Common problems

A loss of momentum can be a common problem, especially in busy settings with multiple concurring or competing priorities. When this occurs, strategies are needed to effectively respond and re-ignite the momentum. The table below lists some common causes of why momentum can wane and some suggested strategies for how you and your change team can respond.

Common causes of lost momentum and suggested response strategies :

Loss of resonance/priority areas no longer resonate with individuals’ hearts and minds
Suggested response strategy
Use framing or reframing to re-establish the credibility and value of the shared concern or desired change and the urgent need for change.
Lack of time
Suggested response strategies
  • Provide concrete steps that can be taken as part of collective action that is less resource-intense. 
  • Hold quick meetings to keep change agents and others updated and aware of the progress of the social movement. 

Reduced number of supporters
Suggested response strategies
  • Use individual and collective action activities to increase the visibility of the social movement and potentially engage new supporters.
  • Consider if there are risks to individuals engaging in the change initiative and whether these risks can be mitigated.

Loss of key leaders
Suggested response strategy
Foster leadership from within the social movement’s core structure to grow new leaders through mentoring and support. 

Lack of coordination
Suggested response strategy
Engage the core leadership structure to strategically plan individual and collective action activities that are organized and coordinated.

Self-destructive group behavior
Suggested response strategies
  • Manage the political dynamics of the social movement, if applicable. 
  • Emphasize the social connection and cohesion of the supporters as expressed through collective identity.

Stand-off between the social movement and the wider organization's current agenda/priorities
Suggested response strategies
  • Focus actions on working ‘with’ versus ‘against’ organizations.
  • Build relationships with organizations by having a presence with established organizations.
  • Avoid confrontation, where possible; instead, seek to be collaborative to establish and maintain working relationships.
‘Old’ ways of thinking resurface and reassert themselves
Suggested response strategies
  • Promote the ‘new’ way of thinking (and doing) by continuing to frame the cause as important, legitimate, and credible.
  • Be aware that changing thinking (and doing) requires not only shifting people’s mindset but also maintaining it.
Inability to see the possibility of success of the social movement
Suggested response strategies
  • Understand that energy in a social movement can ebb and flow. In cases where it is dipping, engage champions as optimistic leaders for the change.
  • Continue to organize meetings with change agents to maintain the social connectivity of the group. 
  • Emphasize commonly-held beliefs and aspirations to keep the supporters engaged and committed.

SOURCES: Bate et al., 2004a; Bibby et al., 2009;  Kebede, et al., 2000.