Digital Tonto: Why Some Movements Succeed And Others Fail By Greg Satell


June 26, 2017

Read the whole article here. By Greg Satell for Digital Tonto.

On September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park, in the heart of the financial district in Lower Manhattan. Declaring, “We are the 99%,” they captured the attention of the nation. Within a few months, however, the park was cleared and the protesters went home, achieving little, if anything.
In 1998, a similar movement, Otpor, began in Serbia. Yet where Occupy failed, Otpor succeeded marvelously. In just two years they overthrew the reviled Miloševic government. Soon after came the Color Revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring in the Middle East.
While Occupy certainly did not lack passion or appeal—indeed its core message about inequality continues to resonate—it was unable to translate that fervor into effective action. Otpor, on the other hand, created a movement of enormous impact. The contrast is sharp and it is no accident. Successful movements do things that failed ones don’t.
Clarity of Purpose
For Otpor, there was never any question about what they were setting out to achieve—the nonviolent overthrow of Slobodan Miloševi?—and everything they did was focused on that mission.The group also focused on specific pillars upon which the regime’s power rested —such as the media, bureaucracy, police, and military— to target their efforts.
This clarity of purpose led directly to action. For example, rather than focusing on staging large scale demonstrations, in the early stages, Otpor focused on street theatre and pranks to embarrass the regime. When they were arrested, they made a point to be respectful of the police, but also made sure their lawyers and the press knew about their detention.
By starting slow and building scale, Otpor could show, to their own members and the country at large, that they not only had clear goals, but that they were making progress against them. That led others to want to join them, which in turn led to even greater success and more support, resulting in a positive feedback loop.
Compare that to Occupy, which as Joe Nocera noted in a NY times column, “had plenty of grievances, aimed mainly at the “oppressive” power of corporations,” but “never got beyond their own slogans.” While the group captured attention, nobody, even the protesters themselves, was clear on what was to be done. Before long, everyone lost interest.