What’s in Your Movement Pantry?

by Deepa Iyer and Trish Tchume

In the summer of 2020, we (Trish Tchume and Deepa Iyer) developed What’s In Your Movement Pantry, a tool for people engaged in social change efforts. You can find the tool along with a worksheet to help you move through the shelves of your movement pantry over here. Below, you can read about how we came to the idea of a movement pantry as a metaphor for how we stock, share, and replenish practices, relationships, and frameworks to create systemic change and build power.

How did all this come about? Trish is a first generation Ghanaian-American social and racial justice facilitator, trainer and network weaver who has mainly focused on grassroots leadership development. Deepa is a first generation Indian-American lawyer, writer, and facilitator who works on policy change, rapid response, and cross-racial solidarity. Between us, we have over 25 years of collective experience participating in and supporting movements, community leaders, and networks.

We share our “backstory” of this tool to offer an informative and instructive pathway about how there are shared experiences across our movement ecosystems, even when we might be feeling isolated or disconnected. In the fall of 2019, the two of us were lucky enough to be introduced by a mutual friend at the Building Movement Project. It was one of those rare and beautiful conversations where you realize the person on the other side of the screen is just as eager to move quickly past the professional credentialing and get to the real talk.

The real talk for both of us? The state of social movements especially as we headed into the 2020 election year. It was a heavy first conversation — not because we were feeling despair but exactly the opposite — we felt powerful, even hopeful! Many around us were lamenting, saying we were no better off than we were in 2016, but in our conversations we identified models, approaches, frameworks, practices, and relationships that pointed to the opposite idea: together, people, organizations, networks, and movements had developed a bounty of resources that could really help to move us toward a more just and thriving world.

The Movement Pantry Tool (2020)

At first, we began to document the campaigns, ideas, movements and networks that had been developed since 2016, from the Muslim ban to the multiple border crises, from the People’s Climate March to the Movement For Black Lives’ policy platform, from local initiatives to defund the police and to remove the presence of immigration enforcement. Eventually, we realized that the exercise itself — the practice of remembering, celebrating, and chronicling the ways that we’re building toward the world we want — was actually more valuable than the list itself. That realization led us to combine our ideas — Trish came up with the metaphor of the pantry and Deepa suggested developing a practical worksheet — to create the Movement Pantry tool.

So, what is the Movement Pantry?

Often in movement spaces, we operate from a place of scarcity and smallness that can lead to competition, gatekeeping, hoarding, and defensiveness. We often feel the urgency to invent new frameworks and analyses and to innovate solutions and narratives, particularly in times of crisis. We tend to scold our collective selves for not being prepared enough or organized enough. We ignore or dismiss the lessons we have learned, the relationships we have fostered, and the readiness of the general public to the narratives and ideas we have been building over time.

Instead, what might it mean if we operated from a place of abundance and bountifulness, if we provided for each other with the harvest and storage that we have been building for years?

It goes without saying though that the time to demonstrate what we are made of came to our movement spaces far sooner than the 2020 election. The COVID19 pandemic and the revived movement for racial justice are testing all of us around the globe in ways that we could never have imagined (or perhaps never took time to) — and many of our relationships, institutions, tools and individuals are revealing their strength and fullness.

We invite you then to engage with the Movement Pantry tool with these goals in mind:

  • Create space to reflect on how you are part of an ecosystem (pair this with My Role in a Social Change Ecosystem for another reflection tool about our roles within movement ecosystems)
  • Name how our movements are getting bolder, deeper, and stronger
  • Invite in a sense of abundance and possibility
  • Clarify where you/we need to replenish/restock our frameworks, relationships, and practices.

And let us know what you think! Drop a note in the comments or email us at info@buildingmovementproject.org to let us know how you’re using the Pantry tool, what you’re discovering, and how we might make it even more user-friendly. We’re looking forward to being in community with you!