Social Change Movement Theories

Marge Piercy has written a neat poem titled “What is a Social Movement?”

It goes on one at a time
It starts when you care
To act, it starts when you do it again after
They said no
It starts when you say we and know what
You mean, and each
Day you mean one more.


Here’s a diagram that encompasses the definition of many individuals and organizations seeking to achieve a broad common goal.


Bill Moyer’s MAPP Model

A few people have taken the time to map out the stages social movements go through before yielding significant change.  Bill Moyer is one of them.  Using the anti-nuclear movement as his primary source, the late activist and pacifist developed a theory called the “MAPP Model” on the eight stages movements pass through before securing victory.  He also wrote a book on the topic.

When setting strategy, it’s useful to read Moyer’s theory and identify a) where your movement is located, and b) what role your group plays in the broader political landscape.   For me, the take home messages from Moyer’s analysis is that we are just one part in the orchestra of a social change movement, and that we should never ever give up.  Just because you think you’re losing doesn’t mean you really are.

Here’s a map of Moyer’s theory.


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