…just do NOT create a mass movement, please.
In this text I want to convey four messages.
- Creating a mass/global movement is really hard if possible at all.
- It makes no sense and certainly will not help to improve the world.
- Most of projects around you are failing or will fail soon (money IV may keep them alive longer). They are examples of the worst, not the best practice.
- What you deliver and how, influences the type of people you attract. And they will shape your project way beyond your own influence and expectations.
So, that’s it. You can quit reading now — you got the message already. It is too late to unread it. The rest of this text is mostly a wrap-up, sugar coating and a bit of self-promotion (see the last section). You are invited to get through it anyway and to have some fun in the process.
There are essentially two sane reactions to the contemporary situation of humanity: getting into deep depression or fierce screaming and kicking.
People who try to do anything about the ongoing disaster we live in are beyond sanity. But there are, of course, different directions and levels of coping mechanism in question.
One of the popular ways is to try to create “a global movement”. I made this mistake couple times myself. I also keep watching, with helpless despair, people way better than I getting into the same pitfall.
Just add people
Someone (or “a small group of dedicated persons”) creates quite elaborated know-how to solve some important problems. The know-how is well-thought, complex and complete. Basically ready to deploy. The only problem is that to deploy it, at least according to it’s author(s), there is a need of massive group of people doing it in coordination, possibly across the planet. So, a new entry emerges at the top of ToDo list: “1. Create a global movement”.
And this is the moment when the whole thing becomes dead idea walking.
You, Dear Reader, may wish to ask why. Here is why.
- Creating a global (or even “mass”) movement is much harder than you think. Unless emerging as a side effect, it is a megaproject by itself. Especially if the proposed content is more or less complete, the creation of movement boils down to an enormous selling campaign, to make your target audience internalize your ideas and conclusions, without actually participating in their creation.
- As every system, global/mass movement consumes resources just to keep itself going. While mature and blooming projects can possibly afford it (some of them, at least), putting such task at the top of the list at the beginning will bind all attention and energy of the initial group, diverting it from the original goal which was to solve a specific problem.
- Doing something global means that you have to communicate with people from various cultures to make them accept your thinking (see above, about “selling campaign”). You will immediately realize that they not only speak different languages, but use totally different frame of reference. Being (the example I see most often, due to my background and location) a European or white North American makes almost sure that indigenous people and everyone who suffered from merry expansion of global capitalism (which makes a good part of humanity) will look at you suspiciously and vet your ideas first for possible cognitive colonisation and imperialism. Granted, it is not your personal fault. It is reality, however. “White Man’s Burden.” is an approach which cast a long and dark shadow, full of very bad things from the past.
- You may try to avoid it, by putting your ideas within already existing and successful movements, like capitalism or Christianity (for example). It will open many doors (and close many if not more) indeed. But then it is not your movement anyway. You become another cannon fodder for those exactly who put us into troubles.
Global movements that exist and do something real for saving the world grow from the bottom and are rather (side) effect of people doing practical things than prerequisites to action.
If you decided to start your own project/movement to save the world, you are most probably not a type of a follower. You consider yourself a kind of leader. So, trying to achieve your goal, you are looking for successful leaders and learn from there.
And here’s the trap. And it has three layers.
- What you see around you — at a glance — are unsuccessful initiatives struggling for attention, participation and support. The more visible they are, the more (likely) unsuccessful. That’s why they put so much effort into being visible and grabbing your attention. And of course they still follow the rule that the more global they are, the bigger number of their members, the better for the world.
- There are organizations, movements, initiatives that are successful. They also advertise, but in a different way and are surely less visible. But their example is useless for you, as they are now on a quite different stage of development. So unless you can learn from their history, how they became what they are now, there is not much to get in terms of know how.
- If you are serious about saving the world (or at least part of it), chances are your ideas have a lot to do with climate change or some of its political, social and economic effects. Already existing groups (mature, I mean, 5 years old at least), even if they deal with the same topic, started in totally different context. So, their past experience is of very limited use for you now.
