17 Questions for Livers and Kidneys

The Pastor, Ito, and Rosner 2011 article on integrating quantitative and qualitative metrics for social movements provoked numerous questions for me, in varying depth and breadth. Given the sheer number, rather than choose just one, here I present short descriptions of many. (For the most part they remain in the order triggered by the reading; I have eliminated questions from earlier sections that were answered in later sections.)

  1. The executive summary reminds me of a business plan; would it be worth conceptualizing social movements as startups?
  2. Seeking to learn from failure makes sense, but the idea of failure implicitly includes some unarticulated concept of measurement, no?
  3. Does a divide between field and foundation really exist? Could this be a vestigial concept from resource mobilization theory that’s no longer relevant?
  4. Can social/cultural change truly be arranged and scheduled within a corporate schema?
  5. Social movements, like corporations, advertise—that is, offer persuasive argumentation in hopes of attracting members; but does the product (social goals) make this an inherently different kind of project?
  6. The focus on impact and metrics makes me wonder, will this result in the development of commoditized/commoditizable “impact portfolios” akin to the “trauma portfolios” described in regard to human rights work in Haiti? (e.g., James 2010.)
  7. The authors argue for “creating and developing a base of confident and skilled leaders among those individuals most affected by systems of inequality” (8, their emphasis); why focus on creating hierarchical leadership within smaller systems rather than on creating mass support? This seems to draw implicitly from the old school idea that activists are motivated by self-interest and personal experience of injustice; but the concept of justice for all implies that an injustice is also an affront to all—wouldn’t it make more sense to try to tap into this?
  8. This article clearly adopts a market analysis approach, akin in many ways to resource mobilization; but if we consider this in the light of social theory, might Mauss’s articulation of gift exchange not be a more salient descriptor? It seems as if it might capture individual motivation here more accurately.
  9. Why do we use the words “movement” and “mobilization” in these contexts? What is being moved? What’s the cultural resonance of this metaphor?
  10. The discussion of alliance building reminds me of Latour’s Actor-Network Theory; should we consider material agency here as well?
  11. Does Occupy—or the various branches of Occupy—have similar funding discussions with philanthropic institutions? How many social movements are funded by philanthropic institutions?
  12. If we apply metrics to everything, will we end up with a real picture of events or a mediated picture of measured events?
  13. Why does everyone always use “hearts and minds”? Yes, it has historical resonance, but is this the resonance you want? Hasn’t it, like most clichés, become just a shorthand that obviates the need for actual thought? Why not livers and kidneys?
  14. People talk about social media democratizing the public sphere; what about using technology to democratize more of politics? Why doesn’t anyone talk about that? Or do they?
  15. I’m all for social media, but it only reaches a certain segment of the population and has a paradoxical evanescence; why doesn’t anyone ever discuss the value of books? Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Peaceable Kingdom, and Silent Spring, among others, all had significant social movement impact.
  16. So, the authors use “movement building” as a more holistic, network-focused term, with organizational development as a single component?
  17. Why did these authors write this as they did? That is, employing the stylistics of a corporate text? Who is their intended audience and what do they want to accomplish with this?

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