Inviting Southern Oregon Leaders - Movement Building Pilot Project with Rural Organizing Project and Creating Democracy

Post date: Jul 28, 2015 6:32:31 PM

July 21, 2015

Dear Southern Oregon leaders,

Rural Organizing Project has been proud to watch and support your organizing in Southern Oregon, ensuring there is a human dignity voice in every county in the area with the ability to rise to the occasion when crisis or opportunity strikes, and even multiple groups in some places to lead on multiple fronts of human dignity work. The movement for justice is alive and growing in Southern Oregon!

We are in a complex and potential-filled movement moment: the national status quo is shifting around race, the statewide conversation about immigrants and structural racism is kicking off yet again as Sheriff Arpaio is brought to Oregon to promote two anti-immigrant ballot measures, the drought and high temperatures has folks coming out of the woodwork all over engaging in conversations about climate justice, and we still face the same challenges of eroding community infrastructure as income disparity grows. Who will step in to help our neighbors navigate these times? Clearly, you all!

Over the last couple years, ROP has had conversations with many of you about the movement in your town, county, and region and recurring themes have continued to arise: our groups do great work individually, but are there ways we can join together so our efforts are even more effective? Can we take our stellar successes and finesse them so that we can become an even brighter model for the state? Can Southern Oregon become an incubator for bold and innovative organizing that responds to people's needs and the headlines?

ROP thinks the answer is YES! - which is why we would like to invite you to help us shape a project to dive into how we evolve our movement building organizing in rural and small town Oregon!

ROP and Creating Democracy are partnering to launch a pilot project this Fall to experiment with movement building in rural Oregon! We are ready to play with how we create energizing spaces to develop our movement strategies, and we think you are too!

More information about Creating Democracy, potential next steps, and a little taste of the questions we want to digest with you are below! Please share any thoughts or questions back with Jess at ROP or Amy at Creating Democracy. What resonates? What is missing that you think should be included? What would you change? This project will be shaped by you and your group's participation!

Why Movement Building? Making the changes our communities, and our world needs, relies on our power as everyday, regular/amazing people to envision the changes we want and organize, organize, organize until they are realities. We need the power of numbers, but we also need the power of solidarity. We need the skills to grow and overcome barriers and divisions that keep us small and insular. We need a loving movement culture that will sustain and support us, not drain us or disconnect us from our daily lives. We need to see ourselves as empowered and transformational organizers who are core to building our movement. And we need a mechanism to connect us from the vital, local organizing that is right in front us to the larger movement uprisings that swell throughout time, that we can also be part of fostering and rising to meet.

The Right has been effective at tapping into both the cultural fabric of many Oregon communities, and leveraging their power into policy changes and institutional decisions that have defunded public infrastructure and eroded our democracy. In the face of these ongoing assaults, now is the time to envision and build our own capacity to build a stronger movement for real democracy rooted in our values of human dignity, justice, anti-oppression and collective liberation.

Why Southern Oregon? Southern Oregon has been on the frontlines of the resurgence of the far Right in Oregon, and is also a place where some of the most provocative racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice organizing is happening in the state! ROP and CD see Southern Oregon as an exciting region to pilot this project in because of the vibrant, energetic, creative folks who are looking to innovate on how we do transformative, movement building organizing for us to achieve collective liberation.

How? The Creating Democracy pilot project with ROP in Southern Oregon would seek to strengthen relationships between human dignity groups in the region, both informally as well as structurally. We believe that our ability to make decisions together is key to exercising our collective power. We want to build the strengths of existing local human dignity groups that encourage and can support participation from members, but also create regular convenings that link local groups together as a stronger movement building force that knows one another, has built trust together, and can ultimately take collective action. Alongside this movement infrastructure, we want to make the skill set of an organizer available to everyone who wants it - from facilitation and conflict resolution, to anti-oppression and racial justice training, to the best practices of loving, accountable, transparent organizing.

What would each of us commit to? Local groups who are interested in joining the project would agree to participate in the following phases and components of the project from Fall 2015 through Spring 2016: visioning and planning, implementing and evaluating, training and mentoring, communication and coordination between groups in the region and with ROP and Creating Democracy. Initial visits with ROP and Creating Democracy would assess interest, build joint vision and plans for the project, and provide initial training. For the duration of the project, and beyond, assuming we are successful, ROP and Creating Democracy would be in communication with local groups, make multiple visits, and provide opportunities to develop organizing and facilitation skills, support and coaching through organizing next steps, and developed local infrastructure for communication and decision making between multiple interested local groups in the region.

Who is Creating Democracy? Creating Democracy is coordinated by Amy Dudley and Chris Borte, partners in organizing and life. Amy is originally from rural SW Virginia, a former ROP Organizer and Director, mother of two children ages 6 and 4, and lead from CD on this project. Chris is the founding visionary behind Creating Democracy who launched his organizing in Olympia and Portland as part of the anti-globalization movement that shut down the WTO using street democracy first hand in 1999. He is an IT professional by day which allows him to glean the smarts of tech innovations for application in the organizing world, while also understanding first hand the challenges of building a movement as a full time working parent. More background is here.

What are the next steps? Respond now to Jess and Amy to let us know that you want to meet, and whether you are more interested in an informal conversation with 3-5 members of your group or if you want to plan for a larger group conversation that could allow for more folks to get up to speed and be part of discussing what this project might look like from the outset. Both options would ideally mean taking 1-2 hours to meet and securing a location. Regional movement building gatherings will take place beginning in September 2015.