|A People’s Vision|
|Tuesday, 21 September 2010 21:20|
In the Nation’s Capitol, there is an alternative voice and vision around community organizing emerging. And its roots derive from Ella Baker’s approach to organizing. She understood that for far too long, those who were directly affected by the issues (poverty, homelessness, racism, displacement) were rarely integrated into their own liberation struggle.
In her praxis as an organizer, she perfected the concept of participatory democracy. This concept meant that people within movements for social change, those directly affected by the issues make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize hierarchy within their organization to maximize shared power and equity of voice; and utilize direct action as an effective means to compel decision-makers to implement decisions made by the community.
Even though, the heyday of the civil rights movement may be behind us, community organizations like Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC (ONE DC) is infusing this concept of organizing and leadership development within our community organizing model.
The organization is sincere in its respect for members’ power and leadership. ONE DC breaks away from the traditional model of organizing by practicing a culture of member inclusiveness and eliminating hierarchy among staff and members. Members are included in all aspects of ONE DC’s organizing efforts, including LEAP (Leadership Education for Action and Power), campaigns, board governance, and strategic planning. Members are offered multiple opportunities to learn and partner with national organizing efforts to increase their exposure to the national human rights movement. The staff is usually reflective of the members. ONE DC emphasizes relationship building that is not dependent on merely issues but social transformation itself. ONE DC is a unique place that practices the belief often recited by Gandhi: we seek to be the change we wish to see in the world.
Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC (ONE DC) grew out of a traditional nonprofit and community development corporation known as Manna CDC. ONE DC answered the DC residents’ calls to break away from a CDC model for social change and fully address the long-time residents of color’s needs for our human rights to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and equitable development. In the spirit of Ella Jo Baker’s practice of participatory democracy, we gradually created our own organizing identity that highlights the power and leadership of long-time and low-to-no-income residents of color.
ONE DC sees a world where those most affected and directly impacted are the subject and agitators of justice work. The people’s vision for change is not a mere revision of the current system of exploitation and domineering power relations; they seek a more equitable world where material needs are met and the immaterial needs for respect, inclusion, and creativity are met as well.
Resident led organizing and organizational work is done by members and the governance of the organization is handled by the residents. Our members are the drivers of the vision and the staff supports the implementation of the members’ vision.
This vision is practiced by members actively engaging in practicing the mission, vision, and values of ONE DC. The members literally “carry the water” – we mean practice action-centered leadership and not leadership by titles. Our vision includes working for justice in a human rights context. To put it simply, we are organizing for systemic change not to reform the ‘system.’ Institutional change is when behaviors, values, and priorities of public or private institutions are changed to emphasize and respect low-income, poor, and immigrant communities' democratic demands for equity, and shared control over public resources.
In other words, institutional change is when behaviors, values, and policies in public or private institutions are changed in response to the demands of marginalized groups that fight for equitable redistribution of resources.
ONE DC practices institutional change by creating new social and economic structures and behaviors that respect the life, history, and culture of low income people. Institutional change is practiced when all resources are shared and benefits the poorest people in the community this includes the poor exercising leadership in the distribution and use of the community's resources.
The board is composed of members that live in our communities and are affected by the changing demographics. ONE DC’s approach to leadership puts emphasis on members and not “directors” being the key decision-makers. Our campaigns are organized in a human rights context and organized by members. These campaigns are called: ONE Right to Housing, Land, Income, and Wellness.
A people’s vision at ONE DC consists of a membership education program call Leadership Education for Action and Power (LEAP). LEAP facilitators use popular education methods to deconstruct the US economy and social issues. Members teach members. With the global understanding of the problems faced by members, members effectively organize their communities and offer comprehensive solutions to decision-makers.
In short, here are some key components of the ONE DC people’s vision:
A foundational tenet of ONE DC vision is that we are organizing for a new system. Because ONE DC is a learning organization, we seek to identify the root causes of injustice and not to reform the system. That means we examine, through venues like LEAP, the interconnection of issues like capitalism, racism, and even the need for personal and communal healing and wellness.
Organizing for systemic social change is generational work. We are building this 8-step organizing vision with the hope that the ONE DC movement will be carried on through the generations to see the fruit of justice and wellness grow throughout our communities, our society. ONE DC’s vision is rooted in the people’s voice and this is not a small voice.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 03:27|