Not the Meeting, but the Follow-up That Matters Most

Milan       There’s an old adage in organizing, that it’s not as much what happens in the meeting that counts, it’s what happens after the meeting that matters.  Said another way, it’s all in the mop-up and the follow-up.  If there were problems in the meeting, it’s how those problems can be solved or sanded down.  If there were plans, inspirations, and excitement, it’s all in the implementation, the next steps, and pushing down on the accelerator to create momentum.

As we waved fond adieus to one group after another leaving to travel back to Toronto, Ottawa, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Little Rock, Grenoble, Paris, Frankfurt, and Lyon, mi companera and I headed for the Bas train station on the Rhone-Alps line to begin our journey that would cover ten hours and five trains to Milan.  There had been a landslide on the normal train route that would usually take a bit more than five hours from Lyon, so we were on a jounada de morte with another train change in St. Etienne, then yet another in Lyon, with a reroute through Geneva, Switzerland, and a last change in Brig near the Swiss and German border before crossing into Italy and finally a bit before 10pm arriving at Milan Centrale.  The scenery was gorgeous, especially between Geneva and Brig, as we traveled through the Alps, along rivers and between scraggly, snow dotted peaks and rounded mountain tops.  It gave us time to think, so we could start making the lists to follow-up.

Could we finally get all of the offices to begin recording their own shows for the ACORN Radio station?  We got a lot of commitments, but can we convert them into getting members on the air and listening to each other country to country?

The discussions and insights on housing organizing were excellent and profound.  A plan was made to produce a summary so that it can be shared across the offices.  Perhaps there might be funding in Europe for a larger report that pulled all of these strings together and compared provisions and policies to unite the campaigns?  Make sure that happens!  Same for the discussion on raising up the work we are doing on climate and environmental issues.  We need to make sure we’re not hiding our hat under a basket!

We’re doing so much training in country after country for allies, unions, other community organizations, and even political formations while a long line of others are demanding even more.  How can we build the capacity to expand what we can offer and dedicate resources to advance the progressive forces from Milwaukee to Marseille, Frankfurt to Dublin, Sofia to Bratislava, Nairobi to Douala to Tunis and beyond?  Where can we find the support?  Related might be some training videos suggested by our partners at the Everett Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz and now at the University of Geneva as well?  How can we pursue both directions and find the resources?  The same question involved databases, phone apps, and new organizing tools.  We’re so close, but how do we make it all happen?

The meeting was exciting and fruitful, but now we face the harder tasks of making it all happen with so much to do and so little time and resources to meet the challenges now.

Please enjoy some new music from Glasgow.

Thanks to KABF.

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Climate and Politics Take Center Stage in Organizers’ Debates

St. Etienne   As the organizers shook of the aftermath of fellowship-and-solidarity time that had gone on until the wee hours and included robust singing with new verses to all ACORN songs, they hunkered into the discussions of how ACORN was addressing both climate change and politics.

There were two approaches that organizers argued on raising the environmental issues expressed by our membership to a clearer level.  One was to look strategically at precarious areas where low-and-moderate income families lived in our community in order to analyze whether or not we were addressing the issues effectively.  Flooding and sea rise along with fracking and train routes were seen as worth review in the United Kingdom.

The other strategy involved reframing some of our classic and constant campaigns, especially in housing, along a climate axis.  Retrofits in Canada, the US, and France have been ongoing demands, many of which we have won in terms of modernization programs while others are still in contest.  In Ontario we had won huge commitments to insulate and retrofit social and lower-income housing, but new premier Ford had made canceling the program one of his first acts.

As the discussion proceeded, it seemed like a plethora of our issues and campaigns were environmental.  The fights for access to potable water in Cameroon, Kenya, Honduras, and Peru were historic.  Eliminating lead in water fountains in Houston schools and throughout Louisiana and now Milwaukee were all part of our work, as well as pushing for soil contamination remediation in playgrounds, parks, schools, and elsewhere.  Bioswales or rain gardens have become part of the demand of our affiliates in New Orleans in the 9th ward to prevent future flooding in those areas.  It became clear that we need to be clearer in and outside of our membership that environmental issues were part and parcel of all of ACORN’s work.

When it came to politics, the reports were not encouraging at the national level in our countries.  Local politics continued to be the key focus where we could have some impact in the era of Trump, Macron, Ford, and soon to be Boris Johnson.  There was discussion about deepening the political education of our membership through our leadership training program with a continued emphasis on voter engagement, registration, and turnout across the board.  There was consensus that in a divisive time in so many countries we needed to make sure that within ACORN there was unity as the first order of business so that we could prevent political division.

These are difficult times for our work, but the commitment of everyone to ACORN standing tall and stepping up was unanimous.

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