Thursday, April 26, 2012

Revolution or Rebellion

Revolution requires organizing on a very frequent basis so that the people invested can develop and improve programs specific to their population that can provide services the community needs. An example might be creating a fitness program for youth in order to combat health problems specific to the neighborhood. Another example, might be establishing a Sunday Meal program where families pool money to produce one healthy meal per week for all families to allow space for fellowship and community dialogue. It follows this logic that while organizing is important for frequent strategizing and reflection on programming, mobilizations are important to demonstrate/showcase, to both the community itself and outside bodies, the strength of the community. Mobilizations take the form of one-time events while organizing is an ongoing process.

Rebellions on the other hand are spontaneous acts of dissatisfaction operated by a group of disgruntled people without any ends in mind besides expression of rage.

These ideas are important to be familiar with because as any advocating is to be done there must be simultaneous organizing and mobilizing in order to prevent rebellions. Rebellions are counter-productive to producing strong and prideful communities. As soon as a group of people begin organizing and see the skills they possess in action there is an immediate surge of pride in their personal and collective works. Therefore, work done to build relationships, sustainable programming, and one-time events must be seen as the means for pride returning to depressed communities suffering from chronic illness both physical and mental. Rebellions produce repression on the part of authorities. If not inspired to organized following organized repression there is no chance for change. A cycle of violence and repression will continue indefinitely.

Criteria for Productive Meetings

Any organizing must be done effectively. Too often organizers will gather people together and produce a waste of time and energy that only detracts from the movement for struggle and progress. When I visit a meeting of organized people I look and listen for a few key aspects to prove they are and will continue to be productive in their organizing. I look for an agenda (a planned outline of work to do) because without one we have no target to push for. I look for engagement from the membership because the membership is the engine of the organization. I look for reflection because struggle/work cannot be built upon without reflection on successes and challenges. And I look for delegation from leadership to build the capacity of the membership. Such delegation must be given in order to encourage those interested to organize and build on their specific skill set. Meeting these targets will help to produce effective meetings and hopefully strong organizations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Advocacy means "Speaking Up" AND "Acting Out": a critique of traditional advocacy

Through this entry I will attempt to convince readers that the traditional advocacy philosophy, represented in this case by the PUFFA advocacy handbook, does not emphasize the most powerful advocacy/catalyst for social change: the community itself. I could go through the entire handbook page by page noting each incident of potential, but I'll consolidate my comments to the two pages I think are in greatest need of revision.

My critique will focus on page 5 (An Advocacy Agenda) and page 20 (Tapping the Community Network) to emphasize the need to (1) form a united front when reaching out to decision makers, (2) ensure authentic representation of community through diligent research of needs, and (3) two-tiered advocacy for maximization of available resources and demand additional resources. Unfortunately, the traditional advocacy strategy is to go individually to decision makers and ask for help in solving a problem. Rather, you must unite with everyone sharing in the crisis. First, work to solve the problem on your own, then, if the community requires additional resources to get over the hurdle go to decision makers and show your list of demands.

On page 5, "An Advocacy Agenda" lists "What change do you want?" as the first agenda item. This agenda item ensures that you think individually instead of banning together with those others with similar community concerns. It must be remembered that ultimately the change you seek is a change for you, as an individual, your friends and families (your community). Thus, you must conduct appropriate research and outreach to the community to ensure effective education, mobilization, and participation of those stakeholders necessary for the maximization of community resources and demanding additional resources. Therefore, the advocacy agenda must be revised to include a period of community research and that change identified must begin with the community itself (maximization of community resources) while simultaneously reaching out to the broader community and decision makers.

My second note for page 5 regarding the Advocacy Agenda item "Who are the decision makers?" addresses the need to unite those in the community interested in demanding additional resources so that those decision makers will see your demand as a priority to be met. Thus, replacing the Advocacy Agenda item "Who will be impacted?" with "How are you uniting the community?" would better ensure an effective advocacy campaign.

My final comments are reserved for the "Tapping the Community Network" page (page 20 & 21). Besides the obvious comments I've already made about mobilizing the community to maximize available resources making more probable the sustainability of the project, building on existing pride within the community, and uniting the community, this portion of the handbook needs information on appealing to community agents, community mapping, and evaluating community resources.

Advocacy requires demonstrations of power and strength to persevere. Whether you are attempting to mobilize your community to take advantage of resources already available or demanding greater resources from those decision makers outside the community, organizers must work to unite those they are working with to build and strengthen connections within the organization.