Lessons from the First Wave

Ayni Institute
Feb 5, 2019 · 3 min read

When we (Carlos Saavedra & Paul Engler) first started collaborating in 2013, we could have never imagined where we would be sitting six years later. As we begin another season experimenting with new theory and practice, we want to reflect on some of the most important lessons we have learned. (We have also written more deeply about these lessons here.)

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Our 3rd Momentum Training in New York
  1. New strategic frameworks. It is one thing to write a book or do a training around certain ideas, and entirely something else to see those concepts appear in unexpected places. We are so grateful to all the organizations and individuals who were open to integrating new organizing traditions into their practice, including the thousand of participants who have been trained in the momentum model and the thousands of viewers who have watched our webinar series. Every time we hear someone say “trigger event” or “moment of the whirlwind,” we can sense these frameworks reverberating within social movement spaces.
  2. Birth of a Community of Practice. We are so grateful to the many practitioners who have come together to experiment with and embody this new school of thought and practice. Within this community of practice we share a culture of storytelling and resonating, and a deep commitment to mass training and frontloading practices. Through this community of practice new institutions have emerged to support this work, like Momentum and Relational Uprising. Together, we have continued to grow and learn from new experiments across different fields.
  3. Bold Experiments. It has been incredible to see these new experiments in the mass protest space continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible. From Cosecha organizing protests in front of Trump tower and fighting for driver’s licenses for all, to If Not Now bringing Birthright trips to the forefront of debate in the Jewish community, to Sunrise creating trigger events and hitting the front pages of newspapers around the country, our bold experiments are just beginning.
  4. Popular Support for Social Movements. The new frameworks, community of practice, and bold experiments have all contributed to a rise in popular support for social movements among more mainstream organizations. We know that funders are now more likely to send resources to mass protest movements, and leaders in labor unions have started asking us how they can get involved. We deeply believe in the power of social movements, and we are so grateful that so many others are starting to learn why.
  5. The Power of Experience: Above all, we are so grateful for all the lessons we have learned and the experiences we have gained over the past five years. We know so much more about what works and what doesn’t, and we have engaged in so many fruitful debates and experiments that have showed us where our theories are weak or where we need more skills. Now we can start grappling with broader questions. We have seen how to create mass protest movements around single issues, but how do we create new models for many different movements? How do we create a healthy social movement ecology? How do we create a movement of movements to address the larger crises of late stage consumer capitalism in the environment and our communities?

Thank you to everyone who has made this an incredible season. We look forward to the work ahead.

In solidarity,

Carlos Saavedra & Paul Engler

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