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Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  4,735 ratings  ·  585 reviews
Inspired by Octavia Butler's explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invit ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published April 3rd 2017 by A K Pr Distribution (first published March 20th 2017)
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 ·  4,735 ratings  ·  585 reviews

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Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I say this with the utmost love and respect for both emergent strategy as concept and the author: this desperately needed an editor. As it stands, Emergent Strategy is a rather disjointed sea of thoughts, quotes (so. many. quotes.), blog posts, and speeches. I never felt as though I had enough forewarning when the book would suddenly divert into a blog post or speech. Countless quotes bog down the overall message and create a murkiness that I as a reader could never recover from. The introductio ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

A powerful, rousing book that I would recommend to anyone interested in activism and social justice. Adrienne Maree Brown builds this book upon the notion of emergent strategy, conceptualized as "the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions." From there, she discusses how we can use our relationships with others and ourselves to change the world. She addresses many topics, ranging from the necessity of interdependence and decentraliz
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: activisty
Started this book when it came out and was confused so I put it down and then tried to finish it when it came up as a book for a book club. I have read other peoples reviews and am not sure why this book is popular, so i feel out of step disliking this book. I have been to a few of Brown's workshops through the Detroit's Allied Media Conference and am familiar with her work in Ruckus and as a facilitator. So again, was excited about the book, but just felt disappointed. For facilitators in the m ...more
Joe Xtarr
Edit (3-12-21)
Since having made this first review, I've learned more about adrienne. She's become an activist grifter of sorts, charging thousands of dollars for seminars and discussion groups. Most of the ideas in this book were co-opted from queer Black anarchist spaces and delivered in a neat little package to cater towards a greater White acceptance. Get this book for free if you can. The content is still relevant, but beware the author.


This book fucked me up in so many good ways
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this so badly, but I was painfully disappointed. This book is chaotic. Not in a good way, but in a braindump-without-structure-way. It makes reading the book a slow struggle and it gives such a horrible overview of what it's actually about. I believe you can finish this book and still not totally get what emergent strategy is.

Another thing that irked me is the focus on leadership, coaching, managing. I purchased this from an anarchist publisher -what is happening?! Every few pag
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WHAT TIME IS IT ON THE CLOCK OF THE WORLD? -Grace Lee Boggs, quoted p 168

I’ve savored this one.

Over four months, I read and re-read it in fluid motions like the book expresses itself. Loved the intelligence here, and with the heart in the work. This sort of improvisational reading was so, very generative in my experience. The mind of this book is itself generative. Creative. Fluid. Detail rich.

The book is a big, fast-moving syllabus of best practices, beauty, jokes and hope. Recommended for id
Always Pouting
Multiple people recommended this book to me and it just really wasn't for me. I knew it too from the opening of this when Brown explains what the book was but I have this compulsive need tot finish any book I start. I really had to force myself to get through this one though to be quite honest. This is much more like a journal where someone jotted down everything the found inspirational and thoughts that somehow related to organizing and being in community. I just found it lacking in its ability ...more
Rose Peterson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book came highly recommended to me from a friend, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as she did. While adrienne maree brown claims the premise is biomimicry, I found it to include more underexplained nature metaphors than actual science. I know the author would say that I am trying to use oppressive logic to understand this concept, that I need to envision different ways of knowing to understand, but I was left feeling unconvinced of the veracity of her ideas. The book was ill-organized a ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: racial-justice
I LOVE this book. I know I will go back and read it again and again. There is so much to get out of it, and it is something I want to think about, apply, reflect, and then go back and read with that new experiential knowledge. I'm hesitant to review because I don't think I can do it justice, but would STRONGLY recommend it. For me, it's a beautiful bridge between personal-organizational-societal work that is missing from a lot of discussions and approaches. Full of new ways to think about the wo ...more
Erhardt Graeff
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful book. Though still young, adrienne maree brown has evidently lived many lifetimes at the vanguard of contemporary social movements. And she has earned a lot of wisdom through tough trials, a world of mentors, and deep reflection and practice.

Part call to action, part self-help book, part memoir, part transformative justice toolkit, Emergent Strategy is as intersectional in its genre and dimensions as it is in its politics. And these overlapping qualities embrace the concept of
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
I resisted this book at first, because it contains a lot of the kind of spirituality that strains my comfortable logic zone. But the writing is so also grounded, down to earth, and routed in experience. The core of the book - getting better at the micro and living in worlds of our own imaginations rather than the imaginations of the people who got us into this mess - is so crucial. Regardless of how you feel about her practices and path, it is hard for me to believe that anyone who is not trying ...more
Glennys Egan
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The content of this book is incredible; as a person interested in social justice, self-improvement and facilitation, I will take many of the lessons and tools forward. However, it could have badly used an editor - very repetitive, not very well organized and too much clutter make it difficult to follow at times. There are some stunning writings and ideas in it, I wish they were a bit more accessible rather than having to sift through.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this is the kind of book that i will think about every day for the rest of my life. the book is clear that these ideas aren’t *new* but does provide a good framework. in adrienne maree browns's words: "Emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for" (3).

i love the idea that "what we do on the small scale matters on the big scale." love obviously brown's love of octavia butler's "shaping change/god" concept. love
Michael Strode
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Ideas that emerge from obligation tend to go stagnate waiting for water." ~ adrienne maree brown

