15 ways to explore social and economic justice with pop culture

Media and pop culture has the power to ignite social change. It resonates with people’s emotions, creating an environment where campaigners can go in to win hearts and minds, creating a cultural shift in opinions. This then paves the way for policy change through public then political pressure. Getting to that stage is hard and takes incredible amounts of time, cooperation and resources. Some of you might have read Riding the Waves, which shows how pop culture can do this. If you’re fascinated by this idea as much we are, this is a great place to start.

Cathy Come Home, An Inconvenient Truth, Bob Marley, Childish Gambino and The Second Sex are great examples of pop culture contributing towards social change with their explicit critique of the status quo. Even stories like the Handmaid’s Tale, Black Mirror, Hunger Games and 1984 which don’t directly address current social issues, definitely provide a commentary on negative parts of society that people can build upon themselves.

So, we have pulled together a list of different media and pop culture that we think have opened up debate social and economic justice. This is just a starting point, so if you have any other things you’ve been enjoying, tag us on Twitter to let us know @SocialChangeAg.


I, Daniel Blake (2016)

A visceral story about the harsh realities of the British benefits system and how it contributes towards economic inequality. This film was received so well by critics and the public that it brought the issue to the forefront of political debate at the time.

The Big Short (2015)

This exhilarating comedy-drama is a great way to understand what caused the Great Financial Crisis. It carries you from the beginnings in the 1970s right up to when it actually happened. Based on real people and events, it shows how a few people took advantage of the financial system to make huge amounts of money, but caused misery and poverty for millions of others.

The Divide (2015)

An adaptation of the book, The Spirit Level, this film looks at social and economic divisions from both sides of the pond. A sort of docu-film, it follows seven people from different backgrounds in the UK and US, unpicking what they feel are the barriers to them striving for a better life.

Pride (2014)

Based on a true story, this heartwarming film is an amazing example of building collaborative movements to change political and social attitudes in Britain. Miners and gay activists came together in 1984 with the joint purpose of raising awareness and achieving justice for their movements, uniting in a huge success. This is definitely one to watch if you need a need a feel good film.


Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

This influential and widely read book is based on an alternate history where white people live like slaves and black people live like kings. It helped ignite the debate around privilege, which has now become a more widely recognised cause of inequality and economic injustice.

Black and British by David Olusoga

Going where few historians have gone before, David Olusoga looks at the entire history of the British Empire from the guise of people of colour. History books have been typically written by wealthy white men, giving one side of the story. This book gives a refreshing look into the social and economic divides caused by the empire and how it applies to society now, and being written like a story book, it’s a real page turner.

The Establishment by Owen Jones

A fascinating yet disturbing look into who holds the power in the UK, and how they keep it. This book breaks down the networks, institutions and individuals that perpetuate inequality British society.

The Equality Effect by Danny Dorling

A more factual book for an in-depth read, showing that the countries with the highest equality are generally the happiest.


Akala’s ‘Fire in the Booth’ 1, 2, 3 & 4

Incredible sessions of spoken word and rap that boosted him into the political sphere. Akala talks about every aspect of society contributing to social and economic inequality in the UK such as education, family, employment, poverty, class, culture, power, empire, race, gender, law and politics.

‘CLASS on Class’ by Dr Faiza Shaheen

Faiza is the Director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies and created this three part series to provide a better understanding of what class is and the issues surrounding it. She wants people who are class-clueless to become class-conscious, and provide a common ground for activists from all sides to move forward with together.

Wonderland Podcast

A wonderful podcast that looks at the connection between pop culture and social change. Each episode brings together a pop culture innovator and a social change leader, with game-changing fresh thinking on how to bring about positive change in society.

Leveraging pop culture for social change

We had the pleasure of chatting to Alice Sachrajda and Marzena Zukowska, authors of New Brave World: The power, opportunities and potential of pop culture for social change in the UK.

In the podcast episode we look at examples of where pop culture can and has been used to shift narratives and drive social change.



Started to give a voice for women of colour in journalism, this print and digital magazine has become a great space for political discussion with a heavy focus on social justice.

Consented Magazine: Issue 7 ‘Class and Capitalism’

Over 100 pages of artwork and articles looking closely at race, class and capitalism.

Stir to Action Magazine

A quarterly magazine on the new economy with innovative ideas, theories, articles and events.


Black History Walks

Run by a collective of individuals, these tours take you through London and point out landmarks that have historical relations to the slave trade and empire. Seeing how one of the wealthiest cities in the world was built on economic and social injustice opens your eyes to the inequalities that exist in the city today.

Free resources

Movement Building Canvas

The Movement Building Canvas is a practical framework and printable worksheet to help you or your organisation design and build a social movement.

Power Mapping Canvas

The essential, practical tool for campaigners – If you want to influence change you need to understand who holds the power.

See more resources