On the third episode of Impact Everywhere with host Benjamin Von Wong, we hear from Will Mezner who offers his unique insights not only into the different ways movements can develop and grow but also how artists can best contribute to them. If you’re interested in hearing the full podcast, check out these links:

The power that social movements have for orchestrating change can’t be overstated, and the unique skills that artists bring to them means their help is always welcomed. For today’s discussion, we talk about the intersections between artists and movements with Will Mezner, a youth engagement leader at World Vision, Australia’s largest development NGO. Will kicks things off by giving listeners some insights into the process of how change happens in society and also talks about some of the dominant models for organizing it.

We hear about how social change initiatives can scale from petitions to campaigns and then start to take on a life of their own once they become full-blown movements. Will has a bunch of great information to share about the ratios between supporters and resistors of a cause, how these change as a movement grows, and what happens at the tipping point. Our conversation then turns to the role artists can play in these movements and we talk about art’s unique power as well as consider some logistical questions about how artists can partner with NGOs to combine powers.

Will makes a strong case for the concept of making good art first. By this, he means that art can make the most impact if it is already firmly rooted in a cause, rather than being tacked onto the cause of the NGO as an afterthought. He also speaks about his own experience in working on campaigns that collaborate with artists, and at which points in a movement’s growth an artist’s help can be of most use. In the end, the overarching message is that all parties who involve themselves in a cause for change should realize that they are participating in something communal because it is only in numbers that people can take a true stand!

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Key Points From This Episode:

  • Four strategies for organizing change: ‘cup of tea’, place-based, online, and distributed.
  • A quick study of movements that acquire a life of their own after an initial spark through the research of Saul Alinsky
  • A reflection on a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman that talks about the critical importance of an artist to Make Good Art.
  • The two key ingredients to a successful movement: majority and active support and the research of Julia Chenoweth.
  • The Inner Game and Outer Game of how artists can collaborate with campaigns through a distributed organization strategy.
  • A brief introduction to Bill Moyer’s ‘movement action plan’ and the strategic frameworks that describe the 8 stages of a successful social movement.
Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan

In Conclusion:

Though art can be beneficial at any stage of a movement, Will suggests that trigger events can be one of the most vital times for artists to come in and amplify impact. Trigger events can be anything that suddenly catapults the movement to the forefront of society’s attention. In fact, you could be living in one right now in April 2020. A global pandemic is clearly revealing to the entire world the different issues their communities face. Whether it be healthcare disparities or systemic racism, everyone is being forced to open their eyes and not look away. With more attention than ever on these issues, the question begs to be asked: how will you contribute to change?


“While it’s important to have your own plan for impact as an individual, we’re not going to achieve anything with a million people working on our own.” — @WillMezner [0:02:57]

“If you can have a strong set of beliefs about something and if you have a strong community around you, that is a really good foundation for advocacy.” — @WillMezner [0:12:58]

“Art is critically important to social movements. Art speaks to people in a way that briefing books and policy documents just can’t.” — @WillMezner [0:14:56]

“Good art speaks on its own terms and it also amplifies a policy message.” — @WillMezner [0:18:28]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Industrial Areas Foundation
Erica Chenoweth
Neil Gaiman
In My Blood It Runs
Bill Moyers
Ronan Farrow
Harvey Weinstein
Blueprints for Change
Commons Social Change Library

Coming Up Next:

Next episode, we’ll hear from Laura François, a social impact strategist, designer, and storyteller that has worked with organizations like H&M to find ways to make them more sustainable. You’ll hear about how impact can be both positive and negative, the power of asking “why?”, and how you should really be thinking about environmentalism. We know you all have a preferred platform, so take your pick between Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.