The Ongoing Practice of Building Movements and Solidarity


What does it mean to build a movement? How is movement building connected to organizing and practicing solidarity with others? And why are these concepts important to make progress on collective work?

In this deep dive conversation, we discuss core aspects of movement-building with Adaku Utah, senior manager at Building Movement Project. In this discussion, we review definitions of movement-building, organizing, and solidarity. We also explore what it means to be doing movement work and why strong relationships are necessary to build strong movements.

Ways to listen: You can listen below or on your preferred podcast streaming service, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Simplecast, iHeartRadio, Amazon, and other podcast apps.

Please find a transcript of this talk further down this page.

Resources and Footnotes

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The Intro music, entitled “Running,” was composed by Rafael Krux, and can be found here and is licensed under CC: By 4.0.

The outro music, entitled “Deliberate Thought,” was composed by Kevin Macleod. Licensed under CC: By.

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast, here to share resources to support social change makers working on cross-sector collaboration.

The Collective Impact Forum is a nonprofit field-building initiative that is co-hos

ed in partnership by the nonprofit consulting firm FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.

In this episode, we’re exploring some question on movement building, including what does it mean to build a movement? How is movement building connected to organizing and practicing solidarity with others? And why are these concepts important to make progress on collective work?

In this deep dive conversation, we’re excited to discuss core aspects of movement building with Adaku Utah, senior manager at Building Movement Project. In this discussion, we review definitions of movement building, organizing, and solidarity. We also explore what it means to be doing movement work and why strong relationships are necessary to build strong movements.

Moderating this discussion is my Collective Impact Forum colleague Cindy Santos, who is Senior Associate at the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Let’s tune in.

Cindy Santos: Adaku, it’s so wonderful to have you with us here today. For years I followed the work of the Building Movement Project and really admired the organization’s work towards building power and solidarity. So this conversation for us is especially timely because we continue to consider how power is shifted and systems are disrupted and they’re transformed, and it’s something that we definitely want to bring to the practitioners who listen to this podcast because it’s such an important conversation for this moment.

I want to just to start with you. Tell us more about you and what was your journey. What brought you to Building Movement Project?

Adaku Utah: Beautiful. Thank you so much again, Cindy, for having me. It’s such an honor to get to connect and build community with folks like you who are shifting our access towards more freedom and justice. Excited about the conversation we’re going to have today.

Join us this spring for the online 2024 Collective Impact Action Summit as backbone leaders, practitioners, funders, partners, and more gather virtually from around the world for our biggest learning event of the year.

A little bit about me, I feel really honored that I come from a lineage of Igbo farmers, organizers and healers who survived genocide through collective safety and healing. My parents, in particular, lived through the Biafran civil war where over one million Igbo people were murdered by the British Empire, including my aunts and uncles and some of their own children. And during that time and in lifetimes before we survived by forming necessary reciprocal relationships with ancestry and with the earth and also obviously with each other.

So for much of my life and for many queer, nonbinary migrants like me our lived experiences echoed just a deep recognition that in order to transform the conditions of violence we need to heal. And for us to heal we also have to transform the conditions that are constantly trying to kill and punish us. There’s this constant dance of interdependence between both personal and systemic transformation.

I got politicized by that and also politicized as a sexual violence survivor who found community at the age of eight years old and found community that reflected back my own worth and dignity and also community that connected me to one of my first organizing campaigns to remove a teacher at our school that was harming us.

Thirty years later I’m still doing the sacred work of organizing and healing at the intersections of racial reproductive and healing justice, really centered around breaking generational cycles of policing, burn out, and disconnection, and working to co-create the internal systemic and generational conditions that reclaim and restore our power and aliveness.

I’m so grateful that my path brought me to Building Movement Project because I really believe that our liberation is bound by each other, and in order for us to make this a reality we need solidarity within and across movements to meet and surpass the tremendous impacts of fascism, of colonialism, and globalization, and part of how we win and create change is building up our skills, our capacities, and our networks. Building Movement Project does just that. We are in such a deep commitment to social justice movements and strengthening their capacity to lead in these times through our research, through resources, and relationships. I love how Building Movement Project helps a lot of organizations across the country shorten the distance between our values and what we embody.

