On this, the 90th birthday of Philip Kotler, we ask the world to come together to save the future. One way to do this is to build a “movement of movements.

It’s time to put aside our toys – our ideologies and guns – and look at this time in history as our final exam. This is a test, as Buckminster Fuller said, to see if we, the human species, deserve to carry on. COVID has shown us that we cannot find consensus on how to deal with the virus.  It’s as if our politicians haven’t watched those dystopian movies on Netflix.  

Vaccine nationalism and vaccine hesitancy go hand in hand as the crisis of trust builds across the planet. Citizens find it difficult to trust their governments. Governments can’t trust each other. And perhaps, worst of all – we can’t trust ourselves to know what to do next.  

Increasingly, the world’s politicians are deciding that democracy is not as important as holding on to power.  Backed by powerful lobbies and special interests, they are working to “cancel” democracy, devising policies to suppress votes, jail protestors, and distract us from the most urgent issues. Sabre-rattling and belligerent posturing are leading to violent conflicts and growing rumors of war.

The petrochemical industry is planning to switch lanes, and double-down on producing more plastic – in 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish!

And the Earth dies from thousand cuts.  

No one is coming to save us — not aliens, not the cast of MARVEL’s superheroes, not Bill Gates or the World Economic Forum.  There is no deus ex machina.  

It’s up to us. It’s time for a Movement of Movements.

How do Movements work?

In his book Social Movements: The Structure of Collective Mobilization, Paul Almeida tells us that an emerging pattern in the new millennium “involves ordinary people mobilizing around increasingly negative conditions. When we observe some of the largest protest campaigns of the past twenty years, they are clearly driven by worsening situations.”

But this is not new. We know that throughout history, progressive movements are a cry for justice. If we go back in history to Abolitionism, Women’s Suffrage, the various Independence movements, the Civil Rights movement, or the Anti-Apartheid movement, they are all based on a tide of support from ordinary people which kept growing and growing until the impossible happened.

Early women’s rights activists were also abolitionists. They were advocates of anti-slavery and spoke out openly. In fact the women’s rights movement spawned the anti-slavery movement. But it is critical to note that the men who spoke up against anti-slavery mocked women when they did the same!

The reason the women’s movement was born was because women were discriminated against when they spoke up against slavery. 

The strategy of mass movements is simple enough. Turn the public towards the cause. Whether it is Freedom, Equality, Human Rights or the Rights of Nature. Greg Satell explains this in his insightful TEDx talk: “successful movements work to attract everybody else to bring in people who weren’t standing with them from the beginning.” Organization, he tells us, is the difference between the Occupy movement and CANVAS – the Center for Applied Non Violence Action and Strategies. There is a real danger of creating a movement which is too “pure,” that limits participation instead of encouraging it. These movements inevitably fail.

In Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action we explained that building a movement has 5 clear components:

  1. Begin by creating a mission that is based on the Common Good or Justice
  2. Imagine what the movement must achieve and how
  3. How will we inspire people to engage and participate?
  4. Mobilize committed participants 
  5. Act – coordinate joint action to make a difference

And that is precisely how where we are for the most part, individual movements led by the individual visions of their leaders, working in silos, with little or no collaboration. If it is so difficult for people who think similarly to collaborate, just imagine how much harder it is when you don’t share the same views. And yet, we must find a way to come together to bridge our differences if the world is to survive.

The Movement of Movements

The Wicked7 offers one way we could come together by organizing ourselves to support one another – surely we can all agree that “the world’s most urgent problems” are a common cause for all of us.

Wicked7 problems

The Movement of Movements is simply bringing together the existing movements of our time to take collective action. Because we need “all hands on deck” it means we must find ways to work together despite our differences.

Who has to come together? Everyone who is moved to do so: NGOs, activists, institutions, schools, governments, and of course the citizens of this planet. Businesses can join movements too. And they can use cross-brand activism. The more inclusive we can be, the better we understand what needs to happen. Of course, governments must work together for the common good as well; power and ego are poisons we can’t afford now. It’s time to move beyond economics to humanomics, or even planetomics.

Why do we need to come together? As individuals we can choose how we want to make an impact. But when we choose to have collective impact through informed actions, we can make a real difference. Let us bring our movements together and work together for change – if there’s anything COVID taught us is that we are all in this together.

We know that coalitions work, but we still have a long way to go. We must create cross-movement change agendas.

The world calls out for action. What are we waiting for?

UPDATE: At the time of this writing we were unaware of the “movement of movements” initiative by Extinction Rebellion. This is exactly the right sort of initiative we need now, but where are the others? Where is Greenpeace? The Sierra Club? The Nature Conservancy? Black Lives Matter?