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Building Organizations in a Movement Moment

I just read a fascinating article I thought would be of interest to the Leadership Learning Community. Authors Beth Zemsky and David Mann in their article Building Organizations in a Movement Moment describe how we are in a “movement moment.” This is being demonstrated in the ways that group identities are being reframed, new coalitions and partnerships are forming, connections among issues are being articulated, and there is greater focus on systemic change. So what does this movement moment mean for organizations? According to the authors, there is a blurring of organizational lines in structures, strategies and in how the actual work gets done. The article distinguishes “social change organizations” and “social movement organizations” and suggests that the planning process for each type of organization is radically different.

Social change organizations are nonprofit organizations that aim to address systemic problems in a way that will increase the power of marginalized groups, communities or interests. Social movement organizations address large-social issues, provide avenues for access to people outside traditional channels of power, form a collective identify and provide continuity for sustained interaction. Here’s why the planning process is so different for social change organizations and social movement organizations.

  • Organizational permeability: Social change organizations have their stability and sustainability threatened by permeability; social movement organizations need permeability for organizational success.
  • Focus on Environmental Scan: Social change organizations seek to understand the current environment so they can determine the best way to function within it; social movement organizations analyze the current environment to provide information about how to change it.
  • Planning Horizon: Social change organizations have a 1-5 year planning horizon; social movement organizations look out 10-20 years with regular review and updates.

The article ends with a set of planning questions for organizations that are trying to link their strategic planning to movement building. The authors note that “essential to the process is a vision of a transformed result that is grounded in relationships with others.” Are you moving from being a social change organization to a social movement organization? How are you making this transition? What supports have you found to be most helpful?

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Building orgs in a movement moment.pdf429.23 KB