Tag Archives: leadership

What are different things to think about when you are planning or holding a meeting?

Sam Scovill:

What are different things to think about when you are planning or holding a meeting?


Recommended Readings:


Rothschild-Whitt, Joyce. 1979. The collectivist organization: An alternative to rational-bureaucratic models. American Sociological Review, 44, 509-527.

Freeman, Jo. 1972. “The tyranny of structurelessness.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology p.151-164.


Ganz, Marshall, and Elizabeth McKenna. 2018. “Bringing leadership back in.” pp. 185-202. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements. 2nd ed, edited by David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi, Holly J. McCammon. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ


Heather McKee Hurwitz. 2019. Gender and Race in the Occupy Movement: Relational Leadership and Discriminatory Resistance. Mobilization. 24 (2) pp. 157-176.

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Filed under Informing Activists, Uncategorized

When Bad Structures Happen to Good Movements

By Jen McKernan

Failure in social movements is an overwhelming topic. When I started thinking about things under our control that we could do differently to minimize the chances of self-imposed failure, I kept coming back to the organizational structures we create. We know that more money, more time, better lists, and more volunteers would all help. But how can we also work smarter with the resources we have, while we continue to work harder to improve our resources?

I spoke with terrific organizers and activists who contributed incredible insights and revisions. They have all been a part of many different movements, brainstorms, meetings, plans, rallies, accountability sessions, campaigns, debriefs, press conferences, and work groups to make the world better for more people. They gained their hard-won experience in the trial by fire that is organizing. The result is short list of bad structures that happen to good movements. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Failure

The Road to Wigan Pier Runs Through Nicaragua

Since I have been conducting research on local, grassroots disability organizations in the midst of a growing international disability movement, I often find myself thinking about George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1938). For those who haven’t read it, Orwell put his finger on a pretty fundamental issue: movement leaders often diagnose the needs of their members or intended beneficiaries very differently than those members/beneficiaries diagnose their needs themselves. This seems especially true in movements that emphasize a “change in consciousness” as a first step. Continue reading


Filed under Daily Disruption

LEADING TEAMS (or, How Social Movement Leaders Are Like Flight Attendants, Semiconductor Manufacturers, and Second Violinists)

By Matthew Baggetta

What does this image have to do with social movements? More than you might expect.

It is increasingly common for social movement scholars to bemoan the lack of theory and research on leadership in social movements. There’s a good reason for this: there’s not enough out there. We know a bit about who becomes a movement leader. We know a bit about how they become leaders. We know a bit about what the leadership experience does to leaders over time. And we know a bit about what leaders (sometimes) (probably) do. There’s clearly a lot of ground left to cover.

One way to advance our understanding is to shift from thinking about leadership as something individuals do to thinking about leadership as the outputs from leadership teams (recent works by Marshall Ganz, Francesca Polletta, and others have started pushing us in such directions). Making this conceptual shift refocuses our attention away from the particulars of what certain leaders have done and toward the organizational and interactional contexts within which they operated. The most brilliant tactical innovation or issue frame is highly context dependent. But the settings from which brilliant ideas spring forth may not be. In effect, to understand movement leadership, we might be better off asking why some leadership teams work better than others. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Great Books for Summer Reading