7 Ways to Build a Sustainable Movement

A flywheel is needed to build a sustainable movement.
A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy.

Want to see change? Don’t start a church. Don’t start a business. Don’t hire a bunch of experts.

Those things are great. But they are a bit finite in their ability to affect macro-level-change in society.

Instead, start a movement of people.

And if you really want to see change, start a sustainable movement. As in, something that’ll go beyond you, outpace you, and grow bigger than you can imagine.

A sustainable movement starts with you and grows a life of its own.

It is possible. It is within your skill set. And it just might be what God wants you to do. 

But how do you do that?

See, the problem is that there is going to be a gravitational pull to emulate something you know. As hard as you try your movement wants to become just another thing that is like a lot of other things out there not changing things.

Here’s 7 Ways to Build a Sustainable Movement of People for Change

  1. Resist Systems – All systems aren’t bad. In fact, you’re going to need some systems for organizing, funding, and stuff like that. What I mean by resisting systems is resisting a “this is how we do things” mentality. Systems of human behavior on your team will lead you to results you can already imagine. Too many great ideas stall out because the mental capacity of the team gets locked into a mentality which leads to proven results. If your way of thinking grew you to 5,000 people– don’t get locked into thinking that you have it down. Chances are high that the way you are thinking will only lead you to where you are at right now. You don’t know how to keep it going, be open to new values driven ways of doing things. 
  2. Make Sense – If you are starting something it has to make sense, not just to you, but to everyone. If you can’t explain what it is you are trying to do in 30 seconds or less… it doesn’t make sense. How do you get to that point? Keep talking to people. Talk it out, talk it out, talk it out. The best ideas are simple and make sense. People will march on Washington with you if what you care about makes sense to them. But they won’t even join an email list if it doesn’t. 
  3. Have Fun – You should have regular moments where you pause and think, “Wait, this is making a difference? I’m having way too much fun.” People aren’t going to join you if it’s not fun. And if you are stressed out and not having fun, that’s lethal. 
  4. Embrace Whimsy – This is more than just fun. Whimsy keeps people coming back, it is a creative streak. When your movement embraces whimsy it allows people to connect with you on a more human level. You aren’t just doing serious work, you’re entirely relatable. 
  5. Easy entry, easy access – It has to be easy for people to join. No training, no pre-requisites, no paperwork, no meetings. Just show up and jump in to help. This was one tactical advantage  the Obama campaign has exploited for the past two election cycles. If I wanted, I could login to the website and they’d give me numbers to call, scripts to use, and even ways to sign up to go campaign in other states. (I didn’t do it, for the record.) 
  6. Reject the Limits of Goals – Once you start thinking towards a specific measurable number, you’re kind of locked in on that number more than you are seeing change happen. They become the limit of how much you can do. Set a single goal: The mission of your movement. And all the other measurable things really don’t matter that much. 
  7. Make Kool Aid – Movements have a certain culture to them. Build a sustainable movement means that people who are into it will actually reshape their lives to reflect the values of your movement. In order to do that, you need to have something that makes your movement distinctive. (Extrinsically.) I know that feels funky. But if you aren’t making Kool Aid no one will drink it. (Sorry for the Jim Jones reference, it’s a phrase that’s taken on a life of its own beyond its grim beginning.)
What are some ways you see things becoming movements? What am I missing in this post? Share your ideas in the comments below. 



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One response to “7 Ways to Build a Sustainable Movement”

  1. Sam Halverson Avatar
    Sam Halverson

    Examples? That would help. I know, I know – that tempts us into “emulating something we know”, but it does help me get inspired too.

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