(About 3 mins to read)
First off, welcome!
I’m excited to have a dialogue with you about social change- and specifically how we can act as individuals and organizations to create the world we want to live in ideologically and in our jobs. Because let’s face it, if you’ve stumbled on this page, you’re probably similar to me. You’re a social change person who is fed up with the status quo, and throw everything you’ve got into “The Movement”. Everything. You can’t tell where your job ends and your life begins- and sometimes you’re proud of that, and sometimes you hate it.
I know you because I am you. I’ve dressed up as an Overworked, Underpaid Organizer for Halloween for the past decade because I’m too exhausted from door knocking to change out of my organization’s colors. And I probably have a petition for you to sign in between slow jamz if you have a moment. It’s one of my favorite times of the year- when my one job is to talk to people about their lives and encourage them, perhaps for the first time, to exercise their right to speak up and vote. But I can’t participate in group costumes for Halloween because, well, elections.
And because sometimes I trick myself into believing that the entire movement rests on my ability to convince Joe Schmo to vote next week. How? Well, if he doesn’t vote, he gives up on his belief that his voice matters. And when he does that, he starts sitting in his building’s lobby complaining about the leak in his ceiling, and his neighbors tell him that management’s never going to fix it. So he believes it, because his voice doesn’t matter. And the leak keeps going and makes Joe sick, and his grandkids can’t visit because their asthma acts up from the mold buildup, but he can’t find a more affordable place to live. And then HIS LIFE AND THE LIVES OF EVERYONE WHO’S EVER BEEN POOR OR OPPRESSED COLLAPSES BECAUSE I WASN’T ABLE TO MAKE MY POINT FAST ENOUGH AFTER HE ASKED “WHO’S THERE?”
This isn’t all my doing. Sure, my insecurities play into how I feel. I can’t strip myself of all of the pieces that make up me, no matter how hard I try.
I believe that the health of an organization rests in the health of its organizers and members. And the health of its organizers and members rest in the health and culture of the organization. The systems we have in place and the leaders we choose directly impact the organization’s ability to be effective. Without a well-oiled, strategic, and thoughtful machine, with competent, confident, and humble leaders at the helm, the organization is doomed.
So here’s what I hope to share with you here:
- Tips to prevent burnout- Not just for the organizer, but for all social change workers, supervisors, executive directors, and organizations. It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep each and every staff member happy and effective.
- Thoughts on strengthening grassroots organizations. Leaders of grassroots organizations must juggle the needs of membership, staff, and donors. Add to that the balancing act of campaigns, budgets, and still doing what feeds you, and it’s no wonder you’re up till 3am every night. I hope to give you some support, possibly filling in gaps and talking about the real struggles on the job.
- Finally, and separate from these things, is how all organizations can incorporate community organizing principles into their work to be more effective themselves. THIS BLOG IS MEANT FOR ALL KINDS OF SOCIAL CHANGE ORGANIZATIONS, NOT JUST GRASSROOTS ONES! I’m not claiming that grassroots organizing has all the answers (although I do think it’s got a lot of them!), but we can learn a lot from organizations whose goal is to empower others by supporting those oppressed to fight back. Non-profits that serve “clients”, membership organizations from religious institutions to Parent Teacher Organizations, and college students fed up with their school using two-ply toilet paper can benefit from what grassroots organizations can teach us. I hope to share some of those ideas in a way that’s accessible to everyone.
Most of all, this is a dialogue. I hope you all push me to think differently, as I hope to push you. I hope to mix theory and practice, but also to get examples from you. I want you to disagree with me, to ask me questions, and to tell me that I’m brilliant if you feel so compelled.
A bit of a warning: Sometimes I use some colorful language in this blog. I do think that there’s a place for saying “curse words” in organizing, at the right moment. Perhaps the moments I choose aren’t the best, but part of my goal is giving you my opinions, unfiltered. Sometimes that requires some interesting language.
I’ll be posting monthly on Mondays as I ease back into a schedule of posting regularly. I also have timed how long it takes for me to read each post, so you can plan accordingly (I hate when I start reading an article and then I scroll down and it’ll take 20 minutes for me to read but now I’m into it!). Let me know if there are other things you want to see in this site! I’m excited to be on this journey with you.
With solidarity and breakfast crumbs on my keyboard,