#4: Grassroots Change Movements: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement

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Brands and people act together around a shared purpose to create meaningful change.

What are Grassroots Change Movements?

Source: untitlism on Flickr

Grassroots change movements involve a large numbers of people acting as change agents, in their own lives or in their communities, in a way that their actions can be aggregated or coordinated, leading to significant impact and meaningful change. Grassroots change movements might be catalyzed and managed by organizations, including corporations, or they might be sparked by an event and spontaneously spread through the initiative of volunteers. Many grassroots change movements are political and focus on issues like human rights, freedom of expression and economic equality. Now, many organizations are applying a similar approach to catalyze behavior change and create shared value in the areas of environment, energy and sustainability; health, wellness and nutrition; education, learning and capability building; and happiness, kindness and human potential.

Grassroots change movements have moved into the mainstream due to four important dynamics. First, people have new types of power: to access information, connect with each other, express their opinions, and change the course of public debate. Second, people don’t trust organizations; in fact, trust in all organizations is at an all-time low across the world, and people believe that they themselves can drive real change, not governments or corporations. Third, people are searching for meaningful connections with communities around a shared purpose; they expect organizations to enable such connections, and are willing to reward organizations who do. Finally, the scale of social networks (Facebook has one billion members globally), the ease of one-click sharing via Facebook Likes and Twitter Retweets, and the virality of popularity-driven activity streams have made it easy for people, especially Gen Y, to participate in and help spread such movements.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman succinctly summed up the power of social movements and their importance for corporations:

“If [social media activists] can bring down the Egyptian regime in a few weeks, they can bring us down in nanoseconds.”

We have seen a number of grassroots change movements, in which social media has played an important role. Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street (video), India Against Corruption, Spain’s 15-M  (video) and Mexico’s Yo Soy 132 (video) focused on economic equality and political regime change. Kony2012 (video) and Free Pussy Riot (video) focused on human rights in Uganda and Russia. WWF’s Earth Hour (video) and 350 (video) focus on climate change. It Gets Better (video) and All Out (video) focus on LGBT issues. Bono’s ONE (video) and (RED) (video) fight poverty and AIDS in Africa. Movember (video) rallies people around men’s health, Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day (video) promotes anti-consumerism, Free Hugs Campaign (video) encourages human kindness and Startup Weekend supports entrepreneurship.


350

We have also seen an ecosystem of dedicated platforms and products to support such movements. Change.org (video), Avaaz.org (video), Care2 (video) and Causes (video) are amongst the leading platforms for change makers to start and support petitions, raise and donate funds, recruit and volunteer, and create and share content, each with several million members. Edward Norton’s Crowdrise (video) partners with celebrities to raise funds for non-profits. eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media and Take Part use socially conscious movies like An Inconvenient Truth, Contagion and Food Inc to promote social actions. Agencies like Blue State Digital, Purpose and GoodCorps exclusively focus on creating social movements, while organizations like New Organizing Institute help build capabilities for grassroots organizers. Finally, change makers use platforms like Meetup, UStream and Kickstarter (video) to organize events, live stream video or raise funds.


Participant Media: A well told story can make a difference

Some grassroots change movements have achieved significant impact. The Arab Spring movement led to a series of regime changes across the Middle East. The Occupy movement and Take the Square movements have spread to over 100 cities in the United States and over 1500 cities globally. 1.1 million people worldwide registered for the Movember movement in 2012 and raised $135 million for men’s health.

The success of such grassroots change movements shows that people have the desire and the tools to participate and act to drive change around a shared purpose they are passionate about.

How Do Grassroots Change Movements Work?

Grassroots change movements typically involve four change drivers: a shared purpose to inspire people, an ongoing platform to organize people, a series of interconnected programs to energize people, and stories to spark participation and action.

Almost all grassroots change movements have a strong shared purpose. Often, the purpose is to oppose a harmful practice, prevent a negative outcome, or fight to protect something, but movements focused on positive outcomes also work (Free Hugs Campaign (video)). Often, movements are initiated by an individual, a small group, or an organization, and then carried forward by volunteers and supporters.

