Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

Key Readings and Other Resources on Movement Building

While the purpose of this page is mainly to give you a brief outline of social movements in the United States and point you to groups currently dedicated to movement building, below you’ll find some important texts on social movements and movement building theory that we think will be useful for more in-depth study.

Key Readings
At Building Movement Project, we’ve come across a few pieces over the years that have been particularly helpful in our own study of movement building.  Some of these are from folks we’ve worked with in the past, and others are things we’ve picked up along the way.  These are especially helpful for those investigating the role of the nonprofit sector in building social movements.

Building Organizations in a Movement Moment (Beth Zemsky and David Mann)

Social Movements and Philanthropy: How Foundations Can Support Movement Building (Barbara Masters and Torie Osborn)

Making Change: How Social Movements Work and How to Support Them (Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz)

Unstill Waters: The Fluid Role of Networks in Social Movements (Robin Katcher)

Strategic Practice for Social Transformation (Phillip Cryan)

Social Movements and Policy Implementation: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty, 1965 to 1971 (Kenneth T. Andrews)

For Further Study
These longer texts provide a more in depth study of social movements and movement building.

History of Social Movements

When The Old Left Was Young (Robert Cohen)
The Movements of the New Left (Van Gosse)
Poor People’s Movements (Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward)
I’ve Got the Light Of Freedom (Charles Payne)

Social Movement Theory/ Practice

Social Movements (Doug McAdam)
Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements (Doug McAdam)
Social Movements, An Introduction (Donnatella Della Porta)
The Social Movements Reader (Jeff Goodwin)
Freedom is an Endless Meeting (Francesca Polletta)

Other Resources
Other things we think might be useful if you are thinking about integrating movement building practices into your work.

Research for Organizing: a Toolkit For Participatory Action Research from the Community Development Project

Movement Building history progressive change reform resources