Organising people for power

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Mark Parker, a community organiser in Southwark, on organising people for power.

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Organising people for power

  1. 1. Reshaping Grassroots Politics Mark Parker
  2. 2.  Formerly worked at bassac for over 10 years A network of community centres now part of Locality Awarded an MA in Community Organising at Queen Mary, Mile End in Nov 2011 As part of the MA, took up placement with London Citizens in LB Southwark Working as a trainee community organiser with Locality in LB Southwark since Oct 2011
  3. 3.  Introduction to community organising Outline of main features of organising Q&A Origins in USA Locality’s training programme
  4. 4.  Many people involved in developing organising in USA eg Si Kahn, Harry Boyte Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) seen as the principal originator Taken forward by Ed Chambers and the Industrial Areas Foundation Transposed to UK by Neil Jameson and Citizens UK Locality takes a different tack but more on that later
  5. 5.  Citizens UK has delivered significant organising successes over twenty years Living Wage Campaign ◦ Calling employers to pay their staff enough to avoid poverty Strangers into Citizens ◦ Calling for undocumented residents to be granted permanent status after decades in limbo City Safe ◦ Creating safe havens for young people under threat of street violence
  6. 6.  Summary always butchers the truth but... Organising has four main pillars in my book ◦ Relationships ◦ Independent Agenda ◦ Power ◦ Organising People
  7. 7.  Central plank to organising is building trust and respect between citizens Face-to-face exchange between two people focused on creating a meaningful relationship Sharing values and motivations, visions and concerns Hearing the person’s willingness to act with others for shared goals Face into difference, keep it personal and human, create trust and empathy
  8. 8.  Organising seeks to find those issues that most energise community members Open questions, supportive enquiry and looking for root causes People will come together around the common good, the felt priorities Anger moves people to action; organising keep them together and focused Autonomous debate leads to shared goals and agreement on strategy
  9. 9.  Power = the capacity to get things done Acknowledge that power is central to all human affairs Develop power analyses of community life Focus on the way power is used for and against citizens – issues Target those who can make the decision and change life for many people Call to account power-holders through taking action
  10. 10.  Two forms of power – money and people Bring out lots of organised people at strategic moments -> acknowledgement -> respect Numbers matter as does discipline and leadership People find confidence and new abilities as they grow powerful One voice for the people calling power- holders to account -> new democracy
  11. 11.  Here’s an opportunity to ask any questions about things so far I will go on to talk about the origins of organising and about Locality’s training programme in a minute Later we’ll have some debate, so at the moment ... Do you have any questions about what you’ve heard?
  12. 12.  First emerged in Chicago 1940s in ‘The Back of the Yards’ – industrial slum Came to prominence in Chicago’s black ghetto of Woodlawns and New York’s Rochester vs Kodak in 1960s Moved into rural organising especially in California and the South in 1970-2000 Many traditions today, many church-based, some working with individuals E.g. PICO,Gamaliel, DART
  13. 13.  Draws on some key sources of inspiration ◦ Aristotle – humanity as political ◦ Machiavelli – working with power ◦ Chicago School of Urban Sociology - ethnography ◦ Catholic social teaching – solidarity, corporatism and subsidiarity ◦ Paulo Freire – Brazilian educator in 1970-90s Clearly also influenced by civil rights movement and the Vietnam War opposition Also roots in the Highlander Institute and other training for ex-slaves
  14. 14.  Founding chapter was The East London Community Organisation (TELCO) in 1996 Take institutions into membership such as churches, unions, universities and schools Now have over 250 member organisations London Citizens held public Assembly with all mayoral candidates in 2008 Citizens UK had 2,000 people attend a meeting with three Party leaders in May 2010 Showed the power of organising
  15. 15.  In 2007, Sen Barack Obama became a candidate for the Democratic nomination His campaign was spectacularly successful in engaging ‘ordinary’ Americans Used many organising techniques to mobilise volunteers, donors and staff Republican sniping led to greater visibility than before for community organising In 2009, he became the 1st black US President UK Parties wanted some of his magic too
  16. 16.  Maurice Glasman launched ‘Blue Labour’ in April 2009 cf. Philip Blond’s ‘Red Tory’ Positive experience with Citizens UK Influential on Ed and David Miliband’s 2010 campaigns for the Labour Party leadership Recruited 1,000 organisers within the Labour movement Aims to renew the unions and local branches through community organising See ‘Tangled up in Blue’ by Rowenna Davis
  17. 17.  Conservative manifesto 2010: 5K organisers trained to work in areas of ‘low social capital’ OCS tender proposed training 500 senior organisers over 4 years each with £20K attached (1 yr) 4,500 volunteer organisers also trained Inspired by Red Tories and Cons tradition of community action (e.g. Tocqueville) Promoting culture change in local government?
  18. 18.  New organisation – bassac and DTA – since April 2011 – won the OCS contract Focused on organising using UK model developed by RE:generate Trust Listening to community and stimulating action for change through projects Seeking to identify leaders to form a Community Holding Team Identifying community assets and enterprise solutions
  19. 19.  Organisers are hosted by existing community organisations for a training year Recruited locally to common JD; many employed nationally by Locality Find own operating resources after training Accountable to local community Senior organisers train and support volunteer organisers Independent professional association to establish and manage standards from 2016
  20. 20.  Each cohort numbers about 40 individuals in teams of 2-5 – about three cohorts a year Residential – 3½ days – mixture of experiential learning and inputs Online tutor supervision – 3 hours each month in four groups Seven OCN modules –> Certificate in the Foundations of Community Organising Choice of ‘Go Deeper’ courses for final six months
  21. 21.  Root Solution Listening Matters (RSLM) has been developed over 20 years by RE:generate Provides a framework for animating the community and creating autonomous action Organisers are listening to citizens at the door, in cafes, on the street and wherever Recording their responses and provoking action Encouraging residents to invite their neighbours to listen to each other
  22. 22.  Bringing citizens together around their passion for change creates project groups Organisers support and encourage projects but ‘never do for others what they can do for themselves’ Linking citizens up through listening to each other creates new networks Friends and neighbours become customers for projects, volunteers, leaders and voters
  23. 23.  Organising is essentially the development of independent citizen action and power People’s organisations act autonomously and engage with other agencies in their time Local agencies do seek partnership and to share intelligence and plans People’s organisations often find it best to remain without formal allies Consequently, they can become an authentic and distinct voice for their community
  24. 24.  In the context of savage cuts, is this strategy credible or feasible? Are Locality organisers making any difference to grassroots democracy? Does the organising have some of the answers to our uninspiring local politics? How might organising give voice to those most excluded? What part can you play in this developing picture?
  25. 25.  Neighbor Power by Jim Diers ◦ Bringing together organising and civic structures Going Public by Michael Gecan ◦ Modern practical intro to IAF organising Blessed are the Organized by Jeffrey Stout ◦ New story / theory account of organising Roots for Radicals by Ed Chambers ◦ Values and vision of today’s organising Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky ◦ Original challenge from Alinsky himself
  26. 26.  www.southwarkorganising.wordpress.com mark.parker1@virgin.net 07956 370 676 @kmarkparker Hope to hear from you! Comments and feedback welcome.

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