Many movement organizers provide ‘how-to’ guides to show supporters how to get involved (Earth Hour (video), It Gets Better (video)). The best movements create a ladder of engagement for supporters, to first get them involved with simple actions like signing petitions, voting for causes, or sharing content; then get them more engaged by asking them to share personal stories, donate money, buy merchandise, or volunteer time; and finally convert them into partners by inspiring them to recruit supporters, raise funds, or organize local events. Some movement platforms also use gamification features, like points and leader boards, to move supporters up the ladder of engagement (Movember (video)).


Movember – Fundraising Tips

Even writer Evgeny Morozov, who rails against “slacktivism” in his book Net Delusion recognizes the value of this approach:

“Create diverse, distinctive, and non-trivial tasks; your supporters can do more than just click “send to all” button” all day. Facebook could actually be a boon for those organizing a campaign; they just need to figure out a way in which to capitalize on identity aspiration of “slacktivists” by giving them interesting and meaningful tasks that could then be evaluated.”

If a movement becomes successful, the original leaders find ways to spread the movement across the world, while maintaining its original spirit (Adbusters/ Occupy). Many movement organizers also create guides to help volunteers organize local chapters or events (How to Occupy, Earth Hour, 350, Startup Weekend). Some organizers create interactive maps, so that supporters can easily find local chapters (Earth Hour, 350, Take the Square).

Movement platforms can be designed to have ongoing engagement, like an online community or a physical space, or periodical engagement, like an annual event or an annual contest (Movember, Earth Hour). The most successful movements keep supporters engaged through a series of interconnected programs (350 2010 summary, 350 2011 summary, Kony MOVE:DC, Kony Cover the Night) and a stream of stories, often shared by the community members themselves (We Are the 99%, It Gets Better).


All Out

Sometimes, these programs result in offshoot projects that spread the movement to new constituents or in new directions (Occupy Network). Often, other organizations join in a movement and create their own offshoot projects, helping the movement grow (Amnesty International Free Pussy Riot Map).

Many movement organizers proactively seek the support of celebrities to gain more visibility. Invisible Children asked supporters to email or tweet to specific celebrities whose support could spread their message. Earth Hour partnered with celebrities to create the I Will If You Will campaign.


Earth Hour I Will If You Will

Finally, stories and content play a big role in sparking a wave of sharing and participation, which help movements go viral and achieve results. For instance, the Kony2012 video has received 95 millions views on YouTube and attracted global attention to the Kony 2012 campaign. The Free Hugs Campaign video has received 74 million views. The original It Gets Better video has received more than 2 million views and the response videos have more than 50 million views collectively.


Free Hugs Campaign

Grassroots Change Movements for Brands

Brands are realizing the power of grassroots change movements and creating movement marketing initiatives to benefit from them.

Scott Goodson, author of the movement marketing book Uprising summarizes how movement marketing works:

“You start by identifying a powerful idea on the rise in culture. You then join, fuel and add real tangible value to the idea through innovative marketing and social media. People who share the passion for the idea join the cause. And rally others to get involved too. And so, a movement is born, which smart brands can profit from.”

Brands can engage in grassroots change movements at many levels, starting with participating in existing movements, then creating their own campaigns around purpose and participation, and finally catalyzing and committing to long-term movements.

Many brands start by participating in or partnering with movements that resonate with their values, and encouraging their employees to participate. For instance, Gap (video) and Google (video) encouraged their LGTB employees to create videos to participate in the It Gets Better movement. Several brands have supported the Earth Hour and (RED) movements, and some have played significant roles in promoting these. For instance, Starbucks with its annual {RED) programs (2008 video, 2009 video, 2010 video) has raised more than $10 million for the (RED) Global Fund.


Starbucks RED

Some brands create short-term campaigns around purpose and participation, but stop short of committing to them long enough to turn them into movements (GE Celebrate What Works). Sometimes, these short-term campaigns are a part of long-term purpose-led programs (GE Ecomagination Tag Your Green (video).

Brands that have committed to long-term movement marketing initiatives can take three distinct routes. They can rally people to support a cause or raise funds for it; they can inspire people to change their own behavior in a way that adds up to meaningful change; and, they can create ecosystems to support changemakers who are creating change in their own communities.

