Collective action

The COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP COMPASS distinguishes three roads to ENGAGEMENT. These are Process quality, Connectivity and Collective action. This post will explore Collective action.

“There is a power that can be created out of pent-up indignation, courage, and the inspiration of a common cause, and that if enough people put their minds and bodies into that cause, they can win. It is a phenomenon recorded again and against in the history of popular movements against injustice all over the world.”  ― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times


Collective action is a coordinated – or self-organized – collaboration between different actors which leads to tangible results within a common objective.

The experience of a visible outcome from the joint effort invigorates people who collaborate – even more so, when they are able to see how an outcome positively contributes to others. Human beings feel nourished when they know that, together, they are making a difference. Truly sustainable development only happenS when both strategic decisiveness and collective action on the ground come together.

The key question is: what will be different after we have met or implemented x,y,z? At the same time, when sustaining collaboration in sustainability initiatives, visible impact require a lot of patience and persistence.

Yet, without visible impact and tangible results, we get tired and distracted. We need to see reality changing in order to strengthen our commitment. Therefore, we must pay special attention to joint results, even if they are small, and celebrate our successes. In addition, using the methodology of prototyping, we can cut through the complexity of our goal by focusing on how to create one real example of the impact we envisage in future.

Collective action is therefore also a technique. The keys to achieving tangible results are (1) true co-design of initiatives and joint planning, (2) focus on the first easily achievable successes, (3) creating ‘prototypes’ – examples of future broader results, as well as (4) joint evaluation of results and celebration of successes.

Collaborative networks often turn into personal networks which last.

Although our current society often upholds the spirit of competition, people are touched when they experience how much, together, we are engaged in the evolutionary process. Helping each other move forward may at times be a calculated choice, but still it contributes to a deeper emotional satisfaction. Once people start supporting, support grows and collective impact is possible. Engagement occurs the moment when people realize that we are not in just another consultative talk shop, we are working together, we are making a difference together – through collective action.


Here are a few questions that help guide us toward collective action:

  1. Can I remember a situation I was involved in and where collective action worked – what was present?
  2. If we asked our team what their most successful collaboration habit is, what could it be?
  3. What are the small prototypes we need to implement that would help our stakeholders see quick results?

This blog post looks at the dimension of ENGAGEMENT and zooms into COLLECTIVE ACTION in the Collective Leadership Compass. For more information on the Art of Leading Collectively, checkout the inside the book and  reviews on, or get inspired by an onsite course that takes the compass into the daily challenges of navigating complex change.

Categories: Engaging stakeholders authentically.

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