Considerations for getting started

Considerations for getting started

Collective identity cannot be created by one person alone or by individuals outside of the social movement; instead, it must be developed and shaped by those involved in the social movement. To begin developing a collective identity, it may be helpful to focus on the three core components of collective identity – the cognitive, social and emotional factors. In addition, an understanding of how collective identity can be expressed as cultural artifacts or materials can be helpful. 

The cognitive parameters or boundaries of the social movement based on its shared goals

 For the cognitive component:

  • Clarify the role and function of individuals engaged in the social movement in relation to the shared concern and/or strongly desired change, the urgent need for action, and the goals. 
  • Situate the social movement in a culture of evidence-informed practice, where applicable. 
  • Encourage groups or teams to name themselves (e.g., Falls Champions) and identify their focus, capacity and priorities. Take opportunities (e.g., staff meetings or huddles) to ensure others become aware of the group or team, their identity and members.
  • Recognize how central collective identity is to a social movement as it unifies the individuals who are engaged in the change. As part of a group’s early meetings or orientation, start discussing the cognitive boundaries of the group to determine the collective identity.
  • Create a powerful narrative, as develop through framing, that unifies supporters and gives them a sense of collective identity and direction.

SOURCES: Grinspun, 2018; Sustainable Improvement Team and the Horizons Team, 2018. 

The social ties and relationships of the individuals engaged in the social movement

For the social component:

  • Recognize and value the importance of social ties and shared trust (i.e., social cohesion) as integral to the development of a collective identity.   
  • Highlight examples of mutual trust and connectedness amongst the individuals engaged in the social movement.   
  • Nurture social relationships through face-to-face interactions, recognition of achievement and celebrations. 

SOURCES: Grinspun, 2018; Sustainable Improvement Team and the Horizons Team, 2018

The individuals’ emotional investment and recognition of each other

For the emotional component:  

  • Take time during meetings to share examples of positive experiences and personal reasons for being part of the change initiative.    
  • Encourage champions and peer advocates to spread optimism and positivity about the change and their collective identity as this can attract others to join and get involved in the initiative.  

Four RNs representing long-term care homes in the Niagara region donned capes and shields to illustrate their commitment to providing evidence-based care for their residents during RNAO's Long-Term Care BPSO launch meeting on May 17, 2016. From left to right are: Michele Temple, Tracey Tait, Gail Gill and Saad Akhter. 

For the development of cultural artifacts/materials, as expressions of collective identity:

  • Develop logos, slogans, or other representations as the social movement evolves.
  • Ensure that the meaning of the artifacts is clear and understood.  
  • Consider unique offerings as expressions of a collective identity that signifies people within a social movement of recognized importance. For example, a Best Practice Spotlight Organization® (BPSO®) in Colombia, Chile developed special Champions pins to recognize their role and contributions as peer leaders in implementation.

SOURCES: Grinspun, 2018; Serna Restrepo et al., 2018; Sustainable Improvement Team and The Horizons Team, 2018.