In a recent post, I wrote about the movement of the Cultural Creatives. How do movements begin and what can we do to accelerate them?

In the article Divided No More, Parker J. Palmer described 4 stages in a movement approach to change.

1. Isolated people choose authenticity.

2. These people discover each other and connect for mutual support.

3. Empowered by their collective energy, they learn to translate private dilemmas into public issues.

4. New reward systems emerge to sustain the movement’s vision.

A movement begins when a person chooses authenticity over compliance. We are familiar with the dramatic examples: Rosa Parks felt scared that day in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, but she said no. She wouldn’t stand so a white person could sit. Her feet were tired. Her soul was tired. She had endured enough. She would no longer live a divided life. She would not collaborate any longer with those who denied her humanity. She didn’t care what they did to her. She stayed seated. And a movement began.

Bill Wilson was a hopeless, defeated, and hospitalized alcoholic facing imminent death. His elemental need to live rose from the deepest depths of his soul. He had a powerful spiritual experience that reordered his psyche. He never drank alcohol again, and began, from that place of despair, a movement that is worldwide and has saved unknown millions of lives. These and others are dramatic stories, but movements do not require heroes, celebrities, or identified leaders.

The second stage of a movement begins when solitary people find one another, connect, and provide mutual support. What is common in these groups and discussions is the energy, the honesty, the mutual support, the feelings of community, and an emerging worldview that feels real.

The third stage of a movement begins when private concerns become public issues. People find language for their insights and emotions. They see the interconnectedness with what they believed were personal matters with large and systemic public issues. Going public is to put one’s beliefs into the mix of public discourse.

People speak to small groups for little or no payment, they give support and share experience via the Internet for no cost, and they share their thoughts via blogs, essays, and pamphlets. People meet and talk over coffee and go out of their way to help and support others. Names are passed around and connections are made. People do not fight the dominant world view; they abandon it. Changes occur one conversation at a time, and the learning and language begin to permeate the social, cultural, and philosophical systems.

As a movement evolves people are first rewarded by the emotional satisfaction of living their values, the joy of creation, the mutual support and affirmation of others, and the excitement of being part of something greater than themselves. But the rewards for new ideas and new behavior must become tangible. This is the only way for the movement to be kept alive, viable, and sustainable. This is the fourth stage of a movement.

Members of movements hire one another. They buy one another’s books and other publications. They retweet tweets on Twitter. They share posts on Facebook and other social media methods. Tangible rewards for movement members seed the dominant culture and establish, formalize, and institutionalize the movement itself.

The stages of a movement overlap and emphasis shifts back and forth between stages as the whole of the movement moves forward. Each of us is in a slightly different place in the movement positioned to make our unique and authentic contributions. If we are mindful of the stages, we can take responsible actions and accelerate the movement’s emergence.

3 thoughts on “Movements

    • Hi Dick, Twenty years ago, I left the corporate world to join a movement to change how we lead and live in our organizations. Now, so many years later, it seems like that movement has gone backwards under the stresses of the times. Maybe deeper down, that isn’t the case. I hope so. You are such a role-model for “doing what I can.” We will keep on keeping on.


  1. This is another good column. I am finding some of what you write about in my asking people to sign a petition to get an amendment on the 2014 ballot in FL that would prevent our state legislators from taking money out of the Conservation Fund for other purposes. The Conservation Fund is currently funded by a state real estate tax on all real estate transactions. There was 300 million in that fund. Now there is none, so we Floridians don’t have money to save the Indian River Lagoon. Margaret Eubank


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