By David Lee on March 20, 2014 · tagged as , ,

On being ready for change (or I how I learned how to build a movement for change)

199-musicIn recent months I have read about sexual assault in military; sexual violence on college campuses; domestic violence tearing apart families, and children trapped in the sex industry.  How do we build and strengthen the movement for change to end these harmful and dangerous problems?

I recently wrote about how the #PowerInPrevention Ending Child Sexual Abuse Web Conference documented examples of people participating in a movement for change. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a training on strategic leadership sponsored by Move to End Violence.  I was thrilled to be in the room with powerful leaders in organizations committed to ending sexual and domestic violence take time together to look at what it takes to build a movement to end violence against women and girls.

When I think of a movement typically I consider meetings, agendas, door knocking and countless phone calls (I started before we had the internet and social media as tools for movement building) to build mass mobilization.  But those are only the activities and artifacts of movement making – they are not the ingredients that prepare us to be ready for change.

It is easy to follow into the trap of not preparing enough but jumping right into “how to do it.” For example, often we design a poster before we know what we want to accomplish with it. Or we decide to conduct prevention workshops in schools before we know what we want students to do. My training in social marketing taught me to ask questions before developing a communications strategy. I start with questions such as “Who is the audience?” and “What do I want them to do?”; then I move to more questions before decided what activity to embark on.

So how do I apply these concepts to movement building? We need to consider how to creates the conditions to build a movement.  In great part it requires taking the time to imagine possibilities and engage in a thoughtful and intentional process of inquiry.  We need to ask questions such as what is the purpose of what we are doing? Is there an opening to take action? What do you need to be prepared for? Why are we doing this?

This preparation positions us to be able to be nimble and respond effectively.  For me I know that we need to take to time to consider these questions before taking action. PreventConnect can be one forum for sexual and domestic violence prevention practitioners to consider these questions together. I appreciate the leadership of Move to End Violence in supporting this conversation.

I know in the next several months and years there will be more headlines about sexual violence in the military and college campuses; another life after years of escalating abuse, and more children will be trafficked in sexual industry. Now is the time to ask ourselves the questions that will prepare us to take action for change.

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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