Not since Julius Lester's "Search For The New Land" have I been gripped so urgently through a course of reading and throughly rewarded with its conclusion. Lester wove a complex historical narrative in glimpses from an amalgamation of news articles, fading memories, personal journals and passing conversations crafting a work drifting between memoir and found poetry. Emerging from the reflective inqui
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is an easy read and with a few great one-liners and anecdotes, but it doesn't go anywhere. brown introduces her theory of "emergent strategy" as building off the ideas explored in the fiction of Octavia Butler, but instead of laying out these lessons and connecting them to Butler's stories, brown tells her readers to just go read Butler. I have in fact read a little Butler (this year! yay!), and I can confirm that I need the author to do some of the legwork and make connections for me as a ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is useful medicine against the fear, isolation and disillusionment that this moment in time can bring about. Calling us to honour our relationship to the natural world and--because we're of this world--recognize our essential interdependence, AMB maps out ways of transforming social conditions and moving toward liberation through collectivity, healing justice, iterative processes, and love (among other things). I especially appreciate the ways in which the writing and composition of th ...more
Sarah Cavar
May 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Chock-full of instagram "philosopher" platitudes and little substance –– a self-help book of the worst kind, one masquerading as a book with the capacity to transform.

Just read Octavia Butler's actual work instead.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I give it seven out of five stars! Srsly.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is for folks who place a high value on both self-care and social change, and could use a non-linear approach to both. It is nourishing, meandering, gentle, radical, and imperfectly focused -- perhaps a refraction of the author herself. I love the big ideas, the optimism, the impulse to find endless metaphors for human life - and for activism - in nature. I wish the big ideas were explored in a more focused way, and with less recycling of old blog posts, but I guess the whole notion of ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've spent a lot of time hoping to find a book like this. I would describe it as a self-help book for people involved in social justice movements, but that description doesn't quite capture how powerful it is. It encourages self-compassion, growth, healing, and open communication. I found this book to be particularly helpful for reconciling feminist beliefs with anti-carceral ones (and realizing that the two are not as separate as I once thought), for challenging my tendency to dissociate rather ...more
Danni Green
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was expecting this to be something of an activist how-to guide. It turned out to be so much more than that! It is full of useful information for activists, but it is also a love poem, a wildly-crafted work of art, a live performance piece in book form vibrating between the reader's hands. It engages on the mind, body, and spirit levels, putting into conversation the individual, community, and global/planetary dynamics that are inseparable and essential for conceptualizing transformation. I oft ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book!! Must, must read for organizers and facilitators. But also very important resource for anyone who wants to build better, more liberated relationships with themselves, their friends, their communities, families, or with the earth.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: partly-read
What I got out of this book: that I should go read Octavia Butler.
"Science fiction, particularly visionary fiction, is where I go when I need the medicine of possibility applied to the trauma of human behavior." (37)

From a list of notes on U.S./Western socialization (47-49):
--"We learn to be quiet, polite, indirect, and submissive, not to disturb the status quo."
--"We learn that tests and deadlines are the reasons to take action. This puts those with good short-term memories and a positive response to pressure in leadership positions, leading to urgency-based
Luke Hillier
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to review in much the same way that it was difficult to read. Brown offers us some really profound, catalyzing, and generative insights here, but it's been obscured and blunted by the disorganized, scrambled structure of the book and writing style. And while I know that that critique could easily be dismissed as a perpetuation of some of the systems emergent strategy resists, I think the valid failing of the book is that I cannot use emergent strategy to concretely artic ...more
Debbie Notkin
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have heard Adrienne Maree Brown speak, and been very impressed; I also (of course) read Octavia's Brood, which she co-edited with Walidah Imarisha, and was also impressed. So I've been looking forward to this book for a long time.

By design, Brown has written a book that's difficult to get your arms around, and even more difficult to describe. In a not-quite-structure, she is imparting her ideas, and the ideas of her mentors, comrades, and "woes" on how things change ("Woe" stands for "working
Maggie Gordon
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is not often that I say a book was life-changing, but Emergent Strategy is brilliant! adrienne maree brown speaks of an activist philosophy that's grounded in lessons from both the natural world and Octavia Butler. Small acts become large, and the focus is on building and creating a better world. It's a bit of a strange read as brown lapses into poetry and interviews every few pages, but her ideas are so powerful and optimistic that the strange format just seems to add to the magical feeling ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this daily in tiny snack bites for almost a month. LOVED IT, wish it had been required reading for my past life roles as a professional coach & facilitator. Sparked my imagination. Big thanks to Michael & Hilary.
Beka Yang
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
incredibly important book!!! esp for anyone engaged in organizing or team work in general. SO much insightful, grounded, and ultimately hopeful wisdom. thank you adrienne!!!!
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Emergent Strategy uses resilient biological systems to inspire strategies for social justice groups. The book is organized in an almost folkloric fashion, peppered with stories and innuendoes and reflections and other ideas how to grow healthy justice movements. I am reluctant to offer too heavy a critique against work that has such honest motivations and many good ideas.

But for a book on process and organization, this book suffers from a lack of process and organization. brown essentially tells
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Open as in book: September/October Emergent Strategy 8 16 Oct 12, 2019 09:11AM  

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adrienne maree brown is the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is the cohost of the How to Survive the End of the World and Octavia’s Parables podcasts. adrienne is rooted in Detroit.

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