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Structure & Accountability in a Self-Organizing Movement for Collective Liberation

posted May 6, 2015, 12:53 PM by Amy Dudley   [ updated May 6, 2015, 12:56 PM ]

Summary of our Conversation on Structure for a Self-Organizing Movement for Collective Liberation

April 29th, 2015


How we organize ourselves really does matter.  It is another reflection of our values - whose perspectives are included, how leadership operates, how transparent and accessible decision making is - these all make a huge difference in the outcomes of our movement building work.  Our process for organizing and decision making should reflects our values of democracy, our desire for loving movement culture and our commitment to action for collective liberation and anti-oppression.  Creating Democracy’s organizing model values deliberation and participation, self-organization and scalability, transparency and simplicity, anti-oppression and collective liberation, accountability and loving movement culture.


As we build from small to big, and encourage self-organization, we need a solid base of values and steady diet of skills and intentional culture and relationship building.  Growing a movement structure that starts with small groups that then communicate with, deliberate between, and collaborate on shared decisions could reach and engage more people as leaders and organizers, spread messages and needs more broadly, share responsibilities and leadership, and create opportunities to find new shared work and common ground.  These potential strengths need to be supported by intentional relationship building, consciousness raising and skills building, clear expectations and commitments to collaboration and anti-oppression, and practices that build loving movement culture to bind this work and our communities together.     


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.  We want to both do democratic movement building that is open, accessible to people from many different perspectives and levels of organizing experience (because we need all of us to build the movement with the power to make the changes we need) AND make good on our commitment to collective liberation and anti-oppression. which requires an ongoing process of challenging systems of internalized dominance and internalized oppression and can be long, personal, intensive, and divisive work.  


Accountability within the context of loving movement culture is a support to move our actions in line with our values.  We know that this work will be hard!  We will not be perfect...we will screw up.  We need supports in place as individuals and organizations that inform us when our actions are off base or when the direction we are taking is missing the mark, or when our privilege gets in our way.  Many of us have experienced call out culture, and have resonated with the notion of call in culture as a more supportive kind of accountability, but it is still hard work to receive or give feedback on personal actions or challenge well meaning organizations.  Some of the hallmarks of accountability within loving movement culture are relationship based, transparency, clear expectations and communication, individual responsibility, power awareness, and restorative or transformative processes - creating a process that we ourselves are not afraid to subject ourselves to!  


Here is a start to our brainstorm of tools, resources, and support that would foster accountability:

  • Methods and protocols for intergroup accountability

  • Within group consciousness raising

  • Creating tools that are nimble, flexible, not mechanical

  • Compassion for different “levels” of awareness - define “loving movement culture” in connection with accountability

  • Training in “calling in” and how to both give and receive feedback and be held/hold one another and ourselves accountable

  • Creating opportunities to self-reflect and self-report on your own updates, reflections, goals, challenges

  • Creating a norm of tracking and documenting clear expectations and results, process indicators

  • Focusing on outcomes and tasks/actions versus questioning values and intent

  • Online commitments and assessments

  • Grid that tracks Goal/Desired Outcome, How it was Advanced, Results - Immediate, Intermediate, Long Term

  • Stories of how accountability processes have worked - good models and what to avoid

  • Expectation of accountability

  • Keep the big goals in sight

  • Make the principals clear

  • A named Follow Up Person whose role is to remind folks of commitments in a timely way


WHO and WHAT: This was the 3rd and final movement building conversation Creating Democracy convened in the lead up to our Strategy and Planning Gathering on June 6th.  The organizers present were invited to bring our experience, critical thinking, and desire for a stronger movement, specifically to inform and deepen our strategy and plans to advance the ability of our movement to self-organize and scale up in a radically democratic way that aligns with and reflects our values and practices of loving movement culture, collective liberation and anti-oppression.   We covered a lot of ground, opening with a weight on our shoulders we were willing to share with the group as a way to bring our full selves into the room.  As we delved into the conversation on structure and accountability, our prominent themes were along these lines.


WHAT DO YOU THINK? Part of Creating Democracy’s vision is that we build an organizing model that communicates between and across many groups without all needing to be in the same room.  In our planning towards our organizing launch this June, we want to ask you to share this summary with your group, solicit responses, even have your own conversation about the questions in this summary or the themes shared here.  What’s missing?  How does this show up for your community?  This could be a stand alone conversation, or 15 minutes on an upcoming agenda, or simply forwarding this email to your best buddies and seeing how they would weigh in.  Contact us to share your thoughts


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