The Occupy movement is about to turn four months old, and already is planning a host of events for 2012. (See Occupy Together and InterOccupy for news on the larger movement, and Occupy Wall Street for NYC-related developments.) Occupy Together lists 1508 Occupy sites globally. Some of those are physical occupations with tents and the like, while many have been evicted and exist for the moment as meetups and planning groups that focus on events and periodic gatherings. Occupy Wall Street's Facebook page has over 360,000 followers and continues to grow daily. Just this week, Occupy Nigeria (new Facebook here) has been in the news.
In the United States, the movement is entering its second phase in most places, beyond the intense initial fervor and international publicity about campsites, and under the challenges of winter weather in some parts of the country. There is hope among many activists for a robust springtime of events, which will roll into a heady summer and crescendo in 2012 with the fall elections.
As readers may know, I have been involved with Occupy Wall Street from early on, and with Occupy Faith NYC (Facebook here, website here), an interdenominational/interfaith/interreligious group that supports Occupy. A meeting of some Occupy faith/religious/spiritual leaders from around the USA took place in NYC recently, and there may be another coming up in March on the West Coast. In short, though Occupy may have faded from front page news coverage, the movement continues, though it clearly faces challenges.
Here are the top five challenges I see for Occupy in 2012, in no particular order:
 Make Occupy as interreligious and as intersecular as possible. We need to work to get all religious/spiritual/faith communities who would be sympathetic to Occupy and its nonviolent message and tactics, in a broad-based service of more equitable sharing of social resources, connected to the movement. It has to be made relatively easy for these communities to participate in Occupy and also to make the concept their own, to feel free to give it their own religious-, spiritual-, faith-inflected meaning. Occupy is a relatively open-source phenomenon. We also need to work to get all secular, agnostic, atheistic people who may be affiliated with their secular communities as their center of gravity, and who will naturally have many different understandings of what their secularity means -- all of these persons who would be sympathetic to Occupy and its nonviolent message and tactics, in a broad-based service of more equitable sharing of social resources, need to be welcomed. Just as much as religiously-identified people and communities need to be encouraged to make Occupy their own, so too those who come from secular organizations and communities or none at all.
(There will of course be people who identify as religious/spiritual/secular and more, or who find themselves somewhere between these categories. These are not rigid categories, but only provisional forms for thinking about how to welcome and grow the movement and the concept.)
 Make Occupy as interracial and interethnic and inter-sex/gender as possible. It is often the case that startup political organizations in the USA are disproportionately influenced, especially early on, by those who are privileged enough to have inherited, and to feel, a stake and an agency in the political culture -- and in the USA, that would be those who are disproportionately visible as white, middle-class, male and heterosexual. Lots of Occupations have lots of guys who look like this (who, frankly, look like me), although different Occupations have had more or less success representing the diversities of the 99%. The more that Occupy looks like the 99%, and even makes a preferential option for those who are lowest in the 99%, the greater the chance it will tell the truth and the greater the likelihood of its larger credibility in our society. The dynamic of Occupy's success is bound up with the deeper story of privilege and gender, race, and class in this country.
 Continue to focus on and deepen local events at local Occupations, serving people in our particular regions who have varying kinds of need (material, psychological, spiritual, which though distinct are not separate) and working for change that is both highly specific to localities and also connected to larger social-political forces. Occupy has to be able to show again and again that we cannot only manage public spectacles that draw attention to the issues -- an important approach in a highly mediatized culture -- but that (in the words of Rev. Michael Ellick) "we clean toilets, too." We help secure housing, we care enough about the people around us to give them the care they really need.
 Evolve a governance structure at the local, national, and international levels to become more effective. Many local Occupations are struggling with forms of governance that will be both democratic and effective. This is an old challenge. But I believe Occupy will also need to organize itself into a larger interlocking structure nationally and internationally in order to maintain longer-term social effectiveness. Some plans are afoot for attempting to build such structures this year, but there will be a lot of resistance and in such a leaderless, decentralized movement, it will be very hard.
 Stay nonviolent and teach about nonviolence. With a very, very few exceptions, millions of participants in Occupy have practiced nonviolence at public events globally. This needs to continue because it is, in almost every imaginable situation, and as many religious leaders have taught us, the living path to greater moral clarity, but also because it is essential to the credibility of the movement. I and other parents have felt safe bringing our children to Occupy events. Except in rare cases of high tension or in situations of planned direct nonviolent action, that needs to continue to be the case. A no-drugs (except coffee! and of course there will always be some nicotine...), no-alcohol, child-friendly, and nonviolent environment. The palpably festive or joyful atmosphere around many Occupy events, even while people are bearing sober messages, or risking arrest, is good for the movement. Further, with regard to teaching nonviolence, I would also like to see more teach-ins and educational events and programming around Occupy. Not enough people know enough about the issues beyond the headlines or know enough about why they might want to get involved.
New York City