Movement organizations work in inherently uncertain political environments. Whether an organization is advocating for a new minimum wage, working to close a private prison, or seeking to influence an election, the terrain they are operating on shifts nearly every day. That is increasingly true as political uncertainty rises in the 21st century, particularly for historically race-class subjugated communities.
Any movement-based organization seeking to build, exercise, and win political power must have sophisticated strategic capacities to be able to navigate these uncertain, dynamic, and constantly shifting political environments. Yet, our knowledge of how movements can nurture the kind of strategic capacities that allows them to build constituencies and leadership that can operate in the flexible ways needed for these dynamic circumstances has been limited.
Watch this workshop recording with Jane Booth-Tobin and Liz McKenna of the P3 Lab at Johns Hopkins University to learn the findings from their recent report, “Understanding Strategic Capacity in Constituency-Based Organizations.”
- Understanding Strategic Capacity in Constituency-Based Organizations – This report seeks to synthesize what is currently known about organizations that successfully build and wield strategic capacity, with a particular eye toward how it might apply to constituency-based organizations. The report concludes with an assessment and facilitated conversation guide to support movements and movement organizations in understanding how developed (or not) their strategic capacities are.
- Jane Booth-Tobin is the Director of the P3 Lab where she leads a team of researchers and organizers committed to pushing the boundaries of knowledge around what it takes for our communities to build the power required to win change, supporting movements in integrating what we’ve learned, and shaping funder and academic understanding of the field. Prior to joining P3 in 2020, Jane worked across a range of electoral and issue advocacy spaces as a national leader in strategic campaign planning, digital organizing capacity building, and leadership development. She began her career at Take Action Minnesota, where she built a statewide digital program that organized thousands, was instrumental in winning victories on health care and workers’ rights and elected bold progressive champions at the city and state level. From 2016-2019, Jane served as the Director of Digital Organizing & Trainer Development at re: power (formerly Wellstone Action). She developed the leading digital organizing training program in the country, facilitated strategic planning processes with coalitions that built relationships and ensured they were living out their values of racial, gender, and economic justice, and crafted the Trainer Development program to invest in the leadership of a powerful, multi-racial team of trainers.
- Liz McKenna is a postdoctoral scholar at the SNF Agora Institute and P3 Lab at Johns Hopkins University. She studies left and right-wing political organizing in the United States and Brazil, using multiple methods (ethnographic, interview, network, and geospatial analysis) to better understand how civil society organizations across the ideological spectrum build power. She is the coauthor of two books on grassroots organizing: Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in 21st Century America (with Hahrie Han and Michelle Oyakawa; University of Chicago Press, 2021) and Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America (with Hahrie Han; Oxford University Press, 2014) and is working on a third book project, The Revolution Will Be Organized: Power and Protest in Brazil’s New Republic, based on a five-year study she conducted for her dissertation. Liz has published her research in political science and sociology academic journals as well as in mainstream media and practitioner-focused outlets, including the Agora Case Studies series. Prior to graduate school, she worked as a political and community organizer in Ohio and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- About P3: The P3 Lab is a multi-disciplinary research lab based at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. We are committed to learning and shared inquiry that meets the twin goals of relevance and rigor, and pursues a world where people’s participation in public life across race and class is possible, probable, and powerful. We seek to simultaneously push the frontiers of strategic thinking in organizing and knowledge-building in academic scholarship in everything we do. Learn more at our website.