How Movements Create Transformational Change

In 2004, I found myself owning a major news company in Kyiv, Ukraine, during its Orange Revolution. One of the things I remember most distinctly about that time was an over-all sense of serious confusion as events seemed to take on a life of their own. Thousands of people, who would typically be doing many various things, would stop what they were doing and begin doing the same thing altogether, in nearly perfect unison, all at one time.

Instead of a clear order, there appeared to be some mysterious drive that no one could describe, but nobody could deny, that was propelling events along. The knowledge motivated my 15-calendar-year journey to understand how motions create transformational change. This excerpt from my publication, Cascades, comes from Chapter 9, which targets the problem of “surviving triumph.” The first part targets the aftermath of the Orange Revolution, whenever we experienced triumphant still.

Little did we know that the fantastic triumph we thought we had just received would soon descend into chaos. This year 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, the person who we’d taken up to the roads to keep out of power in 2004, increased to the presidency in a hotly contested election. His reign became even worse than we had feared.

The second section of the excerpt shoots ahead to the end of the chapter, and focuses on the Euromaidan protests of 2013 and 2014, essentially Ukraine’s second revolution. I hope this excerpt-and the book-inspires one to create positive change in a world that’s never needed it more. I remember seated in the living room of my Kyiv apartment one night early in 2005, drinking whiskey with my pal and colleague Vitaly Sych. We had developed a great working relationship at work, but what I must say I treasured was to get a few quiet hours to sit and talk to my friend.

Apparently, The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sensed the same manner, because upon getting together with Vitaly in 2004, his next columns centered on him mainly.1 Vitaly has that influence on people. Straightforward and direct, while at the same time thoughtful and insightful, he could be someone that commands attention in his own silent way immediately. On this particular night we were still basking in the glow of the Orange Revolution.

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The old order have been defeated and a new era was dawning. Korrespondent’s sales were soaring and the near future appeared ripe with opportunity. We poured and talked some whiskey and talked some more. Eventually, directly after we had drunk the requisite amount of whiskey to broach the subject in earnest, we got around to the main topic of what the future might hold for Ukraine.

As both an outsider and somebody who had resided in Poland during intense years of reform, Vitaly was thinking about my opinion. I informed him, which I thought EU and NATO ascension would be key to securing Ukraine’s future. It was only through external structures such as these, I thought, that the required reforms could be accomplished. Vitaly acquired other ideas.

He favored a far more “Finnish-style” solution in which Ukraine was neither in the Russian camp nor part of NATO or the EU. He just needed Ukraine to be left to find its own way. As usual, Vitaly captured the disposition in the nationwide country. Ukrainians had just taken up to the streets to stand up to injustice plus they had won. Now, they just wished to be able to live their lives once more. It was to be always a terrible mistake.

What emerged next should have been predictable but, at best as I could recall, nobody saw it plainly coming. What occurred first was a failure of the politics alliance between Viktor Yushchenko, now President of Ukraine and Yulia Timoshenko, the Prime Minister. Former President Yanukovych’s Party of Regions regrouped and obstructed all they could.