Eight Questions for Thinking and Acting Like a Movement

Profound social change requires movements. Movements open our hearts and minds. They create the favourable political conditions for legislative change, resource allocation and policy shifts….

Social movements do two things much better than other forms of organizing.

Social movements do two things much better than other forms of organizing such as committees, task forces, partnerships and coalitions. First, they provide a vehicle for collaborating and mobilizing across sectors, organizational boundaries, social and economic strata, origins, backgrounds and jurisdictions. They are the ultimate inclusive container, encompassing the full assortment of actors and actions required for transformative change.

Second, they embolden decision makers, particularly politicians. They shift the boundaries of what is socially acceptable and politically expected. They create the receptive climate for new ideas to take hold.

You don’t need to start a new movement. Simply support the one(s) you are already part of. For example, the poverty reduction/anti-poverty movements comprise welfare reform, minimum wage, fair wage and guaranteed annual income advocates. Chances are high they could find a common agenda with folks addressing underemployment, unemployment, homelessness, food sovereignty, agri-business, urban gardening, social isolation and addiction, to name a few.

Here are eight questions to help you think and act like a movement.

  1. Which movements are you already part of?
  2. Who are the key players and actors in these movements?
  3. How can these movements help you achieve your organizational mission?
  4. How would you describe your movement objectives?
  5.  What actions can you take to support the movements you are already part of?
  6.  Which movement players could you align with?
  7. Are you welcoming and supporting disruptive, frontline, grassroots individuals and groups?
  8. What about artists, painters, dancers, poets, sculptors, singers, storytellers…?

By setting aside time and resources for movement thinking and acting, we give greater lift to our collective aspirations. There are no shortcuts. Only when people come together in large numbers do we get the world we want.

NOTES: Check out the conversation on social movements I had recently with Marian Tompson, esteemed founder of La Leche League. Click here.


Movements are, “about flow, networking, connectivity, immediacy, creativity and an immediate sensual intimacy.”

Budd Hall, poet, social movement scholar, practitioner of community
based research and socially responsible higher education.

Excerpted and re-posted by permission of Al Etmanski from his blog http://aletmanski.com/blog/. Originally posted June 1, 2016.

About the Lead Author

Al Etmanski
Al Etmanskihttp://www.aletmanski.com/
Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. (www.aletmanski.com) (@aletmanski ) His latest books are Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation and The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), an Ashoka fellow, senior fellow Social Innovation Generation and Co-Chair of BC Partners for Social Impact. Al is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family run social enterprise assisting families address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities, the Registered Disability Savings Plan. John McKnight endorsed Al's book Impact by saying: Impact is a chronicle of the wisdom Etmanski has gained in exploring the keys to long-term social change. His findings lead us out of the past and onto a pathway for progress in the 21st century. Once describing Al as an Abundant Community Pioneer, Peter Block wrote: Al Etmanski is one of North America's best social inventors. He has looked beyond traditional institituions and their failures to create new means of achieving a better life. His analysis of the forms of organization that enable local communities while avoiding rigid hierarchies is groundbreaking. His book A Good Life is a wonderful and practical guide to the potential for neighbors to grow strong through the power of hospitality. Michael J. Fox said of Al's latest book, The Power of Disability: This book reminds us of what we have in common: the power to create a good life for ourselves and for others, no matter what the world has in store for us.

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