Some brands see movement marketing as an extension of cause marketing, and create campaigns that rally support for a cause. Here, brands typically partner with a non-profit and make a donation to it, often based on sales or community participation, but also create content that inspires community members to pledge support, share their own stories and spread the word. For instance, Google Take Action (video) rallied people to pledge their support for a free and open web. Aircel Save Our Tigers (video) catalyzed a public debate in India to protect tigers. Brand crowdfunding programs, like Chase Community Giving (video), American Express Members Project (video), and Starbucks Vote.Give.Grow, that ask community members to support non-profits by volunteering or donating money can also be included in this category.

Increasingly, brands are creating movements marketing campaigns that focus on inspiring people to change their own behavior, and aggregating these actions so that they add up to meaningful change. For instance, P&G’s Secret Mean Stinks (video) aims to end girl-to-girl bullying and inspire girls to gang up for good and be nice to each other. Sometimes, these behavior changes movements can be fun and whimsical. For instance, Doritos in Argentina created a movement to bring slow dancing back (video).

Some brands create an annual event to focus their effort to bring about behavior change. For instance, American Express’ Small Business Saturday encourages Americans to shop at independent stores, each year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving (2010 video, 2011 video, 2012 video). Other brands create a series of interconnected behavior change campaigns around their shared purpose, or Social Heartbeat. For instance, over the years, Starbucks has created a series of movement marketing campaigns in the US, which link back to its shared purpose of being the “third place” and nurturing community values (vote in the 2008 elections, pledge 5 hours of volunteer time, change local communities, bring your own tumblr, help create jobs). Tata Tea Jaago Re in India has created campaigns to inspired people to register to vote, volunteer for causes and spread positivity. MSLGROUP has helped Alpenliebe inspire millions of young people in China to share, appreciate and engage in everyday acts of kindness, through a movement marketing campaign that is now entering its third year.

Some of these behavior change movements can also be seen as behavior change games. For instance, Nike has created a series of campaigns, increasingly around Nike Plus and Nike Fuel (video), which use gamification features like challenges and levels to inspire people to become more active (Nike Global Game on World, Nike Hong Kong Make It Count, Nike Mexico Bid Your Sweat, Nike Global Missions).

Finally, some brands are creating long-term platforms, with the intention of creating an ecosystem to connect changemakers and build capabilities. These platforms provide the tools and the enabling ecosystem for people to act as change agents in their own communities. Often, these platforms ask community members to create their own grassroots change projects and activate their networks to get funding and scale their projects. For instance, both Mahindra Spark the Rise (video) and Pepsi Refresh Project (video) created platforms to support changemakers that created significant impact. We have covered both these initiatives in our Future of Engagement reports on crowdfunding and collaborative social innovation.

In summary, brands can create a campaign around purpose and participation, but it becomes a movement only if people make it their own. For movement marketing to work, the brand needs to think of itself as a custodian of the movement, not its owner; it needs to nurture the movement over multiple years, but also create the space for it to become bigger than the brand itself. If a brand tries to control the movement, and keep it on message, the movement is likely to be stillborn, or die a slow death.

Grassroots Change Movements Case Studies

Throughout the year, we have tracked the conversations around a number of grassroots change movements and branded programs in our weekly insights reports and quarterly magazines; here are a few highlights.

Grassroots change movement: Kony2012

Read the full case study on our blog or on Slideshare

In March 2012, non-profit Invisible Children released a 30 minute documentary that sparked a grassroots change movement to make indicted war criminal Joseph Kony famous and pressurize policy makers to call for his arrest. The documentary broke records by topping 100 million views in just six days.

Social Media strategist Calum Brannan shared his views on why the video went viral:

“Viewers are shown ‘Share’ buttons in the first few seconds almost subliminally, now I’m not a psychologist, but one could hazard a guess this helps plant that seed. This video is emotive, its a roller-coaster of happy to sad to shock. Film maker Russell invites the viewer to participate in an experiment, and the use of the word ‘We’ and ‘Us’ instantly builds a sense of community and is very personal. The end of the video provides clear instructions on how you can help, leading with financial ones first, then powerfully suggests that the least you can do is ‘Share’ the video.”

People were directed to the Kony 2012 website and given specific calls to action to spread the word, sign a pledge, buy Kony 2012 actions kits, donate money and send messages to lawmakers and celebrities, including Bill Clinton, Justin Bieber and Oprah, asking them to tweet on #StopKony and retweet other #StopKony tweets. Many celebrities responded to these messages, including Oprah who tweeted:

“Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $’s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012.”

