Team: Sonia Sarkar, Alexandra Dildine, Ryann Schutt, Jane Booth-Tobin, Hahrie Han

Key Question: How do movement organizations engage members in an ongoing civic engagement process that has potential to affect broader systems-change and build power?

Research Products: Report Forthcoming 


From past research, including in Prisms of the People and summarized in An Approach to Understanding & Measuring People Power, we know that organizations are best able to wield power for change that their communities seek when they build a constituency base that is grounded in deep relationships to each other and to the organization. Yet there is much to learn about the scaffolding needed in an organization to build relationships that are at the core of an independent, flexible, and committed base of people. How do these organizations create transformative experiences for members at both the individual and collective levels? 

With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we have been partnering with thirteen organizations since early 2020 to understand how organizations can build a "social home" for their members in a way that creates the social ties needed to change conditions for health equity. 

Three themes particularly related to the question of how these organizations act as social homes have emerged as core to our research:

  1. Developing (and retaining) the volunteer leadership required to sustain a mass constituency base as a social home: What organizational on-ramps and practices enable people to become more deeply involved in the social home—as veteran organizer Anthony Thigpenn of California Calls put it, to “see an organization or network as a political home beyond transactions”?
  2. Making multiracial democracy work inside the social homes: What are the structural conditions that enable social homes to put the ethos and aspirations of multiracial democracy into practice within their organizations?
  3. Treating scale and depth as symbiotic goals of social homes rather than a zero-sum tradeoff: How (or to what extent) can scale and depth be symbiotic—rather than the zero-sum tradeoff they are often assumed to be?

We are aiming to complete our research by the end of 2021 with the release of a report as well as field-facing materials that surface common pillars present in each organization — as well as a set of profiles and in-depth case studies to accompany the report.

Research Partners

California Calls

Chhaya Community Development

Color of Change

Florida Rising


Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Make the Road New York

New Virginia Majority

Organization for Black Struggle

People's Action

Southerners on New Ground

Southwest Organizing Project

Texas Organizing Project