Calling in Calling Out

Building powerful movements for a just and democratic society requires tearing down the walls separating people and welcoming new people into the movement. It takes recognizing that individuals, shaped by their lived experiences, are in different places along their journeys towards growth and change. Call-out culture, which includes public shaming to hold people accountable and oftentimes claiming one’s own moral high ground, can generate antagonism and challenge our ability to make progress together. But what other strategies do we have to hold people accountable for saying and doing harmful things?

Social justice and women’s rights activist Loretta Ross makes a case for the need to “call-in” instead of call-out. This approach prioritizes relationship-building over shaming. By “calling-in” someone who makes a harmful comment, a person may take them aside to share why the comment was harmful or inappropriate and offer alternative framing instead of calling them out in front of a large group. It creates a compassionate space for the person to reflect, hold themselves accountable and grow, instead of a space in which they may deny or deflect responsibility, retreat and/or not return out of shame or embarrassment.

However, not all situations lend themselves to calling someone in. Urgency, power dynamics, and individual safety are all important factors to consider when choosing how to respond to someone engaging in harmful behavior. In other words, calling out may sometimes be the more appropriate approach, especially if the individual in question has more power or is a repeat offender that has not been open to change. Yet, too often, we resort to calling out as the first and/or only option when this is not always the case, and we do so in ways that can cause additional harm and shame. By taking the time to pause and reflect on our intended outcome and how it will serve our larger goals for positive social change, we can create opportunities for people to reflect, grow and re-engage with accountability and new understanding.

Constructive methods of calling in and calling out both involve holding individuals and institutions accountable for harm while centering human dignity and embracing individuals’ capacity to change. However, calling in usually involves a private conversation with a small group or 1:1, while calling out means engaging in a more public space or forum. Based on the larger goal, an individual may choose either approach, or a mix of both—all while centering these approaches around care and a common humanity. At the Horizons Project, we work with networks of academics, social justice activists, bridge-builders, and democracy advocates to better understand how and when to use calling in and calling out methods in a way that will prevent harm, inspire collective learning, and hold people accountable with love.

*We would like to thank Tabitha Moore, a Vermont-based racial justice trainer and activist, for her thought leadership and contributions to this area of exploration as part of The Horizons Project research team.

RESOURCES

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources on calling in and calling out that are inspiring us right now.

Calling In and Calling Out Guide, Harvard University’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging

“In fostering spaces of inclusion and belonging, it is important to recognize, name, and address when individuals or groups with marginalized identities are experiencing harm, such as bias or discrimination. The concepts of “calling out” or “calling in” have become popular ways of thinking about how to bring attention to this type of harm. Knowing the difference between these concepts can help us reflect, then act, in the ways we feel will best promote constructive change. This guide is a continuously evolving document that we plan to improve over time.”

Interrupting Bias: Calling Out vs. Calling In, The Vermont-NEA Racial Justice Task Force and Seed the Way

A quick tips guide for when you might choose to call someone in or out and how to do it.

#ListenFirst Conversations Complete Guide, #Listen First

“A #ListenFirst conversation is any conversation that helps us see each other across differences and discover human connection. It might be between two friends or among many strangers. It might be on a park bench, in a classroom, in the workplace, at home, or online. Regardless of where you are or who you’re with, here are our favorite principles and tips!”

Shame, Safety and Moving Beyond Cancel Culture, The Ezra Klein Show

“When is cancellation merited or useful? When is it insufficient or harmful? And what other tools are available in those cases?”

Loretta J. Ross: “Don’t call people out – call them in”, TED Talk

‘We live in a call-out culture, says activist and scholar Loretta J. Ross. You’re probably familiar with it: the public shaming and blaming, on social media and in real life, of people who may have done wrong and are being held accountable. In this bold, actionable talk, Ross gives us a toolkit for starting productive conversations instead of fights — what she calls a “call-in culture” — and shares strategies that help challenge wrongdoing while still creating space for growth, forgiveness and maybe even an unexpected friend. “Fighting hate should be fun,” Ross says. “It’s being a hater that sucks.”’

How to talk to insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists, Nafees Hamid, CNN

“I’m a cognitive scientist who has been studying the drivers of political violence for the better part of a decade. My work has involved interviews, social network analysis, psychology experiments, and surveys of jihadists, white nationalists, and conspiracists. My colleagues and I also conducted the first-ever brain scan studies on jihadist supporters. Our findings point to one thing that ordinary people can do if they feel that someone they know might be getting radicalized: Stay connected.”

THE VISTA: June 2023

The month of June is a busy one with the celebration of Juneteenth (check out this great reading list.) Also, the kick off of Civic Season – with hundreds of activities between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July – that is a new tradition started by Made by Us, together with museums, historic sites, libraries and archives around the country to help transform the way history is learned and “to remind us of the struggles and hard-won victories in our ongoing journey to form a ‘more perfect union.’” Our friends at Veterans for Political Innovation are also using the Fourth of July as an opportunity to recruit more veterans into their movement. We agree that veterans have an important role to play in upholding our democracy.

And of course, June is Pride month, with beautiful celebrations and visibility for the LGBTQI+ community. This year, Pride has also served as a poignant call for increased solidarity with a community that is increasingly under attack, intimately tied to the attacks on democracy playing out at the state level. You can find out more in this recent TikTok video by the Human Rights Campaign who have declared a state of emergency for the LGBTQI+ community in the United States.

Unfortunately, these trends of increasingly extreme anti-LGBTQI+ laws are global, so our solidarity must also extend across borders. This month, Uganda passed one of the most extreme laws in the world that drastically restricts the rights of LGBTQI+ Ugandans to engage in public life or advocacy. As we know, autocrats around the world are learning from each other, and therefore the pro-democracy response must also be actively sharing and learning across borders.

Hot off the press, Horizons’ Chief Organizer Maria J. Stephan published this article with Just Security focused on the specific ways that far-right authoritarian leaders in the US and globally are sharing lessons and collaborating – and how pro-democracy movement(s) can strategically out-maneuver them. She flags the 22nd Century Initiative’s conference, Forging a People-Powered Democracy where we hope to see many of you from July 6th to the 9th in Minneapolis, MN. Registration is open until the 5th!

At Horizons, we are committed to sharing experiences and lessons from other countries with our US colleagues, helping to connect the dots amongst shared threats and to find inspiration in how we are rising to the shared challenges we face. There are several important innovations captured by the Journal of Democracy from the recent opposition efforts to unseat Erdoğan in Turkey that we highly recommend, even though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. And, as Horizons focuses on a pillars approach to combatting authoritarianism, we also want to highlight the role that different sectors have to play in pro-democracy movements. For example, there are some lessons for the private sector in how Israeli businesses joined in the recent fight for an independent judiciary is Israel. And to help make this case, Rachel Kleinfeld recently released a helpful report on the negative impact of populism on the business sector around the world.

At this time of rest and reflection during our summer vacation mode in the United States, we hope you enjoy some of the additional resources we are reading, watching, and listening to:

READING

Mapping An Emerging Ecosystem

by Life Itself

At Horizons we spend a lot of time reflecting on ecosystem-level organizing for social change. If you’re into systems thinking and systems change, you will appreciate this super project overview by Life Itself. “We sense that a new ecosystem, or ecosystem of ecosystems, is emerging. A growing number of people, organizations, and initiatives are taking alternative approaches to social change, which diverge from and go beyond the more established spaces in civil society and the social economy.” They explain the process used for identifying and visualizing the various approaches different organizations and networks are taking to affect large systems-level shifts. They also relate this work to other established and emerging movements.

