The Building Movement Project (at the time called Building Movement In(to) the Nonprofit Sector project) held seven regional meetings in the spring and fall, 2001 to explore the intersection between building movement towards social change and building social change organizations. These discussions—which took place in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Knoxville, New York, and Oakland—were designed to deepen our understanding of how to enhance and support the vision and mission of progressive social change organizations, those interested in changing the distribution of resources and power for disenfranchised groups. We were especially interested in the relationship between the strategies and practices of organizations and their form and structure. Our question is how do organizations develop strategies and structures to facilitate the process of building momentum towards social change, and when do strategies and structures hurt this momentum?
Participants came from a range of organizations including organizing, advocacy, services, funding, and technical assistance. They also represented a wide variety of issue areas such as arts and culture, environmental justice, prisoners’ rights, and different identity-based groups. The common thread between participants was their commitment to social justice and social change. Their insights and observations formed the basis of the early work of the Building Movement Project.
Participants were asked to discuss four major questions.
What are the links between your strategy and/or vision of social change, and the structure and/or form of your organization?
What are the challenges you experience in keeping your organization going and in addressing the mission/vision of your organization?
What organizational structures have you found facilitate working towards building larger momentum towards change?
Are there challenges you face in your organization that you would like this project to address?
Our goal in these discussions was to gain insight on the connection between the vision and mission of progressive social change organizations, and the tools and support they have for implementing their vision. We also wanted to amplify the concerns and ideas of those working in social change organizations. Finally, we were interested in how to recognize and address the constraints of the current external environment and its influence on organizations building movement for social, economic and racial justice.