Interdependence & the Movement Ecology We Need

I both love and have struggled with my partnership with Metro IAF.

My close relationship with Metro IAF leaders is the primary reason we’ve had success in starting a co-op over the past 10 years. Their power is undeniable. In the past few months, Metro IAF has helped our co-op to expand to working with organizations in 6 new states for our co-op PPE purchasing efforts

Diagram of the 160 organizations that participated in our June 9 group PPE purchase, which included 30,000 masks from Carolina Textile District PPE (of which Molly, Sara, Kathryn from this workshop are key leaders).

But IAF’s narrative power in capturing our collective imagination is weak. 

Sex & Startups, on the other hand, has narrative power and they’ve galvanized the Zebras Unite movement and harnessed online tools to build local communities of more than 6,000 members over the past 3 years. (Zebras Fix what Unicorns BreakNew Stripes for Zebras Unite and more here.)  

Using Ayni Institute’s Movement Ecology framework, I’d say Zebras Unite has been in the mass protest category. However, as of this week, they’re now in the process of transitioning to a multi-stakeholder cooperative and so I’d put them in the building alternatives category. 

Metro IAF, on the other hand is in the structure organizing category (see definition, here, which I think is illustrative of why this work is vital). While Metro IAF has contributed to building important alternatives, and doing on-going personal transformation, it’s their structure organizing that is their dominant mode.

Excerpt from page 15 of Ayni’s Funding Social Movement’s guide

My argument (building on Ayni’s) is that to be effective over the long term, we need all three thirds of this circle. And within the “Changing Dominant Institutions” third — we need all three — Mass ProtestStructure organizing & Inside Game.

More specifically, to be effective in seizing the moment we have with the set of interrelated economic, racial & other crises, we need real connective tissue between different parts of the ecology.

I believe we need a shared ownership movement that has meaningful relationships between leaders of mass protests (like Black Lives Matter, the Poor People’s Campaign (Rev. Barber picking up on Martin Luther King), Occupy Wall Street, Zebras Unite), structure organizing (like Metro IAF, Faith in Action, SEIU, WeOwnIt), inside game (like Biden Campaign folks, NCBA, New America), alternatives (like ROC USA, The Industrial Commons and other shared ownership enterprises, employee ownership and worker-owned co-ops, credit unions that live their potential…), and personal transformation groups (like leadership development from WeOwnIt, Slow Money, Liberation theology, Center for Action and Contemplation and socially-focused organizations that attend to peoples direct needs and project a vision of change rippling slowly outward as individual lives are improved).  (See my yellow Felipe’s Movement Ecology map below.)

Why do we need this connective tissue? 

When Hosni Mubarak was ousted as President of Egypt in 2011 because of mass protests, the leaders of those mass protests weren’t connected to the leaders of structure organizing groups or alternatives or personal transformation groups. Though structure organizing groups were very interested in getting involved and supporting the leaders of the mass protests, Mark and Paul Engler write in their book This is an Uprising, the leaders clashed too much and they weren’t able to build enough trust, so that when President Mubarak did step down, there wasn’t enough connective tissue in the movement ecology to draw on the power and strength of organization that structure organizing groups had — or the power for personal transformation groups — to rebuild the constitution and a new form of governance for the country.  This Egypt example is one of a couple dozen that are written about at length in This is an Uprising. 

How do we create this connective tissue that’s needed? 

I’m not sure, but I believe it’s in spaces like this workshop that we begin to get to know kindred spirits and identify ways we might be able to see value in each other’s work. I believe we need tangible actions that we can take together that give us a common experience, even if those actions are small. These specific experiences build trust and possibilities. 

I know first hand, from my experience inside Metro IAF over the past 10 years — that it’s difficult for established organizations to see the need for this kind of connective tissue. 

Metro IAF’s leadership is focused on their theory of change and it’s hard for them to see and build the trust needed to meaningful work with others from other modes. Trust is a difficult and slow asset to build. We must therefore, “Move at the Speed of Trust”  as adrienne maree brown teaches in her Emergent Strategy principles (summary of her book here).

As we think about this work, I share a map of my movement ecology.

I’m eager for your feedback and coaching, and reflecting back to me what you see. I’m eager to build more connective tissue between parts of the movement.

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