We Need to Talk about Well-being: Why the Study of Well-being is Crucial for Race Relations and Advancing Prosperity

by Andre M. Perry and Jonathan Rothwell, Brookings

A new study was released by Brookings that analyzes data from Gallup to show that measures of well-being offer a valuable way to chart collective progress towards a diverse thriving society, arguing it’s a more holistic indicator than the traditional measures of education and income attainment. Acknowledging that “the road to a more perfect union is paved in race relations,” the report highlights the country still has a long way to go and points out that high well-being scores correlate with greater individual and community stability, high racial and ethnic diversity, and lower rates of so-called “deaths of despair.”

How to Build Movements with Cyclical Patterns in Mind

by Dave Algoso, Florencia Guerzovich, and Soledad Gattoni, Nonprofit Quarterly

“The world changes too much for anyone who is invested in social change work to imagine that this work is linear and predictable. Opportunities come and go, whether caused by a pandemic or political shifts. This much most social movement leaders and activists intuitively understand. But what can be done with this realization? How might movement groups better prepare for moments of opportunity?” In this super article, the authors reflect on how we can create the changes we want to see by responding to the changes that are outside our control.

WATCHING

Building Collective Leadership at Grassroots and Globally Can Fuel Positive Change

hosted by the Social Change Initiative

“Collective leadership, strategic thinking, and self-care are key tactics to leading change in difficult circumstances and divided societies.” Don’t miss the recording of this inspiring online discussion hosted by the Social Change Initiative featuring Ambika Satkunanathan a human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka; Eric Ward, Executive Vice President with Race Forward in the US; Bernadette McAliskey, a human rights and social justice campaigner from Ireland; and Phumeza Mlungwana, an activist from South Africa. Addressing the big challenges facing those who seek to lead change, Bernadette gave some sage advice: “All I can say is, does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes. Will you meet the best human beings in the world on your way? Yes, you will. And if we stand together for the values of human dignity and equality, if we stand for the principles of democracy and equality, will we get there? Yes, we will.”

Talking about Science in an Age of Misinformation

by Nat Kendall-Taylor, Nobel Prize Summit

At the recent 2023 Nobel Prize Summit, FrameWorks Institute CEO Nat Kendall-Taylor gave a short talk on two cultural mindsets that undermine trust in science and two that can be activated to build trust in science. The public’s trust in science has been on the decline, and Nat explains that to understand this lack of trust and what we can do about it, we need to look not only at what people think, but how people think about science. Also, in case you missed it FrameWorks’ recently released an updated report on their findings on Culture Change in the US incorporating shifts from the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the contentious 2020 midterm elections on Americans’ perspective on the world.

The Hopeful Majority

with Manu Meel and Jeremi Suri

Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA has started a new video podcast, The Hopeful Majority, and in this third episode to celebrate Juneteenth, Manu interviewed distinguished historian Jeremi Suri to reflect on the complexity of American history while seeking to advance a new narrative of patriotism. Manu says, “to me, loving America means admiring and critiquing- both are necessary for America to be the greatest democracy possible.”

LISTENING TO

Patriotism: Pride, Race and Reckoning

Let’s Find Common Ground podcast

In this Memorial Day episode, retired US naval officer and Washington Post columnist Theodore Johnson explores the paradox of patriotism and ponders, “how can we take pride in a nation with a history of injustice and inequality?” He shares a powerful personal story of standing at attention in the stands while his son took a knee during the national anthem at his high school football game. And, he shares his thoughts on how he believes America can have more productive discussions about race.

A Billion Dollar Problem

Justice Ain’t Cheap: A Queer Philanthropy podcast

In this premier episode of the new Justice Ain’t Cheap podcast, host Saida Agostini-Bostic talks with Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ board members Ana Conner (Third Wave Fund) and Paulina Helm-Hernández (Foundation for a Just Society) about the heightened attacks on transgender and gender nonconforming communities and the role philanthropy plays in resourcing social justice movement. Paulina says, “I feel like there’s a conversation that has been created by philanthropy in relationship to movements that’s like, ‘Is this a $50,000 problem? Is this a $100,000 problem?’ And I’m like, ‘This is a billion-dollar problem. This is a huge problem.’”

The Edges in the Middle III: Báyò Akómoláfé and Indy Johar

For The Wild podcast

This is a thought-provoking conversation on A New Theory of Self that delves into how lifeforms are entangled together on the earth, exploring the modern crisis of a singular self that creates space for violence and waste. Báyò is the inaugural Global Senior Fellow at the Othering & Belonging Institute and Indy is the Founding Director of Dark Matter Labs, and their conversation is both inspiring and challenging as they call attention to the aliveness of the world and how we may collectively “move beyond constraining ideas of order, power and control to be able to recognize and take part in relational ecological emergence.”

INTERESTING TWEETS

FOR FUN

The American Music Landmarks Project (AMLP) connects music fans, music landmark operators and other advocates through unique opportunities to discover, experience and support the places that shaped US popular music history. During this year’s Civic Season, they are focusing on supporting Gen Z to add their voices as present and future stewards of our music history’s architectural legacy through connecting them with virtual and on-site tours, special events and volunteer experiences to meaningfully participate in the ongoing preservation, maintenance and interpretation of music landmarks. “AMLP understands that the presence of youth in transforming our music landmarks from built history to built heritage is essential to further democratizing and diversifying public awareness, appreciation and support for the places that shaped our collective musical past.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Multiple Lanes to Multiracial Democracy

King understood that no single approach would be sufficient to combat the interconnected evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism.

This article was written by Chief Organizer Maria J. Stephan and was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

On the heels of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 assault on U.S. democracy and an eerily similar attack in Brazil, we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who helped lead the greatest pro-democracy movement in U.S. history, otherwise known as the civil rights movement. He understood that no single approach would be sufficient to combat the interconnected evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism.

“Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to racial justice is only one lane wide will inevitably create a traffic jam and make the journey infinitely longer,” he wrote in “Stride Towards Freedom,” his book about the Montgomery bus boycott, one of the best organized and most successful campaigns of the civil rights movement.

King believed in the power of listening and dialogue to humanize, educate, persuade and build alliances across differences. At the same time, he understood that only by shifting power dynamics and raising the costs of violent extremism and institutional racism — through petitions, boycotts, walk-outs, sit-ins, strikes and countless other forms of protest and noncooperation — would harmful practices come to an end. Working for change within institutions like courts and legislatures required mobilizing pressure and changing incentives from outside those institutions.

Multiple approaches were necessary to educate people about the injustices of Jim Crow segregation, to raise the social, political and economic costs of maintaining the status quo, and to build the broad-based coalitions needed to change laws and policies. At the time, King’s embrace of boycotts, strikes and other forms of nonviolent direct action to challenge segregation policies in the South was criticized by white clergy and others, who insisted that he reject confrontational tactics in favor of dialogue. For King, both approaches were necessary. As he wrote in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

King’s strategic insights remain relevant today. Whereas Jim Crow was a single-party authoritarian system anchored in the Democratic Party and bolstered by churches, courts, media, the Ku Klux Klan and other institutions, today’s authoritarian ecosystem has evolved. Now the Republican Party has been captured by an extremist faction that embraces lies, conspiracies and violence — culminating in a violent attempt to overthrow the government. That party now holds the reins of power in 27 states (covering 53 percent of the population) and one body of Congress.

