Research on collective action tends to focus on the formidable structural obstacles that disadvantaged people face when they challenge the status quo. These groups often lack resources, such as money and volunteer labor. They often face a political structure in which elites bar them access or unite against them. They may experience direct coercion; they may be economically dependent on the very thing they wish to challenge; or they may anticipate defeat before even starting (Gaventa 1982).
Yet even when these broader conditions change, expanding the number of committed activists is fraught with difficulty. Groups fighting to create change often struggle to garner sympathy from the community in which they work. Or they may gain sympathy but struggle to recruit others to join them in acting against a threat (Beyerlein and Hipp 2006; Oegema and Klandermans 1994). Favorable organizational and political conditions alone do not by themselves create a resonant connection between committed activists and potential participants.
Before potential participants join efforts for change, groups with resources must create social ties, share understandings, overcome symbolic boundaries, and build trust together. Continue reading