Cindy Santos: Thank you so much for sharing that. I think a lot of times when we talk about our work, we don’t personalize it. We don’t talk about how our personal and lived experiences really bring us to the work and the work is so much. It’s so much more when we embody what we really want to accomplish through the work and who we want to be in the way we show up. You talk about liberation and what you said is that we’re bound by each other and in order to make this a reality that liberation we do need solidarity and just working across movements.

I want to make sure that as we’re moving forward in the conversation that we actually are able to define and have working definitions for both what solidarity is and what movement building is. Could you define those words for us?

Adaku Utah: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for just teasing out those distinctions. I think they’re often conflated with each other. They’re both necessary for each other to thrive and there’s some clear distinctions. We see solidarity as transformative strategies and practices that nurture interdependent relationships that can build collective power.

At the core movements need solidarity in order to thrive and also to be an integrity with communities that they’re working with. Sometimes solidarity and movement building can be confined just to mass mobilizations in times of crisis, but what my organizing work over the last couple of years across multiple movements has taught me time and time again is that solidarity is rooted in meaningful relationships that last through time and move collectively towards a shared purpose.

At Building Movement Project we invite people and organizations to think about solidarity but not only think about solidarity but also embody solidarity through a set of transformative practices, and they’re five of them that we hone in on. There’s centering. There is connections and commonalities. There is co-liberation, co-conspiration, and capacity.

In all of these, C—we love C words, each of these we’re practicing centering the voices, needs, and demands of folks who are directly impacted by systems of oppression, violence. We are practicing connecting the common roots of systemic injustice across movements while also acknowledging that we all hold distinct and similar histories and experiences dealing with oppression. And we’re doing that without flattening or invisibilizing our stories. There are ways in which in the journey to find connection we can hide ourselves or hide the distinctness of our communities and movements. And we want to make spaciousness for both what is common amongst us but also what is distinct with us.

Then we also practice being really clear in articulating our visions for co-liberation, including mutual freedom and redistribution of power that recognizes that we cannot all be free or whole if any community is being oppressed.

A big one that we’re seeing right now is building capacity, like recognizing that this work is long term and in order for us to be able to make good at our promises around liberation and justice, in order for us to live into the revolution that we want right now and into the future that we have to be sustainable, we have to be strategic so that our movements and also the bodies that are connected in our movements can exist long term.

Cindy Santos: I really appreciate those distinctions, and it actually brings me back because you also talked about organizing, right? So you talked about being an organizer, movement builder, and also it would be great to have that distinction. How did you—what does organizing look like, and what’s the relationship between organizing and building that movement?

Adaku Utah: Yeah, such a great question. You know, organizing for me again comes down to the relationships that we’re building that is fundamentally transforming our conditions. It’s not just meeting urgent needs through direct service, for instance, providing contraceptives or providing food or making sure that folks are getting out of jail.

All of those things are really important and they only hone in on just specific acts of care that our communities need, and ultimately through organizing what we’re trying to do is transform the conditions that create the violence, create the inequities in the first place so we are trying to shift the ways in which voter suppression is happening. We are trying to reduce the amounts of bans that are happening across abortion and trans care. We are trying to abolish prison, so I like to think of organizing as change that happens at scale, not just change that happens at the nucleus of individuals but really thinking about how do we need to shift institutions, how do we need to shift power, and also redistribute power back into the hands of people so that we—more of us are living our lives collectively on our own terms.

Cindy Santos: That really tracks I think to the work that we are trying to do through collective impact because we also really want to center both those with the lived expertise, that those who are experiencing these systemic injustices, all the while really, to your point, like really shifting those conditions, right? Because we have to be transformative. We need to transform these systems in order to achieve equity and justice, and when you talk about solidarity, you talk about how we have to come together for our collective liberation, and I’m wondering as we talk about collective liberation, what does that really mean to you? Let’s define that for the folks who are listening.

Adaku Utah: That’s great. I love how accessible you’re making this podcast. You’re like, OK, well, we’re saying this thing, what do we mean, and I think that that to me is part of a significant piece of co-liberation or collective liberation is that we are expanding the collective we, you know, not isolating the we to people who have historically—and who have been socialized to have power, that we are expanding the circle to include community, particularly folks who are impacted by systems of violence and systems of destruction, and inviting community rather than having like here’s a copy and paste definition of the liberation that we have or here’s liberation just defined by people who are in power. We are inviting collective learning, collective offering, and building up a shared analysis and practice around what does liberation look like for us.