Meanwhile, Evangelical and Catholic churches and leaders have provided moral and material scaffolding for MAGA extremism; corporations and financiers have funded it; media outlets have amplified lies and conspiracies; and veterans’ groups infiltrated by white nationalists have filled the ranks of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon. Dismantling this interconnected web of support for authoritarianism in the U.S., in turn, requires a systemic response involving many diverse actors employing different strategies and approaches.

There is no time for despair. Today, like earlier, multiple approaches are needed to combat racism and white nationalism and to build a multiracial democracy grounded in love and justice. Those approaches include dialogue and direct action, inside and outside strategies, working within and across groups and movements to build alignment around the rejection of conspiracies, political violence and election subversion — and around a reimagining of U.S. democracy grounded in abundance, courage and universal flourishing.

Many organizations across the country are experimenting with different approaches to bringing various constituencies into a pro-democracy movement — not based on party identity but grounded in a shared willingness to build stronger communities free from violence and extremism. There are plenty of onramps to pro-democracy work if we are open enough to welcome in a broad cross-section of actors.

People’s Action, Showing Up for Racial Justice, United Vision for Idaho, the Rural Digital Youth Resiliency Project, and RuralOrganizing.org are pioneering ways to organize across race and class, particularly in rural areas. The One America MovementSojournersNETWORK, and the Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and Faith for Black Lives are leading engagement strategies with Christian communities. The Secure Families Initiative and the Mission Continues are doing important work with veterans, while the Western States Center is conducting critical analysis and organizing to counter white supremacist violence. Leadership Now, Civic Alliance and local organizations like the Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy are galvanizing the business community around democratic norms and practices.

Alongside this important engagement work, other groups are turning to the courts and other forms of pressure to raise the costs of anti-democratic behaviors. Groups like Protect Democracy and the Brennan Center, for example, have helped prepare hundreds of legal cases to hold individuals responsible for spreading dangerous conspiracies and violence accountable in the courts.

Making political violence and anti-democratic behaviors backfire requires building the capacities to go on the offense with our movements, something this paper helpfully describes. Finding the levers of influence to make it more costly for politicians and other actors to engage in anti-democratic behaviors takes solid analyses of where their social, political, spiritual and financial support comes from. And, in turn, linking that analysis to campaigns that target those sources of power with tactics of pressure and engagement.

During the civil rights movement, the Montgomery bus boycott and the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins were excellent examples of campaigns that linked economic analysis (of revenue streams for white-owned businesses upholding segregation) to campaigns that relied on tactics of non-cooperation. Both campaigns involved significant training and preparation, including (how to respond to anticipated violence and harassment) and building parallel institutions like Black-run car pools. (The Nashville segment of the documentary film “A Force More Powerful” highlights some of this preparation.) During the campaigns, intense negotiations were happening between civil rights leaders, politicians and business owners until shifting power dynamics made negotiated agreements possible.

During King’s time there was an acknowledgement of how difficult this work is and how much investment in relationships, skills-building and planning was required to dismantle a Jim Crow authoritarian system built on racism and violence. Important victories like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were the result of multi-faceted strategies that involved diverse actors doing many different things. The significance of intra-movement trainings to building the size and effectiveness of the civil rights movement, which were led by Rev. James Lawson, C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette and others, cannot be overstated.

Today, the challenges are no less significant or complex. While the Jan. 6 insurrection may have failed in the short term, and some election deniers may have been defeated during the midterms, U.S. democracy continues to face deep existential threats. Everyone has a role to play in stopping the slide into political violence and extremism, and in strengthening democratic culture and institutions.

There is a lane for everyone: Those skilled in educating the public about the risks we face (such as the creators of this new graphic novel about Jan. 6); those who are engaging courageous conservatives (like Country First and Millions of Conversations); those conducting important analyses (like the Bridging Divides Initiative and Political Research Associates); those experimenting with different forms of dialogue (like Urban Rural Action and the Village Square); those who are organizing within and between communities and movements (like the Poor People’s Campaign, the Women’s March, the Social & Economic Justice Leaders Project and the 22nd Century Initiative); those who are leading trainings in organizing, nonviolence and conflict resolution (like Training for Change350.orgBeautiful Trouble, the International Center on Nonviolent ConflictPace e BeneEast Point Peace Academy and Nonviolent Peaceforce); and groups that are leading local and national experiments in racial justice and healing as part of the national Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Movement.

Strengthening our collective muscle to both resist the interconnected injustices that King described and to build a democracy grounded in love and justice requires being able to “see” one another, with our different skills, relationships and levers, as core elements of a shared pro-democracy ecosystem — in the U.S. and globally. That takes recognizing that resurgent authoritarianism, misogyny and white nationalism have deep transnational roots and can only be transformed through global solidarity. May we continue to embrace King’s powerful advice that we pursue multiple, connected lanes in order to achieve racial justice and multiracial democracy.

THE VISTA: November 2022

At the time of writing our November newsletter, the results of all the US mid-term elections are still unknown. One clear win for democracy was that most of the local Secretary of State and Gubernatorial candidates who were “2020 election deniers” were unsuccessful in their bids for office. As we celebrate the wins of the many pro-democracy candidates and the tireless community organizers around the country, Horizons has been reflecting on Daniel Stid’s recent blog “…the conflation of democracy with politics is one of the biggest challenges to sustaining it. Democracy is so much larger than politics… we have to do a better job demarcating when we’re talking about what, otherwise we can create an idea or expectation that democracy is only working when we get the political wins we want, or that everything we don’t agree with is inherently anti-democratic”.

We still have a lot of work to do on the democracy agenda in the US and globally, and there are many resources and thought leaders offering a path forward. The Brennan Center for Justice provided a thoughtful analysis of How Voter Suppression Legislation is Tied to Race.

Erica Chenoweth and Zoe Marks from the Harvard Kennedy School recently released a seminal report (commissioned by Social and Economic Justice Leaders Project) Pro-Democracy Organizing against Autocracy in the United States: A Strategic Assessment & Recommendations, that proposes nonviolent resistance strategies, support systems to protect communities at-risk, and infrastructure needed for effective pro-democracy organizing. Others are asking In a Fast-Changing Political Landscape, How is The Democracy Alliance Evolving? And, also offering observations that Philanthropy Needs New Strategies to Save American Democracy.

Jill Vialet from the Center for Social Sector Leadership describes a new form of Democracy Entrepreneurship and highlights the importance of bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to the work of democratic reform. Part of this new mindset is how we talk about democracy, and in his recent opinion piece, How to Strangle Democracy While Pretending to Engage in It, Carlos Lozada reflects on how the rhetoric we use can “move public discourse beyond extreme, intransigent postures of either kind, with the hope that in the process our debates will become more ‘democracy friendly’”.

At Horizons, we are committed to helping build a renewed global democracy movement, and the recent article by Rachel Kleinfeld, A Helsinki Moment for a New Democracy Strategy discusses lessons from the democracy community’s last paradigm shift to provide a lens for seeing what we need next; and, how countries need to work together on shared challenges. Finally, we hope you’ll tune in to the recent podcast interview with Horizons’ Co-Lead and Chief Organizer, Maria Stephan on the Difficult Conversations Podcast where she discusses the US’s long history of authoritarian tendencies, exactly how those tendencies are manifesting today, and how the tools and strategies of nonviolent action can be used to effectively counter them.

