We Are Winning! Thinking clearly about social movement outcomes
Sasha Costanza-Chock is a researcher and mediamaker who works on civic media, the political economy of communication, and the transnational movement for media justice and communication rights. He is currently Assistant Professor of Civic Media at MIT's Comparative Media Studies program (http://cms.mit.edu), and is a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He sits on the board of Allied Media Projects (http://alliedmedia.org), and is a cofounder of VozMob (http://vozmob.net), among other projects. For more info see http://schock.cc.
We Are Winning! Thinking clearly about social movement outcomes
Over at my Networked Social Movements: Media & Mobilization class, we've been discussing different approaches to understanding social movement outcomes. Thinking more carefully about movement outcomes helps us get beyond simplistic debates about the role of particular tools or tactics. In my own work, drawing from social movement theory, I find Suzanne Stagennborg's framework of mobilization, policy, and cultural outcomes useful.
Mobilization outcomes have to do with the scale of participation in a specific action - how many people turned out to your event, or took the action you requested.
Policy outcomes seem self explanatory - was there a concrete policy that the movement was able to pass (or block)? However, it gets complex when you start to look at how small shifts in policy language can come as the result of movement activity, even when it's not an entire bill.
The meaning of cultural outcomes is quite contested - these are sometimes thought of in terms of how movements may change the way people think, talk, or act, introduce new frames, or change social norms.
In addition, 'life-course' or biographical outcomes are worth thinking about (how an individual's life may be changed by movement participation), as are unintended outcomes - when a movement makes a demand but ends up triggering a backlash policy change, for example.
Students in the networked movements class read the following texts: 1. Marco Giugni on Occupy outcomes, and 2. “Transactions, Transformations, Translations: Metrics That Matter for Building, Scaling and Funding Social Movements” by Manual Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rachel Rosner. Nathalie Davidson compiled highlights from our class blog responses to these readings; the following is cross posted from her post "Megablog: Outcomes." Enjoy!
- With his experience in business and working in the corporate marketing and advertising world, Gabi did not agree with Pastor, Ito, and Resner’s piece.
- The effort to “businessify” the social movements takes away emotions and nuance – two important elements of participation.
- Asks about motives and also asks about the motive behind giving money to causes.
- Found Guigni’s article to be directly related to his work on the Farm Workers Movement of the 1960s and how they re-framed labor disputes into civil rights disputes. Guigni mentions taking advantage of public opinion and UFW did the same during the Civil Rights Movement in the south.
- Discusses thinking about social movements as cultural impacts. To understand outcomes of social movements we may have to step away from linear thinking and instead welcome more organic and cylical alternatives.
- Guigni’s comments related to the Occupy “spillover” is romanticized. There could be negative backlash from the Occupy movement.
- Compares Guigni’s notion of “biographical impact” to Paulo Freire’s concept of “conscientizacion,” or the development of consciousness through action.
- Finds the approach of new generation of young protestors that the Occupy Movement is creating Lessons learned from movements. Fears that because the Occupy movement is overwhelmingly white, highly educated, and relatively affluent, that inequality and inequity will be replicated within the movement.
- Discusses Giugni’s piece, specifically social movements and identities.
- Brings up going to the Occupy MBTA demonstration and their identity of greater Boston-area citizens.
- OWS brought together people who wanted to make a change and don’t believe in needing a leader to gather the crowd. This is a result of the “spillover” effect. This crowd effect is also helping with winning over the public.
- Occupy is not making an impression of a movement that will make one big dent. Although, the fact that you can no longer say “occupy” without some connotation is an impact on the nation. Occupy is making small dents in the system which is still important.
- Believes Giugni’s points on cultural impacts and long term indirect impacts are valuable. References the book “Power in Movement” in which the author writes movement outcomes are rarely as radical as they were intended to be. If a movement wants policy change, the mainstream often dilutes the movement and the desired change is also changed. Politics is important.
- Initally thought Giugni piece and the Pastor, Ito, and Rosner piece conflicted but realized they complemented one another. Similar to Amy, Kelly questions what audience the piece is trying to affect with the document.
- References an article by Jael Silliman about NGOs. The article talks about the importance of receiving funding and accountability drives NGO actions and behaviors more than their initial mission. The effect of government on NGOs.
- Connects measuring movements and measuring NGOs.
- Ends by asking “What is a women’s movement” and asking questions about the difference of a man’s movement versus a woman’s movement.
- Social movements have always flourished before the Internet. The differences between movements that now can use the Internet are due to nature of personal intensity and commitment. Movements such as the civil rights and women’s movement did not have the Internet and were motivated by the “true believer.” Giugni comments on the personal consequences of social movement activism.
- Discusses his time in DC and the women’s movement being comprised of “true believers.”
- The effectiveness of the Internet in the Middle East was due to its rapid development & deployment. As authoritarian regimes learn how to control this form of public speech, its might become less attractive.
- Discusses Pastor’s article & the importance of group affiliation. Developing alliances is key to organizational success. Organizing metrics and evaluation is important.
- David brings up his personal experience in union organization with the Communication Workers of America. Uses his experience to make the point that we can look to union organizing to better understand a long-term organization that uses same methods for focused populations.
- Much like the title says, Amy presented 17 short descriptions of questions that she had while reading the Pastor, Ito, and Rosner 2011 article. Most of the questions Amy asked were regarding the corporate feel of the article and why the article adopted a market style approach. The questions ask what the article’s purpose is in writing with a corporate touch and what the overall purpose/goal of this article is.
- Some examples of the questions:
- Social movements, like corporations, advertise—that is, offer persuasive argumentation in hopes of attracting members; but does the product (social goals) make this an inherently different kind of project?
- Why do we use the words “movement” and “mobilization” in these contexts? What is being moved? What’s the cultural resonance of this metaphor?
- Why does everyone always use “hearts and minds”? Yes, it has historical resonance, but is this the resonance you want? Hasn’t it, like most clichés, become just shorthand that obviates the need for actual thought? Why not livers and kidneys?
- Wonders what the relationship is between biographical impact of a movement and those aspects of the movement that might increase its impact.
- Giugni argues that the narrower the goal, the more likely they are to get a response.
- Molly argues that higher levels of organization and an establishment like structure would aide in the impact.
- Questions the impact of establishment like organizations on the non elite.
- OWS horizontal associations impacts at the local, biographical level. Biographical impact and cultural impact are more closely related than to impact on the establishment.
- Links to great writing on the value of slacktivism and identity oriented activism.
- Interested in the “spillover” effect
- Discusses how Giugni does not provide enough analysis about why OM could be seen as the product of the global justice movement. “Spillover” effect is convincing only when established mechanisms are found, the same group of people striking or protesting in different episodes.
- Ties the political vs. cultural outcome framework into her own adversarial vs supportive media strategy perspective. Disucsses her work with the non-adversarial case, Wukan Incident, and the Ai Weiwei’s human rights movement.
- In authoritarian countries, the non-adversarial strategy might include the control to limit the “spillover” effect, and in contrast, the adversarial movement is the lessened possibility of a long-term democratic discourse.