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Creating Democracy: The Overview

Creating Democracy seeks to advance a self-organizing movement for collective liberation with small groups at the foundation.


At its heart, Creating Democracy is about these four fundamental assertions:


We believe any truly democratic movement must be grounded in collective liberation, values and actions that challenge oppression and bridge divisions of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and identity, ableness, and culture.  This belief comes from an understanding and respect for the ways we are all connected in this world, a belief in inherent human dignity, and an historical appreciation of the successes of movements who have practiced this solidarity.  Collective liberation is the process of realizing each person’s own inherent human dignity and the organizing work of challenging and replacing all systems of oppression with democracy and justice.  It is the understanding that we are all harmed, whether targeted or privileged through systems of oppression, and that we are liberated and made more whole when we end oppression against any of us.  The term collective liberation originated with bell hooks, African-American author, feminist, and social activist, and has been popularized by white anti-racist, feminist author and activist Chris Crass.


The ability to make decisions as a movement is key to exercising our collective power.  Democracy matters because it is not enough to build power.  Power already exist...in the hands of the 1%, the unaccountable elected and unelected.  We must yearn to learn to share power, radically, even though we haven't seen it at scale.  The alternative to unaccountable concentrated power must be deep movement wide participatory decision making paired with a commitment to just and compassionate accountability.  Us the people are the ones who ensure Black lives matter, who force the 99% to be counted, and who can realize the promise of true democracy for all the people.  Essentially, we need to be able to self-govern - know who we are and what we want, resolve conflicts in respectful, just, and transparent ways, deliberate with our values of collective liberation at the forefront, and make decisions together.  


We are all organizers! We need all of us in it together to have the numbers and thus the power that we need to make the changes we want.  People who want this change must be active in growing our movement as organizers, specifically bringing people together to learn, connect, and put our values into action for our shared liberation.  In part this means shifting our practice and orientation to organizing, broadening who we think of as skilled and in charge and responsible for our movement inwards to ourselves and our friends, family or whomever is part of our crew of like minded folk.  We need easy access points and simple steps forward that encourage decentralized, self-organizing.  We want everyone who is thinking we need to do something to make our world a better place to move from their heads and hearts into action out in the world.  When we say we are all organizers this is an affirmation of our shared capacity and skills, but it is also a call for what we believe is necessary to make a powerful mass movement - and that is people, and a whole heck of a lot of them!


Small groups are the building blocks of a large and powerful democratic movement.  Once groups reach 25 people a natural capacity for deep participation is reached.  More than that and people stop coming to meetings or responding to emails, there's no time for them to speak or be heard, and the basics are taken care of by the smaller core group.  Fewer than that and a group is not growing, not building beyond themselves.  But in order to have impact as a movement, hundreds of these small groups must connect to one another in an ongoing way, building towards the whole, and making decisions together.  An organization with a base of 500 or 5000 is NOT bad or ineffective - we want to have a reach that is huge!  But these large groups need smaller configurations that support engagement and leadership beyond a single core group, if their goal is also for members to be engaged at the level of participation, organizing, and decision making that Creating Democracy envisions.


Our vision looking forward a year or two is of 1000 people engaged through 100 small groups of 7-25 people – each small group with the capacity and skills to take action to advance shared plans.  We see individuals connected personally as leaders and organizers with our movement in an ongoing way, feeling inspired knowing their voice is essential, growing together and growing the power and capacity of our movement exponentially.  This would include small groups who are members and leaders of existing organizations as well as new groups who are coming together in part to participate in this movement building project.  


Our strategy is guided by our response to the question, What do organizers need to build a self-organizing, sustainable, scalable movement for collective liberation? And what is Creating Democracy’s role in advancing this vision?  Our thoughts fall into these three primary areas:


1. Sharing Organizing and Movement Building Skills - If everyone is an organizer, we need to make an organizer’s skill set available to everyone.  Making decisions together, running our own groups, building accountable relationships across race, class, and gender that promote learning over shaming, and advancing our ability to self-govern all require ongoing learning, practice, and support.


Beyond the nuts and bolts of organizing, we need to support one another in identifying barriers to movement building and working to overcome them.  Grounding ourselves in the values of collective liberation, understanding the context of our individual organizing, learning the history of our movements, thinking critically about issues, and exploring our own power and privilege and the intersectionality of identities will strengthen our movement and impact our choices in everything from fundraising plans to communication to issues and actions that we prioritize.    


2. Building Loving Movement Culture - In order to grow and sustain our movement for the long haul, we need to support healthy, positive, inclusive, loving movement culture rooted in collective liberation that is both aspirational and relevant to people’s everyday lives and needs.  We need to welcome people from wherever they are on their journey while also clearly and lovingly holding ourselves accountable to our vision of collective liberation and ending oppression.  


3. Creating Democratic Structure - Our work to strengthen skills, consciousness, and culture all come together through a structure that ties many small groups into a movement whole that can make democratic decisions and take collective, strategic action.  The power that we build through our numbers, our shared values and desire for change is only as strong as our ability to make good decisions together.  In order to advance our own means of self-governance, or even effectively participate in civic life such as it is today, we first have to learn to share power and exercise real democratic decision making together.  


Creating Democracy’s primary role is facilitating, initiating, developing and holding this structure alongside our small group members.  

Creating Democracy wants to build our infrastructure as a movement with small groups at the foundation who can self-organize and come together in ongoing ways.  We envision a network of hundreds of small groups that connect through a shared platform that allows our movement to expand easily as interest and capacity grows and to scale up and act collectively when the need arises without having to build each time from the ground up.


We also imagine an opportunity for existing organizations with large memberships to partner with Creating Democracy either through smaller cohorts or committees who join and represent the larger organization, or who apply Creating Democracy’s strategy to their own internal structure.  For example, an organization of 2000 members might invite their membership to organize themselves into smaller groups of 25 people each who begin to have a larger role in collectively directing and implementing the organizing of the organization.

 

Towards this end, Creating Democracy will operate on a membership model, supported by small group members, who in turn will receive access to infrastructure for communication, membership support, and small and large group decision making.  

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