As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holidays in the US, we are grateful for all the inspiring work and important ideas reflected in what we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to:

READING

The Pillars of Support Project

By The Horizons Project

Horizons recently launched a new initiative to compile research and make recommendations for engaging different pillars within society that are positioned to incentivize pro-democracy behavior or continue to prop up an authoritarian system. There are many excellent organizations working within these pillars, such as faith communities, the private sector, organized labor, and veterans’ groups to name just a few.

The Role of In-Group Moderates in Faith Communities

by The One America Movement (OAM)

When OAM describes the role of in-group moderates, they “aren’t talking about being politically or socially moderate, compromising your values, or changing who you are. Being an in-group moderate means that you are willing to speak out when members of your community (your friends, your family, your coworkers, your congregation, your political party) behave in a way that contradicts your values. This act of speaking up can look like pulling someone you love aside to explain to them how concerned you are about their words or actions”.

The Importance of Corporate Political Responsibility

by Andrew Winston, Elizabeth Doty, and Thomas Lyon, MIT Sloan Management Review

Corporate Political Responsibility (CPR) is a broader take on old-school corporate social responsibility, or CSR. CPR focuses on how business influences four key systems: the rules of the game (markets, laws, and regulations), civic institutions and representation (for instance, protecting democracy), civil society and public discourse, and natural systems and societal shared resources. The article includes a helpful table on “Putting Corporate Political Responsibility Into Action”.

Could Veterans Put Us on a Path Toward Bringing Respect and Civility Back to Politics?

by Dan Vallone, Stars and Stripes

As we celebrated Veterans Day November 11th, this special edition of Stars and Stripes highlighted the research of More In Common that found that 86% of Americans say they trust veterans to do what is right for America and 76% say veterans are role models for good citizenship. “This trust and respect holds true for Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, and speaks to the distinct potential veterans have to bring Americans together across our political divide”.

WATCHING

Perspectives from Neuroscience: Visualizing the Wonders of the Brain

by Dr. Richard J. Davidson; The Wellbeing Summit for Social Change

The Wellbeing Project held a Summit for Social Change in June 2022 that brought together global social, governmental, arts, and business leaders to advance individual and collective wellbeing for those working on the front lines of social change. You can watch all the videos of the presentations and check out the practical tools and arts installations presented at the Summit here. This session on the neuroscience of wellbeing was one of our favorites.

Signals in the Noise

by Reframe

Check out this great Tik Tok explanatory video on how wellness and fitness influencers create pathways to misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories. (And while you’re there, check out their other super videos on misinformation and other narrative change topics)!

Building and Sustaining Resilience Amid Rising Political Violence

by Western States Center (WSC)

WSC hosted a series of conversations, Looking Forward by Looking Back, to learn from those who have waged a long-term struggle against authoritarianism to reflect on the choices we will make to protect inclusive democracy in the US. If you missed this inspiring webinar sharing important lessons from the experience in South Africa, we highly recommend taking time to watch the recording; you can download the presentation slides here.

LISTENING TO

These Political Scientists Surveyed 500,000 Voters. Here Are Their Unnerving Conclusions

The Ezra Klein Show podcast

John Sides and Lynn Vavreck — political scientists at Vanderbilt and U.C.L.A., respectively — discuss the findings of their new book, The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy. In this podcast, they make an interesting argument that our politics aren’t just polarized, but calcified, describing the process and implications of this calcification.

Complexity & Genius

The Deep Dive podcast with Philip McKenzie

Systems-level change is hard. In this podcast, Jennifer Garvey Berger discusses her new book Unlock Your Complexity Genius which explores how we think about and process complexity and how we leverage that thinking to understand ourselves and the world we inhabit.

Ripples of Hate

StoryCorps podcast

In 2012, StoryCorps broadcast a conversation with a young woman involved in the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, a Black man in Portland, Oregon. A decade later, they revisited it to look at the ripples of racist violence, and a few people who fought to stop it.

How to Depolarize Deeply Divided Societies

The Conversation Weekly podcast

Jennifer McCoy, a political scientist at Georgia State University, is studying cases of depolarization from around the world over the past century. Her research is identifying a couple of fundamental conditions of countries which have successfully depolarized (and sustained it.) Robert Talisse, a political philosopher at Vanderbilt University, describes a different phenomenon that he calls belief polarization. Talisse doesn’t believe polarization can ever be eliminated – only managed. And he has a couple of suggestions for how.

INTERESTING TWEETS

FOR FUN

Fine Acts teamed up with the Democracy & Belonging Forum, an initiative of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley – to produce a collection of powerful visual artworks on the topic of Bridging & Belonging. They “commissioned 40 amazing artists to work on the topic, through the prism of solutions and hope. All works are now published under an open license on thegreats.co, their platform for free social impact art, so that anyone – including educators, activists and nonprofits globally – can use them in their work”.

THE VISTA: January 2022

WHAT WE’RE READING, WATCHING & LISTENING TO AT HORIZONS 

There are so many wonderful insights and ideas that inspire us at The Horizons Project, helping to make sense of what’s happening, what’s needed, what’s possible and ways of working within a complex system. Once a month we share just a sampling of the breadth of resources, tools, reflections, and diverse perspectives that we hope will offer you some food for thought as well.

READING

Coordinates of Speculative Solidarity

By: Barbara Adams as part of UNHCR’s Project Unsung

“Solidarity has a speculative character and is fundamentally a horizontal activity with its focus on liberation, justice, and the creative processes of world- and future-building—projects that are never complete. The horizon is always present in the landscape, reminding us that there are things beyond what is visible from a particular location. As a coordinate central to perspective and orientation, the horizon is vital to successful navigation. As we move toward the horizon it remains “over there,” showing us that there are limits to what we can know in advance. However, rather than frustrating our efforts, horizons represent possibilities.”

The Relational Work of Systems Change

By: Katherine Milligan, Juanity Zerda and John Kania at the Collective Change Lab

“People who work with collective impact efforts are all actors in the systems they are trying to change, and that change must begin from within. The process starts with examining biases, assumptions, and blind spots; reckoning with privilege and our role in perpetuating inequities; and creating the inner capacity to let go of being in control. But inner change is also a relational and iterative process: The individual shifts the collective, the collective shifts the individual, and on and on it goes. That interplay is what allows us to generate insight, create opportunities, and see the potential for transformation.”

6 Key Practices for Sensemaking

By: David McLean on LinkedIn

This post highlights the work of Harold Jarche and is chock full of tips on how to deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity.

More Common Sense, Less Ideology: Modern Communications Lessons from the Critical Race Theory Debates

By: Nat Kendall-Taylor at Frameworks Institute

“Being smart and right is getting in the way of moving hearts and minds towards positive social change…Speaking to what people are worried about resonates, while rhetorical quips and barbs make it seem like communicators don’t get the point, or worse, that they don’t care. Instead of defending the definition of Critical Race Theory, communicators could have pivoted to discussions about the importance of having an education system that prepares children for the world they will inherit, or of the role of having children realize their potential for the future prosperity of our country.”

After the Tide: Critical Race Theory in 2021

By: Baratunde Thurston on Puck

“So, I want us to stop talking about ‘critical race theory’ and start talking about what it means to love this country. I want us to stop burying our heads when someone shares an unflattering truth and instead embrace the discomfort and recognize it as a sign of growth. I want us to stop talking about ‘freedom’ as if it means denying the truth and instead remember that living a lie is what holds us captive, and the truth is what sets us free. I’m ready to get to the part of the American story where we have processed our pain and used it to forge a stronger nation, where we can heal from our historic traumas and focus our energies on building that ever-elusive multi-racial democracy where everyone feels like they belong. But we cannot heal from injuries we do not acknowledge. We cannot grow from pain we refuse to feel. Let’s know America. Let’s love America. Let’s grow America.”