So I’m from Nigeria and if I brought a group of people together who, say, were working around immigration justice and I asked them what does collective liberation look like to you, that’s going to look very different than the group of people that I organize with in Brooklyn. There might be some similarities but there are also going to be some distinctions that are distinct because of geographical location, because of the issue area that we’re focusing on, that are different based off of how people are working together and what strategies and tactics they’re using, whether it’s organizing or advocacy or culture work, and so to me collective liberation is less of a specific definition but it’s a practice that is inviting the reality of who are people are and what our people need to survive and to thrive in these times.

Cindy Santos: It reminds me a lot, of course, what you just said about the work, right? Because we know that folks who are working on collective impact initiatives and really centering equity and working to transform systems are also working within their specific context, right? Like we’re thinking about places in Texas. We’re thinking, to your point, you might be working in Brooklyn, you might be working in a rural community, and so although we are trying to shift these broader systems, we are working in places that are very context specific. And within that, within being context specific, there are going to be times as we’re centering equity, as we’re doing this collective impact work, as we’re moving towards collective liberation, that as we come to this common agenda, as we think collectively about what we need within our communities, what those who are experiencing like you were saying, you know, the violence and the oppression, we understand that in those times, what you were saying about, you know, we have to share power, we have to really move towards those collective, those community-led solutions. We have to be in solidarity that’s transformative. Going back to what we started talking about solidarity, we talk about solidarity, solidarity is the defined as like a verb, it’s a practice, it’s a strategy, and that resonated with us so much.

So thinking about that solidarity, could you explain what is transformative, right? And how might, as we think about specific context, what might transformative solidarity mean community to community?

Adaku Utah: Yeah, it’s such a great question. So what makes solidarity move from just be in solidarity for something that’s more transformative is a couple of things that I like to center, and just hold really strongly in our work. One, it’s not a one-time action. This kind of solidarity requires ongoing commitment to our collective freedom and liberation. It acknowledges that achieving any kind of lasting change takes time, and a real courageous dedication to challenging power imbalances and also amplify community-led initiatives and solutions. It also requires a depth of accountability, being in continuous self-reflection and a willingness to learn and grow around how has power shaped how we listen, how we work together? What are the ways in which we have adapted lessons, strategies, tools of White supremacy, ableism, capitalism that informs our collective impact or organizing work, and also acknowledging that sometimes our well-intentioned actions can sometimes have unintended consequences that need repair.

You know, it’s being part of the work of being in long-term relationships is recognizing that conflicts will happen, and we have to be willing to turn and face toward those conflicts and also move towards repair that is accountable. Transformative solidarity to me is also more of a holistic and systemic approach that moves beyond just tokenized acts of support that hopefully has lasting impact on the lives of people who are marginalized.

Sometimes I could see the performance of solidarity like, oh, we’ve made this statement, and statements are really important. I don’t want to say that all statements are performative, and statements alone will not create solidarity amongst us. We have to move from these one-time actions to build the collective structures, the continued commitment that we need to get free.

I think of labor unions and climate justice activists that have increasingly joined forces to address the dual crisis of economic inequity and climate change, and how they’re working together to create green jobs, to have just transitions for works and policies that prioritize economic freedom, environmental sustainability. I think of LGBTQ organizations that have shown solidarity with immigrant communities facing discrimination and threats of deportation, and how these distinct and yet very similar movement groups have created unity across their coalitions and organizations to oppose policies that disproportionately affect LGBTQ, migrants, such as the detention of trans asylum seekers, and by working together they’re able to advocate and organize for abolishing ICE and making sure that immigrants across the country and really across the world are treated humanely and with dignity. So, yeah, very similar, we’re expanding the scale. We’re expanding the timeframe. We’re also expanding the focus when we’re looking at transformative solidarity to make sure that we are looking at lasting change that is accountable and also leaves lasting change in the lives of our people.

