“Most of what we need to know, we have yet to learn.” Movement for a New Society

By David Hart

I grew up a few blocks from Philadelphia and as a kid was deeply influenced by the Movement for a New Society's powerful and exciting vision of what creates real and lasting social change. Their work helped me see my childhood passion for peace as part of an ongoing and beautiful struggle that requires a lifetime of activist commitment. They taught me how issues are interconnected and how to sustain ourselves for the work ahead. Without their example, I'm not sure that I would have managed to stick with this challenging and important work through decades of activism and focused study in both undergraduate and graduate programs in Peace and Conflict.

Now, in this time of crisis, a great mentor to me and to so many others has just published an important new piece reflecting on lessons from MNS. Like many of George Lakey's recent articles this one can be found in full on Waging Nonviolence, an impressive project that got its start as a fiscally sponsored partner of Nonviolence International. 

I celebrate George's wisdom, his commitment to being a life-long learner, and his loving and supportive way of teaching. Please see a few excerpts below and read the full piece on Waging Nonviolence. 

If you haven't already done so, please read his latest book How We Win: A Guide To Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning and check out this wonderful webinar he did with our friends at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. 


When activist burnout was a problem 50 years ago, this group found a solution

As activists weary from war, campus killings, a tyrant in the White House and poverty at home started dropping out, Movement for a New Society built a model of sustainability... 

How do we sustain our activism for the long run? When people drop out, movements miss their hard-won skills, experience and relationships that make alliances stronger. On multiple levels, burn-out costs movements dearly...

The MNS theory of change supported sustainability by giving up a typical activist preoccupation with analyzing what’s wrong. Our alternative was to focus on vision...

We looked for ways to taste liberation in the collective reality of our work and daily life...

MNS had a slogan: “Most of what we need to know, we have yet to learn.” We found that this helped support serious study, training and also sustainability. Part of burning out can be giving up on ourselves when our performance doesn’t fully meet needs and expectations. Members found that the slogan embedded forgiveness.


Read the full important and timely piece on Waging Nonviolence.

George Lakey has been active in direct action campaigns for over six decades. Recently retired from Swarthmore College, he was first arrested in the civil rights movement and most recently in the climate justice movement. He has facilitated 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national and international levels. His 10 books and many articles reflect his social research into change on community and societal levels. His newest books are “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can, too” (2016) and “How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning” (2018.). https://twitter.com/GeorgeLakey_