1+1=10: A New Equation for Social Change


The social change organization dilemma is, “we know we can’t do it all and yet what we do isn’t enough.” What is this dilemma? It’s that even if we executed our mission to perfection, it would not be enough to create the world we want to live in. So, some may say, then we have to do more. This may be true, many of us want to increase our capacity to get to scale, to do our work better, to have greater impact. But even if we increased our capacity it still wouldn’t be enough to see the change we dream of. So, we come to the conclusion that we know that what we do isn’t enough and yet we can’t do it all. This is not news to many of us, and I know that many of us are working through this dilemma by forming coalitions, alliances, and partnerships, and that is good. 

But by and large, those coalitions tend to be tactical and not strategic. That is to say, they have a short-term focus instead of a long-term outlook. These tactical coalitions that we build are important, but for us to break through, the solution to the dilemma that “We can’t do it all and yet what we do isn’t enough” must be at the forefront of our work. It is that dilemma that should be on the table as we make our strategic plans and work plans and proposals that help us to fulfill our missions. Our own organizational plans need to be addressing the dilemma. In part, that is what movement building is about.

Which leads me to my next point: we need a new equation for maximizing our potential. Right now, the way we work as a movement, most of the time, is 1+1=2. But we can’t afford to keep that pace. The world is in peril. We are at a crossroads. For us to live in the world we dream of, 1+1 must equal 10. And it is already happening.

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