Cindy Santos: As you were talking you mentioned long-term commitment, and we know that within collective impact initiatives, it really does require us to be in the work in a way that’s sustained over the long term, and there are times, you know, as we’re coming to a common agenda, as we’re really trying to transform systems, achieve population-level change, that going back to being context specific, that context might be shifting ideologies. It might be shifting culture. It might be shifting relationships, and sometimes to what you were saying about being accountable, it also requires us being accountable to each other, and as we’re doing this work, what we want to do, we strive to do, what is necessary, is to bring the right voices to the table, to really think exhaustively about who should be at this table, how should we be learning, how should we be shifting power but there are times I think, you know, where just because we have this shared table doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the right conditions for collaboration, right?

I’m thinking about a table potentially where there isn’t shared power, where there’s harm being done, where we’re not really speaking truth, so inequity. So I’m thinking about as the folks who are listening here that are at these tables that might be a backbone organization that’s playing this facilitative role, what does it look like to have those right conditions for collaboration, and as we’re thinking, what are some ways to really create those conditions that we can move collaboratively towards our collective learning, towards our collective freedom?

Adaku Utah: Yeah, you are hitting at the heart of what I think a lot of folks who are doing this work are wrestling with right now. You know, just because you have quote-unquote the right folks all around the table doesn’t necessarily mean that the right conditions are present for folks to be able to work well together towards their shared purpose.

I feel like the question that you’re asking is one that needs to be more engaged by folks who are doing this work. What does it mean? What are the conditions that we collectively need to build trust, build commitment, and build capacity for the long term, and I think what I’ve noticed and what Building Movement Project has noticed is that we often can just move so quickly to doing the work. You know, obviously there’s a lot of urgency to respond to and I have a lot of compassion for that. There’s a lot that needs changing in our world from war to genocide to just deep massive displacement, and if we shortchange figuring out just the infrastructure and the trust and the relational building that needs to happen in order for groups to do this work well, what will end up happening is we’ll have these kind of short bursts where we’ll be able to do work for a certain amount of time that won’t last or if it lasts it’s often fraught with a lot of conflict, and then people start leaving, and then the people who end up staying are folks who generally have more power and more access which defeats the point of why we’re trying to come together collectively in the first place.

So, yeah, I would say it feels important to really start with the question that you’re asking or at least have that be a part of building the foundation, building the foundation and the infrastructure that brings and keeps people together, and then not just doing that at the beginning but building continuous feedback loops. I would say one of the conditions that I’ve seen in groups that have survived through multiple types of change is having psychological safety where people get to be really honest about what’s happening in the group. Are we in alignment with our values? Is there really shared power or is it performative? Has there been harm caused and can I talk about that harm and actually be met with care and consideration, and folks are willing to transform that together.

So building in this continuous practice of being honest and rigorous around how are we making good on our commitments to each other, and where are we falling short? Where are we falling short and what kind of repair might need to happen to keep building trust? The other thing that feels really important, and I mentioned a little bit of this earlier, is building up our capacity to be with conflict in a generative way.

Oftentimes we wait too long to build up our skills around conflicts until a crisis happens or until a conflict spills over and it becomes untenable, and sometimes that might be too late. At that point it might be too late, and sometimes it’s not. It’s like, OK, this is what we need in this particular moment and this is what we have, and I think that there’s an opportunity for folks to be more proactive, to think about, you know, we are human and we’re in relationships and so conflicts will be inevitable so how can we start planning right now to think about how do we make decisions, how do we understand our conflict styles, how do we understand what each other might need in the face of conflict so that when conflict happens, it doesn’t dispose of people, it doesn’t rattle us so much that we get separated from each other and we’re not able to do the work so that conflict is handled with care and generosity.

The last thing I’ll mention and there’s so many things I could say but one of the things that often happens, and I think this comes from sometimes a deep care of folks wanting to do so much, and sometimes it comes from saviorism, is that we often try to occupy too many roles. We’re trying to do way too many things and I think we need to be really clear and listen to the collective capacity of what is possible, what is our unique role to play in this moment, and then who else might we partner with to fill some of the gaps that we’re trying to fill.

