustainable and must be supplanted, in order for humanity to survive. People of all or no faiths, national or ethnic heritages, and any other personal, social or biological characteristics are welcome to join the movement. This movement is non-hierarchical and rejects any proposed solutions, employing the use of control, violence or coercion, in order to obtain peace and harmony.
TZM relies almost entirely upon the voluntary efforts of its activists. All participation in TZM is voluntary with no fee or credentials needed -- only an understanding of the train of thought, sufficient motivation, and an open heart.
There is a need and a role for everyone, whether it is as a street activist, a designer of web pages or pamphlets, a translator, or an organizer of branch activities. It is up to you to decide what you want to contribute and how much time and energy you devote to it. There is no central body or hierarchy in TZM such as is found in most companies and organizations. The branches that make the whole of the TZM network can be described as “Holographic“, meaning that the integrity and understanding of each group mirrors that of the others. However, it is also important to understand that every activist and branch in TZM exist autonomously. There is no higher branch or body that gives orders to another, and all branches in the world develop their own strategies and systems for sustaining themselves and remaining active.
Activists in TZM are rely on self-motivation and since being active in TZM can conflict with one’s personal life, there is always the threat of activity slowing or coming to a complete halt. Therefore activists and organized branches have made backup plans with emergency contacts that are able to perform tasks to keep the branch going. It is also common to pay for specific services for a branch or for an event, when the efforts of the volunteer activists are insufficient.
The primary focus of activism in TZM is to spread information about sustainable solutions to many of our common global problems. This might be through collaboration with people in areas of environment or animal protection, human rights, Internet freedom, etc, where one can appropriately present the TZM train of thought and explain its applicability. Activism can also extend beyond academic or institutional areas. One can sometimes engage in TZM activism with acquaintances, friends, family, and coworkers. Remember that being dogmatic about TZM or being disrespectful of those who do not understand or agree with TZM is entirely counterproductive.
Some people understand the train of thought and want to be active in TZM, but for them, being a street activist, passing leaflets, or trying to persuade people to look into TZM is not enough. They may prefer a more hands-on approach and wish to express their views or examples of a better future. This can be through art and media such as drawings/paintings/films, launching food (and other) sharing projects, 3D printer tutorials and exhibitions, or applying hydroponics or other sustainable approaches to renewable food and resource management.
It is important to understand that these global problems or solutions do not belong to the movement and do not originate from within the movement. By regarding yourself as a TZM activist, you are responsible for displaying a positive and welcoming image of TZM. The name TZM is only employed to organize a global community with a common goal. Therefore, please be careful with your choice of words when describing TZM or debating various topics. TZM exists to spread awareness, bring people together, motivate people to care about fellow human beings and the environment, and inspire people about our potential to reverse the destruction produced by the current system. Realize that this is ultimately an international, collective effort, and you cannot complete this task alone.
The term branch refers to a gathering of activists for a particular purpose in the TZM network. A branch can be a local (city or state) group/chapter that is working to promote TZM and host workshops. It can be a team of people working to perform certain tasks or functions within TZM, or a branch can be a collection of individuals, working on a single project or event.
All branches in TZM are autonomous and coexist as peers within the TZM family of activists advocating sustainability. Branches in the end serve only to coordinate and organize efforts in the movement.
A National Branch is usually a collaboration of local groups in the same country. The main purpose is to keep all groups in the country informed and in contact with each other and to collect statistics for the rest of the TZM network. When a country has only one local group in a region or city, that group automatically serves as the national branch.
A Regional Branch is similar in operation to a national group, but is focused on the activity and statistics for only a region (state, province, oblast, canton, etc) of a country. Not all countries have or need regional branches.
A City/Lfocal Branch is a group that acts directly in a city/town/village to organize TZM gatherings, street activism, workshops, and other events.
While local groups attempt to share the train of thought of TZM to various audiences, teams are focused on other functions within TZM. They can consist of activists collaborating internationally and electronically, such as a German language translation team with activists from multiple cities in Germany as well as other German-speaking countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria. Of course, teams can exist entirely in a single location and meet in person, too.
A project can be short-term like arranging a particular exhibit or event or ongoing, such as the “Why I advocate TZM” ongoing video project. A project could also be long-term, such as cleaning a city or beach and require substantial funding, planning and time. There are many possibilities.
Branches in TZM are not limited to these three categories. They are actually arbitrary. Activists can create new names or purposes for branches according to their needs and the environment in which they operate. You be the creator!
A branch is started as soon as somebody decides to start one. It is then a matter of finding other like-minded people to participate in the branch, which all must follow obtaining an understanding of the train of thought and the fundamentals of being active in TZM. To have a branch be recognized, it needs to be communicated to the rest of the TZM network. It helps to have a website and social media for the branch so that people can find it.
The only standards of becoming an activist, or starting a branch with others, is performing activities related to TZM and sharing the train of thought, being respectful to other people and the environment, as well as trying to make the world a better place. There are no trials, no membership, or other ordeals to prove oneself being within TZM. People within TZM are judged only by their actions and commitment, as well as what they do for the movement and others. You come as you are.
