Tim Keller on movements

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Tim Keller writes on what makes a movement, and how movements can resist becoming institutions.

Defining a movement

A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily.

By contrast, "institutionalized" organizations are held together by rules, regulations, and procedures, not by a shared vision.

Unpacking the definition

1.The vision leads to sacrificial commitment. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort.

2. The vision leads to generous flexibility. Institutionalized organizations are very turf conscious.

3. The vision leads to innovativeness. Institutions are organized more vertically, where ideas from "below" are unwelcome.

4. A movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within - a conflagration without the need for external ignition.

How movement institutionalize

Vision becomes strategy, roles become tasks, teams become structure, networks become organizations, recognition becomes compensation.

How movements stay strong

A strong movement occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well.

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