8 Stages of Successful Social Movements

(ref: Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership by Berit Lakey, George Lakey, Rod Napier, Janice Robinson)

Bill MoyerBill Moyer, a United States social change activist, developed a strategic model for waging successful nonviolent social movements in the late 1970s. This model is called the Movement Action Plan (MAP). Here is a summary of this model as described by George Lakey, the founder and retired executive director of Training for Change.

Stage One: Business as Usual
In this stage, relatively few people care about the issue. Small groups are formed to support each other. The objective is to get people to start thinking about the issue and start spreading the word. Small action projects may be taken on in this stage.

Stage Two: Failure of Established Channels
The general public is unaware of the injustice and largely uninterested in learning about the issue. The public is thinking (or hoping) that established structures are taking care of the problem. “Surely the government is watching out for the safety of our ground water.” “Surely, corporations know which chemicals are safe and unsafe and are already ensuring that workers and the public are not being exposed to the unsafe ones.” In this stage, small groups research the issue and the victims of the injustice. They may sue government agencies or corporations and will usually lose. Nevertheless, these actions are a necessary exercise in building public awareness.  Stage Two polls will show 15% to 20% of public opinion leaning towards the change.
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10 Elements of an Ideal Organizer (according to Saul Alinsky)

(ref: Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, pg 72-80)

  1. Curiosity. The organizer is driven by a compulsive curiosity that knows no limits. “Curiosity killed a cat” has no meaning to the organizer.
  2. Irreverence. Nothing is sacred. The organizer detests dogma, finite definitions of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas.
  3. Imagination. It ignites and feeds the force that drives the organizer to organize for change.
  4. A sense of humor. Laughter is not just a way to maintain sanity but also a key to understanding life.
  5. A bit of a blurred vision of a better world. While working on his/her own small bit, an organizer can keep going with a blurred vision of a great mural where multitudes of others are also painting their bits.
  6. An organized personality. An organized organizer is able to be comfortable in a disorganized situation, rational in a sea of irrationality.
  7. A well-integrated political schizoid. An organizer can polarize an issue 100 to nothing and help lead his/her forces into the conflict while remembering there will come a time for negotiation and that in reality there is only a 10% difference between the two sides.
  8. Ego. There is an unreserved confidence in one’s ability to do what must be done.
  9. A free and open mind, and political relativity. An organizer becomes a flexible personality, not a rigid structure that breaks when something unexpected happens. In the political world, all values are relative. An organizer avoids disillusionment by not succumbing to illusion.
  10. Creating the new out of the old. New ideas come out of challenge to the sacred ideas of the past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged.

The basic difference between the leader and an organizer:

  • The leader goes on to build power to fulfill desires, to hold and wield power for purposes both social and personal. The leader wants the power.
  • An organizer finds a goal in creation of power for others to use.

Also check out 8 Stages of Successful Social Movements.