In the context of evidence uptake and sustainability, another key characteristic of a social movement is momentum which refers to the people and energy needed to fuel change. In this section, you will learn about the role of momentum in social movement and strategies to build a critical mass and sustain energy.   

What is the key characteristic 'Momentum'?

Momentum is the force or impetus that creates energy and attracts individuals, groups, and/or organizations to a shared concern or desired change. A critical mass of change agents, such as champions, use the energy to initiate and sustain change and achieve desired goals. The actions and wins must be visible to others to support momentum. When the force is enacted, it is unstoppable and continues even when there is an absence of external forces, such as financial incentives (Bibby et al., 2009; del Castillo et al., 2016; Dementia Action Alliance, 2009; Grinspun, 2021; Grinspun & Bajnok, 2018; Herechuk et al., 2010; Sustainable Improvement Team & the Horizons Team, 2018).

Why is the key characteristic 'Momentum' important?

Momentum is essential to the evolution and progress of a social movement; it determines its success or failure.

It needs to be built strategically and intentionally as the social movement grows and evolves, and not as an afterthought to be sustained (Bibby et al., 2009). It also requires purposeful evolution – by design - to ensure continuity of the social movement (Bajnok et al., 2018a; Grinspun, 2018a; Grinspun, 2021).

More about the key characteristic 'Momentum'

Momentum is...

Supported by framing and reframing An ongoing process that energizes the social movement A factor impacting social movement outcomes

The shared concern or desired change must be positioned or framed as credible, urgent and personal to engage the hearts and minds of others and to build and strengthen support for action. 

To maintain momentum and relevance, the shared concern or desired change must be reframed or repositioned as the social movement evolves.

Momentum attracts others to join the movement and take action.

It can result in widened engagement and support by others.

It generates (or regenerates) energy and people commit (or recommit) to the cause and take action.

Momentum powers a social movement to achieve change and new norms.

When momentum is declining or absent, the social movement no longer attracts the interest of others and the critical mass is not sustained.

Without momentum, the change initiative will plateau, run out of energy and fail to advance.

SOURCES: Arnold et al., 2018; Bibby et al., 2009; Burbidge, 2017; Grinspun, 2018a; Grinspun, 2021; Sustainable Improvement Team & the Horizons Team, 2018.