Sometimes someone puts out an idea and you just want to hug them! I want to hug Daniel Hunter. 

Last week, I got on a call to listen to Daniel talk about different roles we need to create movements. I want to hug him even though what he said isn’t his idea. Still, he’s putting it out there. He got the idea from Bill Moyers (not the famous one). So, I want to hug Bill Moyers, too. And Bill probably got it from someone else…so the hugging doesn’t stop.

Anyway, the idea Daniel shared is that movements need people to assume different roles:

  • helpers
  • advocates
  • organizers
  • rebels

What a relief to hear a movement builder not only name different roles but suggest that we need all of them! We spend too much time worrying or fighting about which one is most strategic.

People are different. We are drawn to different things. We have different gifts to deliver. Let’s do it.

You can read about these roles yourself in Daniel’s book Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow but here’s a brief summary:

  • HELPERS provide direct service through things like education, therapy, food programs, shelters. They see a need and try to fill it with the resources they have access to. However, they can be “unconscious of the need for structural change, their work may be solely about feel-good band-aids…[that] create cycles of dependency.” 
  • ADVOCATES help people access resources available in the system. They may be social workers or lawyers who work to squeeze out “every ounce of justice or resources” for their clients. However, because they know the rules of the system and what stands in the way of change, they “can be guilty of focusing on all the barriers in the current system [instead of on] new ways of working and thinking…” 
  • ORGANIZERS bring together people who are hurt by the system and help them apply pressure to change it. They can be ineffective, however,  when they assume leadership on behalf of the group and limit themselves to goals they believe are winnable. 
  • REBELS stand up to power through “public protest and direct action, using tactics like sit-ins, marches, and civil disobedience.” They want major change and are willing to take personal risks for the sake of their vision. They “can become ineffective when they are too attached to a marginal identity, use tactics without a realistic strategy, or self-righteously view everyone else as less radical or less moral. Rebels can be guilty of too often tearing down ideas and saying ‘No!’ rather then being constructive.” 

Each role has a gift. And each, a potential problem. 

So do YOUR thing. Mind your pitfalls. And stop fighting.