Why Strategic Practice?

GPP has been testing and developing tools and concepts about power, the role of ideas and the relationship between strategy and tactics through our hands-on work with social movement organizations and networks. These have come together as a framework for cultivating strategic practice that is oriented toward long-term transformation of social and economic relationships in our society.

Strategic practice is based on the common sense idea that we have to relate tactics to strategy and strategic goals. The difficulty with this common sense idea is that it isn’t easy to know how to align immediate work with long-term goals, and there are many barriers to doing so. What kinds of choices must organizations make in order to be effective in the short-term and at the same time take on this challenge? And what kinds of tools and practices help groups to "mind the gap" between short-term and long-term?

For some groups, strategic practice is a way of cultivating and augmenting existing activities, many of which may be happening in less deliberate or coordinated ways, such as: movement-level strategic analysis, power analysis, worldview work (including clarifying what we believe and why), racial justice work (which needs to inform all aspects of a groups’ work), building organizational capacity, investing in leadership development and participating in alliances, coalitions and networks.

Here’s an illustration of what we mean by activities and processes that can come together as strategic practice, based on case study written for GPP by Phillip Cryan about ISAIAH’s strategic practice:

  1. A bold, long-term vision for social transformation is at the heart of the organization’s work.
  2. The organization has a systematic and disciplined organizing methodology.
  3. Leadership development is central to all organizing practice.
  4. The work is about both social and personal transformation.
  5. Strategies are rooted in a deliberate power analysis that understands both organization and ideas as forms of power.
  6. Investments are made in alliance-building, to achieve results that no single organization can accomplish on its own.
  7. To achieve major changes, groups and their leaders must sometimes take risks.

Please let us know what you think about these elements: what are you seeing in your organization or in others, that reflects strategic practice? How do these elements compare? Would you add elements, or state these differently? Please share your thoughts and examples with us.

Here's a partial listing of writings on strategic practice [click here for a complete listing]: