Most of us cannot achieve what we envision alone.

We need others. We work in teams, with partners inside and outside our organization, each with a stake in our work. Sometimes our intention is even more expansive, with the broader public through a scaled campaign, or a series of campaigns that someday may become a movement.

The change we seek will require many of us staying present to our shared intention over time — a collective presence.

Collective presence happens when a group of people, in some cases many, many people, are attentive to the same situation - not just at the same moment, but over time.

It can be triggered by circumstance, when an unexpected event focuses our attention - a natural disaster, a sporting event, a tragic story in the news.

But it can also be cultivated.

The best teams and organizations are able to perform at peak for extended periods of time by maintaining collective presence.

Modern social movements, once requiring decades of tireless grassroots organizing, can now reach inflection points in an unfathomably short amount of time. Why? Because they are able to capture and channel people’s attention into taking action toward the movement’s vision.

So what does it take?

Clear intention that is compelling and easily understood

  • a collective narrative - what we are trying to do together and why it will take everyone?
  • individual stories that ground the narrative in identity and agency - what are our individual stories and motives and how do they connect?
  • a clear strategy that outlines what it is going to take and how people can participate to make it happen - what do I do and why?

Efficient (self) organization that enables networked participation

  • an understanding of the group’s assets and capabilities
  • clear roles and responsibilities in relation to the vision and specific tasks
  • a ‘platform' for efficient self-organization and networked participation
  • a culture that encourages improvisation, thrives in creative tension, and defaults into action

Planned time and space for reporting back, celebrating successes and recalibrating after a set-back

  • frequently reconnecting the group with the intention
  • celebrating successes to demonstrate the power of the collective
  • honest, regular reporting and recalibration: what’s working, what’s not and why
  • feedback focused on serving the group’s intention, not individuals strengths and weaknesses