Enough of the wailing and whining; the screaming and moaning.
Social movements are collective actions in which the populace is alerted, educated, and mobilized, over years and decades, to challenge the powerholders and the whole society to redress social problems or grievances and restore critical social values. By involving the populace directly in the political process, social movements also foster the concept of government of, by, and for the people. The power of movements is directly proportional to the forcefulness with which the grassroots exert their discontent and demand change.The central issue of social movements, therefore, is the struggle between the movement and the powerholders to win the hearts (sympathies), minds (public opinion), and active support of the great majority of the populace, which ultimately holds the power to either preserve the status quo or create change.There needs to be a revival of democracy through “people power”. The increasingly centralized power of the state and other social institutions, combined with the new use of the mass media to carry out the political process, has all but eliminated effective citizen participation in the decision-making process. Centralized powerholders now make decisions in the interests of a small minority, while simultaneously undermining the common good and aggravating critical social problems.But people are powerful. Power ultimately resides with the populace. History is full of examples of an inspired citizenry involved in social movements that achieve social and political changes—even topple tyrannical governments. Powerholders know this. They know that their power depends on the support or acquiescence of the mass population.Nonviolent social movements are a powerful means for preserving democracy and making societies address critical social problems. They enable citizens to challenge the prevailing centers of power and become active in society's decision-making process, especially at times when the normal channels for their political participation are ineffective. Social movements mobilize citizens and public opinion to challenge powerholders and the whole society to adhere to universal values and sensibilities and redress social problems. At their best, they create an empowered citizenry, shifting the locus of social and political power from central elites and institutions to new grassroots networks and groups.
The lack of a practical analytic model which describes the long process normally taken by successful social movements disempowers activists and limits the effectiveness of their movements. Without the guiding framework that explains the step-by-step process that social movements go through, many activists are unable to identify successes already achieved, set long and short term goals, confidently develop strategies, tactics, and programs, and avoid common pitfalls.Many experienced activists are “take-off junkies”. They know how to create new social movements, but they do not know how to wage long-term movements that progress through a series of successive stages and win actual positive change. Within two years after “take-off”, most activists inevitably perceive that their movement is failing, and their own efforts are futile. This leads to burnout, dropout, and the dissipation of movements.Astoundingly, this happens even when social movements are progressing reasonably well along the road normally taken by successful social movements in the past! Consequently, many activists keep repeating the cycle of “take-off” to “despair and burnout” with each succeeding new movement… Most social problems need to be resolved through changes in policies and structures at the national level. But the national power of social movements comes from the strength of its local groups; national social movements are only as powerful as their grassroots, yet grassroots groups often are unable to make a connection between their own efforts and what happens at the national and international level. It all seems too distant and unconnected.
There is enough congealed, accumulated experienced amidst and across the much derided Kenyan Left and of course a lot of resources available all over the place.
Ideally, a movement must have a plurality of leaders, filling a cabinet of distinct, yet complementary, leadership roles. By utilizing a diverse cabinet of leaders, a movement develops a powerful dynamic that strengthens and emboldens, bringing the movement closer to optimum gains and successes.The current version of the leadership taxonomy includes Visionaries, Strategists, Statespersons, Experts, Outside Sparkplugs, Inside Advocates, Strategic Communicators, Movement Builders, Generalists, Historians, and Cultural Activists.Leaders who make up the leadership taxonomy each bring to the movements they serve a special skill set. Visionaries raise our view of the possible. Strategists chart the vision and achieve what’s attainable. Statespersons elevate the cause in the minds of both the public and decision-makers. Experts wield knowledge to back up the movement's positions. Outside Sparkplugs goad and energize, fiercely holding those in power to account. Inside Advocates understand how to turn power structures and established rules and procedures to advantage. Strategic Communicators deploy the rhetoric to intensify and direct public passion toward the movement’s objectives. Movement Builders generate optimism and good will, infecting others with dedication to the common good. Generalists anchor a movement, grounded in years of experience. Historians uphold a movement’s memory, collecting and conveying its stories. Cultural Activists pair movements with powerful cultural forces. The happy confluence of each of these leadership roles is the hallmark of a successful movement.
- Visionaries. Movements take flight through visionaries. Visionaries lift the horizons of others, setting goals that have never before been imagined or seen as realistic. Visionaries challenge the conventional view of the possible, aim high, take risks, and rethink priorities.
- Strategists. Strategists sort out that part of the vision that is realistically attainable, and develop a road map to get there. Strategists anticipate obstacles, including those laid by unruly coalition members, and provide guidance to insure that the movement remains headed in the right direction.
- Statespersons. Statespersons carry the movement flag. They are the “larger than life” public figures that embody authority and trust. Statespersons radiate credibility for the movement far beyond its core supporters.
- Experts. Experts ensure that all new discoveries and public policy positions are well reasoned and grounded in facts. They possess special skills and knowledge that lend credibility to and back up the positions.
- Outside Sparkplugs. Sparkplugs are agitators: unabashed tellers of truth to power. They operate outside of conventional, political (or other) establishments, free of the ties that bind “inside” players, and capable of holding our governments and other established organizations up to their own rhetoric of mission and commitment. Sparkplugs can kick-start a movement or coalition and keep energy flowing through it. A community may be concerned, even outraged, but it may not be moved to action without a fiery goad. Sparkplugs are often irritating and difficult, but they churn up our collective conscience and annoy us into action.
- Inside Advocates. Inside Advocates are wise in the ways of the political process, they are skilled negotiators, and positioned to influence key policy makers. Inside Advocates occupy seats of power or establish an open door to them, intuit the approaches and arguments that resonate with policy makers, and press them in ways that are not easily dismissed.
- Strategic Communicators. Strategic Communicators are public teachers, masters of the “sound bite” as the concentrated encapsulation of potent messages. They translate complex scientific data, complex public policy, and basic concepts of truth and justice into accurate, powerful metaphorical messages, the significance of which can be instantly grasped by the broad public.
- Movement Builders. The quiet heroes of any successful movement, Movement Builders reach out to draw in new allies; they recruit new activists and make them feel welcome, valued, and heeded. They do the same for longtime movement members as well. They know that a movement is weakest when it shuns diversity and seeks only a narrow, homogeneous base. Builders bridge generations, link local with national, even international advocacy, create space for the knowledge gained through experience to be passed on, and initiate new approaches to participation so diverse voices are heard and their demands heeded. Builders also heal. They circumvent organizational turf hurdles, they convene and facilitate, seek to explore differences through civil discourse and debate, and eschew rancorous division.
- Generalists. Generalists bring multi-layered skills to the effort, often cultivated through many years of experience. They see a movement’s activities from many sides, and can turn their hand to many tasks. Generalists model and live out the ideals of a movement, integrating them into their day-to-day perspective.
- Historians. Historians are keepers of the movement’s memory, bringing to bear the learning of past experience. They recount the history of relationships with partners and key players, as well as the history and evolution of the issue itself over time. They ensure that activists benefit from the hard-won lessons of those who came before them. Historians provide activists with a sense of their legacy, an honor of and obligation to the past, which renews the call for continued action in the present, and the hope of leaving a new generation of lessons and accomplishments for the future. They are the teachers, torchbearers, and conscience for a movement.
- Cultural Activists. Cultural Activists use cultural preservation, history, and activism to sustain movements. They are public opinion leaders, trusted insider figures whom members of a cultural community tend to believe and follow. They build bridges between the movement’s actions and powerful cultural meaning, interpreting back and forth between them in a way that strengthens both.