The Kony2012 campaign inspired many to think deeply and share their opinions, thereby flooding their social network streams with KONY 2012 content and building momentum of the movement. Science and technology writer Peter Murray wrote:

“Not only is the video being viewed like crazy, but people are posting their own clips and commentary. In this new age of interactive media, viewers are investing their own time to record and upload their own thoughts. As I write, 278 video clips have been uploaded to the KONY 2012 YouTube video campaign. As of the 200th video, their average length was six minutes.”

Ashraf Engineer, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network commented:

“For me, the root of the campaign’s success lay in its calls-to-action. People want to be involved, to feel that they are making a difference. It was by giving viewers a sense of participation that the campaign went viral. This is an important lesson for marketers too. Involvement spells success.”


KONY 2012: What’s Next

Inivisible Children, organizer of the Kony 2012 movement, continues to engage its network of supporters with follow up programs and specific calls to action to attend conferences and rallies, share photos on Instagram with #move:dc, message politicians who have not yet confirmed their support and buy merchandise on their web platform.

Grassroots change movement: Free Pussy Riot

Read the full case study on our blog or on Slideshare

Supporters wearing the balaclava, the symbol of the movement, at the Russian Consulate in New York City, via FreePussyRiot.org

In March 2012, supporters of Russian feminist punk-rock band and anti-Putin activist group Pussy Riot initiated the Free Pussy Riot movement to protest the detention of three band members and to attract international intervention. The remaining band members created FreePussyRiot.org as the central platform of the movement, where they shared news updates and progress, including live tweets from the court house, in multiple languages; and directed people to fundraising campaigns (FundRazr), online petitions (Avaaz.org, Change.org, Causes.com) and events such as the Global Day of Solidarity which took place in 74 cities across the world.

The organizers also recruited support from organizations such as Amnesty International and The Voice Project, and musicians and artists, each of whom created programs at the grassroots level. For instance, The Voice Project encouraged people to buy merchandise on CafePress, musicians and poets organized fundraising events such as readings and benefit concerts, rapper Peaches created a music video, Paul McCartney tweeted his support to his 1 million followers, Madonna wore a balaclava (the symbol of the movement) and addressed the issue at her concert in Moscow, and Amnesty International urged people to write to Russian officials and share photos of themselves wearing balaclavas.

Tom Watson, a journalist at Forbes, pointed out that the movement went viral because it involved niche communities who shared the same passions:

“Like the Occupy movement, it involved a small group that magnified its attention through other nodes: Amnesty International, feminist bloggers, the foreign policy press, and a vast mob of supporters on Twitter and Facebook.”

Suzanne Nossel, Executive director, Amnesty International USA, pointed out that the balaclava and the image of the Pussy Riot activists has also helped the cause attract attention not only from musicians and activists, but also the media:

“Observers have chalked up Pussy Riot’s prominence to the group’s provocative name and the band members’ adroit use of historical images with a ’90s era Riot Grrl style.”

Content too played a large role in attracting attention and keeping people motivated. For instance, A few hours after the three women were sentenced to three years imprisonment, the remaining group members released a new single, Putin Lights a Fire. This song was picked up by The Guardian who used it to create a video montage with multimedia from the trial and fan protests. This in turn was published in sites including the Huffington Post, thereby reaching a larger audience.

Click to watch:The Guardian’s video montage – Free Pussy Riot

Blogger Courtney Fowler noted:

“So what does Pussy Riot teach us? It indeed has shown us what is possible in an interconnected world. It shows us how successfully a protest movement can employ the internet to spread their message globally.”

Grassroots change movement: It Gets Better Project

Read the full case study on our blog or on Slideshare

In response to a rise of gay youth bullying and suicides in the U.S., Dan Savage and Terry Miller created the It Gets Better Project, a purpose-inspired movement that solicits personal stories from LGBT adults and allies to let LGBT teens know that life gets better.

Social media and YouTube gave the co-founders the opportunity to reach out to supporters and LGBT teens across the globe with their message in real-time and without the need of seeking approvals or spending money. In an interview with ABC News, Dan Savage co-founder of the It Gets Better Project said:

“It occurred to me that we can talk to these kids now. We don’t have to wait for an invitation or permission to reach out to them using social media and YouTube.”

