Building a true social movement
In almost all scenarios, people initially are resistant to social change. It is uncomfortable and may upend long-held traditions or look at injustice from a new angle. People tend to stick with what they know.
Typical barriers to change include:
- Social barriers: lack of community support, social norms and group conformity
- Cultural barriers: tradition, culture, customs, religion
- Economic barriers: lack of property rights, corruption, fiscal infrastructure
- Political barriers: ideology, values
Overcoming these obstacles is not always easy and may require creative solutions.
Put technology to work
Technology plays a leading role in most social change movements by facilitating new friendships, discussions and global activism, simplifying the fundraising process and providing ease of access. Technology has proven to be a key solution to some major social concerns, It also makes it easy to connect with others who care about the same cause.
Technology addresses barriers to social change by:
- Improving and democratizing access to information. Today's unparalleled access to information is breaking down social barriers between social classes. Online archives, research studies and how-to articles make it possible for nearly anyone to be well-informed on any number of issues.
- Engaging participants. Let's face it, technology is fun. Virtual lessons and classrooms, streamed videos, documentaries and interactive historical displays breathe new life into educational programs. For social change to succeed, it must first engage—and technology is a welcome vehicle for that.
- Connecting people. Tech solutions make it much quicker to form connections. Many social media platforms have the goal of connecting, such as volunteers with causes they care about, doctors with patients and youth with mentors. True social change requires cooperation from individuals, communities, the civil sector and government, but technology can significantly speed up what would otherwise be a lengthy change process.
- Raising money for good. Whether crowdfunding, marketing or collecting money for the next nonprofit campaign, technology contributes to turning capital profits into social good. Programs such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter help organizations and individuals launch fundraising campaigns that can have significant impact while raising awareness of a cause.
The relationship between social change and state-building
State-building—how institutions support stability in economics, politics, law and other social structures—is an uneven science. Understanding the political context of where you are working is vital. The people who have the most power are historically unlikely to disrupt the status quo. Social movements arise because power is not evenly distributed. Nonprofit and civil society organizations and groups of all sizes work in this "gray" area.
Involve the community
One way to chip away at social barriers is to invite the entire community into the change process. Go out into the world and solicit feedback. Have coffee with community leaders and listen carefully to their fears. Resistance to change almost always gives way once more people are educated about the issues. In the meantime, advocate respectfully for your cause, provide information and persevere.
Involving people directly in decision-making is vital to the well-being of a functioning community. Everyone has a different role: participants participate, volunteers volunteer and donors donate. Although nonprofits can encourage people to connect and engage with other civil society organizations, they can't create social agitators from whole cloth. It is the job of social activists to routinely test the state's capabilities and the support of volunteers to see if they have the capacity to build a true social movement.
Fast Company: 6 ways technology is breaking barriers to social change by Abe Grindle (2015)
The Resistance to Change: Cultural barriers to change
The Resistance to Change: Organizational barriers
The Resistance to Change: Social barriers to change
Center for Global Development: State Building and Global Development (2016)