social movements + innovation lab


Bouncing Back to the Next Iteration

As a brown, immigrant woman, I live in a world where failure is not an option. It took me years to get beyond the ‘fail’ to the second part of the phrase, ‘to learn fast.”

The first time I heard “fail fast to learn fast” I felt a gut-level absolute rejection of the phrase. As a brown, immigrant woman, I live in a world where failure is not an option. It took me years to get beyond the ‘fail’ to the second part of the phrase, ‘to learn fast.’ While ‘failure’ is still charged with fear and shame I know if I take the time to sit with those feelings I can find the space for learning and an invitation to a next iteration. 

The transition of CoreAlign into The New School, and now to this iteration of the Social Movements + Innovation Lab has been a series of moments of chagrin and humility. There was so much important work we did at CoreAlign; there were some big hopes for The New School, and there have been some real struggles and challenges in this last year. 

Through a series of convenings and conversations, we asked more than 1,300 people in the CoreAlign network and The New School community what they could envision at a Center for Social Movements + Innovation. In true CoreAlign fashion, we pulled out the post-its, laid out the concept, and asked you to tell us what inspired and made you anxious.  We found that although curious about an academic center, for most it was not a priority. Many reproductive folks felt leery of an academic host for movement work, and in The New School community, there was interest in social justice work, but not necessarily in social movement work. This was an unnerving and humbling revelation. The idea of a center was a good hypothesis, and when we tested that hypothesis, I found that I was wrong. Cue embarrassment and some shame; feelings that it has taken me some time to work through.

What folks in our network did name as priorities are space, resources, access, and support for innovation, community and learning. So, we went back to the drawing board and refreshed our CoreAlign programs and designed the next iteration – labs to support the generating and testing of innovative ideas and a fellowship that would be more accessible to local networks. Building on our most successful DNA, we will continue to support movement leaders to do innovative, imaginative and disruptive work.  

So, what does this mean? Moving forward, Social Movements + Innovation Lab [link] will offer a series of labs and place-based fellowships that will bring tools, coaching and transformative spaces to you, in your community. We are building a robust website where we will collect and share stories, tools and resources to support your innovative work. And, we will offer strategic consulting and facilitation for movement-level conversations and initiatives at a subsidized rate. 

While remaining a project at The New School, we phased out the executive director position (Judy, we still miss you!) and are building a lean team consisting of a Program Manager, Charlene Darko and a bunch of super smart and enthusiastic graduate student workers like Abi Velasco, Meghana Srinivasan, and Abby Wang. And, we are working with CoreAlign alums, Katrina Anderson and Nik Zaleski to document social movement innovation stories, learnings and tools, both from the past as CoreAlign and moving forward as SM+I. 

In true CoreAlign fashion, we tried, failed, learned and iterated, and hope this next iteration meets your needs and supports you in generating the kinds of innovative ideas and organizational cultures that our movement so desperately needs in this moment.

I hope we have not lost your interest and connection to this work as we’ve reinvented ourselves – it has been a tough journey for all of us. I look forward to the lessons I’ve yet to learn in this next phase and I hope to see you in a lab or fellowship soon.

Check out our Labs and our Call for Applications. We will announce the fellowships in the fall.

Onward on this path of failure, humility and learning, and onto the next iteration.