Strategy and Strategic Practice

Stuart Hall: The Predictive Power of Good Theory

With his passing on Feb 10, we at the Grassroots Policy Project were reminded of the great debt we owe to Stuart Hall, co-founder of cultural studies and great interpreter of Antonio Gramsci. Hall’s thinking has heavily influenced our approaches to worldview, narrative and strategy development for social movement organizations. He also was very adept and bridging the activist/academic divide, by demonstrating how theory has bearing on social movement strategy and practice. As Hall put it in The Toad in the Garden:

Building Organizations in a Movement Moment

Co-authored by Beth Zemsky and GPP staff member David Mann, this article first appeared in the Spring-Summer 2008 issue of Social Policy. Using examples from social movement history, Zemsky and Mann make the case that progressive organizations and networks can use these changing times to move beyond reactive politics toward more purposeful, transformational social change.

Building Social Movement Infrastructure

A movement needs a way of developing unity around broadly shared ideas and goals, and it needs different kinds of groups that have different kinds of strengths. A movement needs bottom-up leaders who can relate, as equals, with national leaders. Movements need networks and alliances that are flexible, in which various roles, divisions of labor, approaches, tactics and strategies are regularly negotiated. To maintain the ongoing connections and relationships that hold these networks together, movements need flexible infrastructure.

Strategic Planning and Strategy Development

We take something that is familiar to groups –– strategic planning –– and suggest how to transform the process into something that is ongoing and integral to all aspects of an organization’s life. We emphasize shifting from periodic planning and reports that sit on shelves toward cultivating practices that impact organizing, issue development, communications, relationships with other social change organizations, and roles in building a larger, more powerful movement.

Overview: Strategic Practice for Social Transformation

This is a short summary of the in-depth case study of our work with ISAIAH and what we’ve learned about strategic practice -- in particular, the processes of analysis, reflection and action that make a group more effective in advancing longer-term goals.

Strategic Practice for Social Transformation

This in-depth case study sheds light on the combinations of ideas and practices that make a group more effective at linking short-term, day-to-day work to longer-term goals for social transformation. Through our side-by-side consulting with ISAIAH, a faith-based community organization in Minnesota we have worked with for 8 years, we have had an opportunity to observe, and help cultivate, their strategic practice. This has helped us further refine our concepts and ideas while clarifying how other kinds of groups can use them to develop strategic practice.