doing democracy book

Update: 2 new discussion sessions have been added! You are invited!

Doing Democracy Discussion Group #2
Wednesday, August 10 at 5 PM – 7:30 PM
Community Building Lobby, 35 W Main Ave.
Doing Democracy Discussion Group #3
Wednesday, August 31at 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Community Building Lobby, 35 W Main Ave.

Will you join me on Thursday July 7 to discuss the book “Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements” please? This is a book by Bill Moyer with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer. I’m finding this book fascinating and so useful! And I relish the prospect of discussing these ideas and how we can apply them in our work together.

Doing Democracy book discussion

Thursday July 7, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, in the Community Building, 35 W. Main

PDF version available here Doing Democracy

In my experience, activists and organizers often lack a shared sense of how to interpret and make sense of the actions of decision-makers, opposition, the general public, and even – especially – each other. In Doing Democracy, based on decades of experience, the authors present a “Movement Action Plan” theory to describe and understand the patterns of activist roles and apparent ups and downs of social movements, so that we as practitioners can plan and carry out more effective social action together.

Most importantly, Doing Democracy lays out easy-to-apply concepts of the “grand strategy” of social movements, which is participatory democracy: engaging ordinary citizens and raising expectations that “people can and should be involved in the decision-making process in all aspects of public life.” Reading this book is increasing my ability to explain and engage people in this rarely understood “grand strategy.”

The Movement Action Plan identifies four roles activists play (in effective and ineffective ways!) and eight stages of social movement evolution. This allows us to organize our thinking and make a bit more sense of the world by identifying what stage we’re in – and then we can create stage-appropriate strategies to advance to the next stage – and we can identify and celebrate success as we advance, without wrongly concluding we’re done or that we haven’t won anything yet at all.

The four activist roles of Citizen, Rebel, Reformer, and Change Agent are each key for social movements to succeed; yet each role can also be played ineffectively and even destructively. Playing these roles ineffectively moves us to engage in tactics in isolation from strategy, generating negative attitudes and energy and leaving us feeling unempowered and hopeless. Ultimately, ineffective activism often parrots the same dominator paradigm we’re organizing to transform.

In contrast, acting effectively as activists is all about enacting our participatory democracy and peace and justice paradigm AS we organize. Effectiveness means coordinating strategy and tacitcs, acting from our faith in people, and generating positive attitudes and energy that promote a realistic and transformational vision and social change, allowing us to feel credibly hopeful and genuinely empowered.

As we mature as activists and organizers, we can intelligently choose what role we will play based not only on our own preferences but on what role will be most effective in the movement moment we’re in. And, being conscious of these four roles and how they can be played out better prepares us to respectfully challenge each other to act most effectively when we may slide into ineffective or negative actions or statements.

Social change is not brought about through random activities or a “do whatever you feel” ethos. As Doing Democracy asserts, “activists need to continue experimenting with participatory democracy, including learning how to balance individual freedom with responsibility and accountability within organizations and the movement in general.”

I hope you will come be part of the discussion so that we can continue to strengthen our increasingly conscious practice of participatory democracy together. See you then?