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Community Organizing: Things I Try Not to Forget

There are probably dozens of blogs out there claiming to have the answers to community organizing. I don’t want to claim that I have any answers, but I would like to share with you a few things I’ve found useful over the years.

1. Learn to Facilitate My road of facilitation is a very personal one. Many people might not be able to guess that about 10 years ago a group of my peers told me I was a terrible group member. I didn’t listen. I spoke to soon, shutting other people down. And I was even at times condescending. Thinking about the moment they decided to confront me still brings tears to my eyes. But I could not be more grateful. Since that moment, I have worked tirelessly in trainings and in practice to be a good group member and an even better facilitator. It’s a path of constant self-reflection and it takes a tremendous amount of energy. As you’ve probably already experienced, just because a group of people are passionate about an issue, it doesn’t mean they agree on the path. It is an invaluable skill to be able to pull this group together to focus, act, and move forward.

2. Seek Partnerships

Nobody can go at it alone. Mostly because we can’t all be experts in everything. Become an expert in your niche and partner with all others who are experts at what they do. Once you form partnerships, you both will grow and become better at what you are doing. That being said, build your team the same way. Take a moment to reflect on what skills and personalities your team needs to be successful, and then seek them out. Many people are eager to share their knowledge, but just don’t know where they fit in. It’s extremely important to match people’s passions with their role, or you will lose them. Figuring out how to fit partnerships and team members together is like a puzzle, but when the pieces fit it feels so good.

3. Don’t Quit When They Say No, There’s Always Another Way

Don’t take it personally when they say no. And don’t quit if you don’t get a win the first time around. I will always remember the sign that Paul Freedman made during our Outrage Campaign in 2009 after Bashir kicked out 17 aid groups and Obama had yet to appoint a Special Envoy. It simply said, “We Failed” and he was holding it for everyone to see who drove past the Federal Building during rush hour. What we had been doing wasn’t working. The lesson: find another way. Kids are the best at this. The student groups we work with have fantastic ideas, and they never look at the hurdles they will have to overcome. We should be more like them. Don’t be afraid to try new avenues of activism, new ways to connect people to your issue. There’s always another way!

When I started writing this, it was going to be a blog about how to create successful community events. Sort of a 1, 2, 3 guide to success. I guess I will have to just do that next time.


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