Igniting Change: A Roadmap to Creating a Movement

Josh Babcock, June 27th, 2023 | Leadership, Vision

At Pensacola Christian College, there are various rules that students must follow, ranging from skirt length to dorm life. I was attending my sister-in-law's graduation with the whole family, about 10 of us. As we sit in this massive auditorium, we have a plan to go wild when her name is called. Initially, my wife intended to yell, “Dam straight, hell ya, mother trucker.”  However, just before the College President begins announcing the names, he says the dreaded words, “Hold your applause and cheering until the end.” As he proceeds to call the first name, there's silence. Second name, silence. Third name, silence. My in-laws' last name is Farley, so she is around spot 50. We start discussing whether we should still cheer and go wild. Confidence wavers within our group, some suggesting we shouldn't, but we even made signs! We are three spots away and still silent...we know we have to cheer. Finally, when the president says her name, we stand up, hold up our signs, and yell “Woooooo yeah, Naiomi!” Nothing crazy, but trust me, you could feel the tension cut in the massive auditorium. Everyone shares the same thought: “This is a big accomplishment; I want to cheer for my friend, son, or granddaughter.” As the next person's name is called, they cheer too. Gradually, the cheering grows louder and more creative. And guess what? Nothing happens! People are smiling and enjoying what is going on. I even saw the president give a smirk. I'm sure the graduates appreciated hearing their loved ones support them. 1

We started a movement here. It was simple, but we can learn valuable lessons from its foundational principles. Let’s break it down into a few easy steps. 2

3 Steps to Starting a Movement:

  1. Clarify Your Purpose
  2. Highway to the Danger Zone
  3. Cultivate Your First Followers

Clarify Your Purpose

If you don’t clearly know why you are starting something, the following steps won’t work. How will you spread the news to get more followers? What is your overarching goal? For us, we wanted our college graduates to feel encouraged and supported and for them to know we are proud of them for their achievement while getting their diplomas. Yes, we could have done this after the ceremony, but crossing the stage is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Danger Zone
Who doesn't love an 80's classic movie

Highway to the Danger Zone

Who doesn’t love the movie “Top Gun” with its classic theme song, “Danger Zone”? Being a leader and starting a movement requires a great deal of courage. It takes stepping out of the comfort zone and leaping into the…DANGER ZONE. Understanding your purpose will propel you to take action. For our family, this meant defying the school president’s directive and wholeheartedly cheering for our family member, as it was way more important.

Cultivate Your First Followers

A movement cannot exist without followers; it’s a single act. Followers provide the validation, support, and momentum your movement needs. So make sure they understand their purpose, and encourage them to take on the danger zone too. In our case, the movement gained momentum when a few more families cheered for their graduates. We gave them a little laugh and would sometimes applaud, further fueling the spirit of unity.

How do you know you made it?

Success can be measured by various factors and indicators. The way I like to think of it is. You have passed the threshold of the movement, if it’s now weird if a person in the community you are trying to reach DOES NOT know about or participate in the movement. Then you made it. After about 10 families started to cheer for their graduates, it now becomes weird to hear silence when someone’s name is called. I almost wanted to just cheer for them because it felt like, “Awww, no one is here for them.”

If you see someone doing something remarkable, join in!

We can’t always be the person with the ideas because it’s not a movement without followers. So if you come across someone doing something cool or helping fill a need, step in, ask what their purpose is, and help them make their dream a reality. This is a formal thank you to all the families who cheered after us. If you didn’t, then we would have just been known as the loud family breaking the rule, rather than the family who started the cheering movement.