To Tackle Racial Justice, Organizing Must Change

By: Daniel Martinez HoSang, LeeAnne Hall and Libero Della Piana in The Forge 

This provocative read names how internal conflicts can show up within racial justice movements and offers concrete advice on creating an “organizational culture with more calling-in than calling-out.”

Just Look Up: 10 Strategies to Defeat Authoritarianism

By: Deepak Bhargava and Harry Hanbury

“The gravity of the threat demands a reorientation of energy from organizations and individuals to prioritize the fight to preserve democracy.  Unless it is addressed, there is little prospect of progress on other issues in the years to come. The fate of each progressive issue and constituency is now bound together.  We might even imagine a practice of “tithing for democracy” — finding a way for all of us, whatever our role and work, to devote a significant portion of our time to address the democracy crisis, which has become the paramount issue of our time. We may each make different kinds of contributions, but there’s no way to honorably keep on with business as usual in the face of the current crisis. We’ll explore a wide variety of possible approaches with the understanding that there’s no silver bullet or quick fix for such a deep-rooted problem.”

Strengthening Local Government Against Bigoted and Anti-Democracy Movements

The Western States Center released a new resource for Local Governments on how to counter groups working to undermine democracy and counter bigoted political violence. “Local leaders have the power to confront hate and bigotry. Many have shown bravery and commitment in working to counter these dangerous forces in their communities….we hope these recommendations provide one more tool to support these critical efforts.”

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer was recently released with the study results of levels of trust in business, governments, NGOs and media. Across every issue, and by huge margins, people indicated they want more business engagement and accountability in responding to societal problems, especially climate change and rising inequality.

LISTENING

Podcast Undistracted: “This Big Old Lie”

The author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper TogetherHeather McGhee sits down with host Brittany Packnett Cunningham to explain her research, the “hypnotic racial story” fueling American injustice, and how we can do better.

Podcast Scholars Strategy Network: Reflecting on Two Years of Trauma

Dr. Maurice Stevens, from Ohio State University, reflects on how Americans react and respond to traumatic events both as individuals as groups, and on how we can better connect amidst the current chaos.

Fear and Scapegoating in the Time of Pandemics 

A podcast interview with Yale Professor Nicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab, on the connection between pandemics and our need to assign blame.

Podcast StoryCorps: One Small Step

In this episode, StoryCorps shares examples of people sitting down and talking about what shapes their beliefs and what shapes us as humans. StoryCorps founder Dave Isay describes what he envisions for this new initiative, One Small Step.

Reading of “Let Them Not Say”

If you like poetry, you’ll enjoy this reading by Krista Tippet of Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Let Them Not Say” which is so powerful and relevant even though she wrote it a couple years ago.

Let them not say:     we did not see it.
We saw.

Let them not say:     we did not hear it.
We heard.

Let them not say:     they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.

Let them not say:     it was not spoken, not written.
We spoke,
we witnessed with voices and hands.

Let them not say:     they did nothing.
We did not-enough.

Let them say, as they must say something:

A kerosene beauty.
It burned.

Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.

WATCHING

Unraveling Biases in the Brain

By: Dr. Emily Falk and Dr. Emile Bruneau at TEDxPenn

“How can we unravel the conflicting biases in our brain to work towards a more just and peaceful world? In this talk, Dr. Emily Falk honors Dr. Emile Bruneau’s work at Penn’s Neuroscience & Conflict lab, describing the opportunity to look closer into our unconscious biases, question them, and face discomfort to make a change in our communities and beyond.”

Dialogue Lab: America 

This documentary by Ideas Institute that brings together twelve Americans from across the ideological spectrum to participate in a dialogue experiment on political polarization. It’s an hour long and “tracks each participant as they voice their political opinions, come face to face with those holding different views, and, perhaps, forge a path to mutual understanding.” You can watch the trailer here, and watch the movie from their website.

Hope-Based Communications for Human Rights Activists

By: Thomas Coombes at TEDxMagdeburg

Coombes reflects on how “social change activists are very good at talking about what they are against, but less good at selling the change they want to see to the wider public.”

INTERESTING TWEETS

How Domestic Civic Movements Could Reshape US Foreign Policy

President Joe Biden’s early reversals of Trump policies have included at least three that were the direct or indirect result of grassroots movements. The administration froze the extraction of oil and gas from federal lands, ended U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and launched an initiative to advance racial equity in the federal government. The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which made climate change a central issue of the 2020 election, is largely responsible for the first victory. Relentless grassroots pressure ended U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s disastrous offensive in Yemen. The Black Lives Matter movement forced national action on systemic racism at all levels.

Broad-based civic movements provide the energy, dynamism, and power-shifting ability necessary to address the world’s interconnected social, political, and economic crises, including climate change, staggering inequality, structural racism, and resurgent authoritarianism linked to white nationalism. Given the inextricable linkages between domestic and foreign policy, the ability of movements to bridge these domains is critical to addressing these challenges.

These kinds of powerful movements operating in the United States have human rights and human dignity at their core and bring together domestic and foreign policy. They are critical to developing and implementing effective solutions at home and abroad. And practical steps can enhance collaboration between domestic movements and the U.S. foreign policy community, building on previous efforts to bridge domestic and foreign policy.

Why Movements Matter 

For centuries, grassroots movements have driven social, political, and economic changes in the United States and globally. From abolishing slavery and ending apartheid, to winning women’s suffrage and worker protections, to resisting dictatorship, movements have achieved impressive successes while contributing to more democratic and inclusive societies. Rooted in communities and driven by volunteers, movements are fluid entities made up of diverse actors including youth groups, faith-based organizations, professional associations, neighborhood committees, trade and labor unions, NGOs, and artist groups. Movements have change-oriented goals and use extra-institutional tactics like vigils, marches, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and sit-ins, often in combination with courts and legislative actions, to raise the urgency of issues, disrupt the status quo, and shift incentives and power dynamics.

There has been a dramatic rise across the globe in the number of protests and movements focused on resisting authoritarianism (Hong Kong, Belarus, and Uganda); challenging corruption (Iraq, Lebanon, and Chile); and advancing religious freedoms (India), among other causes. The Black-led protests in the United States following George Floyd’s murder, which the Crowd Counting Consortium called the broadest in U.S. history, forced a national and global reckoning on racism and police brutality. The COVID pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed vulnerable and marginalized communities, exposed structural injustices and spawned protests demanding government accountability. Not all protests have focused on public health – there have been anti-mask protests as well in the U.S. and across world. 

Movements and U.S. Foreign Policy

Movements in the United States focused on issues including climate, labor rights, immigration, anti-poverty, and racial justice link domestic and foreign policy in their analyses, platforms, and coalitions. However, for institutional, budgetary, and other reasons, contact between these movements and the foreign policy community (particularly in the executive branch) has been limited. Exceptions to this include antiwar and labor movements, which have targeted defense and international trade agencies in the U.S. government.

The walls separating domestic movements and foreign policy should be dismantled by policymakers and civil society for three key reasons.

First, the intersectional approach that movements like Black Lives Matter, the Poor People’s Campaign, the Sunrise Movement, and feminist anti-war movements apply to their organizing efforts strengthens the analysis of issues like inequality, racism, and climate change by highlighting the linkages among them. For example, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) policy platform connects systemic racism and police brutality at home to aggressive militarism, police and security force training, and the marketing of violent technologies abroad. The M4BL platform calls for the demilitarization of police forces and offers a plan for reinvesting war-making funds in domestic infrastructure and community well-being.

