Decentralized, networked social movements are transforming the global struggle for social justice. Can we understand how they work, how to build them, and how to make them more effective?
The Movement Netlab is a practice-centered ‘think-make-and-do tank’. We are comprised of activists, organizers and researchers whose goal is to help develop powerful conceptual and practical tools that help facilitate the growth and effectiveness of the most dynamic, emerging social movements of our time.
As experienced practitioners with decades of combined experience, we believe that mass, popular social movements working to create deep, system-wide transformation are our best hope of achieving a more just, equitable world.
Deeply embedded in movements ourselves, we are a project run by practitioners, for practitioners. While we do work with organizations, our top priority is always serving genuine, people-driven social movements for change.
Our core members are organizers involved in Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. We collaborate with If Not Now, Cosecha, and more.
Video: From Protest to Power (Ford Foundation)
Here's how it started...
Gan Golan: A couple years back, I ended up in this really bizarre, but revealing situation. After 25 years of street-level activism from Seattle WTO to Occupy, from housing rights in Oakland, to police accountability work in Boston, I found myself standing in front of a room of wealthy funders who wanted to support social movements, and these guys were totally baffled. They didn’t understand what these movements actually were.
These progressive funders, although universally fawning over movements like Occupy Wall Street in their brochures and presentations, when it came down to it were very hesitant to support anything actually connected to it. To them, these decentralized social movements, despite their huge successes in shifting the national conversation, were not really organized at all. They were ‘spontaneous’, ‘random’, ‘chaotic’ and when successful, just ‘lucky’. What they were unable to see was there was a consistent, elegant architecture common to all these movements, and that the reason they were winning was precisely because of the way they were organized.
This failure to understand was, in part, our own fault. What we lacked was a clear, comprehensive language that explained how we organized, either to ourselves – in order to do it better – or to our allies, who often just sat on the sidelines unable to comprehend what they were witnessing.
This wasn’t just a misunderstanding among funders, either, but also for labor unions, community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, and basically, the entire rest of the traditional left. At that moment, I understood there was a bridge that needed to be built, and that I needed to reach out to the smartest people I knew to help build it.
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