They posted their video a week after a controversial suicide, at a time when the LGBT community and legislators were paying attention to the cause. As Heidi Massey, a non-profit new media consultant said:

“The timing was perfect. It was so relevant to what was going on.”

Since its launch in September 2010, more than 50,000 stories and messages of support have been shared on YouTube from LGBT adults and allies including celebrities Barack Obama, and companies including Gap and Google. The videos have collectively been viewed more than 50 million times.

Journalist Ivor Tossel pointed out why so many adults connected to the concept of sharing their story:

“It’s a testament to the project’s universality. Put aside the question of homophobia for a moment. Who hasn’t, at some point, wanted to deliver a message-in-a-bottle to their younger selves? Who hasn’t wanted the reassurance that the trial of adolescence will eventually end?”

The movement also makes use of transmedia storytelling tactics to increase its impact. Two one-hour specials on MTV have helped the movement reach more people, a book of essays was launched and supporters encouraged to donate them to school libraries, and a musical tour involves local audiences around the cause.

The It Gets Better platform acts as the ‘action center’ of the movement, keeping people up to date on the latest developments and videos shared, and directing people to share their story, pledge their support, donate to the cause, buy merchandise and connect on social media.


It Gets Better

Branded program: Alpenliebe Kindness Movement

Read the full case study on our blog or on Slideshare

Alpenliebe, the flagship brand of Perfetti Van Melle, the third largest confectionery company in the world, is positioned around the proposition of “sweetness in the mouth, kindness in the heart” in China.

In 2011, Alpenliebe decided to convert kindness into a shared purpose, a social heartbeat and catalyze a movement to inspire, organize and energize millions of Chinese youth to share, appreciate and engage in everyday acts of kindness.

Alpenliebe created a series of kindness videos on Tudou and a TV series with its celebrity kindness ambassador, crowdsourced kindness stories on a Renren minisite, partnered with key opinion leaders, created conversations across the social web, organized kindness trips with non-profit partners, compiled the most inspiring stories into a kindness bible, and honored them on the world kindness day.

In response, an engaged community of 150,000+ members shared 151,000+ kindness stories and 3,270,000+ shares and comments across social networks, and the success of the campaign led to 330+ print articles and TV reports.

In 2012, Alpenliebe continued to engage the community with the 365 Days of Positive Power campaign, in which it created an infographic everyday to inspire the community to engage in a specific act of kindness. The community grew to more than 600,000 members and engaged in 3.1 million shares and comments across social networks, making Alpenliebe the third most influential brand on Sina Weibo.

The Alpenliebe Kindness Movement is one of the best examples of purpose-inspired movement marketing from China because of how it inspired behavioral change in Chinese youth through a sustained integrated marketing program across two years.


Case study: Alpenliebe Kindness Movement by MSLGROUP

As Henry Mason, head of research and analytics at independent firm Trendwatching commented:

“For brands, it’s never been easier to surprise and delight audiences; whether sending gifts, responding to publicly-expressed moods or just showing that they care. Via social networks, brands can now access consumers’ moods, intentions, desires or frustrations as they happen, and can therefore address them in a much more personalised and timely fashion.”

Branded program: Nike Find Your Greatness

Read the full case study on our blog or on Slideshare

In time for the London 2012 Olympics, Nike launched the purpose-inspired Find Your Greatness movement, sharing stories of everyday athletes from various locations around the world, challenging the notion that greatness is reserved for elite athletes, and inspiring everyday people to become active. The campaign is an extension of Nike tagline and co-founder Bill Bowerman’s philosophy: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Nike featured a new story every day, covering 19 different sports, including gymnastics, basketball, BMX and Wushu. The minimalist ads featured normal people and delivered hard hitting messages.


Nike Find Your Greatness

People sent in their #FindGreatness stories via Twitter and images via Instagram, and Nike featured the best stories on its digital hub Game On World

A sub-campaign, #FuelCheck, promoted Nike products more directly, while also engaging the Nike+ online community. People were encouraged to set and measure goals using their Nike+ FuelBand, earn Nike Fuel points by working out, and share their achievements through social networks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and its own Nike+ Community.

Already inspired to work out after watching athletes on the Olympics, and the Find Your Greatness spots, people took up Nike’s challenge to earn NikeFuel and share photos of their FuelBands and activity graphs on Facebook and Twitter.

