MAPPING THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT
By Hardisty and Ana Perea
This report is intended to be of help to donors, especially
women donors, who want to support the progressive movement, most often using a
feminist lens and anti-racist principles.
The role of "progressive donor" has a noble history and is its most challenging
when the progressive movement is under attack. Certainly, this historical moment demands thoughtful and
strategic funding, coupled with an understanding of the prospects for
progressive social change.
We have attempted to create a template for categorizing the
progressive organizations you fund. First, we delineated two ways of looking at progressive
- 1) Organizing Methods (the way they pursue social justice)
- 2) Sectors/Issues (the subject matter of their work, and the specific issues
that absorb their attention)
For each of these two categories, we have created a chart and a graphic "map."
We have not attempted to create a list of all progressive
organizations by these categories. That assignment is a massive and daunting
one that is beyond the scope of our resources. But the reader will find that nearly all progressive
organizations can "fit" into one or another of the "organizing methods" we have
chosen, and most progressive organization will also fit into one or more of the
"sectors/issues" we have chosen. These categories are, of necessity, very
general.In order to create
manageable "maps," we have had to simplify.
In many cases a progressive organization uses more than one
organizing method or works in more than one sector. In those cases, the
organization falls into the "box" at the center of each map: "Multiple Methods"
or "Cross Sector."
You will see that there is a spider web design in the
background of each map.This web
represents the vast number of interactions, collaborations, networks, and
reinforcing activities that exist within and among the categories. The more integrated a movement, the
stronger and more effective it is. You might see the web connections as brighter or dimmer, according to
how well the movement is internally networked.
Ana Perea, drawing from a number of sources, created both
the methods categories and the sectors/issues categories.
We do not assume that the charts and "maps" are definitive. We intend them as useful tools for
donors, and nothing more.
How to Use These Materials
A common goal for progressive donors is to be more strategic in our giving. These charts and maps are intended to allow a donor to
categorize her donations so she can see which parts of the progressive movement
she is supporting.First, we
suggest that you read this nine-page narrative that provides an overview of
what social movements are and how they "work." Then we suggest that you use the charts and map to place
each of your donations in one or another of the "organizing methods" or
"sectors/ issues" categories (or do both if you want the most complete
understanding of your funding).
As a result of this exercise, you may find that you are
covering exactly the methods and/or subjects that interest you most. On the other hand, you may be surprised
to see that there are important areas of progressive work that are untouched by
In either case, we hope that by using these categories, you
will gain a clearer picture of exactly where your donations are going. This constitutes a major aspect of your
funding strategy. Only a donor herself can say what she
hopes to accomplish with her funding, what issues she feels are most important,
and what organizing methods she favors at any given time. Using this map will
not provide a reading of the needs of the progressive movement at a historical
moment.But it will provide an
accurate account of where your funding is going, so that you can compare that
with your current understanding of the needs of the progressive movement.
Often we compare our funding from year to year by level. Did we give more this year than last year? If you categorize your funding by one
or the other of the criteria presented here (organizing methods or
sector/issues) you should be able to compare your funding year to year by content. And
once you have done the exercise of categorizing your grants, you can simply
repeat that categorization each year so that you will have a means of comparing
your funding from year to year.
For example, you may not have seen funding immigrant rights
as an urgent political priority until the events of Sept. 11 put the rights of
all immigrants in serious jeopardy. Such events might cause you to take a look at your past funding and
consider changing the balance of your funding priorities. Or you may decide to "stay the course"
with your current funding "map."
What is a Social Movement?
"A movement is a collective effort to seek change."
Movement activists seek to change the status quo or preserve it, depending on
the context.Movement protest is
often against the dominant classes, and sometimes against the State. Movements
include both individuals and groups and very often do not have a formal
membership. Just as there are discernible leaders
and followers in a movement, there are often many more invisible sympathizers
who might occasionally contribute time or money to the cause.
To really understand what a movement is and what it does, we
need also to look at how a movement acts to influence society, especially in
terms of ideology and social consciousness, and how it influences participants
inside the movement. The basis
for mobilizing the public and winning recruits to a movement lies in the
movement's ideological principles. And
so, a shared belief or vision of society is critical to a movement—both
in terms of its emergence and also its continued existence.
Movements actively seek to reach out to potential sympathizers. In this, they
are "by their nature evangelical; they seek to convert—to
move—people both to new consciousness and to action."
It is important to understand that a movement's success is
not determined by its strength alone, but also that of the institutions it
confronts, such as the State or counter- movements. For instance, one of the
explanatory factors in the case of the recent success of the Right was the
weakness of the Right's counter-movement, the progressive movement.
