I think that there needs to be a bit more specificity in the question. The "activists" label is a broad one that can be applied to many different groups. In general, I think that activists define themselves against the primary cultural norm of conformity. For example, the hippie activist movement gained traction because it sought to make itself fundamentally different from the conformist vision that enveloped it. In the case of the hippies, the cultural norm that they defined themselves against was the conformist system that they thought prevented full actualization of their own freedom. This cultural norm of conformity and blending in took away from what the hippies saw as the true essence of human beings in terms of recognizing love, full embrace of freedom, and a communal embrace of humanity. The activism shown by the hippie movement was rooted in defining itself against the conformity that was seen as the norm of the time period. When hippies come up with embracing and advocating the idea of "Turn on, tune in, drop out," it was a direct response to the conformist vision that advocated individualism, economic growth, and the materialism that all often accompany conformity.