The Citizens Handbook
About the Citizen's Handbook


The Citizens Handbook can be shared, redistributed, modified and incorporated into other websites and publications under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


To contact Charles Dobson email cdobson at



The first print edition of the Citizens Handbook (cover above) was produced in 1995 as part of a project led by a remarkable woman, Chris Warren, who was then working in the Social Planning Department of the City of Vancouver. She gathered a group of citizens together to talk about the effects of aging under the heading of Ready or Not. As a result of these discussions, she shifted the whole project towards what participants were really interested in: How to organize their own neighbourhoods. Chris Warren received a lot of flak from city administrators and politicians, even though the first addition of the Citizens Handbook recommended many ways that citizens could work cooperatively with city government.

A year later, The Vancouver CommunityNet put up the first web edition of the Citizens Handbook, making it the first complete grassroots organizing guide on the web. Soon, everyone began using The Handbook for everything. Google, in a cheeky move, ranked the new site higher than the huge US Citizens Handbook site which listed all the services provided by the US government. Ralph Nader's site, Public Citizen, then adopted the Handbook as its grassroots organizing guide. The Handbook helped Germans address a serious pollution issue, educators in New York a serious funding issue; and oceanographers in the US trying to change public policy to protect sea life. More recently it has been used extensively by citizens in the Ukraine.

troublemaker's teaparty cover

In 2003, New Society Publishers published a revised version of the Handbook titled The Troublemakers Teaparty, A Manual for Effective Citizen Action.

Over the years the focus of the Handbook has changed. It still emphasizes working cooperatively with government, because democratic government remains the best ally of citizens. But confrontational tactics have been added because governments are often slow to respond or, obsessed with control, refuse to respond. We continue to recommend cooperation before confrontation. And we always recommend a genuine attempt to see an issue from the point of view of those whose difficult job is to address public interest issues.

If you have suggestions or additions that would improve the Handbook please send them to cdobson at Thanks for anything you might contribute.

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cover image

The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of the handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots wilt, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from Amazon or from New Society Publishers.