2015: Year of the Underdog?

We all know it. The planet’s problems are legion and there is no shortage of news about looming crises, conflicts and terror. If you’re looking for the bright side this year, I would argue that it rests with the world’s rising social network movements and their ability to mobilize people and power towards rapid social change.

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Grassroots citizen movements are on the rise in 2015, their power amplified by the synergies that social networks and social media now afford them. The movements to watch this year are addressing social and environmental issues from many different angles. Common to all is their collaborative structure, their power to mass-mobilize and their explosive growth.

Here is a partial mapping of the movements that are gaining critical mass. I would appreciate suggestions of groups or movements I may have missed.

Climate Movements

These will all gain momentum this year as the world prepares for the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris. Leading the charge on the social movement side are groups like 350.org, campaigns waged by established NGOs like Greenpeace, alliances between First Nations groups and ranchers and the Divestment movement, which pressures institutions and organizations to drop investments in carbon-heavy companies.

Examples:

Am I missing some? Let me know in the comments below.

Racial Justice Movements

The tragic events surrounding the deaths of Travyon Martin, Michael Brown and then Eric Gardner in the U.S. have sparked a new civil rights movement that is rapidly gaining ground and drawing support from a number of networks across racial divides.

 Examples:

Articles:

 Am I missing some? Let me know in the comments below.

Economic Justice Movements

What started in 2012 as a localized wage battle for fast food franchise workers in New York City has grown into a nationwide movement in the U.S. with an international ripple effect that now includes parallel protests in 33 countries. The symbolic battle to raise the minimum wage to 15$, currently double the nation’s baseline, is very much a stand on the growing divide between the haves and the have nots and the failure of trickle down economics.

Examples:

Am I missing some? Let me know in the comments below.

Women’s Justice Movements

In the US and Canada, 2014 saw the emergence of a powerful mass discourse on rape and systemic abuse faced by women. Social media unified the storytelling of countless women, many of whom were sharing their stories for the first time.

Elsewhere, in regimes where women have few rights such as Saudi Arabia, some very courageous women stepped out and began a fledgling resistance movement, defying laws about proper dress and restrictions on driving. The state clamped down on this rapidly but the movement they have started is still gaining ground.

Examples:

Am I missing some? Let me know in the comments below.

Native/Indigenous/First Nations Rights Movements

Indigenous groups in several countries have started networking and mobilizing beyond traditional tribal affiliations. Motivated by social justice, land rights and environmental issues, these new movements draw grassroots support, link with affiliated non-native causes and apply pressure to both governments and corporations.

Examples:

Am I missing some? Let me know in the comments below.

Human Rights Movements

Around the world, social media is alerting us to violations of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. Networks of sympathizers can now rapidly mobilize to force diplomatic pressure on repressive regimes. When cases that get enough exposure, regimes do back down.

Examples:

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