Welcome to uncharted and turbulent waters, mate. If you want to learn from your predecessors, learn what NOT to do first. The rest is an adventure.
What the game is, defines what the players do. (…) That may seem cynical or naive — that we’re “merely” products of our environment — but as game theory reminds us, we are each others’ environment. In the short run, the game defines the players. But in the long run, it’s us players who define the game.
Whatever your plans and intentions, you are reading this text, because you interact with other people. And, most probably, because you want other people to join you (I hope that by now you quit the idea of global movement, but still you need some people).
Now, as a person who created the idea, you are in full control. The world you imagined spins in your mind and the whole plan how to get there glows warmly on your screen. The rules are defined. Just add people.
Now, it is all about the kind of people that will join. And what they do with your precious design. Because usually people join with their own understanding of what you presented. Unless you are already “on the same page” it will take enormous effort to keep the project in original shape. The most popular scenario is that people join and — consciously or not — hack the initial design their own way. Then the author(s) have a choice: to retire and leave the project; to fight and hopefully keep control over the whole system; to let go and participate, not being a guru anymore. The latter option being the only real chance to become a leader.
But it is not just this decision that shapes the history. It starts when one sends first message to the world. The whole form and content of the project will become an antenna, resonating in hundreds of ways with every human mind in range. Some of them will resonate more than others and eventually try to join the group. And the results will be always surprising. To name a few (from my personal list of mistakes and disenchantments):
- If your concept of the world is close to complete, you will not attract partners. Most likely you will get some followers and for sure some people to challenge your vision and compete for leadership. If you want to have co-creators, you need to leave a lot of space for them to contribute. Otherwise you will have them on the mailing list perhaps, but they will never bother to add anything to your so polished model.
- If you go intellectual and systemic, you will most probably not attract practical and hardworking people. Instead, you will get a lot of partners for endless online discussions (except for the case above).
- If you hand out a lot of incentives — material or not — you will not only bring mostly people interested in getting benefits. You will appeal to those who expect handouts all way down — and will be unpleasantly surprised when you say “ok, now it is your time to contribute”.
Most of these things happens, because we are not aware of our own kinks and quirks. We send messages to the world without even knowing it (as it is the case with this very text for sure). That is exactly why the initiatives created collectively have better chance. Several people, even working closely together, tend to create better balanced and consciously controlled message. And this is the first step to make it fly…
No warranty whatsoever
If we define success as a situation when enough people work together to advance and put in practice the ideas you have in your design, it is possible. But almost for sure, not the way you have imagined it at the beginning.
As a person highly experienced in failing and making mistakes, I will not claim I know how to succeed. But here is my current list of options that look promising. I am currently testing them (see our CNI Coop website) and so far them have not yet turned out to be mistakes. Good enough for me at least — and perhaps for you as well.
- Keep your grand visions in the background. Hold your horses, especially talking to people who are new to your project. Unless you are sure you met another visionary enthusiast, let people get familiar with your ideas gradually, in their comfortable pace, which will always be too slow for you — tough shit.
- Focus on deliverable practicalities. The world is full of visionaries, barking their one-best-for-all solutions and doing nothing else. The most valuable allies and supporters will start from checking your contact with reality — be ready and take care of it. Time for visions will come later.
- Confederate, do not appropriate. People who you really want to deal with are already busy with their own projects, most probably doing something similar to your proposal. They will not quit their ideas to become your followers. What you can do is to spend some effort to find common ground and offer them cooperation. Not everything on your list has to be done personally by you or your adherents. Network of confederated allies and mutual help has a lot of advantages.
- Review your ideas and actions periodically and do not hesitate to redefine and restart. Set some deadlines/conditions for yourself (or even better, publish them). If you are unable to meet them, review what did not work and release next version — repeat as needed. This is how we all learn. If you make your learning process visible to others, your credibility will grow.
Enough for now. If this text causes some constructive conversation, I will be happy to contribute. Other than that, thank you for bearing with me. If you like what you read here and at CNI website, let’s talk about doing something together, shall we?