As fish in water, we sometimes forget not only the culture we’re swimming in but also the larger ecosystem we’re part of: beyond our organizations, there are many campaigns, movements, cultures, communities, and institutions that are trying to make change in their own ways. The dominant culture of isolation and individualism can confuse us into thinking that we are alone at the center, rather than integrally connected to a network of change makers with diverse theories of change. Ecology shows that diversity and mutualism — rather than monoculture and antagonism — are the conditions for strength and survival. If we saw our work ecologically, we would be more supported and more successful.
Movement ecology is useful not only for appreciating different theories of change, but also for explicitly acknowledging our own individual biases toward a specific theory. If people within your organization or movement aren’t in agreement about a theory of change, it is very difficult to come up with a winning strategy and carry it out in a unified way.