Online Discussion: Organizing for Change; From Social Movements to Democratic Reforms
Join Hurford Youth Fellow Ateki Seta Caxton and panelists on Friday May 20, 2016 at 10:00 am EST for Online Discussion on Social Movements and Democratic Reforms
Social Movements are vital channels through which people give voice to concerns about their rights and welfare by engaging in different forms of collective action and public protest to help transform their societies. This often leads to social change in political, religious, educational, health, corporate, government, and other institutional arenas. The origins of social movements are often tied to existing needs or strains on society or the necessity to alter entrenched political strangleholds. In my upcoming discussion with panelists who have led/are leading social movements in their countries or regions, we shall discuss the importance of these movements and draw a few lessons from their experiences.
Online Discussion Questions
The following questions shall guide our discussion:
- How does young people’s participation in social movements translate into political reforms?
- How are social movements structured for democratic transitions?
- What strategies are successful movements employing and what are the challenges they face?
- How do social movements move beyond (perceptions of) external influences on their campaigns?
Doug McAdam (Freedom Summer) theorized the origins of social movements in three models: First, he proposed the classical model of social movements, which argues that social change is the result of a systematic “strain” on the social infrastructure of the political system. Hence, the commotion associated with the “strain” is transformed into feelings of anxiety, frustration, and hostility that lead to the emergence of a social movement. Secondly, the resource mobilization model posits that social movements are the result of the quantity of “social resources” that are accessible to “unorganized but aggrieved groups, thus making it possible to launch an organized demand for change.” The third is the political process model based on the assumption that political members reflect an abiding “conservatism” in order to substantiate political power. This conservatism encourages political members to “resist changes that would threaten the current realization of their interests even more than they seek changes which would enhance their interests.” The presence of a political opportunities, the expansion of capacities and the increasingly conscientious society eventually demands change.
Social movements are increasingly prevalent as society finds them relevant. Even if assessing their impact in general is problematic there are striking examples (such as the Suffrage movement, the Civil rights movement) that reached milestones in bringing about important changes to society. There are also many examples of social movements around the world today working to address problems confronting their societies. Being unfamiliar with the with the tools and skills necessary for effective movement building carries the risk of passing over vital opportunities or wasting limited resources. Hence, encouraging a more strategic approaches in the work of social movements can be a vital means to help bring added value in their work.