Giving Compass' Take:
- Organizers and activists are sharing their growing concerns about pursuing justice within progressive movements and how to build resilient organizations.
- How can donors best support and listen to grassroots leadership?
- Read how philanthropy can learn from social movements.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Executives in professional social justice institutions, grassroots activists in local movements, and fiery young radicals on protest lines are all advancing urgent concerns about the internal workings of progressive spaces. The themes arising are surprisingly consistent. Many claim that our spaces are “toxic” or “problematic,” often sharing compelling and troubling personal anecdotes as evidence of this. People in leadership are finding their roles untenable, claiming it is “impossible” to execute campaigns or saying they are in organizations that are “stuck.”
A growing group of new organizers and activists are becoming cynical or dropping out altogether. Most read their experiences as interpersonal conflict gone awry, the exceptional dynamics of a broken environment or a movement that's lost its way. A “bad supervisor,” a “toxic workplace,” a “messy movement space,” or a “problematic person with privilege” are just some of the refrains echoed from all corners of our movements. Individuals are pointing fingers at other individuals; battle lines are being drawn. Identity and position are misused to create a doom loop that can lead to unnecessary ruptures of our political vehicles and the shuttering of vital movement spaces.
Movements on the Left are driven by the same political and social contradictions we strive to overcome. We fight against racism, classism, and sexism yet battle inequity and oppression inside our movements. Although we struggle for freedom and democracy, we also suffer from tendencies toward abuse and domination. We promote leadership and courage by individuals, but media exposure, social media fame, and access to resources compromise activists. We draw from the courage of radical traditions but often lack the strategy or conviction to challenge the status quo. The radical demands that we do make are so regularly disregarded that it can feel as if we are shouting into the wind. Many of us are working harder than ever but feeling that we have less power and impact.
There are things we can and must do to shift movements for justice toward a powerful posture of joy and victory. Such a metamorphosis is not inevitable, but it is essential. This essay describes the problems our movements face, identifies underlying causes, analyzes symptoms of the core problems, and proposes some concrete solutions to reset our course.
Read the full article about building resilient organizations by Maurice Mitchell at The Forge.