For instance, the National Network of Abortion Funds where I was the organizing director for, we were movement builders. We were organizers. We were frontline responders, and we also needed to work with folks who were healers and storytellers, and so some of us in our network had some of those skills and played some of those roles but we also needed to expand our partnerships so that we weren’t necessarily filling all these different roles with less capacity. For a lot of us in our organization there are often few people doing a lot of work with not as much resources, so we have to be really clear, really intentional about in this moment in time with this group of people, this is what we have the capacity to do. This is what we can hold responsibly and that might change. That might change a year from now. That might change three years from now, and if we overextend, if we over function, we will fry and burn out our people, and we also—I think it’s also one of the things that diminishes trust and energy in the group, and our work is long term, and it needs all of us to be in it, so we need to be really mindful and create conditions that actually really honors people’s capacity.

Cindy Santos: What I hear you saying is that when we’re working collaboratively, we have to recognize our humanity, right, as we come to the table, and we have to recognize the pressures that we might be feeling, right? I might be feeling pressure around do I belong at this table, where do I belong contextually within my community, within the world, and my identity.

We might begin to struggle with our identities within our community and when we’re thinking about things like really challenging our privilege, challenging White supremacy that we have to sit with that discomfort. I think sometimes—and even being a person of color really that has to think about how have I perpetuated and how have I been racialized, and I mention that because I think that we all are experiencing at times this internal conflict, and we bring that into everywhere. the spaces that we’re in and so thinking about I might be feeling this internal conflict, it might be impacting the way that I show up in my work, but it isn’t just always external, right? We’re reacting to these external factors that in places where we can no longer even say equity for instance, right?

It seems that sometimes we’re just operating in this space where there’s this chaos and there’s contradiction, and I’m wondering what does it actually mean to be doing this work and to be in solidarity with each other and really working towards this collective liberation that takes all of us to really be in relationship with each other when there is this chaos and contradiction.

Adaku Utah: Yeah, I mean it’s again starting with that it exists, that chaos and contradiction exist, and I notice often that in times of chaos and contradiction, binaries can expand. Parts of us whether it’s us internally or in our communities and collectives might harden around certainty so what’s right, what’s wrong. Who is right, who is wrong, and sometimes our bodies seek shelter from pain and suffering and grief and use certainty and binaries as a shield, and sometimes that can be weaponized amongst us to keep each other safe so it feels important just to recognize, you know, in the face of chaos and contradiction, what are our tendencies? Where do we shrink away from each other? Where do we shrink away from ourselves? Where do we start to create unnecessary binaries that actually are a lot more complex?

We are all complex people that exist beyond binaries and, you know, binaries just often set us up for failure and it sets us up for just huge amounts of punishment and disconnection from each other, and when I find that that’s present in a group, it’s a really good moment just to pause to assess what are the assumptions that we’re choosing to make about each other, what are the binaries that we’re clinging onto, and then what’s underneath it.

Usually—I’m a somatics coach and practitioner as well and one of the things that we talk a lot about in somatics is a lot of our trauma responses, a lot of our conditioned tendencies are trying to take care of our safety, belonging, connection, and dignity so I often look at, oh, where are people feeling a break in that? Where are people feeling a distance from their safety, their belonging and connection, and what might we need to do that helps to restore that. Some of that work you have to do on your own. You’ve got to get your own therapist, whether it’s a healer or somebody that you’re working with that can restore that for you, and then sometimes as a group collectively there are things that we have to do to restore safety, to restore connection, and restore belonging, especially in moments of chaos and contradiction because our brains on a physiological level can get so organized around survival, and when our brains and our bodies get into that place, it can be really hard to see other ways of being and other possibilities of working together beyond binary thinking. It doesn’t mean that it’s not possible, it just means that it just takes a little bit more effort, and it takes some pause because again, a tendency that can arise in chaos and contradiction is to move very fast, it’s to meet the pace of urgency, and sometimes the pace of urgency is not the pace that we need to be strategic.

Actually being strategic and moving collectively together and building trust together might require us to move at a different pace so we have to assess what that is together that allows for us again to create those conditions where solidarity can actually happen.

Cindy Santos: Yeah, I keep going back to just everything you’re mentioning about trust and relationship building, and I appreciate what you said about it really having to happen in order for group to do this work and again, you know, knowing that collective impact work really is long term and when we start doing these short bursts of work, what you were saying is that it won’t last, and I appreciate what you’re saying is that those who end up staying are those who have more power and more access.

