Major social transformation is closer than you may think

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
Major social transformation is closer than you may think

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

The retreat of the Occupy movement is a normal and healthy stage of its development. The next step is to generate majority support for our alternatives.


Successful people-powered movements follow a similar arc of development. The best description comes from Bill Moyer’s The Movement Action Plan: A Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements. We believe this is essential reading for activists and include a link to it on the strategy page on Popular Resistance. Moyer expanded this 1987 article into, Doing Democracy, a book published in 2001, a year before he died. You can see a video of Bill Moyer’s last public presentation where he summarized the insights of his lifetime about how social movements grow and succeed, and about his vision of a new culture emerging through the cracks of a declining empire.


Moyers describes a grand strategy that includes 12 phases that lead to Stage 7: “Success.” Throughout this process it is important to remember a movement is only as powerful as its grassroots base and therefore must continue to nourish, support and empower that base. During this phase the movement participants switch roles from being “rebels” to being “change agents.” The 12 phases are to

  1. Keep the issues on the political and social agenda;
  2. Win majority support against current conditions and policies;
  3. Cause powerholders to change strategy although they do not solve problems;
  4. Counter each change in strategy by showing it is a gimmick, not a solution;
  5. Push powerholders to new strategies that take riskier positions and make it harder to hold old positions;
  6. Create strategic campaigns that erode support for the powerholders;
  7. Expand policy goals as the movement realizes the problems are greater than was evident;
  8. Develop stronger and deeper opposition to current conditions and policies;
  9. Promote solutions and a paradigm shift;
  10. Win majority support for the movement’s solutions;
  11. Put the issues on the political and legal agendas;
  12. Finally, the powerholders change positions to appear to get in line with public opinion while attacking the movement and its solutions (e.g. passing a Wall Street health law that claims to cover everyone while demonizing single payer health care which would be universal as too extreme).

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i don't agree with everything being said but to look at things using this movement filter is interesting to me. i wondered if babble might think so.

Pogo Pogo's picture

Interesting to note that politic agendas were very late in the process.  This coincides with my view that change originates outside of politics.  The importance of politics is not as much to generate change but to rather take the baton that so many others have carried and carry it the final laps.  Most importantly, don't drop it.


Pogo, by "political", are you referring to electoral politics? The recent movements in which I have participated (the Québec Spring, Idle No More and the more diffuse development of Ecosocialism) have inherently political demands, though of course they can be unclear and contradictory.

Pogo Pogo's picture

Yes, I was looking at step 11. I don't disagree that movements will have key political goals, just that they are not centered on getting politicians to sign on initially at least. In Richmond we worked to save the Garden City Lands from being turned into a housing development.  We won because we engaged and won over the community. We also had some skilled activists who inflated our strengths.  A couple years later in the municipal election support for our cause was almost a motherhood issue.  Now even the most development oriented politician (except one) knows to be on the right side of preserving farmland in Richmond.