Movement Building

Some people make a distinction between community building (the process of using planned strategies to change a specific place for the better) and movement building (the process of organizing and helping to activate the will and capacity of people and organizations to work individually or collectively toward a vision they all share). Movement building vests its power in people and organizations so they can take the work wherever it needs to go. Both are important ways to work towards racial equity; each has strengths and limitations. This section provides examples of social movements and ways of using the tools of movement building to create community change. It also includes some research on common features of effective movements, and links to some [...]

Case Studies and Stories

The Nerve! Conversations with Movement Elders
National Council of Elders
Southern Movement Blueprint: A Plan of Action in a Time of Crisis
Southern Movement Assembly et al.
Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History
Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui & Jugal K. Patel
The NY Times
Seven Years of Growth: BLM’s Co-Founder and Incoming Executive Director Reflects on the Movement
Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter Global Network
True Stories About the Great Fire
Vanity Fair
Building Movements Without Shedding Differences: Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter
Laura Flanders
Ferguson: America’s Movement for Racial Justice
H. Samy Alim, David Banner, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Marc Lamont Hill, and Tef Poe
Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Concepts and Analysis

The Racial Politics of Solidarity with Ukraine
Kitana Ananda
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
The Rise of the Right, Podcast Series
Marc Steiner and Bill Fletcher Jr.
The Real News Network
How Rage Can Battle Racism
Myisha Cherry
The Atlantic
Disrupting the Pattern: A Call for Love and Solidarity
adrienne maree brown
Leadership Speaker Series, Tulane University
History Shows That Sustained, Disruptive Protests Work
Kevin A. Young
YES! Magazine
On Movement Heartbreak
Clarissa Brooks
When Black Movements Win, Everybody But the 1 Percent Wins
M. L. Jordan, J. Murray, M. Schwartz, and K. A. Young
Stay Mad: The Path to Freedom in the US Runs through the South
Will Cordery and Steph Guilloud
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
“We Surrender Nothing and No One”: A Playbook for Solidarity Amid Fascist Terror
Kelly Hayes and Ejeris Dixon
On the Media: Understanding the Social Movement Cycle
Allen Kwabena Frimpong
WNYC Studios
Today’s Progressive Movements Must Learn from Black Lives Matter — and Join Together
George Lakey
Waging Nonviolence
14 Characteristics of an Intersectional Mass Movement
Drew Serres
Organizing Change
Behind the Curtain: One Theory of Social Change
Jee Kim
Ford Foundation
Building a New Racial Justice Movement
Rinku Sen
Building Social Movement Infrastructure
Grassroots Policy Project
Calling Cards: Revolution Means Building Towards a National Movement of Uncompromising Politics
Tongo Eisen-Martin
Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements
Bill Moyer
From Protest to Power: Behind the Scenes of Disruptive Social Movements
Ford Foundation et al.
From Silos to Solidarity: Learning from 2017’s Resistance Movements
Deepa Iyer
Identity Politics: Friend or Foe?
Alicia Garza
Othering & Belonging Institute
Introducing “The Movement,” Mic’s New Digital Series
Darnell L. Moore
Left or Right of the Color Line? Asian Americans and the Racial Justice Movement
Soya Jung and Yong Chan Miller
Making Change: How Social Movements Work - and How to Support Them
Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz
More Than We Imagined: Activists’ Assessment of the Moment & the Way Forward
Ntanya Lee and Steve Williams
Ear to the Ground Project
Movement Cycles in the Struggle for Black Lives
Allen Kwabena Frimpong
Movement Net Lab
Our Relationships Keep Us Alive: Let’s Prioritize Them in 2018
Ejeris Dixon
Power and Social Change
Grassroots Policy Project
Reflections on Movement Building and Community Organizing
Gary Delgado
Silence Is Violence and Inaction Gives Traction to White Supremacy
Lila Cabbil and Jody Alyn
Understanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal; Rosa Parks Institute
Social Movements: A Summary of What Works
Charles Dobson
Vancouver Citizens Committee
The Black Freedom Movement Then and Now: Organizing Traditions
Highlander Center
The Case for Interpersonal Reparations
Aaron Goggans
Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Movement Action Plan: A Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements
Bill Moyer
Transactions and Transformations: A Framework for Metrics That Matter
Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rachel Rosner
Unstill Waters: The Fluid Role of Networks of Social Movements
Robin Katcher
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)

