Since the founding of our discipline, sociologists have decried the urban living conditions that produce poor health. Friedrich Engels described in heartbreaking detail how the working poor suffered in Manchester, England, and W.E.B. DuBois used statistics to paint a vivid picture of the burden on African-American communities in the Philadelphia Negro. Urban health inequalities have persisted, and over the past decade, policymakers, community health advocates, and private philanthropies have begun to demand multilayered interventions to address health inequalities comprehensively. Community health partnerships have sprung up in neighborhoods around the country, and healthcare providers, business leaders, charities, and community nonprofits are working redefine a healthy community as one where residents can not only access health care, but also purchase nutritious foods, exercise in safe and attractive recreational spaces, and work in family-supporting jobs. Because these partnerships bring together diverse stakeholders, they resemble cross-movement coalitions—an understudied phenomenon in the social movements literature. Continue reading
Fall migration is in full swing here in Ohio. Glances into the evening sky reveal geese in their customary V-formation as warblers and thrushes busily chirp their way though backyard brush-piles. Gatherings of similar birds traveling together appear so typical that they frequently pass unnoticed. Meanwhile, the appearance of a kettle of raptors (yes, I understand that is what a group of hawks is called) among a gaggle of geese would probably be noticed by even the most amateur birders. Fall migration once again appears to prove that birds of a feather do seem to flock together.
Homophily, the sharing of ideological or value positions among organizations that frequently results in increased interaction or information sharing is a well established theoretical and empirical cornerstone of coalition analysis in social movements. Like geese and warblers, organizations who share similar attributes appear to more frequently connect with others of similar qualities and visa versa. My research into social movement networks asks if there are nuanced ways to understand this principle. Continue reading
Coalition building has always been a core tactic among movement organizations. By definition, aggrieved groups feel that they lack the power to have their interests represented via conventional means, thus it makes sense that they would seek to build power by joining with others.
Movement coalitions are common, yet what such collaboration entails varies dramatically. In many instances this cooperation amounts to little more than adding an organization’s name to a long list of event or campaign endorsers. A few may actually engage in coordinated action, but similar to individual “paper membership” in advocacy groups, at the organization level, many coalitions are primarily composed of inactive members who are only nominally affiliated. This should not come as a surprise. While coalition building is appealing and may have significant advantages when undertaken in earnest, there are many practical barriers to actually carrying out this kind of work. Continue reading
This month the Mobilizing Ideas dialogue tasks us with considering how social movements and social movement organizations can work across difference and power asymmetry.
Even though movement organizations in the United States and elsewhere have long faced these challenges in terms of race, class, and gender, (Breines 1982, 2006; Kurtz 2002; Piatelli 2009) and these issues are becoming increasingly relevant as more groups organize transnationally (Nepstad 2001; Smith 2007; Kay 2010), there has been limited research focused on how to effectively work across difference and inequality (for notable exceptions see: Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001; Smith 2002; Bandy and Smith 2004). The lack of attention to these issues is all the more remarkable given that many social movement organizations—particularly, in the peace movement, the environmental movement, and the women’s movement—have long expressed a desire to diversify their memberships and/or have faced conflict and tension due to their inability to effectively work across difference (Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001; Reger, Myers, and Einwohner 2008). Continue reading
My interest in coalitions draws heavily on works at the nexus of organizational and social movements literatures (Carroll and Swaminatham 2000, McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001, Rao et al. 2003, Davis et al. 2005, Fligstein and McAdam 2012, Soule 2012, McInerney 2014) where the fundamental role of challengers can be more clearly recognized in critical moments of change. The stories I offer below come from a larger study on the role that independent record stores have played in reconfiguring the contemporary music retail market. Where the first paper from this study focuses on establishing the nature of market change empirically, these excerpts are from a working paper that details the advent of Record Store Day; a national celebration of “the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.” Contrary to the popularized origin story, without the collaborative efforts of three independent record store coalitions, Record Store Day would not have developed the way that it has. Continue reading
Recently, an environmental youth summit called Power Shift was held in Pittsburgh, PA. The event is held every two years and brings together youth leaders and other activists to mobilize around issues related to clean energy and climate change. 7,000 people registered to attend the four-day summit, which entailed an environmental conference held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and direct actions (e.g., marches and other demonstrations) throughout the city.
The Energy Action Coalition (EAC) sponsors Power Shift. The EAC was founded in 2004 to build a youth clean energy and climate movement and is composed of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups from across the country. The EAC also maintains a professional staff located in Washington, D.C. where the first Power Shift conference was held in 2007. This conference drew over 5,000 attendees and subsequent summits, also held in the capital have garnered increasing numbers and high profile speakers such as Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader. Continue reading
On February 15th, 2003, millions of people from around the world took part in a series of coordinated protests against the impending war in Iraq. Although estimates of the number of participants ranged from six to thirty million, it was, without a doubt, the single largest protest event in human history to that date (BBC News 2003). Many scholars commented that the unprecedented level of successful global coordination against the war was made possible by the work of institutional leaders cooperating in large scale coalitions (Boekkooi, Klandermans, and van Stekelenburg 2011; Corrigall-Brown and Meyer 2010). These types of coalitions seemed indispensable for this level of mobilization. However, the recent success of the intentionally unorganized Occupy movement challenges us to reassess the necessity of formal coalitions between organizations and ask: in what contexts are formal coalitions needed for mass mobilization and how do formal organizational coalitions shape the nature of campaigns? Continue reading
In April of 2003, I returned from Iraq after having lived there during the U.S. Shock and Awe bombing and the initial weeks of the invasion. Before the bombing I had traveled to Iraq about two dozen times and had helped organize 70 trips to Iraq, aiming to cast light on a brutal sanctions regime, with the “Voices in the Wilderness” campaign. As the bombing had approached, we had given our all to helping organize a remarkable worldwide peace movement effort, one which may have come closer than any before it to stopping a war before it started. But, just as we’d failed to lift the vicious and lethally punitive economic sanctions against Iraq before the war, we also failed to stop the war and the devastating civil war it created. Continue reading