The Social Sector Needs a Meta Movement

Essay by Laura Deaton: “Imagine a world where the social sector exercises the full measure of its power and influence, fueled by its more than 12 million employees and 64 million volunteers. Imagine people who are fighting for living wages, women’s rights, early childhood education, racial justice, and climate action locking arms and pushing for broad social and environmental progress. Imagine a movement of movements with a bold, integrated policy agenda that drives real progress toward a more healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable world—not in some utopian future, but in the next decade.

If we click the heels of our ruby slippers together, we can go to that place.

OK, it’s not quite that easy. But we already have what we need to make it happen: the people, organizational models, and money. All of us—nonprofits, activists, funders, capacity builders, and knowledge providers—need to summon the vision and willingness to reach beyond our current bounds. And then we need to just do it.

Right now, we’re living in a social sector version of the tragedy of the commons, with organizations and coalitions pursuing their goals in silos and advocating only for their own narrow band of policy prescriptions. This problem is deep and wide—it’s happening both within and across movements—and it draws down the power of the sector as a whole. It’s time—actually well past time—to apply tried-and-true templates for grassroots movement building to the entire social sector and create demand for public policy changes that will move the needle toward long-term shared prosperity.

This involves a shift in mindset—from seeing our organizations as doing one thing (“We advocate for people experiencing homelessness”) to seeing them as part of a bigger thing (“We’re engaged in a movement that advocates for social and environmental justice”). Much as layers of identities make up our whole selves, this shift stands to weave all the strands of activism and service into our sector’s self-conception. From there, we can build an advocacy network that connects currently disparate movements and aligns agendas in pursuit of common goals. This requires action in the following areas: ramping up support for grassroots initiatives; coalescing behind a common goals framework; and designing a network support system that has regional, statewide, national, and potentially global scale….(More)”.