Report cover featuring diverse groups of people from the Miami Workers Center and PICO National Network of varying ages holding signs and banners
Social Movements and Governing Power

Innovating Cross-Movement Leadership and Learning

March 2009

By Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz

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).

Social movements are a hidden underpinning of the American story. Using the tools of relationship building, community mobilization, and symbolic protest, they have helped bring us civil rights, labor protections, and even a healthier environment, sparking people’s aspirations, imaginations, and actions for a better nation.

Why then has funding of these movements been difficult to obtain and sustain? Some suggest that funders often want more immediate and measurable outcomes—moving a nation to live up to its promise is important but hard to quantify. And yet in recent years, there has been renewed philanthropic interest and openness to investing in social movements, community organizing, and policy change, and an understanding that this will require a new level of patience and a new set of relationships with grantees.

This document seeks to provide a guidepost to both funders and the field by detailing what makes for a successful social movement, what capacities need to be developed, and what funding opportunities might exist.

The document itself comes from a different model of funder-grantee relationships. The paper from which this Executive Summary draws was initially requested by The California Endowment as its leaders were thinking through the connection between place-based comprehensive change and state-level policy in the Golden State. Thinking that the connection between the two might be social movements and community organizing, TCE commissioned us, the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), to do a series of interviews with leading organizers—and asked us to write something that would make sense to these activists as well as foundation leaders.

Download reports

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.

    a view of the Los Angeles skyline