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Real Change Is Closer Than You Think

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This week we review where we are, i.e. at what stage of the progression of social movements do we find ourselves; and broadly outline the next steps.

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. 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. (Note: We have had a few concerned readers. The Bill Moyer cited in this newsletter is not the Bill Moyers of Moyers Media)

Moyer's work is heartening for social justice activists because it shows how movements grow, recede and change their functions at different stages. By understanding the current stage of development we can better define the work that must be done to achieve success and predict how the power structure and public will react to our actions.

In a recent conversation, Ken Butigan, a peace and justice activist who worked with Moyer, told us that Moyer wrote the first draft of the Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements so people involved in movements would not despair when the movement did not immediately succeed and seemed to disappear without success. These are expected stages of development. Just as we would not expect a 4th grader to be doing calculus, we cannot expect a social movement to jump from Stage 2 to the success of Stage 7. Each step in the process serves an important role.

This Historic Moment

Using the Movement Action Plan as a guide, we see that we are closer to success than one might think. The Occupy Movement was Stage Four of Eight. Moyer describes it:

"New social movements surprise and shock everyone when they burst into the public spotlight on the evening TV news and in newspaper headlines. Overnight, a previously unrecognized social problem becomes a social issue that everyone is talking about. It starts with a highly publicized, shocking incident, a 'trigger event', followed by a nonviolent action campaign that includes large rallies and dramatic civil disobedience. Soon these are repeated in local communities around the country."        


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