To best understand and communicate the train of thought, it is recommended to refer to the free online PDF version of “TZM Defined” and share it with others, or help those interested to purchase the paperback edition. However, it is not reasonable to pressure other people to read the more than 300-page book when many people may lack the time or attention span to read a book with such difficult vocabulary. Therefore, it is recommended to reuse already circulating media or create your own material, that is short and to the point, while also referencing the more detailed explanations found in TZM Defined.
When TZM began, most activists and branches used to arrange public viewings of the film series of Peter Joseph, the founder of TZM, such as Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. This was done because of the lack of activist resources describing the TZM train of thought at the time. It is not really recommended for activism events to use the films as a source of activist material, because of the length (almost 3 hours of film), which can be daunting to some audiences and can limit the potential for questions and discussions. The extensive repeated viewings of the film series once caused TZM to be labeled a cult film club instead of a sustainability activist organization. Referring to the films in some contexts or working to have translations of the films produced is certainly encouraged.
Therefore, it is important to have a variety of activist tools, if you are organizing in a branch, having a website that breaks down the focus of the movement is very helpful. For those that are working within a budget and are unable to create a website, we advise locating the most affordable variant of a website, possibly something through Wordpress and employing as much free web-building resources, as possible. There are also many activists in TZM that are web development specialists and may be able to provide some support and answer questions. Social media in general is very important in order to expand your audience. Determine what the most effective and suitable social media platform(s) are for your particular area and look at current established branches of TZM to get good ideas of how you can set up a page for TZM.
The movement operates like an open source platform. It is encouraged to contact other activists and branches to ask to use their existing material, translate it into your language or location and perhaps even create your own material and reverse the process, by distributing it to others.
Events are among the most important aspects of activism. They serve as a means of communicating the state of the world and bringing people together to do something about it. Whether acting as a single activist or within a large branch, it is encouraged for everyone to try to arrange an event.
Organizing an event requires a lot of planning, time, and patience to produce successful and satisfying results. It is also important to understand what the purpose of the event is.
The first Zeitgeist-Day (also known as Z-Day) was in 2009. A global collection of TZM branches held large orientation events to introduce TZM and discuss global crises and solutions. Branches of TZM everywhere hosted events on March 13th 2009, creating much news coverage and exposure. This event has become an annual tradition with branches arranging local events, while one major global gathering is identified and featured as the “Global Z-Day” or “Main Event”, creating an international impact along with local participants. Z-Days do not have to be held on the same date and can be held on multiple dates. Multiple branches in different cities of the same country can hold Z-Day on different dates, for example.
"Z-Days usually contain a number of presentations or lectures from TZM activists or guest speakers, who may be famous or relatively obscure. There are often Q&A (question and answer) panels at the conclusion of the event to follow up on presentations, or address questions regarding TZM, in general. There are normally many leaflets, books, and TZM merchandise at the event to promote and disseminate knowledge of TZM.
Unlike Z-Day, the Zeitgeist Media Festival places emphasis on using art, music and other creative means to express the TZM train of thought. The program usually includes many musical performers, an open gallery of artwork, 3D printing, dance or yoga workshops, and many other creative additions. The first Zeitgeist Media Festival was first held in 2011 in Los Angeles, as a protest against the pessimism and fear-mongering presented during the 10th anniversary of the September 11th Attacks. The idea of the event was to remind people of the larger problems, as well as to share optimism about ways of surmounting them.
This exciting event offers an accessible introduction for newcomers, and does not require the intense and extended concentration required by some Z-Day presentations. The Zeitgeist Media Festival has now also been organized in many other countries and may be held at any time during the year.
TZM had flourished in many branches of Europe by 2015. Several activists and branches were inspired to hold a large TZM convention. The first Zeitgeist European Meet-Up was held for 4 days in Rotterdam, Netherlands in December 2015, featuring a unique program of presentations, workshops, dancing, music, and freedom to interact and establish new friendships. The optimism and synergy inspired people to continue their activism within TZM.
The second Zeitgeist European Meet-Up and first major event within TZM in Eastern-Europe was held in Kiev, Ukraine in July of 2017. The standard of TZM in Europe was greatly was raised with this event, which had rented an entire hotel, featured presentations of well known Ukrainian bands and dancing, and included campfire gatherings, as well as professional simultaneous translation of Ukrainian and English for all attendees. Many attendees claim that it was the best event that TZM ever held.
The Zeitgeist European Meet-Ups are not limited to Europeans, but open to anyone wishing to take part in the excitement. The European Meet-Ups feature the cultures and environments in Europe while continuing to explore and advance the TZM train of thought. They are usually held two years apart and are organized by a European TZM branch.
