Numerous studies have identified that the numbers, energy and innovation that social movements offer is of core importance to the success of legal, legislative and other means of change. In a 2005 article for the Nation Jean Hardisty and Deepak Bhargava suggest:
While there is no formula for a social movement, we know that successful ones share some things in common. First, people become mobilized around issues they hold dear; at some level they share a powerful vision about what is wrong with society and how it must be improved; and they engage in lots of diverse activities not under any one leader’s direct control. The resulting political motion and its effect lead to a change in attitudes, practices and public policy.
Scaling refers to the process of increasing the size, strength, geographical reach, and impact of social movements. This article summarises and provides links to free resources which consider how this can be done, ways in which it can be measured, and how organisations and funders can contribute.
Scaling Up Movements For Greater Impact
In two articles published in 2019 and 2020 Charla Burnett, Karen Ross, in concert with Yuliya Raschupkina and Darren Kew, drew on close to 200 sources regarding scaling in relation to peacebuilding and civil resistance movements. They provide the scaling framework seen below to assist activists to evaluate their current efforts and consider new ways of broadening and deepening their movements. A more detailed summary of the elements, and a copy of the one of their articles, can be found here.
|Internal Strengthening||External expansion|
|Tactics for scaling||1. Strong commitment among|
|1. Increased membership and
development of partnerships
|2. Strong strategic plans||2. Engagement of external
third parties or international
|3. Diverse movement|
|3. Territorial spread|
|4. Shared messages and|
|4. Engagement with
|1.Internal sharing of|
information (use of media)
|1. Sharing information (use of
|2. Educational programming|
|3. Educational programming
for the broader community
|3. Engaging ideas across|
|2. .Strategic communication|
within the movement
|2. Strategic communication
toward the broader community
Social movements and philanthropy: How foundations can support movement building
This article by Barbara Masters and Tori Osborn was published in 2010. It identifies 5 core activities for movement building in terms of
- Organizing an authentic base
- Vision and ideas
- Advocacy infrastructure
What is involved in scaling up each activity, and how they differ when they involve movements rather than organisations, is discussed along with benchmarks and options for funders to support development at different stages. The full article can be found at Scholarworks.
There is no magic formula that will catalyze and sustain a movement to create real and fundamental change. Reviews of past and current movements demonstrate that movement building is a multifaceted, long-term effort that depends on “inside” and “outside” strategies, engaged residents and communities, advocates, and allies – all committed to a common agenda. – Masters and Osborn, 2010.
Making change: how social movements work and how to support them
This 2009 report by Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Oritz identifies the following 10 key elements for successful movement building:
- A vision and a frame
- An authentic base in key constituencies
- A commitment to the long-haul
- An underlying and viable economic model
- A vision of government and governance
- A scaffold of solid research
- A pragmatic policy package
- A recognition of the need for scale
- A strategy for scaling up
- A willingness to network with other movements
From this they draw 6 capacities needed within social movement organisations:
- The ability to organize a base constituency
- The capacity to research, frame and communicate
- The ability to strategically assess power
- The capacity to manage large and growing organizations
- The capability to engage and network with others
- The ability to refresh organizational vision and organizational leadership
Alongside discussing each of these elements and capacities, and how to grow them, the report includes advice for funders and a summary of key theories regarding social movements. Summary and full length versions of the report can be downloaded from the Equity Research Institute.
There is a tendency to think that small must mean authentic – but the scale of the social problems we face, and the extent of power on the other side, often requires a scale of organizational capacity to match. – Pastor and Oritz, 2009.
Transactions, Transformations, Translations: Metrics that matter for building, scaling, and funding social movements
Published in 2011 this report by Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rachel Rosner discusses how the 10 movement building elements listed above can be measured. Metrics are based on “transactions”, quantifiable markers of internal and external growth, and “transformations”, which are harder to measure but involve judging how organisations and society more broadly are being “altered through collective efforts.” The report can be downloaded from the Equity Research Institute.
Funding Social Movements: How Mass Protest Makes an Impact
This 2019 report by Paul Engler, Sophie Lasoff and Carlos Saavedra uses insights from the Momentum model to focus on how mass protest movements can be scaled up and supported by funders. It outlines the authors’ social movement ecology framework and discusses its application in terms of carrying out and improving the following key elements:
The report also explains how and why mass protests can change the existing political climate, why funders generally overlook this, and how they provide effective short and long term support. It outlines how movement impact can be measured in terms of active and passive support as well as policy, legal, electoral and other gains. The resource is available from the AYNI Institute.