How do you Ignite a Movement?


At the April 2019 Catalyst Constellations Retreat many of us were posed to ignite a movement.

For example one of us is trying to have our organization embrace design thinking not just as a tool of design, but as a way to make decisions company wide. Another one of us is dedicated to growing Compassionate Leadership within the corporate landscape. A third of us wants to change our relationship with energy to create a more sustainable world. The list goes on and on.

We realized that any time we are driving for change we are actually igniting a movement. Sometimes it is small and sometimes it is large. The need to get people moving in the same direction toward a new end point is universal. Therefore, we wanted to put together thoughts on how to ignite a movement to support our work as change makers.


#1 – Define Your Movement via Inclusive Goals That Solve an Important Problem.

Our definition of a movement is an intentional community aligned under a shared set of goals and values. We know that people have an inherent need to belong to communities. So your first step to ignite a movement is defining shared goals so people can be clear on what they are becoming a part of and how it relates to them.

Determining pain points for people related to the movement is an important component. If you can emotionally connect with challenges they themselves have experienced, and help them see how what you are suggesting will solve that issue, they are more likely to connect. In the example of wanting to change people’s relationship with energy and create a more sustainable world there are many pain points you could highlight, such as the frustration of increasing costs for energy or the fear of growing risks of fire and flood due to climate change.

To allow a movement to spread widely, we suggest creating goals that are inclusive of such diverse pain points and motivations. An inclusive primary goal in our example would be to become energy efficient. This would attract people who want to save the planet and those who simply want to save money on their electric bill.  If you were to choose a goal to become environmental activists in the world, the movement you would be starting would be less inclusive and therefore attract less people.


#2 – Make it Personal.

The next step to ignite a movement is helping people see the personal benefits of becoming part of the movement.

For example, as you build a movement around becoming energy efficient you can help people see the tangible benefit of saving money each month or how use of fossil fuel based energy use is declining in their region.


#3 – Evangelize and Educate.

Once you have defined the goals that solve a problem and outlined the tangible outcomes of becoming part of the movement, you need to make sure people are hearing about what you are doing. Nobody will join if all that work is kept a secret.

Connect the individuals together by sharing stories that help them identify with common goals. Allow individuals to see their relation to the larger community that shares in these goals. Facilitate the socialization of efforts and accomplishments of these communities.

Encourage self-awareness for the individuals who may not have self-identified as members of the movement. Allow them the personal time and space they need to make their connection to the movement.

As you build your education campaign, ensure you are taking time with stakeholders and leaders that can help amplify your message – and give them tools and platforms to do so.

Through these steps your movement can begin to catch fire!


Authors: Ally Taylor, Ann Rich, Ashley Munday, Breana Teubner, Brett Christenson, Enrique Aznar, Gayatri Agnew, Izabel Loinaz, Jay Hasbrouck, Rosie Slentz, Ryan Warren, Sam Ladner, Shannon Lucas, Tahni Candelaria, and Tracey Lovejoy.

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