Prerequisites for a Successful Social Movement
In the U.S., we have had a struggle between the left and the
right throughout our history.The
content of the struggle changes over time, and the make-up of the left and the
right changes as various ideological positions on each side emerge, dominate,
and then lose popularity.The
success of one "side" or the other and the success of various ideological
positions within each side (which cohere to make up a social movement), depends
on good leadership and the skillful strategic exploitation of certain
hospitable conditions within the nation and within the minds of U.S.
citizens.Important predictors to
movement success are:
- A discontented group of politicized persons who share
the perception that they have common grievances they wish addressed;
- The recruitment of people into the movement through
pre-existing social networks;
- A core group of strategic leaders and local activists
who effectively mobilize, organize, educate, and communicate with the
- The mobilization of resources that are available or can
be developed to assist the movement to meet its goals;
- Political opportunities in the larger social and
political scene that can be exploited by movement leaders and activists;
- The skillful framing of ideas and slogans for multiple
audiences such as leaders, members, potential recruits, and the general public.
- A movement culture that creates a sense of community
that rewards the adoption of an identity as a movement participant.
How Does a Social Movement Work?
A successful social movement has certain components:
- An organizational infrastructure
- Large organizations with connections to powerful political forces
- Mid-size advocacy groups
- Small grassroots organizations
- Issues that resonate
- Organizers on the ground
- Resources that can be freed to focus on a campaign
- Internal Coordination
- Collaboration among groups and leaders
- Exchange and debate of ideas, skills, and strategies
- Identifiable, dedicated, and "professional" leaders (fulltime movement activists) in contact with each other
- Members and supporters
- Those who make up each organization's base
- Favorable economic and political conditions
- Shared values
- A shared vision, or at least unifying political proclivities
- Messages and positions about values that resonate with the base
- Individual sympathizers
- A large number of people who are not affiliated with any group, but share the values and at least some of the ideology of the movement
- Individual supporters
- Institutional supporters, such as faith-based institutions, foundations, and political parties
In addition to these components, a social
movement needs constant thinking. This is done both by the aptly-named
"think tanks" and by advocacy groups, networks of leaders, and media
organizations, who craft political messages, "spin" the movement's goals and
accomplishments, and create policy initiatives to implement the movement's
agenda.The thinkers can be researchers,
ideologues, strategists or visionaries.
A social movement also needs diversity of
all sorts – by race, age, gender, and class. We can see that the Right pays a electoral price in votes
for not focusing on the needs of communities of color (although it has
consistently recruited in those communities).
What is the Significance of a Movement Organization's Size?
Generally speaking, we applaud when a progressive
organization grows and flourishes and feel a loss when one closes and
disappears.That is because we
often equate size with power and success. For this reason, it is intimidating to hear the budgets of right-wing
organizations.The $111 million
budget of Focus on the Family (1998), the $46 million budget of the Heritage
Foundation (1998), and the $13 million budget of the libertarian Cato Institute
(1999) are just examples.
But size is more complicated than we think. Small organizations can be effective
beyond their numbers.Large
organizations can be cumbersome, lack smooth internal communications, or be
spread too thin to maintain focus. They also can lack the
"float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" quality of
The progressive movement needs both large and small
organizations as part of its organizational infrastructure. Each plays a distinct and important
role. What a healthy progressive movement does not need is organizations of any
size that do low-quality work, do not relate to their constituents, pay no
attention to the context in which they work, or lack passion and commitment. When an organization dies because it
suffers from these shortcomings, we need not mourn very long.
But when an organization folds that has done high-quality
work, served a constituency for which it speaks, played an active role in the
larger movement, and brought passion and vision to its work, we must look
carefully at the cause. Usually these are smaller organizations, and usually
they close from lack of financial support. They may fall into the category of
work that is difficult to get funded, such as film, video, conferences,
publications, and books.Or they
may be organizations that were of great interest to foundations a few years
ago, but now are no longer considered "cutting edge." Or an organization's
leader who was widely known and respected and thus able to attract funding
moves on, and the funders fall away.
For larger organizations, such vicissitudes may be only a
blip on the screen. The virtue of such organizations is that they carry on year
after year, providing the movement with stability and a consistent voice. But for smaller organizations, any
relatively minor setback could be fatal. With the loss of these organizations,
the movement loses an important source of vitality. With less to lose, smaller organizations can often be more
radical, more outspoken, more "in the face" of authority.
Bigger is not always better. Smaller is not always less important.
What Characterizes A Strong and Healthy Social Movement?
Social movements usually exist over a long period of time
and experience periods of success and periods of failure. When a social movement is at its peak
of effectiveness, political power, and social influence, it will have the
- A group of politicized persons with common grievances
- Effective ways of constantly recruiting these persons and others who share their beliefs
- A core group of effective leaders
- The mobilization of resources
- Political opportunities in the larger political context
- Skillfulframing of ideas and slogans for multiple audiences
- A movement culture that creates incentive and rewards
What Should We Do to Promote a Stronger Progressive Movement?
