Social Movements and Governing Power

From 2008 to 2019, the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) published reports under our previous name, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). 

March 2018

By: Ginny Goldman, Jennifer Ito, Kirk Noden, Manuel Pastor, and Madeline Wander

In 2016, USC PERE introduced the Changing States framework to help determine pathways to attain governing power—or the ability to push for, pass, implement, and protect long-term changes to reduce social and institutional inequities and to improve living conditions.

Since then, strategists, organizers, funders, and others have applied Changing States across the country—and this report summarizes one such effort. Power and Possibilities draws lessons from applying the framework to three distinct yet representative places—Arizona, Georgia, and Minnesota—unpacking the context and dynamics for the work and identifying capacities and opportunities for attaining governing power in each state.

The hope is not only understanding the conditions for social change efforts, decision-making arenas where power is contested, and capacities for change in these three places, but also to elevate lessons that can be applied elsewhere and strategies that can be leveraged for regional and national impact. To this end, we point to four common themes—or rather, needs:

  1. Development of “strategic centers”—or, alignment of progressive power players that anchors shared theories of change and exercises independent political power;
  2. New narratives that should be shaped by local players in order to better fit political histories and shifting demographics;
  3. New forms of corporate work that involve developing an economic narrative and relationships with businesses; and
  4. Nuanced approaches to multicultural and cross-geographic alliances that reflect local contexts and histories.

We recognize these as broad directions, so this report also provides initial thinking about metrics for measuring success toward these goals.

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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