We're tackling these complex questions around social movement impacts and success factors using a cluster-thinking approach, where we try approach our research question from many different angles. See our various projects below.
Working with Apollo Academic Surveys, we surveyed 120 academics who study social movements and protest, across Political Science, Sociology and other relevant disciplines.
We asked them a range of questions about disruptive protest, the main reasons social movements fail to achieve their goals, the most important factors for success, polarisation, and more. Check out the summarised results on the Apollo
What makes a protest movement successful?
Social Change Lab undertook six months of research looking into what makes a protest movement successful. We examine factors such as numbers, nonviolence, diversity, external factors, the radical flank effect, and more. We conducted this research using a range of methods: literature review, public opinion polling, expert interviews and a case study.
In this piece, we examine the funding landscape for social movement organisations: How much do grassroots organisations get relative to more traditional nonprofits? And what role do these grassroots organisations play in the ecosystem of social change?
We also explore common barriers for philanthropists in funding grassroots organisations, and offer five practical recommendations for how to meaningfully support social movement organisations.
Animal Rising disrupted the 2023 Grand National, the biggest horse racing event in the UK, kickstarting a national conversation about society’s relationship with animals. We conducted nationally representative public opinion polling to understand the impact this had on UK public attitudes towards animals. Additionally, we used internal data from Animal Rising to understand the impact of this protest on their mobilisation of activists, donations and media coverage.
We discover mixed signals - whilst these protests led to significantly increased public salience of animal issues and increased sign-ups for Animal Rising's future actions, they had some negative consequences on UK public attitudes towards animals. This research report can also be read as a Google Document here.
We conducted two longitudinal and nationally representative surveys (N=1415), using YouGov, to understand whether a Just Stop Oil campaign had any impact on support for or identification with more moderate climate organisations. This was for the November 2022 Just Stop Oil campaign targeting the M25 motorway. In this polling, we detected a positive radical flank effect, whereby increased awareness of Just Stop Oil resulted in increased support for and identification with Friends of the Earth.
A literature review of existing sociological and political science literature on success factors for protest movements. We examine work primarily looking at nonviolence, numbers, the radical flank effect, and external contextual factors.
A case study looking at the successes, potential shortcomings and lessons from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an animal rights campaign in the 2000s. We identify some key reasons why they achieved significant successes, as well as potential reasons that led to their later decline.
We conducted 2 x 1,500 person longitudinal and nationally representative public opinion polls before and after a major animal advocacy campaign in the UK, organised by Animal Rebellion.
This report presents results from an informal survey of 16 individuals across 13 grassroots social movement organisations, (SMOs) focusing on climate and animal advocacy. We discuss the key limiting factors of these SMOs, as well as recommendations for how funders or external actors can support them.
Protest Movements: How effective are they?
Social Change Lab undertook six months of research looking into the outcomes of protests and protest movements. In this report, we synthesise our research, which we conducted using various research methods, such as literature reviews, public opinion polling, expert interviews, policymaker interviews and a cost-effectiveness analysis. We focus specifically on examining the impact of protest movements on public opinion, policy change, public discourse and media coverage, voting behaviour, and corporate behaviour.
You can also read a Google Docs version here.
We interviewed 3 UK Civil Servants to understand the impact of protest movements on UK policymaking. We wanted to elicit questions such as
What role do protest movements play in policymakers' perceptions of public opinion?
Why do some social movements seem to be more successful in influencing policy?
We conducted 3x 2,000 person nationally representative public opinion polls before, during and after a major protest campaign in the UK, Just Stop Oil. Despite disruptive protests, there was no loss of support for climate policies, providing some evidence against the notion that disruptive protests tend to cause a negative public reaction. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the protests had increased respondents’ self-perceived likelihood of participating in environmental activism (p=0.09)
We've interviewed 12 academics and movement experts to elicit answers to questions that we believe are not yet answered in existing literature. Examples include:
How important are external factors relative to a movement's own strategy and tactics?
To what degree does existing literature generalise to other countries, issues or time periods?
See full summary notes from our conversations here.
A literature review of existing sociological and political science literature on movement outcomes. We examined outcomes ranging from policy change, public opinion shifts, voting behaviour, public discourse, and corporate behaviour.