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5 Tips on Starting a Social Movement

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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At the World Bank Group, we want to help create a social movement to end poverty and to enhance shared prosperity. But how do you do that? More broadly, how do you start any social movement?

It's not easy. The world is littered with failed attempts. The roadblocks are numerous - including skeptics casting doubt, saying the task is impossible and that others have tried and failed. Why spend time on a futile endeavor? Even if Albert Camus thought he was happy, Sisyphus never did get the boulder to the top of the mountain.

But in nearly three decades of working to fight poverty, I have come to conclude that optimism in the face of seemingly intractable problems is a choice. If your cause is just and you are working in an institution with the means to truly make a difference in the lives of the poor, optimism of the spirit is a moral responsibility.

Here are five quick ideas on helping propel a social movement forward:

  1. Find a cause with a connection to people’s deepest passions about right and wrong, a cause that makes them think about what really matters, about creating a better world for their children.
  2. Identify concrete actions that will push the movement forward. 
  3. Set concrete targets and an end date by which to accomplish the actions.
  4. Enlist partners who share the passion and ensure that the movement is not about any individual or organization. The cause has to be so important that individual and group identities can be temporarily put aside in pursuit of the goal.
  5. Measure progress toward the goal and be relentless in using data to push the movement forward. 
     

The greatest social movements have taught us that with enough determination and commitment, extraordinary things can happen. All of us share a responsibility to act in the face of inequality, poverty, and injustice. If we don’t act, nothing changes, injustice persists, and poverty becomes more entrenched. I know we can build a movement to end poverty and enhance shared prosperity that will change the world, even in these difficult times.  We can make it happen. Join us by tweeting your ideas with the #whatwillittake hashtag, or by leaving a comment here.

Jim Yong Kim is the President of the World Bank Group.

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