At Equity Summit 2015, the closing plenary was on building a multiracial, multigenerational equity movement. This session was a highlight for me, for three reasons:
- The panel framed its discussion around the idea of a “movement of movements.”
- This possibility is my passion, and I believe it’s the mother lode of the transformational change sought by distinct but overlapping movements for social justice, peace, sustainability, consciousness evolution, a new political economy, etc. (Below I use the acronym MoM to refer to “movement of movements.”)
- MoM is a contested frame that is also underdeveloped in practice, so there are potentially huge gains to be made from clarifying the who, what, and how of a MoM.
In this post I’ll share a few initial thoughts on MoM. I’ll use Equity Summit 2015 as a springboard for reflection. My hope is that you will feel invited to think deeply, and perhaps differently, about a convergence of movements. Ultimately, I hope this post inspires more and better connection and collaboration between movements in service of creating a powerful MoM.
Equity Summit used MoM in its closing plenary to coordinate identities and action within the equity movement. As my preceding comments should make clear, however, the full power and significance of MoM will be realized only upon coordination across movements. Whereas Equity Summit applied MoM to “build coalitions that cross racial and generational boundaries,” the MoM I envision builds coalitions that cross boundaries between movements.
Granted, one could argue that the equity movement is itself a MoM—there are multiple social justice- and equity-based movements distinguished by racial group (not to mention other boundary lines) and the equity movement brings them together. The same argument could be made for additional movements, too. A prime example is the new economy movement. To illustrate, in “A New Alignment of Movements?” the Commons Strategies Group reports on a workshop it convened in 2014 to explore a convergence of six movements: Co-operatives, the Social and Solidarity Economy, Degrowth, Peer Production, the Sharing and Collaborative Economy, and the Commons movement.
These examples demonstrate that a MoM can actually be created at two different levels, which we might call a cluster (e.g., equity, new economy) and a meta-cluster (i.e., the clusters coordinated). The fundamental unit of a MoM in either case is a movement that, however multifaceted and boundary crossing, we can reasonably think of as singular. Such a movement has an essence and focus that points to a single group (e.g., Black Lives Matter), a single issue (e.g., health care), or some other single-pointed basis for movement building.
It’s a fool’s errand to build a meta-level MoM in the absence of strong clusters. This is why I was so encouraged by Equity Summit 2015 (as a proxy for the equity movement). The summit premiered a rousing video titled “Our Moment”; distributed The Equity Manifesto to 3,000 stakeholders; and lifted up the equity movement from multiple perspectives (e.g., aesthetics, ethics, economics) through multiple methods of enactment (e.g., performing arts, faith-based arguments, evidence-based scholarship).
In short, the conditions are right to “go meta.” Two movement clusters—equity and new economy—possess ample vitality and maturity. A third cluster is needed and I’d propose the new spirituality movement, an invented name for a MoM that is comparatively less cohesive. However, this MoM consists of important movements (e.g., the Integral movement, Evolutionary Spirituality, Transpersonal Psychology, the Interspiritual movement) that, taken together, would complement the other two clusters in ways that are essential to birthing a movement of this magnitude.
This movement would bring us closer to the ideal of “a coalition that fights for all progressive issues together,” as Tom Steyer of NextGen Climate urged in the opening plenary at Equity Summit 2015. Movement building at a meta-level is how we must hear the clarion call issued in the same plenary by Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink, to deepen networks, deepen knowledge, and sharpen our story—individual, collective, and meta.
Do you also intuit that no singular movement or lone cluster-level MoM can deliver the transformational change we seek in response to the multiple, interconnected, systemic crises we face?
I must admit that a riveting moment during the Black Lives Matter forum at Equity Summit momentarily had me convinced otherwise. In a prophetic remark that sent tingles up and down my spine, Kayla Reed of Organization for Black Struggle paid homage to all the movements at the summit in the same impassioned breath as she declared that the movement for black lives matters most. She said that every movement matters, but this one, this is the one that can bring down the wall (read: system) like a chisel that hits precisely the right spot.
Upon reflection, I think the best interpretation of Ms. Reed’s remark is that Black Lives Matter represents an acupuncture point—possibly the single greatest leverage point—for radical activism to disrupt and overturn the status quo. But what of the new system that takes the place of the old? Here is where the analogy falls short, and I believe the movement does too, through no fault of its own. The perspectives and alternatives needed to construct a new civilizational order are simply too diverse and complex for Black Lives Matter or even the equity movement to do it on their own. See the Next System Project and the report “Getting to the Next System” for an excellent take on our challenge and opportunity (from the perspective of the new economy movement).
Put simply, the crisis is systemic injustice and social inequities, which means the intersectionality paradigm has the cure. But the crisis is also neoliberalism, in which case the commons paradigm has the cure. And the crisis is also internal and spiritual, such that a consciousness paradigm has the cure.
I come to my thoughts by way of participation in all three of these movement clusters, having seen that each one contains the same essential parts of a whole-person and whole-system change; but in varying degrees. Each movement bloc has its strengths and its shortcomings; such that collaboration that harmonizes and amplifies the best of each is our best chance of creating the more beautiful, good, and true world we know is possible.
We truly can go further together, and we must—through a movement of movements created at a higher octave, a MoM birthed from a whole new level of unity-in-diversity, so as to be capable of recreating humanity.
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