Movement Action Plan

Much as I love the MAP, I am suspicious of its teleology, and have seen it (mis)applied by frankly clueless activists to justify their shitty behaviour.  Which doesn’t of course mean the MAP is useless, but should always be approached with caution.

One useful categorisation of the different stages of successful social movements is the ‘Movement Action Plan’ developed by Bill Moyer out of experiences in the US anti-nuclear movement. There are two features of MAP that make it particularly useful for us. Firstly, it has no end point, but rather consists of simultaneous struggles towards a series of progressively more radical goals on several different fronts- reflecting the diverse and continual progress of a Green strategy. A goal is adopted that we believe will build empowerment, and we begin to build a campaign to achieve it. At the beginning, we will appear to be cranks; but as Schumacher points out, cranks make revolutions. The goal must be big enough to make a difference and to motivate the activists that will struggle to win it; but it must be small enough to be within reach, and not a tantalizing dream.

Secondly, he deals with the phenomenon of take-off, and the seemingly contradictory stage of powerlessness that follows it. “After a year or two, the high hopes of movement take-off seems inevitably to turn to despair. Most activists lose their faith that success is just around the corner and come to believe that it is never going to happen… Most surprising is the fact that this identity crisis of powerlessness and failure happens when the movement is outrageously successful….

Moyer identifies the causes of this as unreal expectations; the failure of powerholders to simply capitulate in the face of such success; disappointment that the take-off stage- a time of unsustainable activity- is short lived; and failure of the mass media to recognize the movement or credit it with concrete achievements. Burnout, organisational crisis, and directionless action are all likely in this stage. However, Moyer argues, if groups consolidate and provide personal and political support, retain a commitment to non-violence, adopt models of organization and leadership based on empowerment, move from protestors to long life social change agents, and develop a wider strategic understanding, then the movement can recognize success when it is being presented as failure, and move on to Stage 6: majority support.

Begg page 261-262. citing Moyer, B. The Movement Action Plan Movement for a New Society 1986

See also decruitment

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