Seeds of Movement-What Are We Learning from North Africa?


I am intrigued by what is going on in North Africa.  I don’t believe we will know the full impact of these days for sometime-in terms of ruling class, religious foundations, and the domino effect.  We are also observing the impact of movement-not just in Tunisia, but also in Albania, Jordan-and now Egypt.  What are we seeing?  What are some of the principles of movement at its inception?  Here are my quick observations.  What are the implications?

1. A Disaffected Population-In each and every case (Tunisia, Albania, Jordan, and Egypt) there is a portion of the population that feels left out or ignored.  It could be over a lack of personal freedoms.  It might be related to personal economics.  It may simply be due to being worn down by a very old and domineering ruling class.  The Mediterranean world and the Middle East has a long history of one strong man at the top.  But there has to be a tipping point where the common man’s experience of life is painful enough that he has to act and demand change.

2. A Catalyzing Event-True movements do not begin with organization and vision.  They are birthed in a moment of time where the disaffected population is granted psychological permission to act.  In the case of what we are currently seeing in North Africa it was the radical response of a Tunisian fruit vendor towards having his livelihood taken away.  He chose to set himself on fire-and a nation was captured by his sacrificial symbol of protest.  Permission was granted to rally and change.

3. Swift & Effective Communication-Never before in human history has there been this kind of ability to quickly communicate with the masses.  Social media has become the common man’s means for spreading a message-positive or negative-to a group ready to act.  As the protests have spilled over into Cairo the government has “banned” Twitter.  But as we have seen in other parts of the world-this wont work.  The erected firewalls are not able to stop the technological knowledge available to all.  The communication playing field has been leveled-and the movement spreads.

4. Leadership-Leadership has to exist for movements to form and spread.  Right now we are not being introduced to the leaders that are behind what is going on in North Africa.  But they are there-in small and larger ways.  Leaders take the seeds of movement-and they replant them and grow them.  They sow them in new ground-either for good or for bad.  Sometimes leaders step into the vacuum for the greater good of the disaffected population or they become opportunists and act on their own behalf.  But there is always leadership.

What are the implications-for any type of organization or setting?  Thoughts?

2 responses to “Seeds of Movement-What Are We Learning from North Africa?

  1. Pingback: Distributed leadership: insights from North Africa | LIW3's Leadership Blog

  2. Take a look at our thoughts. We linked to yours as a related article. What are your thoughts? http://liw3.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/distributed-leadership-insights-from-north-africa/

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