Making Change: What works?

Authors – Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Harry Quilter-Pinner and Nicolas Treloar. Published November 2021.

Movements change the world. Throughout history, loosely organised networks of individuals and organisations have sought changes to societies – and won. From the abolitionist struggle and campaigns for voting rights to #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, the impact of movements can be seen everywhere.

Over the last year, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Runnymede Trust have sought to understand what we can learn from movements that have made change – as well as those who have fallen short – for our efforts to create change today.

They did this by exploring what worked and didn’t work for four movements from recent decades. These were: LGBTQ+ rights, race equality, climate action, and health inequality.

This report notes their findings and insights, including:

Insight 1: Evidence alone cannot change the world

Insight 2: Movements need a well-developed ecosystem of influence

Insight 3: Successful movements are rarely organic: they require active cultivation

Insight 4: Successful movements prepare for and then harness external events

Insight 5: Movements must mine their assets – and address their limitations


In recent years, the scale and pace of events has led some to doubt Martin Luther King’s creed that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. But we must remember that the arc is only bent by the relentless organised efforts of inspiring social movements. In an age of Covid-19, environmental crisis, and vast inequalities, we can still drive progress but more of us who seek social and economic justice must redouble our efforts to create authentic, inclusive, powerful, and strategic change, joining and learning from each other in the process.

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Making Change: What works?

This report is available in its entirety as a downloadable PDF document.

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