The Poor People’s Campaign, a faith-based U.S. anti-poverty movement, focuses on the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism, and the war economy, and the false narrative of religious nationalism. Drawing inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the movement connects U.S. militarism abroad to violence and poverty at home. Its 2020 Jubilee platform prioritizes “provid[ing] for the common defense” and lays out a plan for defunding militarism and reinvesting in communities. The movement has facilitated connections between U.S. labor groups, like the Service Employees International Union, and the proposed U.S.-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to push for worker rights and fair trade.

feminist peace initiative established in 2019 by Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a group of 60 U.S.-based grassroots organizing groups comprised of working and poor people; Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing for peace on the Korean peninsula; and MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, highlights how militarized approaches to security through weapons sales, militarized policing, and mass incarceration have contributed to violence and insecurity domestically and internationally. It calls for a reorientation of foreign policy around an intersectional, movements-focused framework. These movements and others, including the Women’s March and #MeToo, the DREAMers, and the LGBTQ and transgender movements, focus on those most adversely impacted by violence and inequality at home and abroad, including indigenous populations, Black and brown communities, and women.

A growing veterans’ movement, which includes traditional organizations like the Vietnam Veterans of America and newer groups like VoteVetsSecure Families Initiative, and Common Defense, works on both foreign and domestic policy. Common Defense focuses not only on traditional veteran issues but also larger society issues like health care, the minimum wage, and anti-poverty. These groups, which are starting to organize military families for alternatives to war and militarism, could play a significant role in changing the public conversation about national security priorities.

second reason to remove the wall separating domestic movements and foreign policy is that engaging with grassroots movements would democratize U.S. foreign policy. That would bring motivated and mobilized constituencies into the foreign policy arena and make cross-national connections.

While technical expertise is critical to effective policymaking, the concentration of foreign policy expertise and decision-making in a relatively small number of hands inside the Beltway has disconnected foreign policy from mainstream America. The best way to address this disconnect is to diversify the foreign policy and national security communities to make them more reflective of the country, something groups like Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security and the Diversity in National Security Network are doing effectively. An additional and crucial approach is to engage with those movements that represent broad and diverse constituencies across the country.

Democratizing U.S. foreign policy through movement engagement would make it more inclusive of the interests and needs of domestic constituencies. At the same time, such actions would connect foreign policy to the kind of grassroots pressure needed to reduce reliance on military solutions and invest in alternatives. Movements led by youth and women are particularly adept at building diverse alliances and challenging the status quo.

A prime example is the Sunrise movement, a multiracial youth-led environmental movement with over 400 hubs across the United States that was established in 2017 to stop climate change and create a green economy. The movement, with tactics such as sit-ins at congressional offices and acts of civil disobedience, has driven the Green New Deal, which aims to shift American society to 100 percent clean and renewable energy over the next 10 years. Sunrise has combined skillful direct action, backed by extensive training, with successful campaigns to turn out the youth vote for political candidates who endorse the Green New Deal. The result has been a number of prominent electoral victories and a greater public understanding of the urgency of climate action.

Other youth movements have combined mass action with institutional politics to advance key policies. The DREAMers youth movement has built a broad, nationwide coalition to protect the rights of undocumented youth, fundamentally shifting the immigration debate. Dissenters, a youth-led anti-war group led by people of color, has mobilized hundreds of young people through local chapters to oppose war with Iran, linking the uprisings against policy brutality to the struggle against global militarism.

Feminist and women’s-led movements have a long history of resisting war and militarism, including the famously audacious campaign undertaken by Liberian women to end a civil war in 2003 that featured blockades and a sex strike. More recently, women marched across the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea to demand a negotiated peace to end that war. CODEPINK, a women-led grassroots organization in the United States working to end war and militarism, uses similar audacious tactics. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 by a small group of Black women fed up with systematic police killings and centuries of entrenched racism in the United States.

The resolve of these movements and their ability to mobilize people across divisions and national borders make them a significant foreign policy asset – even if they do not feature prominently in foreign policy discussions. Their organizing prowess could strengthen efforts to increase U.S. foreign assistance in public health, women’s development, indigenous and LGBTQ+ groups, support for violence prevention initiatives, and greater investment in renewables.

Meanwhile, the cross-national nature of feminist, youth, environmental, anti-corruption, and racial justice movements is an added strength. The transnational solidarity around the Black Lives Matter movement, which included a campaign organized by U.S.-based BLM activists targeting the Nigerian government after its violent crackdown on activists protesting police brutality, is a case in point. The global environmental movement that includes the Sunrise movement, and which made Greta Thunberg a household name after her sit-in outside the Swedish parliament, has focused priorities and coordinated global mass actions.

The third reason why building bridges with movements is critical for foreign policy is that it could help close the hypocrisy gap between the values the United States professes overseas and the realities at home. As Travis Adkins and Judd Devermont of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) wrote, the failure to acknowledge and confront the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States has weakened claims to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms abroad. It was difficult for American diplomats to condemn apartheid in South Africa while Jim Crow was deeply entrenched in the United States. Similarly, it is hard for the United States to credibly criticize human rights abuses in places like Myanmar, China, and Russia in light of the systematic state-sanctioned killings of unarmed Black men and women in the US and militarized police responses to protestors.

Movements force honesty and self-improvement at home, which in turn enhances credibility and leverage abroad. The Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, which exposed profound injustices at a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were competing for global influence, ended legally-sanctioned racial discrimination in the United States and bolstered U.S. moral authority abroad. Similarly, the Black Lives Matter movement, which has brought together an unprecedented number of Americans from different generations, genders, races, and ideologies, has forced a conversation about police reform and systemic racism, while inspiring global solidarity actions.

At a time when foreign aid and development are coming under criticism for their role in perpetuating racist and neo-colonial policies and practices, listening to the experiences of individuals fighting to end poverty and advance racial and economic equity in the United States could deepen diplomats’ and foreign aid practitioners’ understanding of those issues. Those focused on human rights and democracy would do well to learn how movements in the United States, led by people of color, are countering anti-democratic policies and practices, the challenges they face, and how they are learning from activists and movements challenging authoritarianism abroad. 

Getting Practical 

Building meaningful relationships between domestic movements and the foreign policy community will take time, patience, prioritization, and commitment. While there are already strong connections between movement leaders and progressive members of Congress, notably through the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which recently introduced the 2021 People’s Agenda, developing links to the executive branch may take more effort. The National Security Council (NSC) and the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), along with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), could start by acknowledging the powerful role of movements at home and abroad and commit to a listening tour. They might tap the experience and expertise of their younger staff, who are undoubtedly clued into these movements and familiar with their work.

The NSC or the DPC could help coordinate federal government engagement with movements and include both domestic and foreign policy officials. It may be a propitious time for such engagements given National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s depth of experience on domestic policy and DPC leader Susan Rice’s background in foreign affairs.  For example, meetings with the Poor People’s Campaign could include representatives from the State Department and USAID, in addition to the Department of Health and Human Services and other relevant domestic agencies. Meetings with M4BL activists or leaders of the Feminist Peace Initiative could involve a similar mix of State, USAID, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other agencies as appropriate. The purpose of these meetings would be to build relationships, exchange ideas, surface tensions, and discuss potential alignment around shared priorities.