I know it’s something—we talk about power sharing as something that’s really important as we think about the collective impact table because there are going to be those that have positional power at the table, and power is going to look differently at each table, and I think sometimes when we’re thinking about these tables where there is positional power, it might be a collective impact table, I wonder if we create, to your point, binaries, what’s right, what’s wrong, who should be at the table, who shouldn’t be at the table, I’m wondering sometimes we create this distinction between we have a collective impact table, there are those folks who are base building, organizing, movement building, should they be at this table, all of those considerations, and I’m wondering from your perspective when we think about what might be a perceived divide between movement building, organizing, and collective impact, why do you think that divide might exist, and how might we really come together and apply those principles of transformative solidarity in these contexts where we might have these perceptions about the distinction between our collective impact table and the organizing, movement-building work that happens?

Adaku Utah: Yeah, such a good question. I also want to honor that distinctions are important. Not all tables are—require everybody to be on it, and I think we have to be in critical conversations around, you know, depending on what the work is, depending on where the work is located, and also what our shared purpose is, who needs to be here right now. Those are important considerations and questions to keep asking ourselves while we’re interrogating where binaries might exist.

I want to say that and affirm that, and I think that there’s a number of different reasons or places to look towards around division so when we talk about conflict or division within Building Movement Project, we often look at it at three different locations. So where is there incompatibility, where is there disagreement, and where is the ambiguity, and oftentimes the division is located in one of those core areas, and we look at these three areas around a number of particular expressions in an organization or a coalition or a body of people that are working together so we look at incompatibility, disagreement, and ambiguity around values. Sometimes there might be a value difference.

I’ve seen where there’s been a difference around reform and abolition. You know, if you have these two distinct values across organizations and institutions, it will create division. We also look at pace. Some people want to go a lot faster, and some people want to move slower, and trying to find the rhythm that supports collective work in different bodies can sometimes create division. We also look at strategy and tactics. Sometimes folks who are doing collective impact work might focus more on policy, and sometimes folks who are doing movement building want to do more organizing, and if there isn’t a synergy across those strategies, then more divisions can happen.

Other things we look at are, you know, different kinds of leadership styles. Different organizations might come with more nonhierarchical models, more hierarchical models, different kinds of decision-making authority. Who is making decisions? Are people clear about how decisions are being made, and how we’re being transparent about decisions, and I think certain kinds of structures, whether they’re hierarchal or nonhierarchal, have different expectations around how decisions are made, and with any of these groups, we’re making decisions all the time, and these are often points of either connection or conflict or division because if people aren’t clear about how decisions are being made or who’s making those decisions, sometimes we can defer to whoever has power and that can create all kinds of conditions, you know, whether the people in power are actually listening or connected to community or not. Other things that we are also looking at around incompatibility, disagreement, and ambiguity is around resource allocation.

Around the table, who has access to resources that folks are getting, who doesn’t, and this could be around money. This could be around time. This could be around how many people do we have on staff to do the work, and the imbalance that can happen across organizations that are either doing collective impact or movement-building work be really stark sometimes, and sometimes there might be expectations for the same level of work across different organizations when organizations don’t have the same kinds of resources. I think it’s something that we need to look at, or the same amount of skills and competence so again, these divisions really need to be explored by the group, and I would say in the work that we’ve been doing at Building Movement Project, some of the core themes that we’ve been seeing across the country are these areas of division around incompatibility, disagreement, and ambiguity that exist around people’s values, their pace, their tactics, their styles, their decision making, their skills and competence, and then how resources are divided.

Cindy Santos: So I really wish that we could continue. There’s so much more to cover and I hope that this is really the first of many conversations that we can have. There’s so much to dig into here, you know. I appreciate when you talk about organizing really coming down to the relationships that we are building and transforming—like radically transforming the conditions so that we not only need urgency, but we also think about ensuring that the work that we’re doing is lasting and it’s lasting at scale, and that’s something I think that’s so important.

