Mobilisation “versus” Movement Building

Apologies if I am repeating myself. I have had a quick look on the site, and can’t see where I have ever posted these burblings before.  Though they do link to “protest versus demonstration“…

We talk about Movement-Building all the time but do it hardly ever. Instead, we do what is “easier” and more visible, namely mobilising. We think they are the same thing, or that enough mobilising will build a movement. I want to suggest the relationship between the two is far more complicated. And sometimes they can be, if not enemies, then exist in real (and unacknowledged) tension.

One allows for

  • a sense of momentum and camaraderie
  • photos to slap on website and in annual report
  • It’s easy to measure success and to boast of it and to use it for more of the same.
  • It’s “finite” (i.e. not an open-ended commitment).

The other is slower, harder, invisible like the bulk of an iceberg. Guess which one gets done.

Mobilisation often involves simplification and pacification.

The repetition by those with the pre-knowledge (banner making, placards, booking coaches, selling tickets etc), that allows them to gain kudos while never stepping outside their comfort zone.

Movement building relies on finding out exactly what people want, what they can offer, what the movement needs. It doesn’t always work, it’s time-consuming and frustrating…
More to follow…

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Below the surface...
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One Response to Mobilisation “versus” Movement Building

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Sennett sounds like addressing similar issues in his new book.

    Together – the Rituals, Pleasure and Politics of Co-operation

    No recommendation from me…just saw a book review interview in New Internationalist with Sennett and, again, recalled what he said when you wrote; “It doesn’t always work, it’s time-consuming and frustrating…”

    Here is Sennett:
    excerpt:

    “Co-operation is a skill, its a craft, which I often compare with that of musicians. It isn’t so different. Whether you’re rehearsing a piece of music of doing a project in business — if you don’t listen attentively to other people, you mess up.”

    and about the points he is trying to make in his book:

    “The second big point is about cooperation rather than solidarity. In my view, modern society is too diverse; it’s too complicated. Solidarity is not a very good model. We need to find ways of holding people together who are very different, who don’t understand each other, don’t know each other, and maybe don’t even like each other. So that’s where the skill part of this book comes in — dealing with people you don’t know or don’t understand requires more skill than dealing with somebody who is just like you. “”

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