Report cover featuring black and white images of protestors advocating for good jobs and health care
Social Movements and Governing Power

December 2010

By Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rhonda Ortiz Commissioned by Public Interest Projects

Please note: reports dated earlier than June 2020 were published under our previous names: the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) or the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII).

America is facing tough times. While Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election ignited hope for change, the economy remains stagnant and a conservative wave has captured the attention of media and voters. Now more than ever, alliances of progressive grassroots organizations that are deeply rooted, broadly intersectional, and highly effective are critical for building and sustaining a movement for social equity.

With support from Public Interest Projects, Connecting at the Crossroads contributes to understanding the inner workings of such alliances and how to support them. The report focuses on a particular set of alliances: groups of independent base-building organizations that believe in building long-term connections across geographies, constituencies, and issues as a key movement-building strategy. Based on a review of the literature and a scan of the field—including nearly 30 interviews with key leaders and a June 2010 convening of movement organizers—the report aims to narrow the gap between the work of alliances and philanthropic support for their efforts.

Drawing on examples from all over the country, we argue that social justice alliances tend to connect groups, cement relationships, and scale up power and impact. None of this is easy and we present the challenges and tensions of alliance building, including the need to balance campaigns and relationship building, democratic decision making and differential organizational commitments, and high-level policy work and grassroots participation. We also offer specific recommendations for strategic investments in the field, including investing in convenings and leadership development, ramping up groups’ communications capacity to impact the public debate, and supporting the development of new movement metrics.

We close by arguing that we are at a crossroads: what is at stake is not simply a particular policy or political stance but the much bigger issue of how generous, united, and forward-looking we will be as a nation. The alliances we profile will be an important part of overcoming differences and forging connections to secure a more equitable world. They deserve our admiration and our support.

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

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