Self Governance & Movement Decision Making

Post date: Mar 10, 2015 4:52:59 AM


February 26th, 2015

What do organizers and groups need to make good decisions as a movement?

What would it look like to advance democratic decision making and collective action as a movement, and across our movement, in your organizing? What possibilities could this open up for your work? What internal resistance and structural challenges would you face?

WHO AND WHAT: These are some of the questions we put on the table at Creating Democracy’s recent movement building conversation. The 15 of us present were all organizers, thoughtful, caring people, many experienced movement folks, as well as a few younger organizers, grounded in a variety of organizations and roles spanning communities of faith, philanthropy, education, grassroots activists, staff of nonprofits, labor, environmental justice, homeless rights, communities of color, youth, and electoral politics and policy work. We were invited to bring our experience, critical thinking, and desire for a stronger movement into this conversation, specifically to inform and deepen Creating Democracy’s strategy and plans to advance the ability of our movement to make decisions together, building towards our vision of democracy and self-governance grounded in collective liberation and anti-oppression.

We covered a lot of ground, but the most consistent themes were along these lines.

Movement Culture Matters! In order to build together, to create the trust and relationships that it first takes to share power and make decisions together, we have to know each other. We need more time to have fun, to share our personal selves, to not just meet and talk on a packed meeting agenda, but really share some common humanity. This world is isolating and despair in the face of our challenges is understandable, but organizing is about breaking that isolation and recognizing our shared power to make change. That is hopeful and personal. How we do what we do matters - from the ways that we address privilege and the dynamics of oppression in ourselves and groups, to the ways that we welcome and make room for the actual needs of people and families and children in our community, to the ways that we treat ourselves and value our own needs for restoration and rejuvenation. We all want that inventory of movement people with beach houses willing to lend them out for retreats!

We Need More Skills Sharing and Leadership Development. Facilitation, anti-oppression training and support, long range planning, individual goal setting, popular education, organizing workshops, training on leadership development, movement history. These are the tools of movement building, but the toolboxes of many would be organizers are incomplete and inadequate. We need more opportunities to stock up - ongoing trainings and workshops, mentorship, cohorts of our peers, intentional leadership development within our groups.

Especially when it comes to Race. We need more skills in our movement, within our groups, and as individual organizers and leaders focused on challenging white supremacy and privilege, and advancing racial justice. We have a lot of work to do challenging patriarchy, homophobia/heterosexism, cissexism, classism and capitalism, ableism, and related systems of institutionalized oppression and privilege. But where we consistently stumble and do damage in pursuit of justice is around race. We need to continually engage in personal and organizational work to understand and uproot racism, white supremacy and white privilege - and the ways that these systems and their harmful impacts are interwoven with and interdependent on other systems of oppression, including sexism/patriarchy, homophobia/transphobia/heterosexism, xenophobia/white nationalism, and classism/capitalism. Most importantly, we need to work to translate our understanding into actions of solidarity and mutual, collective liberation.

The Challenge of Building Movement Infrastructure and Capacity is Ripe. The past 15 years have presented our movements with some big upswings thanks to the work of many grassroots organizers alongside some serious revelations of just how bad things are and how far we have to go. Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, Occupy, Wisconsin Labor, Katrina, Peace, WTO in Seattle, to share a few that we named in our discussion. But is this work building on one another or operating in parallel or isolation? Building our capacity now to engage and respond to the next mass movement makes sense. We can begin by supporting leadership opportunities, sharing skills, popularizing our values and practices of collective liberation and anti-oppression, and creating relationships and models for organizing, power sharing, and decision making that can both extend themselves intentionally when the next mass movement moment arrives, but also be a part of making that moment happen.

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 spring, we want to ask you to share this summary with your group, solicit responses, even have your own conversation about the questions at the start of 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.