There are stories that reveal the inequalities around us, that show us the oppression of peoples and communities. We hear these type of stories everyday and yet the majority of the world continues without doing much about them.
Then there are stories like Occupy Sandy, the anti-immigrant bill HR4437, and the murder of Trayvon Martin that captures our attention and reveals a hidden crisis in our society.
Within these crises there are moments where people finally feel tired of being oppressed, of seeing someone be deported, or fired from their jobs. It’s in these moments when people say enough is enough that the journey to justice begins. In that journey people begin to take leadership and organize and rebuild their communities. At the Ayni Institute we understand that we have a long history of people taking leadership to fight oppression and working towards a vision of community. In the past lies some of the answers and questions that our modern day movements must tackle.
If you are a person that believes we must engage millions of people in the duty of leadership to create movements and organizations that can change society then come join us.
“You can only give what you have.”
2. Winning with the Masses
If you look at society, who has control?
When the media is looking to report on who is making a decision, where do they go? Usually they will go to the state house, congress, or the president. Essentially, they will go to where they believe power is located. If you look back in history and search for who has control you will usually find an authority figure or power holder that changed society. In the U.S. you might find the Founding Fathers or in another country you might find a general. This dominant view of power is called the Monolithic View of power where a few people are seen as those who created change. In this view power comes from the top and general population is viewed as unimportant.
There is also another view of power where the power comes from the people. In this view the rulers and authority figures have to receive consent from the people to rule. They need people to cooperate with them and obey their laws.
When Gandhi was in the middle of the Indian Independence struggle he was asked, Why did Britain take India from us? When he responded he noted that they did not take India from the Indians but instead that they let them. Here, Gandhi was referring to the 100,000 British troops that at the time controlled 350 million Indians. From this lesson we know that power is not monolithic but instead is social.
At the Ayni Institute we believe that before we can change structures we first have to change culture. This means that people have to start to believe in the Social View of power.
What happens when people believe they have the power?
We have seen that there are particular metrics of protest that creates success. According to political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, a social movement needs 3.5% of active popular support for victory. The percentage means that 3.5% of the population are engaging in mass non-cooperation; strikes, boycotts, and other large disobedience. The muscle of movements is non-cooperation and true change happens when people are able to stop society and make the status quo take a hit.
In some of those “enough is enough” moments the population gets outraged and angry enough that people take to the streets. We call these Moments of the Whirlwind. Every single movement that has proven to be a challenge to the status quo has produced moments like this. In the Civil Rights Movement those moments were the Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, Birmingham, Selma, and The March on Washington. Within the U.S. we have seen modern day Moments of the Whirlwind like Occupy Wall Street, the Ferguson Protests, and the 2006 Immigrant Rights Mega Marches.
These Moments of the Whirlwind, are not random historical events, and many movements across the globe have been experimenting with new organizing models that can both create these moments, and absorb the momentum that they create. What generates enough momentum is the movement’s ability to escalate in order to disrupt the status-quo and its ability to absorb new people that become interested in the movement’s organization.
The more people you engage the more capacity you have to escalate and disrupt to create a Moment of the Whirlwind. Cycle after cycle of this process is how you get to a Moment of the Whirlwind. Our Momentum program answer the question of how to engage in these cycles effectively in order to produce a Moment of the Whirlwind.
4. The SuperGroup
Moments of the Whirlwind are necessary to success and they often happen across the globe. In one moment there can be a small group of people that care about your issue and then suddenly there’s an explosion and many people are interested.
How can you capture all those new supporters that want to join your movement?
In Momentum we have designed some amazing tools for absorbing new participants; not just online but offline as well.
But once you have thousands of people that are part of your movement – What should they do? How should they coordinate and make decision? What if they want to work on other issues, how do they start? Or how should they share resources?
Now we begin to see that more people could mean more problems. Fortunately, we are not the first ones to experience these problems. People that have produced Moments of the Whirlwind have experience in the power of decentralized organization, or as we like to call it, a Supergroup. We call it a Supergroup because it’s not just a dozen people working together but instead it’s groups of groups of people that are coordinating towards a shared goal.
Decentralized organization is a way to bring people into different levels of an organization in a manner that creates high levels of autonomy so that people can take leadership without asking for permission and with high levels of unity so the organization can stay together. We have developed some practices and technology around creating a Supergroup. Check out our webinar series on Decentralized Organization.
5. An Ecology of Change
Social movements interact with more long-standing efforts to build progressive organizations. They interact with countercultural communities. They interact with political parties and people working within the formal structures of politics. Due to their different approaches, interactions between them can create conflict. Many successful social movements have realized the tensions between different theories of change and figured out ways for organizations and agents to work together to deepen their collective impact. Every approach has its strengths, weaknesses, common conflicts, and paths of collaboration.
We call this section an Ecology of Change because the metaphor of an ecology allows us to explain how many different organisms, sometimes with competing interests, can be in relationship with one another to maintain the health, diversity, and sustainability of the whole environment. We propose building complementary relationships between organizations within the social movement ecosystem to create change in a larger scale. Movements that take place within a healthy movement ecology have a greater chance of creating massive change.
6. Movement without Mastery
Even though the force of moments that are fighting towards justice is growing stronger, why do we continue to have the issues we have today? We have a long legacy for fighting for a better world and the problems we face today is not something new. However, fighting for change without understanding the root of our problems can leave us repeating the same loop we’ve kept circling again and again.
Without memory, without understanding our history, movement maybe running the risk of fighting for change for the sake of change without truly understanding the full story of our issues or changing the condition that created the problems.
At the Ayni institute we believe that we can face problems by not only looking in the last 500 years but rather we needed to look deeply in the last 5000-10,000 years. We envision and practice creating circles of people that come together and understand a Long View of History.
We must transform society with a vision that heals and reconciles the past in order to develop a better present. For people to truly organize they must reestablish a relationship with our collective story, with our past, and the movements that are rooted in a Long View of life. This is what will create the most quality change for society.