How do you build a movement? Patiently

Tom McCallum
5 min readMay 22, 2018

A moment of humour to begin. I came up with the title of this post inspired by an old joke :

Q : How do hedgehogs make love ?

A : Very, very carefully

So, how do you build a movement for systemic change ? I believe that the answer remains, even in this fast changing world…..very, very patiently.


This picture is of a Jaeger Le Coultre watch. This company has created over a thousand different calibres, or another type of “movement” for their watches over more than a century. Luxury timepieces like this will never go out of style as they represent patience and quality.

So, back to the subject. why do I believe transformational movements require great patience?

From my own experience, an area I have grown to specialise in is supporting leaders with transformational change. What have I found to be the secret to success ? Several and one of them is absolutely to have patience. If you want to truly enrol people in such a level of change, it must become a self-sustaining movement, and that takes time. So, whether a change in a large and complex organisation, or a movement to transform society, patience is key.

Thanks first today to Chip Conley, who I witness building a movement around #ModernElder with real vision allied with patience. Chip recently shared an article in the NYT, “When Does a Moment Turn Into a ‘Movement’?” by Beverly Gage, Professor of American Political History at Yale. The article finishes :

“..we’re already living in a golden age of citizen activism when even high school students have the tools to organize a nationwide protest in five weeks flat.

Whether that protest or any other will finally be deemed a “movement” no doubt depends on what it ultimately accomplishes. One open secret of social activism is that nobody can ever really predict when, where, how or why any given issue will change from a lost cause to a cause célèbre. As my Yale colleague and gay rights pioneer Evan Wolfson often reminds students, ambitious goals have usually seemed “impossible” until they were achieved, at which point they suddenly became “inevitable,” a matter of simple justice and common sense. The movement is what happens in between.



Tom McCallum

Sounding Board for Visionary Leaders ready to make a Massive Impact. Daily posts here, or