The last few months, the Canadian Public has been witness to large demonstrations focusing on Indigenous topics accompanied by peaceful protests, educational workshops and ceremonies. Many people see the rallies, or attend the rallies as a way of getting involved in the beginning and that is great, we’re doing it, the movement is alive. But at the beginning there were more people attending, there was more media attention, seemed like more people talking in person and online. But now there are rumblings that the movement is fading and our opportunity to participate in lasting and meaningful change towards our topic leave us scared and heart broken. There will be more rallies, which is great…but we have to ask the question: where do we go from here? What more can we do?
Next Step: Bring the ACTION
There was a rally. You just attended it. Chanted, sang, dance and spoke from your heart about the issue you believe in. But at the rally they mentioned that WE ALL had to do something to make this change real. You even learned that there will be another rally in a month’s time. Because you are committed to the core topics being protested, you write the date in your calendar and feel good knowing that you are doing something. And then you wait 1 month and repeat this cycle? Attending rallies and helping to mobilize and educate the masses at rallies is a great and necessary step in raising awareness. But are these rallies going to change the negative realities that we collectively oppose? I would say no. So what exactly can we do to help?
Not only do we have to DO something in terms of action, we have to be smart and strategic about which actions we choose to undertake. We have to think creatively about how we can use our gifts to help the movement. Can we help organize, motivate, communicate in any way that others may not be able to? This is also a time to emphasize education. We must continue to educate ourselves on the topics, sharpen our own understanding and practice delivering it in very accessible, easy to understand and correct language. It is not easy, and it takes time and practice. I always think that I need to talk in a way that even little kids can understand my message and why they can/should get involved too. Think about it like this, when you are talking to someone about the movement, try to deliver what is they movement, why is it important to you and what are we trying to achieve into a 30 second ‘elevator speech’ that you can share with others!
Because I always have to break everything into steps, here are the steps I would take/have taken in between rallies:
1) do your homework – We are not helping our movement if we ourselves do not know the background of the topics we are involved in. So-and-so politician sucks, is not a good answer to why others should get invovled. There are many ways to do this – Google is our friend here. But also look outside the box and ask the people directly involved and affected by this issue. EX: research the issue, learn historical facts, study other causes/movements, write down strategies, brainstorm with others
2) take initiative – a movement is made up of various events and activities that ultimately contribute towards a collective goal or objective. In most cases, if you ask yourself “When is the next event?” and you can’t find an answer, that’s an opportunity for you to take initiative and set one up. Also, try to be considerate of others’ planning as well – try to not compete with others that are advocating for the same issue – unity is integral to successful movements. EX: create/join a facebook page, write a blog post, organize a group planning meeting, inquire about others’ planning meetings, draw a picture, write a letter to your elected officials, schedule a meeting to talk ACTION & NEXT STEPS with anyone and everyone who is willing to help you further your goal
3) Ask for & accept help: In a movement, we work together and share the load. When we are able to we help others, but we also have to ensure that we are taken care of as well.If we appreciate all of the gifts around us we’ll always have a lot to be thankful for – so showing gratitude and saying thank you are so very important. We want to take care of the people who are helping us, so we offer our support when and where we can! this also includes taking care of yourself as much as you can. you are no good to any cause if you are not well; physcially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. EX: recognize when you need help, ask someone for help, have a phone call/coffee with a friend and chat, write thank you cards/letters, smudge 🙂
4) creatively build momentum: use people’s unique skills, abilities to help network, make cool connections(aka partnerships), find creative ways to build awareness. I like to think of this part as EDU-TAINMENT (I learned that one from Chris Crocker lol), which as you can imagine, is a combination of education and entertainment. People learn better when they are engaged and feel valued. This is a great time to try new things and don’t be afraid of failure – if you learned a lesson it was all worth it! EX: flash mobs, make funny videos, create dances, create strategies, create public awareness, go on the radio, ppl love laughter, humour, and accessible activities.
We must maintain our integrity and maintain our positvity. There are several reasons for this, but the main 2 are that when we are positive we attract others to the positivity, and secondly, thinking positively allows us to see others gifts and abilities! This is where you offer others help.
This post originally appeared on my blog in 2013 referring to the Idle No More movement. It constantly used the word “issue” instead of topic, and used an example of a specific politician so I’ve updated it in 2019, the day after the Global Climate Strike. It’s funny how reading my old writing makes me cringe a little at how much I’ve grown as a writer. This article also appeared in The Winter We Danced anthology.
So, for me, part of doing my homework was checking out the 8 stages of social movements. Its pretty cool. I have copied and pasted from this blog an explanation of the 8 stages of movements. I wonder where we are in our movement building efforts right now….?
- Critical Social Problem Exists
- Violates widely-held values
- Powerholders support problem: – “Official Policies” tout values – Real “Operating Policies” violate values
- Public is unaware of the problem
- Public supports powerholders
- Problem/policies not a public issue
- Prove Failure of Official Institutions
- Many new local opposition groups.
- Use official channels: – courts, government offices, commissions, hearings: prove they don’t work.
- Become experts; Do research.
- Ripening Conditions
- Recognition of problem and victims grow.
- Public sees victim’s faces
- More active local groups
- Need pre-existing institutions available to new movement.
- 20-30% oppose powerholder policies.
- Trigger Event
- Dramatic actions/campaigns
- Actions show public that conditions & policies violate widely held values.
- Actions repeated around the country
- Problem put on the social agenda.
- New Social Movement rapidly “takes-off”
- 40% of public oppose current policies/conditions
- Perception of Failure
- See goals unachieved.
- See powerholders unchanged.
- See numbers down at demonstrations.
- Despair, hopelessness, burnout, dropout, seems movement ended.
- Emergence of a Negative Rebel.
- Majority Public Opinion
- Majority oppose present conditions and powerholder policies.
- Show how the problem and policies affect all sectors of society.
- Involve mainstream citizens and institutions in addressing the problem.
- Put the problem on the political agenda
- Promote alternatives
- Counter each powerholder strategy
- Demonology: Powerholders promote public’s fear of alternative.
- Promote a Paradigm Shift, not only reforms.
- Re-trigger events happen, re-enacting Stage 4 for a short period.
- Large Majority oppose current policies and no longer fear alternative.
- Many powerholders split off and change positions
- End game process: – Powerholders change policies (its more costly to continue old policies than to change) – Powerholders are voted out of office – Slow invisible powerholder attrition
- New laws and policies
- Powerholders try to make minimal reforms, while movement demands social change.
- Extend successes (ex: even stronger civil rights laws).
- Oppose attempts at a backlash
- Promote paradigm shift
- Focus on other sub-issues.
- Recognize/celebrate successes so far.
X. Focus more on other sub-goals, spin off new social movements Characteristics of Movement Process:
- Social Movements are composed of many Sub-goals and sub-movements each in their own stage.
- Strategy & tactics are different for each sub-movement, according to the stage each is in.
- Keep advancing Sub-movements through the 8 stages.
- Each sub movement is focused on a specific goal (eg, for civil rights movements: restaurants, voting, public accomodations).
- All of the sub-movements promote the same paradigm shift (e.g. from hard to soft energy policy.)
Public Must be convinced 3 times:
- That there is a problem. (4)
- To oppose current conditions and policies (4, 6, 7)
- To want, no longer fear, alternatives (6, 7)