We’ve all been there: being a member of an institution, an organization, a church or a club. Following a set of rules, principles and guidelines. Large corporations are similar: targets, responsibility, timelines, even intense pressure to reach the corporation’s goals. While structure is definitely needed in our society, it is getting more and more obvious in our world today that people are getting tired of the status quo.
The global pandemic revealed a growing trend of abandonment of set rules and regulations and an interest in being more fluid, more adaptable and not dependent on institutions, which typically are seen today as manipulative and narrow minded.
So why a movement? Is this the direction the world is moving into? What’s the difference?
In a movement, the mission defines the ultimate goal the group intends to achieve. When a movement achieves success, “Mission accomplished!”—everyone goes home.
In organizations, the mission defines “what we do.” Success in an organization means that everyone gets to stick around!
Movements define success globally. If a movement is successful, things change for everyone.
Organizations often define success internally, by what the organization accomplishes for itself.
Movements seek sweeping change.
Organizations are often satisfied with incremental improvement, correctly understanding that one entity alone cannot achieve large-scale change.
In movements, accountability is to a cause greater than any one individual. When it comes to making tough decisions, the cause is the top priority.
In organizations, accountability is first to the organization; when leaders face tough decisions, their top priority is organizational sustainability.
The word “movement” means “to create action,” to go from one place to another. Sustaining a movement is about sustaining action.
Per Merriam-Webster, the word “organization” means “the act or process of putting the different parts of something in a certain order so that they can be found or used easily.” Sustaining an organization is about sustaining order.
In a movement, form follows function. As functional needs change, movements value forms that are agile and effective.
In organizations, function is guided by form, beginning with the very first official act of most organizations—filing articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other declarations of the forms around which the entity will fit its functions. From there, organizations value stability and efficiency: “This is how we do things.”
Movements are supported from the inside out—first by those most involved and most directly affected by the cause, and then in concentric circles rippling outward. Movements define “resources” as the actual resources needed (labor, materials), which are abundant even in communities that seem to have very little.
Organizations are primarily supported from the outside —by customers, donors, grantors, investors, or patrons. Defining “resources” as cash, community benefit organizations in particular do not assume that the recipients of their services will be the primary contributors to the group’s success.
Movements tend to adopt structures and systems that mirror how societies progress toward people living well together.
Organizations tend to adopt systems that mirror how businesses and nations maintain sovereignty over others.
As you’ve seen above, you don’t have to leave any institution or organization to be part of a movement, but being part of it is an extraordinary way to be the change and see real results.