Trusted intermediaries in civil society, including think tanks, academic institutions, faith-based groups, human rights and peacebuilding networks could host movement-centered roundtables and other convenings whose goal is to build relationships between movement leaders and policymakers and align strategies on shared goals in various issue areas. They could include domestic movement priorities in their outreach and advocacy strategies, something that the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying group, and Win Without War already do. While think tanks like the Quincy Institute and the Institute for Policy Studies have highlighted movements in U.S. foreign policy, and CSIS hosts a webinar series on Race and Diplomacy, more think tanks, foundations, and the NGO community could follow suit.

In its 2019 report, “Reimagining U.S. Security Spending for the 21st Century and Beyond,” Win Without War recommends four priorities: halting the spread of global authoritarianism, combating the climate crisis, reducing mass inequality, and repudiating militarism. These priorities could inform a series of roundtables or other meetings involving movement leaders and the FP community. The Poor People’s Campaign, whose People’s Agenda emphasizes the close interlinkages between domestic and foreign policy issues, could serve as a key conduit for these convenings. The movement roundtables that formed after the 2016 election, including Fight Back Table, the Social and Economic Justice leaders project, and The Frontline, which unites M4BL, United We Dream, and the Working Families Party, are other key interlocutors.

There are existing models of effective coalition building between foreign and domestic policy groups that could inform this process. One is the partnership that has developed in recent years between foreign policy experts and U.S. officials and civil society for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global plan adopted in 2015 to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030. In Pittsburgh, in an effort led by the mayor, different constituencies and stakeholders including city workers and Carnegie Mellon University have mobilized around the SDG framework and committed to achieving goals set out in the SDGs, notably those related to green jobs.

Another example is the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an alliance between governments and civil society organizations launched in 2011 to strengthen transparent and accountable governance. There are now 78 OGP national members, a growing number of local governments, and thousands of civil society organizations that come together to co-create OGP action plans focused on reinvigorating democracy. U.S. civil groups have prioritized combating corruption, protecting civil rights and electoral integrity, and tackling disinformation in the fourth OGP national plan. The linkage between open governance and racial justice opens new avenues for OGP engagement with domestic movements in the United States.

The Biden-Harris administration could use platforms like the SDGs and OGP, along with other high-level initiatives, to highlight the work of movements and build bridges between the domestic and foreign policy communities. One such opportunity is the Summit for Democracy that the administration has committed to hosting and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said would likely occur by the end of this year. The summit, which will seek to address democracy challenges at home and internationally, could put movements fighting corruption, authoritarianism, and inequality in the United States and abroad at its center. Prioritizing engagement with activists and movement leaders in the lead-up to, during, and following the summit would signal humility and a recognition of their importance in advancing democracy.

Exchange and fellowship programs could be used to build and strengthen relationships between movements and the foreign policy community. Existing exchange programs that send diplomats and Foreign Service officers to work with state and local government offices could be expanded to include “postings” with social movement organizations. The State Department and USAID could consider hosting “activists-in-residence” to build bridges between domestic movements and offices focused on human rights and democracy overseas. Think tanks, NGOs, and philanthropies could establish fellowships for movement leaders and federal government leaders dedicated to forging these relationships.

Others have recommended creating venues where foreign policy professionals could talk openly with American and overseas audiences about their experiences with racism. Establishing and institutionalizing these fora, and inviting movement leaders to participate in them, would generate honesty while building trust and relationships between the domestic and foreign policy communities. At the same time, there is always a risk that such interactions between movements and policymakers could lead to exploitation of the former by the latter. Movement leaders should establish clear ground rules for policy engagement, guard their political independence, and use their best judgement about whether and how to engage with policymakers.

Anticipating Challenges 

The perspectives, approaches, and tactics used by activists and movements may differ from what government officials are used to. Unlike government bureaucracies and traditional NGOs, grassroots movements are fluid, non-hierarchical, and decentralized by design. For this reason, inclusivity and flexibility on issues of rank are particularly important. Some of the most impressive activists and organizers are local youth leaders who will be at first unknown to most policymakers and NGO leaders.

While movements include policy experts and those skilled in advocacy and negotiation, they also feature activists who have no qualms about engaging in civil disobedience or being arrested for challenging government policies. They would likely be very sensitive to attempts to coopt or water down their goals and strategies. While some activists may not wish to engage with government officials for ideological or other reasons, others will see engagement as core to their inside-outside strategy. Policymakers should avoid “choosing favorites” and prioritize the agendas of movement leaders. They should be aware that U.S. movement leaders, who have experienced many hardships and traumas over the past few years, may have immediate priorities that take precedence over engagement with the foreign policy community.

Public and private funding pose further challenges to bridge-building. Philanthropic funding, for example, is usually divided between domestic and international programming. There are some noteworthy exceptions, including efforts by the Colombe Foundation, Arca Foundation, Compton Foundation, and Ploughshares to bridge these arenas. The campaign to right-size the Pentagon budget, which brought together the National Taxpayers’ Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Win Without War, and the Coalition on Human Needs, is a good example of philanthropic funding that incentivized domestic-international collaboration. The Colombe Foundation has actively connected M4BL with anti-war groups.

Furthermore, the amount of private funding to groups focused on peace and security (about 1 percent of total foundation giving) is miniscule compared to the amount of funding in the social- and environmental-justice ecosystem. This disequilibrium poses a challenge to effective collaboration between groups focused on social justice and those focused on peacebuilding and anti-militarism.

The federal budgeting process creates further barriers. The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), which created a decade-long budget cap and a firewall between domestic and defense funding and which requires that any increase in domestic spending has to be matched by increases in defense spending, discouraged honest conversations about budget priorities and resulted in an explosion of post-9/11 defense spending. The expiration of the BCA this year creates an opportunity to revisit budget priorities and could prompt collaboration and alignment between domestic and foreign policy groups. Movements will be key to making this happen.

Conclusion 

Movements are natural bridges between domestic and foreign policy. They bring fresh ideas, critical perspectives, and the ability to mobilize diverse coalitions over interrelated issues. Movement participation could democratize U.S. foreign policy while strengthening domestic constituencies for foreign assistance programs and priorities – because they would be seen as improving communities and priorities at home. These partnerships could build momentum for focusing U.S. foreign and national security priorities and budgets on human security.

Tensions and disagreements between movements and the foreign policy community are inevitable and healthy. While intermediary organizations such as universities, NGOs, think tanks, and foundations can help facilitate relationship-building and problem-solving, it may not be possible or even desirable for movements and policymakers to reach unified positions on key issues. Still, their interaction could pave the way to dynamic new coalitions, and create a sense of urgency about the interconnected crises faced jointly by the United States and the world. Ultimately, they could build the power necessary to transform these crises and build a more just and peaceful world.

MAPPING THE ECOSYSTEM OF SOCIAL CHANGE

This overview was created after a convening of organizations and networks who are endeavoring to map the larger “ecosystem of social change,” including social justice, bridge-building, and democracy organizations, practitioners, and organizers. This is not an exhaustive list of mapping efforts but rather a working document that we intend to periodically update as we learn of more efforts and seek to make sense of the diverse lenses they provide to our understanding of the ecosystem. If you have a map or know of a map that is not listed below but should be please email us at [email protected].