I do appreciate what you’re saying about also having to think about things like our values, having to think about how our work really aligns. We talk so much in collective impact about that power sharing so it’s kind of like that thread that you’ve brought us between how might we work collectively towards transformational liberation, what does it require of us, what are those conditions and how might we really work through in a way that recognizes our humanity through what we might perceive as conflict or what we might be experiencing as conflict, right? And there’s so much, right? I feel like my brain—there’s so much.

Adaku Utah: Yeah.

Cindy Santos: But I’m wondering as we’re beginning to close out if there’s anything for you that’s been sparked by this conversation that you would like our listeners to know or to take away.

Adaku Utah: That’s such a great question. I mean, so much. There’s so much. Something that keeps coming up for me is transformation is possible and we are proof, and we are not static people, and we have to be in just a constant practice of reflection and learning, and having the courage to change so that the collective work that we’re doing is not inhibited by our own individual biases, our own individual contradictions, and sometimes our own individual greed.

Like what’s the work each of you, each of us are doing to change so that our collective conditions can change, and they both need each other, you know? It’s like our systemic conditions cannot change without individuals changing and individuals need to change and have the capacity to change through the transformation that happens on a systemic level. So I want to keep pairing those two together like they’re not mutually exclusive. They are very important and they need each other, and there’s just always so much to learn and to grow from that we can keep accessing not just within this particular lifetime but a lot of us come from many, many different lineages of people who have figured out some of this stuff, and I think sometimes our organizations can be recreating the wheel that’s already been generated through, say, the Black Panther party who learned about how to create ecosystems of care outside of the state, you know, the young lords, you know. There’s so many different historical traditions that have just figured some of this—some of these questions out, and then there’s more. We operate at the level of abundance knowing that there is a lot of abundance and resource that exists amongst us that we can share.

Cindy Santos: So the last question I’ll ask you and it really resonates what you just said, what you just said about we don’t have to recreate the wheel. There is so much learning that we can do, and so I’m wondering, one, how can folks follow your work, and as you think about this abundance, are there any resources that you think our listeners should be looking for, learning from?

Adaku Utah: Absolutely, so I work with the Building Movement Project, and we have so many different resources. I mean that’s our—the crux of our work is creating research, resources, and relationships to fortify and amplify social justice movements so if you go to and if you check us out on Instagram as well as Building Movement Project, you can find so many different tools and trainings and ideas around leadership, around organizational change, around movement building, and you can also find resources on my own website as well at I have a bunch of tools and resources that I have used and garnered across many different movements that I’ve been a part of over the last two decades, and, yeah, always feel free to reach out. We love nerding out with folks about this work, and we’re constantly creating new tools and resources so if you are interested in partnering together, we would love to connect and talk more and see where there might be opportunities for partnership.

Cindy Santos: Well, thank you so much for being in this incredibly rich dialogue with us, and we look forward to continuing this conversation at the Collective impact Action Summit in 2024, and we know that equally it will be a really rich dialogue, and so grateful that you’ve been with us today, and can’t wait for us to continue to talk. Thank you.

Adaku Utah: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me in again and for being such a tremendous listener and asking such critical questions for our time. Grateful for you and your work too.

(Outro) And this closes out this episode of the Collective Impact Forum podcast. If you are interested in learning more about what was discussed, you can find links to resources in the footnotes for this episode. And if you’re enjoying all that we share at the Collective Impact Forum podcast, we encourage you to rate us on your preferred podcast platform, and share your favorite episodes with colleagues.

We would like to acknowledge that this episode was produced and edited on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot tribes. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the past, present, and futures of these tribes.

The Intro music for this episode was composed by Rafael Krux and our outro music is composed by Kevin Macleod.

In Forum news, we’re excited to share that registration is now open for the 2024 Collective Impact Action Summit, that will be held online this April 30-May 2, 2024. It’s our biggest learning event of the year, featuring over 25 virtual sessions, and sharing out best practices from collaboratives from across the U.S. and globally. And we’re excited to announce that our closing keynote will be with political leader and changemaker Stacey Abrams that will discuss the power of movement building.  Please visit our events section at if you would like to join the 2024 Collective Impact Action Summit.

This is Tracy Timmons-Gray, Associate Director here at the Collective Impact Forum, and your podcast producer. I want to say thank you so much for listening, and we look forward to connecting with you more in our next episode. Until next time, let’s keep working towards collective impact.


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