A collation of resources about the book – Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in Twenty First Century America – by Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna and Michelle Oyakawa
A collation of resources about the book – Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in Twenty First Century America – by Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna and Michelle Oyakawa. (Published in 2021 by the University of Chicago Press).
“Grassroots organizing and collective action have always been fundamental to American democracy but have been burgeoning since the 2016 election, as people struggle to make their voices heard in this moment of societal upheaval. Unfortunately, much of that action has not had the kind of impact participants might want, especially among movements representing the poor and marginalized who often have the most at stake when it comes to rights and equality. Yet, some instances of collective action have succeeded. What’s the difference between a movement that wins victories for its constituents, and one that fails? What are the factors that make collective action powerful?
Prisms of the People addresses those questions and more. Using data from six-movement organizations—including a coalition that organized a 104-day protest in Phoenix in 2010 and another that helped restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in Virginia—Hahrie Han, Elizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa show that the power of successful movements most often is rooted in their ability to act as “prisms of the people,” turning participation into political power just as prisms transform white light into rainbows. Understanding the organizational design choices that shape the people, their leaders, and their strategies can help us understand how grassroots groups achieve their goals.
Linking strong scholarship to a deep understanding of the needs and outlook of activists, Prisms of the People is the perfect book for our moment—for understanding what’s happening and propelling it forward.” – Publisher’s description
A video of Liz McKenna sharing ground-breaking research from her latest book, Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing In Twenty-First-Century America.
How can organizations build power that is not only about gaining a seat at the decision-making table, but enables them to challenge the status quo, and win victories for their constituents?
On April 21st, 2021 we were joined by Liz McKenna who shared ground-breaking research from her latest book, Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing In Twenty-First-Century America.
Drawing on data from successful movement organizations in the US – including LUCHA, an immigrant rights organization that helped win a minimum wage increase in 2016 and turn Arizona blue in 2020; New Virginia Majority, which helped restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated; the Amos Project which passed universal preschool in Cincinnati; and ISAIAH, which built a multiracial and multi faith base to influence a gubernatorial election in Minnesota – Liz and her co-authors show that the power of successful movements most often is rooted in their ability to act as “prisms of the people,” turning participation into political power just as prisms transform white light into rainbows.
Prisms of the People: Power and Organizing in 21st Century America, PowerLabs, 2021
Watch the recording of the book talk with Elizabeth McKenna to learn their findings on the organizational design choices that made these organizations powerful. This talk was hosted by Powerlabs in 2021.
“The co-authors examine cases of successful change in Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, and Virginia and show that the most effective movements were the ones that rejected the false choice between idealism and pragmatism, between working inside the system and outside the system, between articulating a bold vision and making political compromises.
Instead, by investing in building constituencies that were flexible and committed, these movements were able to win voting rights for the formerly incarcerated in Virginia, pass universal preschool in Cincinnati, push back against the worst excesses of SB 1070 in Arizona and lay the groundwork for the state’s historic shift in 2020, and elect candidates willing to articulate new vision of multi-racial politics in Minnesota.” – Powerlabs