An Emergent Strategy for our Movements

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This afternoon I was on an organizing call with the Poor People’s Campaign where Rev. Dr. William Barber II and his team are bringing us up to date on the next steps of that movement. We are mobilizing groups to show up for more protests in Washington DC and around the nation. These represent one more step in the fight for a new moral movement that genuinely embodies the poor and vulnerable.

I’ve been doing a great deal of reading and research about movements. What makes a movement? What are the patterns and practices? When do you have an official movement vs. something else, something more disconnected and disjointed? Why are we seeing such an explosion of movements at this moment in history? How might local churches join in these efforts in ways that make a difference instead of just being busy?

In my reading, I’ve discovered helpful frameworks, one valuable enough that I want to share it with you. In a book called Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (stop now and go buy it!), author Adrienne Maree Brown outlines the principles of emergent strategies that help you align with the flow of change rather than battling it's inevitable. She says that at the heart of emergent strategies you realize that:

  1. Small is good. Small is all. Large is a reflection of the small.
  2. Change is constant - you are wise to go with the flow.
  3. There is always enough time for the right work.
  4. There is a conversation that only these people at this time can have. Find it!
  5. Your experience is never a failure; it is always a lesson.
  6. If you trust people, they become trustworthy.
  7. People move at the speed of trust.
  8. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass. You build resilience by building relationships.
  9. These are days demanding less preparation and more presence.
  10. What you pay attention to grows.

My grandfather, a UMC minister for all of his career, would often say in the sermons that he preached, “Life is about relationships. The quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our relationships.” It seems that principle applies to our movements as well. We are built for relationship with each other. Absent that connection, we are lost to each other and lost to our cause.

I have been concerned about our the progressive movement. We are prone to fracturing. On really bad days, we divide ourselves into our “isms” and cannibalize each other with our agendas. On our good days, we are in deep, trusting relationships with each other, sharing our successes, progress, learnings and growth. We also know that we are in this work together. We can call on one another when we need help. We are not in this work alone.

That was God’s promise to us, in the end. We were never promised an easy ride. We were never promised to be saved from suffering, strife and struggle. We were promised that we would never be alone in it. God would be with us, often in the shape of our colleagues and friends.

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Keep up the good fight, dear ones. We are making a difference. Your contribution matters.

We are in this together,

Cameron

PS - If you haven’t already, I hope you will join the Poor People’s Campaign and be a part of this movement for the “least of these.”