Between the established circles of ‘old power’ and the thriving yet young dynamism of ‘new power’, it may seem society is caught in stalemate in enacting real change. But as Noa Gafni shows, the two are finding new ways of working together

We’ve heard a lot about social movements in recent times, and, in particular, protest movements. From the ‘Indignados’ in Madrid to those who occupied Wall Street and brought about the Arab Spring, protesters – especially those from the millennial generation – are everywhere.

However, millennials have quickly realised that while protesting can help to tear down systems, it isn’t as effective in building new ones. Meanwhile, institutions have realised the immense power that millennials have, and how much of that we all need to create change. As a result, the two have been working together through a new kind of movement: conscious movements.

Conscious movements bring together the energy of the millennial generation with the gravitas of the people and institutions who already have a seat at the table. They create a powerful combination that brings together old and new power, online and offline interactions and global reach with local impact.

Combining old and new power

“Millennials have quickly realised that while protesting can help to tear down systems, it isn’t as effective in building new ones.”

Many people talk about ‘new power’, which is more open and participatory than ‘old power’, which is often seen as closed and hierarchical. It may seem that these two types of power are completely incompatible, but conscious movements manage this tension and turn it into an opportunity.

The Global Shapers Community, part of the World Economic Forum, brings together Global Shapers under 30 years old with the CEOs and world leaders who go to Davos (an annual global meeting of political and business leaders) each year. Shapers take part in cross-mentorship schemes where they learn from world leaders, and these leaders, in turn, learn from the Global Shapers.

Connecting on and offline

Conscious movements recognise the importance of both online and in-person meetings. In a world that emphasises online interactions over in-person gatherings, conscious movements flip this logic on its head.

Lean In is a conscious movement launched by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. It encourages women to further their careers by launching Lean In Circles, in-person gatherings where women discuss their professional challenges, seek advice and share resources. Lean In’s website provides women with the tools to create and manage meetings, access expert videos (for professional development during meetings) and interact with other Circles nearby. But the focus remains on building trust through small, in-person meetings.

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Bridging global and local

Even though the world is more global than ever before, most of our daily contact still takes place locally. Of all the telephone-calling minutes in the world last year, only two percent were cross-border calls and the average person consumes just one to two percent of their news on foreign sites.

“Conscious movements make the most of both the global and the local.”

Conscious movements make the most of both the global and the local. Online global community +SocialGood unites change-makers around the power of innovation and technology to make the world a better place. Globally connected influencers work with +SocialGood to share ideas of what’s working in global development and adapt it to their local communities. The upcoming 2015 +SocialGood Summit will take place in New York on 27 and 28 September during the United Nations’ General Assembly week, but through +SocialGood, over 100 local meet-ups will take place around the world, including in the Philippines, Rwanda and Tunisia.

At a time where we’re looking for solutions, conscious movements play a key role. By bridging the millennial generation with the people and institutions in power, conscious movements bring about the best of old and new power, on and offline organising, and global and local influence in order to address society’s biggest challenges.

Photo title: The Social Good Summit, which brings people together to share ideas of what’s working in global development - Tokyo, 2012

Photo credit: © Flickr member meganehara

  • Patrick Chalmers

    Thanks for these ideas and pointers to the related sites. I think there is something in this though I fear not nearly enough of the fundamentally root-and-branch thinking that needs to take place for real change to happen.

    As Upton Sinclair put it: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”. ( That applies in spades to those who inhabit the world of WEF and its annual Davos meetings, and to those who report as journalists on such proceedings.

    I don’t believe the poltiical solutions to our current societal problems are likely to come from those people – the required solutions being too radical for them either to imagine what they could be let alone to entertain putting them into effect.

    What we need is something like a root-and-branch overhaul of our governance systems, local to global, an admittedly huge task.

    This ( is my own stab at listing some priority tasks in achieving that.

    I’d be interested to hear what others think

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