The Organising Models Mapping Project, run by the Commons Library and Australian Progress, explores different organising models being utilised in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. The project includes a survey of organisations which use organising as part of their advocacy.
This article presents a summary of survey responses and information about the Ganz model of social change. All quotations in the article were provided by survey respondents who use the Ganz model in their organisation.
This article covers the following topics:
- What are the key elements of the Ganz model?
- What challenges do organisations experience with the Ganz model?
- How can organisations balance the challenges of using the Ganz model?
What are the key elements of the Ganz model?
The Ganz model of social change is a model developed by Marshall Ganz, a leading community organizer, political scientist, and sociologist. The model is based on Ganz’s extensive experience working on social change campaigns and his research on the strategies and tactics used by successful social movements. It emphasises the role of people power, arguing that mobilizing people is one of the most important activities of groups that seek to create social change.
Marshall Ganz was a strong influence on many of the organisations which participated in the survey. Respondents were asked to name any examples, frameworks or training programs that informed their organising models:
- 16% of respondents named Ganz as an influence.
- 24% of respondents named the snowflake model as an influence. This structure of organising is often attributed to Ganz, especially since its use in the first Obama US Presidential election campaign.
Many organisations use aspects of the Ganz approach to organising, such as public narrative. The snowflake model has been used and adapted by many organisations, including a ‘daisy model’ which reflects the lack of snow in Australia! Three of the 23 organisations that participated in The Commons Organising Models project were particularly clear and intentional about using the Ganz model.
The Ganz model of social change proposes that successful social change campaigns are based on three key elements:
- organization and
The three organisations using this model demonstrated how they incorporate these elements:
According to the model, a successful social change campaign requires a clear and compelling strategy that defines the problem, establishes goals, and outlines a plan for achieving those goals. The strategy must also take into account the resources and capacities of the organization and the broader political and social context in which the campaign is taking place.
Our theory of change is:
1. empower everyday people
2. share knowledge and expertise
3. partner for global impact
4. advocate directly to decision makers.
The Ganz model also emphasizes the importance of organization in social change campaigns. A well-organized campaign is able to mobilize and engage large numbers of people, create a sense of momentum and urgency, and sustain the campaign over time. The model proposes that social change campaigns should be organized in a decentralized and participatory manner, with leadership emerging from the grassroots rather than being imposed from above.
If we grow union membership, build union structures and use our collective power to campaign we will win better outcomes for public education and the students we teach in schools, kinders and TAFEs.
The Ganz model also emphasizes the importance of leadership in social change campaigns. Effective leaders are able to inspire and motivate others, communicate a compelling vision, and mobilize resources and support. They must also be able to navigate the complex political and social landscape in which social change campaigns take place. Ganz also stresses that effective leaders must be able to connect with people and inspire them to take action.
Our current movement theory is = grassroots campaigning, grassroots organising, public policy and investment in leadership.
Leaders play a critical role in developing strategy and organisational structures, as well as being visionary in the Ganz model. These three leadership roles are different:
- visionary leaders are individuals who inspire others with a vision of a better future, while
- strategic leaders are those who develop a plan for achieving that vision and
- operational leaders are those who execute that plan.
Each organisation which used the Ganz model had paid staff to assist with organising. This can make leadership identification easier, allowing dedicated staff time to go towards nurturing and supporting leaders. For example, one respondent noted a specific method they use to find new leaders:
[A] key focus of organisers is to work with local workplace groups to ID leaders and train and mentor them. [They] encourage them to do formal and informal training.
One other organisation uses a Fellowship program to attract new volunteers. As this organisation said, ‘The fellowship program has worked well to embed sustainability for the movement as we have a smaller brand profile than some of the others and work on very niche topics predominantly behind the scenes. So, it’s helped well to attract new people into the movement.’
What challenges do organisations experience with the Ganz model?
All organisations that responded to the survey and use the Ganz model noted the key challenges involved in implementing a Ganz model of social change:
Lack of resources, particularly time
Building people power takes a lot of time. In general, implementing a Ganz model can require significant resources, including financial, human, and technical resources.
Time – lead in time to properly plan and structure the work and allow enough time to do the work properly and not surface level only.
