Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The critical importance of civic movements

As I get ready to address a key civil society association that brings together several prominent NGOs and citizens’ groups on matters of geopolitics and strategy, I try to concentrate my speech on three messages.

First, in today’s world, civic movements are key agents of social change. They contribute more than political parties to real value transformation, as, among others, #MeToo, the #ClimateStrike, the #UmbrellaMovement of Hong Kong, the LGBTQ grassroots actions, or India’s people’s campaign against corruption (@IPaidABribe) have shown. Governments know that fact and that’s why they are afraid of such movements. On the side of the political parties, their leaders are yet to understand how to connect with the citizen’s initiatives without falling into populist approaches and rhetoric.

Second, I would like my audience to discuss the role of the social platforms and the interaction between such networks and traditional media. In my opinion, the networks link people and keep them informed and mobilised, but it is the traditional media that gives a critical boost to such civic initiatives and struggles. TV channels, above all, but also credible print media. When they report about what is brewing in the social media, they give the cause a lot of leverage. They add a critical element of credibility. Therefore, we should not dismiss the links between the new and the conventional means of communication.

Third, we need to understand success. What makes a citizen’s movement successful? There is now some research on the matter. It needs to be further systematised and disseminated. Special attention must be given to issues of good leadership, personal commitment, focus, simplicity and image. But several lessons can already be drawn.

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