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UN touts ‘Mothers Out Front’: Mobilizing for a ‘Liveable Climate’ – Trained to be activists at the Harvard Kennedy School

Mothers advocating for a livable climate for their children carry a significant moral authority, especially when they come together from all walks of life and backgrounds. Mothers Out Front is a movement of over 24,000 mothers in the United States, working to protect their children and communities from the impacts of climate change.

The Mothers Out Front movement started in 2013 when co-founders Kelsey Wirth and Vanessa Rule met in a living room in Boston. Since then, Mothers Out Front has grown into a nation-wide movement, including close to 2,000 active volunteer leaders, 42 community-based teams and 34 staff members. Their operating budget is USD 4.3 million, with two-thirds of revenue coming from small, individual donors.

The advocacy group is grounded in an organizing model that is decentralized and scalable, which means it is designed for rapid growth as mothers continue to join the movement from across the country. Mothers Out Front groups are currently campaigning for national-level reforms and local initiatives, such as advocating for renewable energy and upgrading to electric school buses.

Key Facts

  • The Mothers Out Front model focuses on providing training and coaching to help volunteer members raise their voices and develop leadership and advocacy skills, as well as giving them the tools to navigate complex legislative systems.
  • Mothers Out Front’s base of supporters includes 29,000 people, including nearly 2,000 active volunteer leaders (those who dedicate several hours a week or more to its work) across 42 community-based teams organizing in nine states.
  • While Mothers Out Front does not exclude men, it is an overwhelmingly female organization, with mothers’ voices at the core of its leadership and membership.
Mothers Out Front

The Problem

The movement’s co-founders believe in the power of engaging a large, diverse and well-organized constituency to advocate for bold government and societal action to transition to a low-carbon economy. Mothers Out Front found that mothers of all backgrounds resonated with their key messages – namely around their fierce determination to ensure their children’s health and safety, which has empowered many mothers to overcome their fear and sometimes near-paralysis in the face of climate change.

Noticing the lack of concrete and significant ways for mothers to respond to climate change, Mothers Out Front aims to provide a pathway for mothers to turn their anxiety into action.

The Solution

Mothers Out Front combines the fierce determination of mothers fighting for their children’s future with the discipline of a proven organizing framework developed over decades of social movement-building, taught at the Harvard Kennedy School by veteran organizer Marshall Ganz. Mothers Out Front empowers mothers of all backgrounds to step into leadership roles by providing the structure, training and tools they need to come together in community-based teams, build power and win campaigns.

Many mothers who are involved have never before been politically or civically engaged, and through their involvement in Mothers Out Front are for the first time discovering their voices and power.