This is for community organizers, aspiring changemakers, and activists--and also anybody who seeks to make an impact in their communities. Community organizers are always trying to figure out people’s common self-interest, the glue which binds organizations and movements.
You have to believe that humans, no matter how much they may appear to hate each other, can always find some common connection. Today being a changemaker has become a trendy thing, but it’s important to remember that in order to facilitate real lasting impact, there must be a level of strategic direction. Below are four key principles to community organizing to bear in mind when moving forward with an initiative.
1. Institutions and people that hold power over others are rarely as united as they appear. If you cannot get an authority to support you, you have to do everything in your power to convince them that it’s in their best self-interest to do so. When an authority with responsibility fails to do its job, you need to challenge it and force it to do the right thing.
2. It is always useful for any creative community campaign to advocate for a positive and also to oppose a negative. The more complicated a strategy or tactic, the harder it is to carry out, and the less likely that it will be successful.
Similarly you can ask a few people to do a lot of things, especially if they’re committed activists. If you want a larger no. of people to participate in a campaign, you need to ask them to do one thing, and only one.
3. Go not only with what you know, but with whom you know. Even in the Internet age, personal relationships still count, especially when you’re asking people to do something.
In campaigns, much as in real life people are always united in part, partly divided. It’s up to the organizers to reinforce unity and compensate for the divisions and differences among members. Ensure that the people you work with truly understand the risks, things that could go wrong, losses that might occur, before decide to act, either individually or together.
4. One of the greatest skills an organizer can have is the ability to frame and ask questions in ways that make people not only want to answer them, but also to think deeply, and in unexpected ways, about what the answers might be. When dealing with volunteers, give them a specific list of campaign needs from which they can make a choice.
Start the process of strategizing by visualizing the instant just before ultimate victory. Then work backwards, try your best to figure out the steps that can lead to that winning moment. We can never truly predict what human beings working together can accomplish, and so there’s no need to ever compromise with injustice.