Creating a social movement for organizational transformation


I often learn without even realizing it. My view of the world is shaped not just by in-depth classes and formal developmental programs, but also through small bits of information consumed over time. Images or photos inspire fresh ideas, quotes provide different perspectives, and a personal stories invite trying something new.

This awareness led me to experiment with social ways of engaging individuals. With many colleagues creating formal learning programs (e.g., webinar series, online classes, in-person development events), I began dabbling with micro blogs, thematic blogs, curation blogs, various types of campaigns, and more. People began to approach me for insight related to the topics I was sharing – initially, career growth, personal development, and leadership, and most recently, mindfulness and resilience.

This was part of the foundation that resulted in my quite unexpectedly leading a mindfulness movement (read highlights) inside the organization I work. That experience carried over when I was tapped by my executive leadership last year to support our leaders in strengthening their resilience. Both of these initiatives took on a life of their own – in effect, they became social movements.


A social movement is a group of people with a shared purpose who create change together. A movement can support cultural transformation and shift the ways people behave and engage. Read more about the definition of a social movement here and here.

Others tapped into their passion and began to bring to life the possibility they saw for their teams and organizations. They shared and reused resources, they connected with  others who shared their interest, they started to co-create and seize their collective energy.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on creating social movements, I’ve been giving some thought to how I might have contributed to some exciting things happening in support of my organization’s transformation.

Top Tips

Put some “YOU” into it. People are hungry for connection, are inspired by something personal, and gravitate to what’s real. Tap into your interests, strengths, and experiences to engage and energize others in a unique way. Being too formal can create a distance between you and those you want to touch.

Meet others where they are. Sometimes other individuals are not able to see what you see or are not ready to join you. And, that’s OK. Where you meet resistance, take it as a sign the particular person or path may not be the way, and, either move on down the road, or adjust your course. Hold tight to your desired outcomes and loosely to your plans.

Be courageous. Finding co-creators who share your passion can be hard work. If you want people to connect with your ideas, they have to be able to find them. Be willing to go stand out in the field, alone and vulnerable, until someone else also sees the possibility out there and joins you. What you see and want matters. There ARE others who will see it and want it, too. They will come. Have faith.  (Check out Derek Sivers TedTalk)

My Truths

Passion is a powerful game-changer. Seizing your own and others passion is guaranteed to be messy, but the impact can be huge. Passion is not linear; it is chaotic. Passion is not additive; it is multiplicative. Without passion, you are just another sound in a noisy world. Sing your song with your special voice.

What you can’t see is real. Measuring transformation driven by passion can be difficult. Just because you can’t see or capture something, does not mean that it is not real or valuable. When what’s happening involves relationships formed, ideas generated, energy created, movement initiated, paths eliminated – all as precursors to action taken –  you may have to get creative with your metrics (think stories and pictures that show individual accomplishments and collective impact).

Trust others’ brilliance. Be intentional about how you engage with others – at every turn. Each individual with whom you engage brings something unique, based on their personal experience, work environment, and cultural context. Be curious about how you can allow open space for co-creation. Try leaning into what others see as possible and letting go of your preconceived notions. Avoid the temptation to want to ‘get it right’ and do things the way you are most comfortable. Openness keeps things moving, however messily.

Exploratory Questions

  1. What do you see as possible?
  2. What energizes and inspires you?
  3. How do you envision things being new or different?
  4. What impact to you want to have?
  5. What do others experience when engaging with you?
  6. What does being courageous and vulnerable look like for you?
  7. How do you invite people in?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. How can you capture your progress?
  10. What is the next small step you can take right now to move in the direction of creating what you see as possible?

Are you active in a cause that is meaningful to you? Are you leading a movement? I’d love to learn more about what you are passionate about and how you engage others on the journey…


* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico.

Author: Vicki L Flaherty

I am most alive when I am creating, whether through writing, photography, gardening, cooking, crafting, sewing, yoga. I enjoy traveling because it opens me to greater awareness and new possibilities. I find a special joy when I’ve helped someone see their brilliance and express their full potential. As I've focused on living more mindfully, I've found special joy in expressing myself through poetry and photography, and in truly being in relationship with those I meet along my journey.

10 thoughts on “Creating a social movement for organizational transformation”

  1. Great post and information Vicki, I can relate to everything. I am starting Art Therapy workshops in my area. Art really helps us explore our unconscious thinking and beliefs and also allows us to create a new way to see our life.

    1. Karen, glad the post resonated with you. I suspect you have a special way of creating a following. I know that I always feel a special connection with what you share. Good luck with your art therapy workshop – sound like you are making a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives. Vicki

  2. Love the part about passion and (simple) YOU. These are the true connectors to others.
    Courage and vulnerability to stand up and stand alone and wait for others to join … a unique skill. Reminds me about ‘Braving the Wilderness’ by Brene Brown.
    Thank you Vicki for speaking up, for your passion and vulnerability.

  3. Vicki thanks for sharing these insights and tips! As someone who’s worked with you, you’ve been a great model of this organic, passionate and open approach, and it’s helped bear many great fruits. I think the great beauty of this approach is how something much stronger, more diverse and more creative – more surprising! – can emerge from the ground up, compared to a top down directive.

    1. Duncan, IBM is an amazing playground with open space and incredible collaborators. I could never have dreamed of what we’d all co-create together around mindfulness and resilience at IBM. Thank you for being part of it all – in such a big way, not only in IBM Canada, but also IBM Brazil and with our managers.

  4. Vicki, thank you for your insightful thoughts and experiences. I started a monthly community produce and fresh food giveaway about 3 years ago, feeding about 30 families with about 4 volunteers. Today, we feed about 130 families monthly and there are 30+ volunteers each month from within our small community who help. I totally stepped out in faith because I was passionate about feeding people. Several people thought I was crazy and now some of them are part of our monthly volunteer core. We have had to be creative and make changes along the way. I am still building my delegation skills and I value the input of our volunteers as well as our clients. Your words above keep me encouraged and open my thinking.

    1. Denise, what a beautiful story! Inspired by your vision, commitment, and action. You are making an important difference in people’s lives – not only those you feed but also those you engage to volunteer. #wearemoretogether

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