It was a time when the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened.
―Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Over five years ago Julie Quiroz and I set out to write a follow up to the Movement Strategy Center report Out of the Spiritual Closet, which lifted up the often unseen role of individual transformative practice in movement building. In the next report we wanted to go further, to capture the ways that groups and networks were evolving, experimenting, and strengthening strategies for social transformation by bringing collective transformative practice into their work.
Today, thanks to the extraordinary engagement and support of our story partners, we are excited to share the final version of Love With Power: Practicing Transformation for Social Justice. (Note: MSC published the Pre-Release of Love With Power in February 2015.)
We are inspired to see how our movements have grown as Love With Power evolved, how the understanding and readiness for transformation has ripened so quickly in every corner of movement work.
Love With Power tells the story of change-makers – like #BlackLivesMatter, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Movement Generation, OUR Walmart and Forward Together – who are rising to meet this moment with deep courage and love. They are charting a way forward that is driven by purpose, sustained by practice, and exponential in impact. They are embracing the human superpowers of love, imagination, connection and courage to break through fear, doubt and delusion.
The Love with Power series is not about superheroes. It is about committed people daring to lead with love, to break the rules, to throw out the map, to try things that feel right even before they can articulate what they are. These people are choosing to face harm with open eyes and hearts, and then go beyond it to generate vision and paths to a new, generative future.
Based on stories and interviews with people and groups all across our movements, here is what we wrote in Love With Power:
The Way Forward: From Practice to Impact
Now is a time of great transition and change.
Maybe we don’t all see it yet, but in this time there is a calling, an invitation, a set of possibilities beyond what we can presently see.
We have the capacity to answer this call. We have the capacity to bring forth a future that is kicking to be born. We have the capacity to be that future, to be the power and strength of our vision, our purpose, and our relationships.
A revolution in values is underway.
- People are seeking to embody values that will lead us to a hopeful future. These stories illustrate how movements have evolved to recognize that our ways of being must evolve for social transformation, that we must walk the talk of inclusion, radical connection regeneration, courageous commitment, and creative and synergistic action, supporting diverse actions towards a shared purpose. Collective practices are an accessible way to shift culture in groups small and large.
- The key to our transformative capacity is practice: setting a simple intention from our heart and then honoring it through every-day actions. Neither practice nor intention alone leads to transformation. Intention (our vision, purpose and desires) linked with practice (the discipline to cultivate something new within us) is the key to our transformative capacity. For example, as Forward Together and National Domestic Workers Alliance practiced leading with love and care, they shifted their entire organizing strategy, leadership development model, and definition of who was part of their movement.
- Bold movement leaders are transcending either/or binaries to make the world whole. Our future is calling us to be bold, to break down binaries that ultimately limit our awareness, thinking and potential. For example, Climate Workers are bringing together fast food workers with urban farmers to reimagine work and our food systems. National Domestic Workers Alliance is helping those in need of care, those seeking care, and care providers to imagine and then advocate for a new economy rooted in care that will benefit everyone. Forward Together is helping families who have incarcerated loved ones find their own voice in the debate about incarceration, without feeling like they are taking attention away from those who are incarcerated.
- Leading from Love with Power, change-makers are helping us face harm, heal trauma and generate powerful, life-affirming possibilities. Transformative paths give us the courage to face past and current harm, and generate paths that heal, open new possibilities, and ultimately make the world whole. For example, National Domestic Workers Alliance and generative somatics acknowledge trauma and create space for healing in their leadership development, organizing and social change strategies. Building from their collaboration on Who Pays, Ella Baker Center, Forward Together and their partners are re-framing reparations as a path for collective healing and transformative change. By diverting funds from institutions and practices that cause harm to strategies that heal and regenerate, “reparations for now” looks to the past in order to generate the future we all want and need.
- People are taking collective responsibility to bring forth a new culture; in many different ways, change-makers are cultivating new ways of being, and the possibilities and strategies they unlock. The Love with Power series shows us there is no “one way” to cultivate a new way of being. Diversity is the key to resilience in living systems, and it is the key to robust movements and social change. The diversity of paths, starting points, and experiences in transformative movements are strengthening us and paradoxically enabling us to move faster, together. Movements that support and nurture a diversity of approaches generate “many paths up the mountain” – giving us a better collective shot at realizing our vision and purpose, intact. They also generate leader-full movement ecosystems that are healthy and robust.
- Profound breakthroughs are happening. Movement leaders are nurturing love, liberation, interdependence, and regeneration to reimagine our culture, economies, communities, and our relationship to the web of life. From this visioning, a web of radical solutions is emerging. For example, National Domestic Workers Alliance is helping us imagine and reorganize our economy around care and mutuality. Movement Generation is helping us expand and deepen our definition of home and develop local, living, loving, linked economies rooted in our relationship to land and each other. OUR Walmart is elevating the importance of relationship, community, respect and dignity in the largest employer in the world. Forward Together is changing policies, systems and cultural narratives about family in ways that honor the broad expanse of human experience.
A New Way: Four Elements of Transformative Movements
As this vibrant network of change-makers rises up to embrace the unknown with courage, love and innovation, we are seeing a new theory and practice of social transformation emerge. This new way is grounded in the current moment and the particular challenges and opportunities we face.
Like many kindred movement makers, Movement Strategy Center believes incremental change strategies are growing increasingly impotent. Because the scale and nature of the problems we face are exponential, our change strategies need to be as well. Transformative strategies generate exponential change.
Building from and with this new wave of innovation, Movement Strategy Center defines four elements at the core of Transformative Movement Building:
- Leading with Audacious Vision & Bold Purpose. Transformative movement builders are leading with an audacious vision of the world we actually need. These are not utopic visions, they are rooted in wisdom of the past, awareness of the present and our best hopes for the future. Transformative movements ground themselves in this vision and a deep understanding of the purpose that guides them.
- Deep Embodiment. Beyond simply believing another world is possible, transformative movement builders are generating and experiencing this new world here and now by practicing and embodying a new set of values. They commit to this new way of being and culture with joy, humor, humility and discipline. They recognize the secret is to be the future now.
- Radical Connection and Community. Transformative movements recognize that everything gets done through relationships and nothing gets done without them. At their heart, movements are about people, and cultures are about people and our relationships to each other and to the earth. Through deep listening, breakthrough conversations, and cultivating radical connections, movements are making leaps previously unthinkable
- Strategic Navigation. With audacious vision, deep embodiment, and radical connection, transformative movement makers are navigating strategically and adaptively through rapidly changing environments, towards an emergent future. They use transformative strategies to generate nonlinear, synergistic, and highly networked action. They align different approaches into collective strategies that leverage everyone’s strengths. They help us make big leaps towards a new society even as we dismantle the systems that no longer serve us.
The movements of today are calling us to make a courageous commitment to love, generative power, and our undeniable interdependence. Leading with bold vision and purpose, they are moving beyond the question of “What do we need to do?” to “Who do we need to be to bring forth the transformation we seek?”
In this way, movements are learning the art of time travel. Starting at the end of the story, movements are accelerating change by embodying and manifesting the values we seek in the world right here and now. Movements are not asking people to believe another world is possible, they are asking us to generate and experience it through transformative practice and strategy.
Fundamentally, movements are helping us to accelerate our big transition from a world where the few live at the expense of the many, to a world where the many govern for the benefit of all.
Our movements are calling us to Love with Power.