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Cohesion as Murmuration

And an example in the Inter-Movement Impact Project.


I’ve named my business Cohesion Strategy. But what do I mean by Cohesion? Not everyone loves the term, and for good reason, as I’ve written elsewhere.


Some folks think of cohesion as shallow, possibly forced, togetherness; a papering-over of real difference and a pushing down of dissent for the appearance of unanimity and the maintenance of the status quo.* 


The thing that cohesion implies, to me, is not uniformity, or singleness, or even unanimity.  I think of it something like a standing together, a social stickiness, a bunch of individuals forming a united whole. And that implies some level of choice; that individuals aren’t forced into a cohesive society. Individuals choose to stay - because they find more joy in it than sorrow.


Social Cohesion happens when members find more joy in their community than sorrow.

I am often inspired by starling murmurations - very large flocks of starlings. If you’ve ever seen one, you may have noticed that, within the whole, some groups of birds will do their thing differently than others. Starlings in these murmurations never fly in perfect, evenly spaced formations. They disperse and regather. Some break away and fly a little way off from the rest. Maybe two groups swoop around each other, rapidly changing directions; are they playing or fighting? I don’t know. I’ve definitely seen starlings fight on the ground, and I imagine they take these discontents with them on the wing.





What I do know is that they fly together by common consent. It’s a pretty good metaphor for social cohesion (and also why my website is bird-themed!). adrienne maree brown uses this metaphor more specifically for movements (and she’s right). Maybe I’m just dreaming, but I think functioning pluralistic societies are the realization of existing movements toward a more perfect union. The most massive murmuration. 


Lately I’ve been learning more and more about the hundreds of organizational players in pro-democracy movements - the bridgers, equity builders, hate-crime preventers, structural change enthusiasts, civic engagement specialists, and funders of all the above. One of the most notable learnings along the way is how many of these are looking for shared community with organizational peers across the spectrum of pro-democracy efforts. Well, I recently came across someone building a community, a movement, dare I say a murmuration just like that: 


Caleb Christen is co-founder of the Inter-Movement Impact Project. In a series of four articles, he describes the need for an organic and dynamic community of diverse pro-democratic efforts. I couldn’t agree more and I highly recommend reading them all.



He was kind enough to sit down with me today. The IMIP is working to build both national and local inter-movement networks with care, kindness, and generosity of spirit you don’t find everywhere. If you or your organization in any pro-democracy, depolarization, bridging, structural reform, or equity, or other related space are looking for community, I highly recommend getting in touch with Caleb at cchristen@uwalumni.com to join the murmuration. I suspect there is joy, and long-term change, to be found there.


If you’re ready to build a pluralistic strategy to support your current goals, get in touch with me at Allison@cohesionstrategy.com or book an hour of my time now.




*actual comments I’ve heard about “social cohesion” and related efforts.

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