Movements: A Vehicle for Collaborating

Another from the PLAN archives:

Your sacred task is changing. You can now be bolder than you’ve ever been. Here’s the thing: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE. Furthermore, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 


Movements do 3 things much better than other organizational forms such as committees, task forces, partnerships, non-profits, sectors, government, coalitions and federations. They change culture – Thost deeply rooted attitudes and beliefs that keep things the way they are. They do it in three ways:

ONE – Movements provide a vehicle for collaborating and co-operating 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.

TWO – Movements shift the boundaries of what is socially acceptable and expected. They provide a climate for new ideas. Movements create the favourable political conditions for the combination of legislative change, resource allocation, policy shifts, new stories and new behaviours you are looking for. 

THREE –  Movements don’t just open our minds, they touch our hearts. University of Victoria’s Budd Hall suggests that movements are evolving from simply describing the world we want, to giving us the experience of what this new world would resemble using the power of dance, drama, ritual, ceremony, poetry and humour. Movements, he says, are increasingly “about flow, networking, connectivity, immediacy, creativity and an immediate sensual intimacy.”

The arts and social movements make a good marriage because they’re both iconoclastic, set up by their very nature to challenge sacred cows. They lend movements compelling symbols and images that are more meaningful and hopeful than slogans and clichés.

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, addiction, and treatment of children and youth, to name a few.

Here are 8 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. 

Al Etmanski’s speaking notes from the FCSSBC Social Policy Forum, 2016

Image:  Lego Masterpiece by Mark Takagi