About Momentum

Participants from the January 2016 Boston Training

Participants from the January 2016 Boston Training

 
 

What is Momentum? 

Momentum is a training institute and movement incubator. We give progressive organizers the tools and frameworks to build massive, decentralized social movements.

By combining and systematizing best practices from past movements, critical movement theory, and applicable skills, we encourage organizers to dream about big change, and give them the tools to make it happen.

Why is Momentum important?

We live in a time of unprecedented inequality in the United States. The growing gap between the 1% and the rest of society exacerbates long-standing racial disparities and solidifies the political monopoly of the elite. The vast majority of Americans are held back by the increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. In the era of Citizens United and the least productive Congress in US history, the big shifts we need are unlikely to originate from within the political system.

Transformational change will come from popular movements that allow ordinary people to claim their collective power and shift the terrain under policymakers feet. But popular movements require leaders with the skills to shift public opinion and organize people at scale. Recent movements, such as #BlackLivesMatter, the DREAM movement, and Occupy Wall Street, showcase a generation of young organizers experimenting with new methods for tackling big problems. Despite their successes, these movements also illustrate that leaders need more support: they need an organizing model with the tools to build popular movements that will win profound structural and cultural changes. 

What does Momentum teach?

We see two dominant traditions of organizing in the United States: structure-based organizing and mass protest. In the structure-based tradition, developed by Saul Alinsky and others, organizers start with one-on-one relationships to develop leadership and build a base that can advocate for the needs of particular constituencies. Structure-based organizations, such as community organizations and labor unions, make instrumental demands, using the base’s leverage over policymakers to win concrete reforms for their members. By contrast, in the mass protest tradition, autonomous groups of individuals create polarizing moments that inspire thousands of unaffiliated people to take to the streets around symbolic, popular social issues .

The Momentum model fuses the strengths of the structure-based organizing and mass protest to seed a new tradition of organizing in the United States. Built on the foundation of nonviolent civil resistance developed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Momentum synthesizes the lessons of various 20th century movements, including the Color Revolutions of Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring in North Africa.

We believe Momentum is the model that this generation of movement-builders needs. Since 2014, a core team of volunteers has been sharing the model through trainings across the country that have already re-oriented hundreds of organizers to the theory and best practices of civil resistance. We teach organizers how to activate the public and change the political weather through civil disobedience, mass training, and popular demands. Organizers are learning to integrate discipline of traditional base-building organizations with the explosive growth of mass mobilization. 

Through training and a national community of practice, Momentum aims to give activists the support and tools they need to launch a new wave of popular movements. 

Organizations are simply vehicles to achieve purpose. Our purpose is huge: challenging the institutions and policies that uphold capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. Without the active involvement of hundreds of thousands of people, we are doomed to only achieve incremental victories every few years rather than win the public over transformative changes that might seem impossible today. Momentum wants to invest in leaders and teams of people who are poised to win big and drive popular movements in this country. No other group is better positioned to do this.   

Previous participants in Momentum trainings come from groups doing some of the most important movement-building in the U.S., including Black Lives Matter, Dream Defenders, BYP100, United We Dream, Showing Up For Racial Justice, 350.org, National People’s Action, PICO, and more.