Nike catalyzed this movement with a goal to make August 12 the ‘most active day in the history of Nike+’. Nike+ products owners participated and succeeded in setting a new record – 596 million NikeFuel points.

In the words of CMSWire blogger Deb Lavoy, Nike Find Your Greatness is an “example of how corporate purpose can be both very, very profitable, while also creating value and prosperity for its customers.” By merging corporate purpose (inspiring athletes) and narrative (find your greatness), Nike was successful in exciting people about the brand and motivating people to use the products.


Nike Game On World

Branded program: American Express Small Business Saturday

In November 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday, a purpose-inspired movement to encourage Americans to support local independently owned businesses and shop small on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

In its third year, American Express promoted the movement with a nationwide radio and TV campaign, and encouraged small businesses to promote themselves with free advertising credits on Facebook and Twitter, free marketing materials (in association with partners like FedEx), tips on getting customers and tips on setting up Facebook pages, YouTube ads and Foursquare deals. 500,000 small business owners leveraged these materials and tools via Facebook and the Small Business Saturday website, adding to the momentum of the movement.


AmEx Small Business Saturday

As PRWeek reporter Lindsay Stein wrote:

“Business owners are ticking up their grassroots communications for American Express’ “Small Business Saturday” initiative.”

American Express mobilized supporters to do four things: shop small, rally friends to do the same, spread the word on social media and share photos of themselves at small shops on Instagram with #SmallBusinessSaturday. People could find participating stores using a tool on the Small Business Saturday website. American Express also incentivized participation for cardholders, rewarding them with a $25 credit for spending $25 at a participating merchant.

The cause resonated with leaders and policy makers as well, who voiced their support for the movement across the nation. President Obama tweeted his support and participated by shopping at a local bookstore on Small Business Saturday.

$5.5 billion was spent at independent merchants on Small Business Saturday in 2012, 3.2 million people have liked the movement on Facebook and 213,000 tweets mentioned the movement in the month of November 2012. As psychology professor Ross Steinman pointed out, customers “are willing to pay extra and see the money go to their communities.”

Branded program: Google Take Action

Source: GOODCorps

In November 2012, Google launched the Take Action platform to spread awareness about freedom of the internet and recruit support from global audiences to keep the web “free and open.” The platform launched a few weeks before a closed-door United Nations meeting, hosted by the International Telecommunications Union, in which 193 countries met to revise the twenty four year old International Telecommunications Regulations treaty.

The platform shares information about the perceived threat and directs web users to sign the Free and Open petition online. To increase the credibility of its cause, Google directed people to similar web effort, Protect Internet Freedom, where “more than 1,000 organizations from more than 160 countries have spoken up too,” showed a video mash up of people sharing their support and plotted messages from supporters on an interactive global map.

Michael Ender, a contributor to Information Week, noted:

“The site essentially establishes a timeline to explain the company’s fears. One bullet point focuses on the past, reminding visitors that many governments are actively censoring web results and enacting laws that threaten online expression. Another looks to the near future, warning that “some of these governments are trying to use a closed-door meeting in December to regulate the Internet.”

Google’s chief internet evangelist Vincent Cert spread the word through an email to web publishers and influencers and guest articles on NYTimes and CNN, and urged people to spread the word and take action.

Many web writers, including David Gewirtz at ZDNet, echoed the message:

“This is a time for action. Visit Google’s Take Action site and take action. Pick up the phone, Tweet, post, Facebook, yell, protest, email your Congresscritter, donate, and otherwise make a fuss. Remember, We The Internet can make one heck of a fuss when we’re angry.”

Earlier in the year, Google played a key role in energizing netizens to voice their opposition to U.S. anti-piracy and copyright bills SOPA and PIPA. To date, 3.1 million people have signed the Free and Open petition.

The Future of Grassroots Change Movements

In the near future, we expect grassroots change movements to become the norm for civic participation as Gen Ys and Gen Zs learn more powerful ways to connect online and offline to support causes they believe in. As smartphones become ubiquitous, and location awareness becomes an integral part of how we connect with each other on social networks, we expect the boundaries between online and offline action to blur. With people exercising their power in a more organized fashion, all types of organizations, including governments, public institutions and corporations, will need to understand how movements and create crisis response plans in anticipation of public uprisings.

