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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.

Our Work

April 2024

Long-term effects of disruptive animal rights protest
Mapping the UK farmed animal movement
Impact analysis of Animal Rising's protest

Insulate Britain were a campaign group who carried out a series of nonviolent disruptive actions on UK motorways between September and November 2021. Social Change Lab undertook an impact analysis of the campaign to assess the extent to which Insulate Britain achieved their aims and changed UK Government policy. We assessed quantitative evidence including media coverage, parliamentary mentions, Google searches, and opinion polls, and qualitative evidence from interviews with MPs, NGOs, academics, industry representatives and activists. You can read the full research report here.

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. You can see our updated findings from 6-months later here.

March 2024

We conducted a randomised controlled trial experiment with 4,757 participants to study how people’s attitudes towards animals are affected by descriptions of different animal rights protests and different messaging strategies. We tested the effects of three different protest campaign types (horse race disruptions, open rescues and KFC blockades) and three different messaging strategies (values/norms-led, problem-led and solution-led messaging). We found that most types of disruptive protest negatively affected participants' views, and that values/norms-led and problem-led messaging performed better than messaging focused on solutions. 

February 2024

Social Change Lab evaluated the short and longer term effects of Animal Rising's protest at the 2023 Grand National, using nationally representative longitudinal and cross-sectional polls, a controlled vignette study, media analysis, and mobilisation analysis. Following the protest, there was a noticeable deterioration in people's attitudes towards animals linked to the extent to which they were aware of the protest. However, six months later, these negative effects had dissipated,. We also found an overall improvement in attitudes towards animals, regardless of people's awareness of the protest.

December 2023

Social Change Lab surveyed 17 nonprofit organisations involved in the UK farmed animal movement. Collectively, these organisations account for over £13m of resources, which we believe is the vast majority of UK farmed animal funding. This report outlines the resource allocation within the sector, considering funding allocated to different strategies and stakeholders (e.g. corporate welfare campaigns vs government advocacy). 

 

We hope that having the whole farmed animal landscape mapped in this way will help organisations evaluate the approaches they are using or considering, as well as identify gaps and new opportunities in the movement as a whole. You can also read this report as a Google Doc here.

August 2023

Expert survey of academics on protest

July 2023

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

website here, or read our full report, with additional analysis and interpretation, here.

How philanthropists can support movements

May 2023

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.

What makes a protest movement successful?

What makes a protest movement successful?

January 2023

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.

You can also read a Google Docs version of the full report, as well as a summary blog post

December 2022

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.

Radical Flank Effect: Just Stop Oil
SHAC: Case Study
Literature Review: Success Factors

October 2022

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.

November 2022

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.

Final Report: Protest Outcomes

Protest Movements: How effective are they?

July 2022

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.

July 2022

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?

See an analysis of our interviews here and our full summary notes of our conversations here.

Policymaker interviews
Public Opinion Polling: Just Stop Oil

May 2022

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)

October 2022

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.

Movement Bottleneck Survey
Public Opinion Polling: Animal Rebellion

October 2022

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.

July 2022

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.

Expert Interviews

April 2022

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. 

Literature Review: Protest Outcomes
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