SURJ's Theory of Change

In recent years, the leadership of and action by the Movement for Black Lives, Latinx communities, Indigenous communities, and other movement groups led by people of color have politicized millions of people around race. Many of those who are white have found SURJ as a home from which to act and as a result, we have grown exponentially over the last two years.

We've spent the last several months struggling to get clearer on our role in the movement, our theory of change, and the strategies we're using now and hope to explore as we move forward.

We don't have all the answers, and we know we're not the only ones trying to figure them out. We know that we are going to make mistakes along the way, and we're confident our thinking will shift and grow over time by being in the work. We share our thinking below on our theory of change with a lot of humility and openness to feedback.

SURJ Vision, Mission, Theory of Change, and Core Strategies

Working Document

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) believes in collective liberation -- and that none of us can be free until we end white supremacy.

SURJ’s role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society. That work cannot be done in isolation from or disconnected from the powerful leadership of communities of color. It is one part of a multi-racial, cross-class movement centering people of color leadership.

Therefore, SURJ believes in resourcing organizing led by people of color, and maintaining strong accountability relationships with organizers and communities of color as central part of our theory of change.

SURJ believes that we must ground our organizing in a framework of “mutual interest” -- white supremacy is integral to economic injustice, to maintaining patriarchy and other forms of oppression. Racism and white supremacy keep the many divided for the benefit of the few. We must have an inclusive, open-hearted approach to organizing, calling people into this work rather than creating barriers to participation while maintaining a clear political line. When those of us who are white realize that racial justice is core to our liberation as well, then masses of white people will withdraw support from white supremacy. Together, as part of a powerful multi-racial, cross-class movement for collective liberation we can force the system of white supremacy to crumble.

In order to activate this theory of change, we employ three core strategies:

  • Delegitimize racist institutions

  • Fight for a fair economy that refuses to pit communities against each other

  • Shift culture (meaning the underlying beliefs folks have about people and the world) in a way that undermines support for white supremacy

These strategies are dependent on multi-racial organizing and a specific focus on deepening, amplifying, and centering the leadership and organizing of poor and working-class folks, rural communities, and the U.S. South.

Within this framework, our network is using a number of tactics, including leading and participating in campaigns, base-building, direct action, relationship-building, communications work and more.

SURJ’s role is one of many, and we are excited to be learning alongside and from other movement groups organizing to undermine white supremacy and racism.

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