How to make a Social Movement?

Over the years, we have been working on how to develop the Decentralized Hands-on Exhibition Program (D-HOPE) approach for a holistic rural development through action research. Through our involvement in development projects in different countries, the concept of localization seems very crucial to construct a good national policy, which is one of our research areas that we are working on.

This video is on one of our workshops on designing a hands-on program in the D-HOPE approach. As you can see, there are a lot of interactions, laughs, talks, and communication among participants – developing social movement in communities. The workshop is designed as open, participatory and inclusive so that anybody can participate.

Whilst conventional approaches in development, especially in rural areas, focus on technical training with financial support for specific beneficiaries, the D-HOPE approach emphasizes on how to create dynamism among people, experiential and operationable practices. This dynamism is the base and starting point of many development activities.

This difference derives from the different viewpoint on learning – theory-learning based or experiential-learning based.

Our training program and projects support the latter, obviously, and here are our recent thoughts.


Policies are to support people’s lives, the greater number of people to support, the better.

Starting from this point of view, let’s take an example.

Let’s assume you are a parent, and you have a child who is about 10 years old. He needs to finish a science assignment in school within a few days but he hasn’t even started it. As a parent, would you help him to finish it by telling him exactly how to do it? Or, what would you tell him? Maybe he would fail in the class if you just left him alone, and as a parent of course you don’t want that to happen to him. But what if he really learns a lesson from his own failure, and never repeats the same mistake ever again? Or you may help him to finish it right on time, but he expects exactly the same help for his next assignment so that you will need to help him again.

Of course this is only a theory but “helping” people often is not about making them do the right thing in order not to fail. We fear that the concept of the pilot project follows the same principle, “make things right”. As a practitioner, can we simply let people do whatever they want to and exactly in the way they want to?

Nicaragua’s D-HOPE project covered 269 people from communities in 10 municipalities in the department of Nueva Segovia for finalizing the catalogue, meaning that the catalogue development activity involved not only implementers like government officials also all these beneficiaries, approximately 300 people as a collective activity.

This is a social movement in a sense that a group of people carries out an activity towards a specific goal for social change – creating the opportunities to gain confidence in the life of rural areas, socially, politically, economically and environmentally.

A conventional approach in trainings usually follows the style of a seminar – conveying the message from one to another, whilst a social movement type of “training” uses workshops to interact. The social movement focuses on securing simulated practical experiences and capacity. As a result the workshop constructs a practical movement by utilizing existing resources and policies.

Let’s go back the discussion a little bit – so you’re a parent, you see your child need to finish the assignment and you want to “help”. How many children can you manage by your own? One? Two? What if you had 10 children in different ages? Would you still help them equally and exactly the same to all?

What would you think if we “taught” people exactly “how it should be done” because that is “how we want it”? As a result, probably we could not achieve 269 programs. Small details like quality of photos and contents of programs could, of course, improve from our point of view as an implementer, and simply hiring professionals to do this could have been way faster and easier. There is always space for improving things.

What about community people themselves? Bringing the best “quality” out of what they deliver is often not the best thing for the people, and fixing things only satisfies us as implementer, seeing a “beautiful catalogue” in terms of attention to small details. Learning by doing is really the way to make people gain capacity to continuously improve by themselves. Good policies do not intervene on small details of activities, but draw a much bigger picture to change people’s lives.

Linda Hill (2014) says “at the heart of innovation is a paradox. You have to unleash the talents and passions of many people and you have to harness them into a work that is actually useful. Innovation is a journey. It’s a type of collaborative problem solving, usually among people who have different expertise and different points of view.”

Thus people could unleash their passions, enthusiasm and wills through theses types of collective actions that are open and inclusive to cover many beneficiaries.

Tutoring a couple children and teaching thousands of children imply a totally different methodology.

Substituting this topic for projects and policies, policies that cover a wide range of areas naturally have pros and cons and it could be not what everyone wants. But, good policies modify the cons as time goes by especially the ones covering a wide range of beneficiaries like D-HOPE. Project-oriented approach, therefore, narrows a view and does not draw a bigger picture so that naturally the influence is small, there is no social movement.

This topic can lead to our localization theory- on which we intend to do more research in the future. Hopefully we will share our thoughts soon here too!

Leave your comments and share your thoughts on this!

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