Team: Lynsy Smithson-Stanley

Key Question: What movement-wide or cross-organizational resources, tools and/or skills do applicant organizations identify as critical for environmental advocacy?

Research Products: Forthcoming 


Social movements succeed when the ecosystem of organizations within them build and exercise power collectively — above and beyond a single organization’s capacity and/or resources. Research from a range of disciplines confirms that coalition formation and inter-organizational coordination not only contribute to policy wins (including plenty from the environmental politics literature) but can also enhance a participating organization’s individual capacities, such as its ability to learn. And work in political science, sociology and management studies suggests that investments in movement infrastructure, or cross-organizational tools, resources and capacities, can help an ecosystem achieve its shared goals.

What is lacking, however, is a holistic view of the kinds of infrastructure investments a coalition can make, how it should prioritize such investments and the relationship between these movement-wide assets and political power. It is also unclear what tools or resources count as movement infrastructure in an issue space as dynamic, contested and historically fragmented as the U.S. environment.

By analyzing organizational descriptions of cross-organizational infrastructure needs in a set of anonymized grant proposals, we are seeking to develop a fuller picture of how environmental movement leaders themselves define movement infrastructure in the hopes of developing a better understanding of where to focus capacity-building in this arena.