Building a movement for health - Introduction

The People's Health Movement has been discussing for some time now the need for a tool to support movement building at the country level, and to contribute to the creation of a global movement for health. This book is the result of this effort.

In this introduction, we will explore the book’s content and structure, learn more about how it was put together and how you can use it, and get a glance of the plans for the future.

A book does not build a movement (...but it may help)

We know that a written text can only be a tool within a broader strategy for movement building. However, we also feel that the wealth of experience within and around the PHM needs to be shared more, in order to increase the generation of mutual knowledge and help us learn from each other.

This book is not meant to be a guideline nor a toolkit, but more a source of inspiration for those who are engaged in the struggle for health. The stories illustrated speak about the building of a people's health movement - not just any kind of mobilisation for health. It means that a focus is kept on people's engagement and people in the movement having control over the actions.

Sharing our stories

We felt that the best way to learn and share about how to build a movement was to collect stories from local actions that happen within the broad network of the PHM. When we say “broad network”, we are referring to the groups, networks and circles that are part of - or affiliated with - the movement and also those who consider themselves allied or sympathisers with PHM.

In order to collect these stories, we issued a call translated into different languages. We selected 25 case studies from those received, covering most world regions. A group of PHM volunteers from different countries worked together for two months to look at the stories, identify the practices, or key elements, of movement building (how the different groups got organised to lead action), and describe them in what later became the chapters of the book. A call for pictures was also issued, to collect further documentation and to accompany the stories from the movement with the faces of its people.

What's in the book

The preface of this book is meant to explain, in a summary, why there's a need for a local and global mobilisation for the right to health that is powered by people. The story of the PHM is also sketched, together with a description of its current structure and functioning. You may skip this chapter if you're already a PHM fan or member!

The core part of the book is dedicated to the practices of movement building, and we have seven chapters for that:

  1. Relationships, well-being, pleasure in doing things together, values
  2. Decision-making, structure and organisation, sustainability
  3. Advocacy, campaigns, communication
  4. Participation, community action
  5. Networking (at local, national, international level), alliances and cooperation, resource sharing
  6. Mutual learning, knowledge generation, participatory action-research
  7. Popular education, creative and interactive training, transferable skill-building

In each chapter, there are concrete examples of how groups - in different parts of the world - put these principles into practice in order to achieve their goals. The chapters are not meant to be read in a specific order, and you're encouraged to skip and search for what you feel is closer, or more relevant, to your own experience.

The final section is a summary of the stories collected, including references for further reading and contact details of all the authors.

What you can do with this book

This book can be used in different ways, depending on your level of engagement in activism and with the PHM. If you're new to the movement, we recommend you start by reading some of PHM’s history and founding documents, such as the People's Charter for Health which is described in the preface.

If you're already engaged in forms of collective action for health, you can pick the parts of the book that match your priorities or your main challenges. For example, if you struggle to keep the group together and wonder how to nourish relationships within the group, then go to Chapter 1. If you're looking for good examples of engagement in action, such as advocacy or a campaign, then Chapter 3 is the place to go. If you are organising a course for young activists and want to make sure it's effective in ensuring their future engagement with the movement, find some good hints in Chapter 7.

We recommend you use this book as a source of inspiration and a tool for mutual learning. It is not meant to be prescriptive and, as it is clear from the examples used, there is no limit to how you can be engaged in the struggle for health. Nevertheless, there are some principles that inform our action as a people's movement, and you will find mention of these throughout all the examples. One of the most important is the capacity to reflect on one's positions and actions, and this is easier to do when you take some time to learn from the experiences of other people.

Finally, we invite you to use this book for capacity-building within your own group or network. Pick a topic you find relevant for your action, read the related chapter and case studies, and organise a group session to learn from them and use them to better organise local actions. You may also decide to get in touch with those who wrote the case studies to find out more about their experience: through generating new links and relationships we strengthen the living structure of our movement.

From a book to a living library of shared experiences

We are aware that it is extremely difficult, from one point of view, to represent the richness of experiences in the movement that also capture the challenges and opportunities in different local contexts. For this reason, we see this book as a starting point for an ongoing effort to document movement-building practices in the struggle for health. We want to do this by creating an online library of experiences, open to contributions from everyone, as a tool to greatly expand the knowledge about how people effectively act together for Health for All.  

We want to hear from you!

As we said before, we hope that this book gives people new information and insight on movement-building as well as strengthen our movement for Health for All. We would love to hear your comments, reactions, and stories that come from your reading or using this book. Please leave us a comment on our facebook page or send an email to that we can publish on the PHM website.

How to engage with PHM?

There are several ways to engage with PHM, at the local, regional or global level. If you are new to the movement, the first thing that you can do is to browse through our website at After that, you can also subscribe to the PHM Exchange which is the movement's newsletter.

Check the "About PHM" section to know who your regional representative is, and get in touch: he/she will be able to introduce you to the contact persons nearer to you, as well as give you information on the PHM global programs and regional activities.

Finally, you can follow PHM through our social media accounts on Facebook (PHM global) and Twitter (@PHMglobal).

Get full access to the PHM Manual "Building a Movement"
Building a movement for health - Introduction | Viva Salud


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