Practices and Tools

Long-Term Power Building: A Shared Analysis of Navigating Crises
Northstar Network, Social Transformation Project (STP)
Lessons From Social Movements: Six Notes on the Radical Imagination
Alex Khasnabish and Max Haiven
What Solidarity Is and How You Can Practice It
Ada Tseng
Los Angeles Times
Move the Money: Practices and Values for Funding Social Movements
Building Movement Project
Power, Regeneration & Wholeness
Miriam Zoila Pérez
Move to End Violence
Between Resistance and Rebuilding
Deepa Iyer
Building Movement Project
Black/Asian Solidarity
The Cross Cultural Solidarity History Project
Black Joy Is Movement Work
Gloria Oladipo
What’s in Your Movement Pantry?
Deepa Iyer and Trish Tschume
Building Movement Project
When Healing Means Finding Your Role in the (R)evolution
Itzbeth Menjívar
Healing Collective
Solidarity Is
Deepa Iyer
Solidarity Is
Solidarity Is This Podcast
Deepa Iyer
Building Movement Project
SONG on the Role of White People in the Movement at this Time
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
South Asians and Black Lives
Deepa Iyer
The Listening Project: A National Dialogue on Progressive Movement-Building: Problems, Prospects, Potentials
Peace Development Fund
The Practices of Transformative Movement Building
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
What Anti-Racists Stand to Gain from Greater Class Awareness
Betsy Leondar-Wright
Class Action; Understanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal
Why Somatics for Social Justice and a Transformative Movement?
Generative Somatics
A Sikh Prayer for America
Valarie Kaur
Catalytic Community
Authoritarian State or Inclusive Democracy? 21 Things We Can Do Right Now
Eric K. Ward
Western States Center (WSC)
Building Movement vs. Building Organization: Summary of Regional Discussions
Building Movement Project
Building Organizations in a Movement Moment
Beth Zemsky and David Mann
Building Youth Movements for Community Change
Taj James and Kim McGillicuddy
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
Compact for Racial Justice: An Agenda for Fairness and Unity
Race Forward (formerly ARC)
Connecting at the Crossroads: Alliance Building and Social Change in Tough Times
Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rhonda Ortiz
USC PERE; Public Interest Projects (PIP)
Creating Culture: Promising Practices of Successful Movement Networks
Mark Leach and Laurie Mazur
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
For White Anti-Racists Holding Back From Stepping Up in These Black Lives Matter Movement Times
Chris Crass
From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism
Julie Quiroz-Martinez et al.
Akonadi Foundation
Integrating Political and Organizational Questions Into “Building A Core Group” Discussions, A Draft ...
Sharon Martinas
Let’s Talk: At the Heart of Movement Building
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
Love With Power: Practicing Transformation for Social Justice
Kristen Zimmerman and Julie Quiroz
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
Movement Mic Check: Rapid Response to Racial Disasters
Within Our Lifetime National Network
Movement Pivots: Five Steps to Collective Impact & Transformative Social Change
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
National Council of Elders
Organization Development for Social Change: An Integrated Approach to Community Transformation
Zak Sinclair with Lisa Russ et al.
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice
Kristen Zimmerman, N. Pathikonda, B. Salgado, and T. James
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)
So You Wanna Build a Movement: An Equation for Building Progressive Power
Taj James
Movement Strategy Center (MSC)

“Transformative movements recognize that everything gets done through relationships and nothing gets done without them. At their heart, movements are about people, and cultures are about people and our relationships to each other and to the earth. Through deep listening, breakthrough conversations, and cultivating radical connections, movements are making leaps previously unthinkable.”

~ Movement Strategy Center


Black Leaders '73 – Black Journal

Also in this section:
  • Individual Transformation

  • Organization Change

  • Leadership for Racial Equity

  • Community Change

  • Networks, Alliances, and Coalitions

  • Accountability



In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible.

To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.

SOURCE:  Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work, Bonnie Berman Cushing with Lila Cabbil, Margery Freeman, Jeff Hitchcock, and Kimberly Richards (2010). 

Related Resources:  Accountability

Location: PLAN / Change Process

Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” 

SOURCE:  Black Lives Matter, “Herstory” (accessed 7 October 2019).


When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression. 

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

SOURCE:  Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin (Routledge, 1997).

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as “red-lining”).

  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

SOURCE:  Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Racism (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Institutional Racism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Movement Building

Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time. Through movement building, organizers can:

  • Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems.

  • Enable people to exercise their collective power.

  • Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected.

  • Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign.

  • Promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice, and democracy.

SOURCE:  Julie Quiroz-Martinez, From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism (Akonadi Foundation, 2010), citing the Movement Strategy Center, which offers these further definitions.

Related Resources:  Movement Building

Location: PLAN / Change Process


The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,

  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),

  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and

  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

Oppression = Power + Prejudice

SOURCE:  What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Racial Inequity

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as the percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Racist Policies

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between or among racial groups. Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups. Racist policies are also expressed through other terms such as “structural racism” or “systemic racism”. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Related Resources:  Laws and Policies

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / History of Racism and Movements

For specific topics, also see PLAN / Issues


States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress.

SOURCE:  International Center for Transitional Justice.

Related Resources:  Reparations

Location: PLAN / Issues

Structural Racism

  1. The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

  2. For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress, and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access, and quality of care, and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things.


  1. Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities by Keith Lawrence, Aspen Institute on Community Change, and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, for the Race and Public Policy Conference (2004).

  2. Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Structural Racism

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

White Supremacy

The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.

SOURCE: “What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Related Resources:  System of White Supremacy and White Privilege and Addressing Hate and White Supremacy

Locations: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts and PLAN / Issues