Coordination difficulties and resistance to change
The Ganz model can involve significant change for organisations, as they may need to shift from a focus on direct advocacy with stakeholders to developing organising skills and practices. This model also involves multiple stakeholders and partners, making coordination and collaboration a challenge.
Disconnect with some areas of the organization about what helps and hinders Organising work. Size and scale of the organisation makes it hard to be consistent across the whole team.
Like all organising work, it is often difficult to see what has been achieved and whether successes are directly related to organising efforts. In general, defining and measuring success can be difficult in a Ganz model, as the outcomes of a social change project are often difficult to quantify and many organisations may not have the capacity to gather and evaluate data.
Culture of not tracking data and outcomes can be a barrier.
Scaling and long-term sustainability
Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the changes brought about by the Ganz model can be a challenge, as it requires ongoing commitment and resources. In addition, increasing mobilisation can build the organisation’s power, but correspondingly requires ever-increasing resources.
It is difficult to scale up as we don’t do as much digital organising or mobilising (e.g. online petitions) and we have limited resources to expand organising work.
How can organisations balance the challenges of using the Ganz model?
Ganz’s perspective on social change emphasizes the importance of leadership, strategic action, and collective action in driving social change. Therefore, the first question to ask is whether the organisation has the resources available to focus on building and supporting people power. If no, a different model less reliant on people power may be better suited to the organisation.
Does the organisation have enough financial resources for a dedicated organiser, or, a long-term volunteer able to focus primarily on supporting new volunteers and local groups?
If the organisation has sufficient resources to develop a Ganz model, how will the three key elements of leadership, strategic action and collective action be woven together? It may be the organisation has strengths in strategic planning, but not leadership or an effective organisational structure to engage supporters in collective action.
Identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses across those three elements will help increase opportunities to succeed using this model. Is it important to ensure flexibility within the organisation as well. There may be times when the focus is on mobilising the maximum number of supporters to focus power, while at other times focusing on building in organisational structures (such as digital organising platforms, or volunteer communication platforms) is beneficial.
What are the organisations existing strengths and weaknesses across the three Ganz elements: organisation, strategy and leadership? How can these be balanced to ensure flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances such as failed campaigns or an influx of new volunteers?
Finally, it is very important that the success of the Ganz model is being continually evaluated and monitored. Decide what metrics are most important to the organisation: these could include measures such as the number of people mobilised, number of new leaders, or longevity of local groups. Ensure that data is collected regularly to track these metrics. Put aside time at regular intervals to check back on what outcomes are being achieved and which are not.
What are the outcomes that the organisation is trying to achieve through using the Ganz model? How can these be measured?
The Ganz model provides a guide for organisations wanting to harness the power of people to drive social and environmental change. Organisations which can frame their cause around a clear and compelling narrative, build and support leaders, and provide flexible structures to support collective action can drive radical social change.
Marshall Ganz himself argues that the women’s rights, abolition of slavery and gay rights movements have achieved change due to people and leadership power. His model has demonstrated the power that people can yield when brought together for a shared cause, and as a result has had a significant impact on the practice and study of community organizing and political science.
The Ganz model
- Leading Change: Leadership, Organization, and Social Movements by Marshall Ganz.
- Why Stories Matter: The Art and Craft of Social Change by Marshall Ganz.
- Marshall Ganz on the Power of Social Movements by Corey Donahue, Carnegie Commons Blog.
- Learn About Organising from Marshall Ganz – online course.
- Guide to Organizing from the Leading Change Network – LCN is the international network of organisers trained in the Ganz model.
- Organizing: People, Power, Change – a handbook that outlines many elements of the Ganz approach to organising in an accessible way.
The Organising Models Mapping Project
Twenty-three organisations responded to the survey, of which twenty employed paid staff to manage their organising model. Eight of these organisations had been engaged in organising for either 1-5 years or more than 10 years. You can read more about the survey responses in other articles in this series:
- Approaches to Organising: Decentralised, Directed Network and Strike Circles Models
- Overview of the Organising Model Mapping Project
- Organising Model Structures: Influences, Challenges and Opportunities
- The Shape of Organising Models
- People Within Organising Models
- Autonomy, Flexibility and Accountability in Organising Models
- Support and Leadership in Organising Models