Common problems

Why do some social movements achieve partial success or struggle to sustain the change? Change agents and change teams can consider the following multiple contributory factors: 

Barriers to achieving fully met goals Suggested strategies to address the barrier
A lack of planning and organizing beyond the initial steps to support the continued engagement of change agents in mobilized individual and collective action.

Be aware as change agents that multiple rounds of individual and collective action are often needed to achieve change. As you plan for change, continually consider how to engage other individuals, groups and organizations and what additional steps can be taken.

Visit Individual and collective action | to learn more.   

Shifts in organizational priorities negatively impact the urgent or timely need for change.

Remember that the foundation of any social movement is a shared concern or strongly desired change that requires urgent action for change. If the shared concern or desired change no longer has perceived credibility or urgency, change agents may need to reconsider the timing of the social movement as it will likely not gain a critical mass or momentum.

Consider reframing (Framing | the shared concern or desired change to see if this will revise its meaning and prioritization. If it is still unsuccessful, carefully reconsider the next steps and moving ahead. 

Burnout after taking individual and collective actions

Be aware of the receptivity to change (Receptivity to change | and the availability of energy for change.

Be aware that following individual and collective action with high levels of energy expended that there will normally be lower energy to allow time for reflection and renewal.  

Insufficient resources to maintain momentum

Use public visibility (Public visibility | to boost awareness of the social movement and support recruitment efforts to build a critical mass.

Tap into networks of people and resources to find and secure the needed resources. 

Reduced commitment and motivation of change agents and change teams, particularly in settings where they lack power or autonomy.

Request a meeting with senior leadership team members to discuss effective elements of change teams including the need for autonomy.

Re-establish the commitment to use a non-traditional approach to change like social movement actions.

Discuss how staff can lead change with organizational support. 

Fractionalized change agents who have morphed into an interest group, versus continuing to engage in the original movement.

Re-establish the priorities and goals of the social movement to determine the level of support by current change agents, change teams and others.

Be accepting of the natural ebbs and flows of social movements and that a new social movement may be developing in response to revised or revamped shared concerns or desired changes.

SOURCES: Bate et al., 2004b; Christiansen, 2009; del Castillo et al., 2016; Grinspun, 2018; Grinspun et al., 2018a; Grinspun et al., 2018b; Herekchuk et al., 2010; Land et al., 2013; Waring & Crompton, 2017.