Democracy Strengthening

  • Bridge Alliance: Bridge Alliance created their Democracy Field Overview which combines civic engagement, electoral reform, policy and issues work of the many unique organizations and funders working within the political and civic reform sectors. It is a useful tool for those in the democracy field to learn about complementary work.
  • Citizen Connect: Citizen Connect is a website with many organizations from the bridging field & democracy spaces – a place where ordinary citizens can go to find out what’s going on and how to get engaged. The website currently has 600+ organizations and has the potential to become a coordinating space for larger ecosystem efforts.
  • Critical Connections Forum: CCF sought to get to know the democracy landscape (including 300+ different organizations). CCF sought to get to know the democracy landscape, and includes 300+ different organizations. They identified several areas in which to dig deeper: Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT), bridging, bottom-up political organizing, and participatory governance. They are making sense of the democracy “movement of movements” and identifying where critical connections have not yet been made. They have connected with others through the Co-Intelligence Institute. They’re largely focused on building baseline maps of the current state of relationships of organizations. Caleb from CCF authored Organizing for collective impact: The making of a mass pro-democracy movement which drew on this map.
  • Democracy Funders Network: The Democracy Funders Network (DFN) is a cross-ideological learning and action community that helps new and existing funders better understand and respond to the long-term challenges facing U.S. democracy. DFN takes a big-picture view of the challenges facing American democracy and the approaches to solving them. They believe that rather than one silver bullet that will enable American democracy to thrive over the next fifty years and beyond, many approaches are necessary to sustain democracy over the long-term. In addition to working with their diverse network of partners, they frequently release resources such as: “Preventing & Addressing Political Violence in 2022,” “A Funder’s Guide to Combatting Disinformation,” and “Non-Partisan Pooled Funds: Elections Edition.” Visit https://www.democracyfundersnetwork.org to learn more.
  • FixUS: FixUS has developed their Landscape Review to curate the many existing organizations devoted to improving the state of US democracy through political, economic, cultural, and other changes.
  • Mapping American Social Movements: This project produces and displays free interactive maps showing the historical geography of dozens of social movements that have influenced American life and politics since the late 19th century, including radical movements, civil rights movements, labor movements, women’s movements, and more. This project allows us to see where social movements were active and where not, helping us better understand patterns of influence and endurance.
  • SNF Agora Institute: Mapping the Modern Agora integrates big data on civil society organizations to map the modern agora at scale. Specifically, it creates a comprehensive map of the civic life in US communities, develops a more coherent classification scheme for civil society, and develops new lines of research and inquiry that can emerge from creating a picture of the whole. They aspire to map not only the geographic aspects of civil society, but also the digital ones. And they hope is that this can become a tool for researchers and practitioners to better understand, make sense of, and invest in strengthening civic spaces in modern democracies.
  • Uphold Our Democracy: Uphold Our Democracy is currently mapping the US democracy space to inform next steps and a future strategy for the informal coalition that came together in 2020. They are looking at mapping the bridgers, social justice movement leaders, people working on democracy reform efforts, and then folks in the litigation space. They’ve also identified two periphery groups: funders and other the core members of the Uphold Our Democracy Coalition, as it was initially convened. Uphold did work on an initial mapping of organizations and training resources in 2020 that is publicly available here. Relatedly, there is the Global Democracy Coalition. This coalition is run by International Idea and Counterpart International and is very focused on The Summit for Democracy.

Nonviolent Action Campaigns

  • Crowd Counting Consortium: The CCC has been tracking nonviolent protest activity across the US since January 2017 (demonstrations, rallies, including things like campaign rallies, strikes and other labor actions and nonviolent direct actions.) It’s a large database of geo-coded events including information such as participating organizations, crowd size, participant claims, protest reasons, protester tactics, police and counter protester responses, and issue tags. Data is publicly available via a GitHub repository where compiled versions of the data are updated on a weekly basis. It’s attempting to make available data sets that scholars can use to identify and analyze causes and consequences of trends within the United States. CCC has also worked with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).
  • The Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO): The NAVCO Data Project is a multi-level data collection effort that catalogues major nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns seeking government overthrows or territorial independence around the globe from 1900–2014.

Polarization/Bridgebuilding

  • Divided We Fall: Divided We Fall has created an ecosystem map of the bridge-building community as part of their Framework for the Bridge Building Ecosystem. They see this effort as a potential first step toward growing participation and collaboration across this ecosystem. This guide contains over 200 organizations that work on at least one of the following topics: Dialogue and Engagement, Youth and University, Advocacy and Research, Media and Journalism, and Technology.

Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation

  • Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth: RJOY is engaged with a few mapping initiatives, particularly focused on truth telling, racial healing, and reparations initiatives in the United States. Much of their work is focused on how to weave these networks, identifying those who are under the radar or on the margins and those who are at the center of the work. Based on their connections, RJOY seeks to bring folks closer together to build relationships. By really centering their work on relationships, they seek to support the sustainability of the network to be able to weave itself. These efforts have led to the extension of the Iowa City Truth Telling Commission and a few other initiatives.
  • The Bridging Divides Initiative: In partnership with the Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Movement BDI has mapped TRHT Movement Organizations and Transitional Justice Initiatives in the United States, overlaying some of those members with local government-led TRHT initiatives (collected by the New England School of Law), and/or with some other efforts affiliated with George Mason University’s Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation.

Violence Prevention/De-Escalation

  • Over Zero: Over Zero has been mapping groups that are focused on preventing and addressing political violence (many of whom don’t do that as their primary purpose but are playing a major role). They interviewed 50+ civil society groups in the US (state and national) and 12 international experts with experience in over 120 countries to develop this map and observed several different forums and roundtables over time. The team is in the process of finalizing a write-up and visuals.
  • Peace Direct: Peace Direct’s primary purpose for mapping is to recognize local peace builders who are oftentimes doing work but are simply not recognized. On Martin Luther King Day in 2019 they mapped US peacebuilding. They have mapped about 200 racial justice efforts across this country—though some call it different things (e.g., “legal defense,” “water protection,” “peacebuilding with a racial focus,” or leaving out the word “peace” all together). Their primary audience are local organizations, and they seek to build networks through their Local Action Fund (LAF).
  • The Bridging Divides Initiative: The Bridging Divides Initiative started as a mapping effort to try and understand both risk and resilience at a local level and make connections between them. BDI worked with ACLED to start their US-based coding, and they have a visualization of that data, also overlapping with some of the organizational data they compile. They often combine other types of event data around political violence and demonstrations, including about 12 different indicators to look at risk at a county level (specifically risk of political violence and democratic disruption.) This is displayed on a heatmap of the US and updated every two months. They collaborate with the Carter Center and some researchers at GW on this effort. They also work with Thought Partnerships Hub.One of their initial (and now dormant) efforts was a map of organizations that do bridging work that is available on their website. This bridging map serves as a template to show a lot of other different bridging efforts. In the last year they also started looking at threats and harassment of local officials together with the Anti-Defamation League and now the National League of Cities. They are planning to be able to share some initial details on that as early as October. Because of the sensitivity of the information, this data would be available by request-only. They developed a de-escalation directory, organizations that are offering de-escalation or bystander intervention training and/or Training of Trainers.

Violent Extremism

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center: The SPLC has mapped hate across the US and the maps can be filtered by ideology and state. The data is also available for download. Additionally, SPLC has mapped Confederate monuments and has done snapshots like a map shows flyers and banners that have been displayed by far right hate groups. The Western States Center is a key partner of the SPLC.
  • The Khalifa Ihler Institute: has mapped the Proud Boys and hate in general. Their founder Bjørn Ihler has been involved in a number of mapping initiatives. Specifically, he’s collaborated with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to create Antifascist Europe to monitor the development and transnational networks of far-right and right-wing populist parties as well as white supremacist, neo-Nazi and fascist groups.