Notes from the Field (New York City): The Power of The Crowd

Members of our Center’s team attended two events that took place in New York City last week—one you’ve probably heard of, and one that might have slipped under your radar.

The first, the People’s Climate March, garnered extensive press coverage and brought together over 300,000 marchers in New York alone, not to mention those participating in over 2000 satellite events around the world.

The second was a smaller affair, though no less exuberant. In a ballroom a few steps away from the heart of Broadway, Women Moving Millions brought together over a hundred women (and a few good men—former President Jimmy Carter, for one) for the launch of All in for Her, a call to action for philanthropists to increase their support for women and girls.

What do both of these events have in common, despite their different causes and vast differences in scale?

First, they’re both about the power of community.  At the climate march, the diversity of the groups involved (everyone from veterans to scientists to beekeepers, to name a few) highlighted the enormous breadth of support for change and the potential for cross-pollination of ideas within this movement; bringing together so many different groups creates an opportunity for large-scale collaboration. Similarly, Women Moving Millions brought together women who individually may have significant resources but collectively can bring dramatically greater visibility to their cause.

Secondly, both events were about recognizing the resources we have right in front of us.

Among the climate marchers, there may have been only a handful of people with the power and influence to get a seat at the table when key business and policy decisions are being made. But the resource climate change activists do have is popular support at a scale that, when demonstrated as visibly as it was last weekend, becomes difficult—and perhaps politically dangerous—for decision-makers to ignore.

At the Women Moving Millions event, the theme was encouraging women to “give big and bold,” unlocking their capital in order to direct it towards supporting women and girls. There was a pragmatic recognition of the fact that, while money won’t solve everything, it’s a good start—and within the community of women who care about these issues, there are significant financial resources that remain untapped.

Both events reminded us of the power of a crowd to advocate for a cause, drawing attention to issues that affect us all. The real prize, though, will be in unlocking that power to move from advocacy to impact.