While Zeitgeist-Day, Zeitgeist Media Festival, and the Zeitgeist European Meet-Ups are the most popular and well known events of TZM, these are not the only variants, and the name “Zeitgeist” does not need to appear the title of every event held by the movement. Activists and branches are free to come up with any type of event that they feel best advances activism within TZM and reaches an audience to promote embracing global sustainability. If it is successful, it might inspire other branches to produce the same kind of event and become popular in the global TZM network. Again, you be the creator!
Every branch in TZM has some sort of meeting, whether at a particular location or held online. It is important to determine why a meeting is held, how regular and frequent it should be, and what objectives should have been met at its conclusion.
Normally in local groups, there are meetings at least monthly to cover subjects such as an upcoming group event, joint activities with other organizations with which the group has chosen to work, translation projects, and so on. Some branches of TZM number more than 100 activists, but it is not really efficient to have giant meetings of so many people, as most do not share the same concerns or special interests. Therefore, it is recommended that a branch create targeted meetings that are focused on specific subjects of interest to smaller subsets of the branch. This also helps shorten the meetings, making them more sustainable. If you are a part of team of people working from several different locations, online meetings will probably your best option to organize the team. Even though teams and projects may be very focused on particular tasks, you will have to determine the regularity and frequency of meetings.
Some international online meetings are held by activists using Discord, Teamspeak, Mumble and other platforms, to allow participants to introduce themselves, make new contacts and discuss TZM related topics. Keep in mind that meetings can also be recreational. A local branch may arrange a casual meetings at cafés or restaurants, that have no agenda other than socializing and taking the time to become better acquainted and make friends.
TZM works from volunteering and without profit. Therefore, collecting the funds needed to finance activism, events and projects can be a challenge. Much of the funding for TZM in the past came from the pockets of activists and volunteers within the movement, and still does. Through the years, it became clear that sometimes and for some purposes, other means of collecting funds were needed. However, due to the open nature of TZM and awareness of the risk of corruption whenever money is accumulated, precautions should be taken. There is no global source of funding in TZM: therefore, all branches have their own responsibilities of collecting the funds needed to perform their operation.
For some events, branches had depended on ticket sales to pay the fees and costs of organizing events. This has not always worked and sometimes has resulted in some activists and sponsors not being repaid the upfront funding they had provided. It has become more common for TZM branches to set up fundraising or donation activities to raise money for specific events or activities. This has required either the opening of a bank account for the branch or a relying on a trusted activist to administer the money from their own personal account and performing the necessary bookkeeping.
Going beyond raising funds for events or a particular project, saved or accumulated funds could be used to print new brochures or leaflets, purchase other merchandise such as t-shirts and pins, or to rent a room for meetings or other activities. As with everything else in TZM, all branches in TZM hold a responsibility to monitor what is occurring within fundraising and donations in the movement. If you see abuse or mismanagement of fundraising efforts or money under the name of TZM, report it by all means to the global website, to all global teams, and to the rest of the movement to expose and stop it. To provide fair and responsible fundraising, branches have to develop a method that best works for them. There must be complete transparency of what is happening with all donations and funds. Everybody involved in that branch should have insight as to what, where and when funds are collected, deposited and distributed.
There are also many methods of collecting funds: from accepting open donations on a website or at events, through a crowdfunding service, or even a branch effort to create special content and use a service like Patreon to collect payment. Again, the branch has to decide together what will best work to help them obtain necessary funds, and honesty is key. Be aware and informed, so that you operate within local and national legal requirements. In some places, even donations have to be properly reported, documented and accounted for. In addition, some donors may require a receipt of their donation, if your branch qualifies as a tax-deductible non-profit organization.
As a social movement, being aware of how we communicate is critical, when presenting topics that address daily life in a complex manner. It is also vital in order to uphold the reputation of a large organization such as TZM. We need to be very careful how we address certain topics, how we describe solutions to what we say the problems are, and try not to put down other people or their opinions, even if they do something very discouraging or disgusting. Key to communicating TZM to others, or collaborating with other activists, is to be inclusive. We want everyone to realize that they have a place in the movement. Even when a conflict of ideas or decisions arises, there is always a method of practical and smooth communication to move beyond it.
When presenting TZM to an audience not familiar with the movement, it must be clear that we are explaining that our monetary system is inherently flawed by design and not suggesting or talking about some secret society. We do not want to invoke fear (which diminishes everyone’s capacity for creative and cognitive activity) in attendees of our events of TZM. We prefer to make people smile more.
If there is anything more important than having activist materials, or the funding to keep TZM events operating, it is communication -- keeping in touch. Even if there is a lack of funding to help spread the word, communication with each other and other branches globally will save your local TZM activism. By communicating, you will find help, support and motivation to keep your local activism or branch efforts going. You may be loaned or given assistance in areas such as web design, translation work, or even needed funding, from others.
Be honest about your personal or branch situation so that others can better understand and support your efforts. It will also be a reflection of the values that are addressed in TZM. Honesty is something money can never buy.
Keep in mind that these are short & long term goals for TZM entirely. For yourself or your branch, you must decide on what deadlines or goals that you think will help keep your activism organized and moving forward.