Step 5: We Need to Be More Strategic About Working for Change

We don’t have a problem with the will or the desire to change. We have a problem with turning that desire into effective action.

This isn’t one of those times when people are satisfied with the way things are going, and need to be convinced of the need for change.

I mean, Gallup has been polling this question once a month, for decades. And not once since 2005 have even 40 percent of Americans been satisfied with the way things are going.

What that means is we don’t have a problem with the will or the desire to change. We have a problem with turning that desire into effective action.

Part of the issue is we’re thinking too small. There are 325 million people in the United States. There are 7.5 billion people in the world. A movement of a few thousand just isn’t going to cut it. And yet that’s what we have—a lot of small yet similarly-minded groups working on their own, when they could be working together.

Even when we are successful at amassing large numbers working together, we still end up working at odds with each other.

The two-party system in the U.S. is a perfect example of this. The American people are divided into two large groups, split almost exactly 50-50, so that even though a ton of blood, sweat, and tears are poured into politics, 99 percent of it is cancelled out by the folks across the aisle.

And it’s not just politics. Sciences, religions, philosophies, ideologies, and institutions are all fighting it out against each other for money, power, and followers.

It’s a lot like the trench warfare of World War I. Everybody’s dug in. Everybody’s trying to win through brute force. And ultimately, we’re being asked to give our lives for what amounts to little more than a few miles of mud.

So many calls for social change are all about getting people riled up, trying to make them work harder. But I think it’s much more important that we work smarter.

We have to figure out how to get millions of people to work together—without cancelling each other out, without trying to hijack the process, without splintering into lots of ineffective little groups.

And when we do succeed at that, we have to figure out how not to get sucked into this nasty, unproductive quagmire that dominates our arguments today. Because this nasty, unproductive quagmire of ideologies and institutions is the problem. And any movement that gets sucked into it becomes part of the problem, instead of part of the solution.

It’s a lot easier said than done. But we aren’t lacking in the will. We’re just lacking in the execution.

That’s why what I want to come out of this project is a concrete, realistic plan, based on a strong analysis of our situation and lessons we can learn from previously successful social movements, that will disrupt this trench warfare style of social change we’re stuck in, and help produce a better, more productive way to turn our desire for change into action.


This is the 6th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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