5 steps for turning protests into successful social movements
January 31, 2017 | 11:35 am| | | Start Conversation
Throughout history, social movements have created transformational change. While protests are crucial for creating the groundwork, they’re only a first step.
To truly make an impact, a movement must follow five steps:
1. DEFINE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE: Gandhi wanted independence from the British. The civil rights movement wanted specific legislation passed. These were tangible goals that a strategy could be built around. It’s not enough to point out what you don’t like — you need a clear idea of what you want instead.
2. SHIFT THE SPECTRUM OF ALLIES: Figure out whom you can expect active or passive support from and who will offer neutrality at best. Successful movements don’t overpower their opponents; they gradually undermine their opponents’ support. Begin by mobilizing your active allies and core supporters. Reach out to passive supporters, and then bring neutral groups to your side.
3. IDENTIFY THE PILLARS OF POWER: It’s important to identify the institutions that can implement the change you seek. These “pillars of power” may be the police, the media, the education system, government agencies or other organizations.
4. SEEK TO ATTRACT, NOT TO OVERPOWER: It’s easy to fall into the trap of demonizing the other side, and this is where many movements fail. Anger is an effective mobilizer, but anger without hope is destructive. Start with small, achievable goals. Inexpensive, easy-to-replicate, low-risk tactics are the most likely to succeed.
5. BUILD A PLAN TO SURVIVE VICTORY: Winning an election or getting a program approved doesn’t mean it’s time to declare victory. At this point, you must strengthen alliances and renew stakeholders’ commitment. History is made by those who can define a path forward and persuade others that it’s a journey worth taking.
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