With non-profit organizations and activists adopting grassroots change movements as the primary mode to rally support for their causes, we expect that people will begin to feel movement fatigue, especially for movements that involve fighting against something. Instead, we expect people to channel their energies towards movements that aim to create positive change in the areas of environment, health, education and human potential and participate in collaborative social innovation initiatives to co-create sustainable solutions for complex problems.

Specifically, we expect that people will grow tired of the many movements that ask them to engage in simple tasks like signing a petition, voting for causes, or sharing content. Instead, they will participate in a smaller number of movements and engage in more meaningful acts like donating money, volunteering time, or organizing local events. In a related trend, we expect grassroots change movements to look more like behavior change games, with platforms that enable people to set personal goals, undertake quests, track their progress and receive support. We also expect that transmedia storytelling will play an increasingly important role in cutting through the cacophony of a million movements, building an emotion connection with people, and inspiring them to participate and act.

We expect that movement marketing will become the norm for brands, and most brands will experiment with it to engage Gen Ys and Gen Zs. In response, we will see a rise in cynicism for such programs, with people accusing brands of “movement-washing”. To create successful movements, brands will not only need to create campaigns to catalyze the movement, but also commit to the movement for the long term. Brands will be expected to show their commitment to the movement by going beyond engaging celebrity endorsers and asking community members to share their stories, and creating long term platforms to enable behavior change, support changemakers, or co-create solutions. Brands will also need to take action themselves to show that they have skin in the game and create compelling content to inspire community members to take action.

In essence, brands will have to learn the four skills writers Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith outline in their bookThe Dragonfly Effect:

“1) focus: identify a single concrete and measurable goal; 2) grab attention: cut through the noise of social media with something authentic and memorable; 3) engage: create a personal connection, accessing higher emotions, compassion, empathy, and happiness; and 4) take action: enable and empower others to take action.”

Finally, corporations will need to learn how to participate in, and even catalyze, multistakeholder movements to shape public opinion. For instance, MSLGROUP in Sweden created the Job Roast initiative to spark a public debate on youth employment before the elections.


The JobRoast: Public Affairs, Dragon’s Den style

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This is the fourth report from our upcoming People’s Insights Annual Report titled “Now & Next: Future of Engagement,” to be published as an interactive iPad app and a Kindle eBook. The report will highlight the ten most important frontiers that will define the future of engagement for marketers, entrepreneurs and changemakers: CrowdfundingBehavior Change GamesCollaborative Social InnovationGrassroots Change MovementsCo-creation CommunitiesSocial CurationTransmedia StorytellingCollective Intelligence, Social Live Experiences and Collaborative Consumption.

In each of these reports, we start by describing why they are important, how they work, and how brands might benefit from them; we then examine web platforms and brand programs that point to the future (that is already here); then finish by identifying some of the most important features of that future, with our recommendations on how to benefit from them.

Do subscribe to our email newsletter to receive each report and also an invite to download a free copy of the interactive iPad app.

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About Nidhi Makhija-Chimnani

Nidhi is the community manager for People's Insights. You can find her on Twitter and Google+

8 Responses to “#4: Grassroots Change Movements: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement”

  1. MSLGROUP Peoples Lab (@PeoplesLab) December 17, 2013 at 9:15 am # Reply

    Grassroots Movements – one of the frontiers of engagement today. Do you agree? http://t.co/ztPHvXglP5 #2013recap

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    [...] Grassroots Change Movements (SlideShare): Inspiring people to act as change agents in a way that their actions can be aggregated or coordinated, leading to significant impact and meaningful change. [...]

  6. #8 Collective Intelligence – Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement | MSLGROUP BLOG - August 28, 2013

    [...] and change makers: Crowdfunding, Behavior Change Games, Collaborative Social Innovation, Grassroots Change Movements, Co-creation Communities, Social Curation, Transmedia Storytelling, Collective Intelligence, [...]

  7. #7: Transmedia Storytelling: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement | MSLGROUP BLOG - August 29, 2013

    [...] and change makers: Crowdfunding, Behavior Change Games, Collaborative Social Innovation, Grassroots Change Movements, Co-creation Communities, Social Curation, Transmedia Storytelling, Collective Intelligence, [...]

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