For twenty years, the Right has been politically successful.
As a result, many of the progressive movement's campaigns and collaborations
have been defensive and have responded to attacks from the Right.
Since the early 1990s, many activists and funders have been
talking about the need to "rebuild" the progressive movement, accurately seeing
it as in a one-down position. Rebuilding involves a delicate balance between
stabilizing the infrastructure while retaining the movement's vitality.
There are lessons in movement-building that we can learn
from the Right's experience:
- Listen to peoples' fears, anger and ambitions. Work to draw attention to issues of justice.
- Develop the most unifying and powerful visions and messages possible.
- Have a long-term strategy.
- Maintain a constant focus on networking. This involves collaboration and coordination, but also mutual respect.
- Don't allow the Right to drive wedges between sectors of the progressive movement. Work to unite the movement around a common agenda.
- Work in the electoral sphere. Real change can occur there.
- Let our leaders lead.Progressive leadership differs from hierarchy based on charisma, money, or manipulation. But leadership that is grounded in democratic principles is essential to a successful movement.
- Work on behalf of the vision of social change at all levels – local, state, and national.
- Gather in those who work in isolation! Reach out! Recruit!!!
There are lessons our own experience has taught us:
- Work to ensure that progressive organizations look as we want the world to look, in terms of diversity, inclusiveness, and democratic internal organizing principles.
- Expose the deceits and manipulations of the Right, but don't go the extra step of engaging in demonizing them.Make your case to the public by detailing the merits of what you are supporting, not simply by exposing the motives of your opponents.
- Encourage networking.
- Respect the work of others and work to advance tolerance and solidarity within the movement.
- Promote "quality" work.
- Involve, listen to, support, and promote youth.
- Focus on recruitment.
- Be brave.
- Do public policy work.
- Don't be afraid to be "controversial" if your position is correct.
Organizing in a New Post-Sept. 11 World
The tragic events of Sept. 11th have given the Right new
opportunities to exploit, distract, and harm the goals of the progressive
movement. Because this is a crucial moment for the progressive movement,
funders must think about the questions all progressive people now face.
These questions include:
- How will the "war on terrorism" and its domestic political fallout affect the progressive movement's current sense of fragmentation and lack of vision?
- Might the increased power of the Right and its outrageous assault on our most fundamental rights reinvigorate the progressive movement? Or might it further discourage progressive activists who already were on the defensive and who now may be fighting feelings of hopelessness and despair?
- How might the attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent "war" enhance or endanger existing international coalitions?
- Where is funding needed most now? and
- How should we use our personal political energy at a time when domestic and foreign policies are increasingly threatening our lives and ideals?
In 2001 all progressives are under attack. Progressive funders have resources of
time and money that could make a difference at this crucial moment in our
country's history and in the history of the progressive movement. Whether in domestic or international
political work, we should strive to use those resources generously and strategically. To do so matters now, perhaps more than
at any time since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Without a vigorous mobilization of
money and political will, there is no doubt that the George W. Bush
administration will complete and surpass the Right's "Reagan Revolution."
Associates 1310 Broadway Suite 201 Somerville MA 02144 617 666-5300 e-mail [email protected]
 In this
report, we use the term "progressive" to represent liberals, leftists (many of
whom identified at one time as New Left) and people who sympathize with liberal
and leftist positions. "Progressive" is an umbrella term currently used to
capture most people who are left of center. The most conservative wing of the
Democratic Party, usually known as "new Democrats," may or may not include
themselves in the category "progressive." At times they collaborate with progressives and at other times they make
a point of distinguishing themselves from progressives. Some leftists,
especially those who are political Old Left, would insist that they are
"radicals" or "leftists" and find "progressive" too fuzzy a term to describe
 Books and websites consulted include: Michael
Tomasky, Left for Dead The Life, Death and Possible Resurrection of
Progressive Politics in America (New
York: The Free Press,1996); Chuck Collins and Pam Rogers with Joan P. Garner, Robin
Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change(New
York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2000); Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, Mayer N. Zald,
eds., Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press,
1996);Jean Hardisty, Mobilizing
Resentment:Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise
Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999);
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, A Democratic
Landscape:Funding Social Change
in California (April, 2000); The
Peace Development Fund, The Listening Project: A National Dialogue on Progressive Movement-Building (1999); and information from three websites: The
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, http://www.iglhrc.org/about/index.html;
Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/about/whoweare.html;
The Interfaith Alliance, www.interfaithalliance.org.
 See these
factors discussed in: McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald, eds., op. cit.; Bert
Klandermans, The Social Psychology of Protest (Cambridge, MA; Blackwell Publishers, 1997); and Hank Johnston and
Bert Klandermans, eds., Social Movements and Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995).