Social Movements and Governing Power

January 2023

By Jennifer Ito, Ashley K. Thomas, and Manuel Pastor

Looking Around The Corner: (Re)Imagining Power For A Healthy and Just California is a forward-looking project to envision what we can collectively achieve if we invest in movements. Distilled from the wisdom of the field, the report offers a blueprint for where to invest over the next 10 years as activists, organizations, and funders collectively steer towards creating a different future. 

Starting with a north star of governing power, the report outlines the need to re-envision our public institutions as being in service of communities and the new capacities needed to bring that into fruition. It takes an expansive view of how to wield that power, the structures to build connectivity and solidarity, and challenges for implementing and creating accountability. Looking Around The Corner combines soul and strategy, healing and action, vision and tactics to build a well-resourced, intersectional, and intersectoral ecosystem for power building.

Webinar Series with The California Endowment

USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) hosted a three-part webinar series to highlight the directions discussed in the report as a way to spur dialogue between and among organizers, advocates, funders, researchers, and evaluators about strategies and steps we can take to collectively steer towards a future when everyone has what they need to thrive.

Session 1: Reimagining Power for a Healthy and Just State

With governing power as our collective North Star, this session focused on the types of power that are most critical to nurture and strengthen over the next ten years—economic power, multiracial democratic power, and narrative power.


Session 2: Capacities and Infrastructure to Meet our Goals

This session focused on the “commons” of the power-building ecosystem, capacities, and skills that need to be invested in and developed in order to bring about transformative and lasting change. This included a discussion of the “new inside-outside” strategies rooted in healing justice, the ability to anticipate backlash, and the discipline of choice-making and sequencing.


Session 3: Measuring What Matters for Transformation

Culminating the series is a session on measurements and indicators of success. The focus was on approaches to developing transformative metrics that allow us to remain accountable to people-centered goals, to measure for strategic decision-making, and to tell the story of power building to multiple audiences.


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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