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What is


And how will it drive culture change?

Wait – what’s culture change?

Culture is not fixed. We create or reinforce it every day. This means we can also change it when we need to—for the better.

True culture change is about influencing and leveraging content and conversations to permanently change behavior patterns and cultural practices. It is about changing both “conversations” and actions.

DISRUPTIVE ACTION accelerates culture change.

Culture change can be complex, long-term, and non-linear. But we believe that disruptive action is the most effective way to transform cultural practices at scale for maximal impact.

True culture change is

DISRUPTIVE. Identifying and interrupting the cultural beliefs and practices that serve most strongly to maintain a harmful status quo.

ICONIC. Introducing new values, promoting symbols of those values, and mobilizing people to adopt new beliefs and practices that build momentum behind those values.

MEASURABLE. Normalizing those values such that new practices emerge that embody the valuing of all people and our shared humanity. We can assess the degree to which new beliefs, behaviors and structures lead to real outcomes—both the reduction of harm and the opening of new possibilities—for people at scale.


Culture change means normalizing new values. That’s where new actions come from.

Let’s make these values NORMAL.

Defending the humanity of all people equally.

When you see humanity in others, you respect them, empathize with them, believe them, and stand with them and for their rights. Humanity is at the root of a culture of nonviolence. We need to reorient the basic rules of culture around it.

Hungering for disruptive change-making.

When people see themselves as capable, and see the rules of culture as mutable, they take the risks necessary for change. Hunger for change is at the root of a culture of disruption.

Let’s make these norms NOT normal.

Breakthrough’s approach to defending all people’s humanity is to build a culture in which women, men, and all genders and gender expressions are regarded as fully equal, fully human, and equally deserving of human rights.

We believe we can build that culture if we challenge, and ultimately end, these sets of cultural practices.

1. Shaming women’s sexuality and participation in sex culture
2. Proving, aligning with, and regulating masculinity through sex and violence
3. Treating women as objects
4. Delegitimizing the prevalence and effects of gender-based violence (GBV)

Let’s do this.

CHECKLIST: Iconic disruptive action


Create new (role) models for behavior change

Achieve wide exposure and scale of influence

Mark an identifiable social turning point among a wide set of people OR create a strong sense of momentum toward progress

May also…

Create symbols in the larger story of an issue and set of social challenges

Trigger deep emotional connection such that people feel there’s something real at stake

Use “under the radar” or “inside game” strategies

Check out some examples.

Banner Up!

This campaign was a response to banners which pop up every fall on campuses across the country, displaying messages like “dads, drop your daughters off here.” This practice is a concrete example of how college men are taught to prove their masculinity through having as much (heterosexual) sex as possible, even through sexual coercion or rape. This creates a culture where men often pressure each other to have more sex; they keep track of and police each other’s “score”; gay, bisexual, or asexual men are seen and treated as “less than”; and women are treated as objects – literally to score.

After the success of the first Banner Up campaign in sparking greater discussion of consent, masculinity, and the role of Greek organizations in standing up to rape culture on campus and across Indiana, the fraternities at Indiana University – Bloomington put up additional banners with positive messaging supporting survivors of sexual assault for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April 2016. To tell the story of their journey to become agents of change, Breakthrough produced this video highlighting Will and Bill’s action to model for other students nationally.

To date, Will and Bill’s video has had more than 100,000 views on Facebook, and resulted in several fraternity men reaching out to Breakthrough to get ideas for replication of the action on their own campuses.


The Consent Party

566876afbfe2c.imageA student group known as “The Consent Party” from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale reached out to Breakthrough’s Action Hotline asking for help mobilizing students on their campus. The students felt the university was not supporting survivors of sexual assault and actively tried to hide any cases that came forward or shame survivors into remaining silent.

We helped the students identify the key ways in which the university was creating a hostile environment for student survivors to seek help and receive justice. Students pointed to outdated policies, victim-blaming risk reduction trainings, little awareness about reporting options, and a slow and understaffed Title IX Office. These practices made it harder for student survivors to report, more likely these survivors would feel blamed, and easier for student perpetrators to never be held accountable.

Together, we created a list of tangible demands to transform the  university’s harmful practices and culture. In order to amplify student voices and their demands, Breakthrough recommended students deliver them in person during their university’s Board of Trustees meeting in December 2015. The students would march together with signs promoting consent to the board meeting and invite local and student press to cover the event.

The students disrupted the meeting, delivered the demands, and made local and statewide news which reached 195,423 people. The day after the student’s actions, the SIU Board of Trustees promptly vowed to take action and “examine the university’s investigative and support policies surrounding sexual violence.”

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