Al Etmanski’s book assumes readers are striving to achieve real systemic change and his first pattern articulates the importance of movements. For Etmanski, “Institutional change cannot happen without a movement” (P.49) and “A movement is composed of a million small acts.” (P.48).
This is not new. Change occurs when enough people are moved to action for a long enough period that it finally happens. Gladwell talks about this type of change in Tipping Point.
The new piece for me was Etmanski’s insistence that systemic change requires us to look beyond our immediate context and missions to the broader goals of the movement. As an example you might identify a gap in mental health support for veterans. To impact the system creating the gap, Etmanski believes you should align your efforts with broader movements like The Movement for Global Mental Health or The Canadian Mental Health Association.
Think back to the occasions when you were involved in developing a mission and vision for your organization. Was the movement a part of those discussions and considerations? Was a movement objective devised alongside the mission and vision?
It’s not unusual for us to focus on the local context where we can see the ways our work makes a difference. Spending time and energy on thinking about how we will contribute to the ‘movement’ seems like an abstract, ambiguous, pointless task.
To keep conversations about developing a movement objective meaningful, Etmanski provides some loose boundaries in his characteristics of an effective social justice movement.
Five Characteristics of an Effective Social Justice Movement.
- “They ignite our imaginations” – Do you contribute to a bold vision that disrupts the status quo?
- “They are multi-generational” – Do you contribute to movements as they reappear in new forms with successive generations?
- “They comprise small acts” – Do you contribute to the same thing that others feel compelled to contribute to?
- “They are self-organized” Do you contribute to something in which everyone sees the goal without a central command structure or charismatic champion?
- “They marry art and justice” – Do you contribute to something in which art has created new ways of seeing the world and transformed what we see as a possibility?
Would you say efforts to help the flood of Syrian Refugees is a movement? Or the Arab Spring? Or Occupy Wall Street?
Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation by Al Etmanski is a guide for social innovators to move their idea from localized success to broader systemic impact.