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Are You Leading a Moment or a Movement?

March 22, 2011

#1 Thing You Need to Learn from this Post:
Leading a social movement requires sustained effort and the infrastructure to support it.

A More Detailed Exploration:

Megaphone in front of a crowd in Cairo

Photo Credit: Scott Nelson / The New York Times

We are funny creatures. One of our peculiar tendencies is to hyperbolize our current situation, especially when we’re launching cause initiatives. I’m guilty of this as are most successful campaigns, because people are more likely to take action when it appears their actions can be the decisive blow. Who wants to join something with a mediocre, humdrum mission anyway?

With online and mobile tools making it easier and easier to reach wide audiences and shine a bright light on a cause, we’re seeing self-proclaimed “movements” of all kinds. In truth, most of these “movements” are really just “moments” posing for something else. What do I mean by this?

You’ve seen the various kind of digital swarms that pop around cause and commercial initiatives, right? They create a lot of noise and action, but dissipate in short time. Those are moments. Movements might arise spontaneously or planned, but what makes them different is the infrastructure and sustained effort required over time. They grow and solidify their structures to generate the constant pushing needed to overcome the inertia of the obstacles it seeks to overcome.

Despite the hazing and harassment duly heaped upon Malcolm Gladwell for his piece minimizing the effect of social media on revolutions, he did make solid demonstration of the long-term commitment and work movements require beyond the momentary flurry of social media.

This morning, I read a great post by Mahmoud Salem on his Sandmonkey blog. Known on Twitter as @sandmonkey, Mahmoud shares his candid assessment of this week’s referendum of the military council’s actions that happened in Egypt this past week. While the outcome was not what he wanted, Mahmoud makes a strong case for how the January 25 revolution can switch from a moment to a movement. I recommend you take a moment and read what he has to say.

What the difference in your mind between a moment and a movement? What examples come to mind?

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