US World Social Forum & G20

Community Organizing Organizing

Detroit I’ve been to enough World Social Forum events in Brazil, India, and even Nairobi, that I’ve got a pretty good idea how to navigate the chaos and mine through the rock to find the gold, and stepping in for a bit in Detroit seemed the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. A hearty crowd with a youngish, casual demographic from around the country with a sprinkling of veterans from more established social movements and even unions who were willing to roll up sleeves and see if another small step could be taken. I saw several old friends and poked my head in to the Inter-Alliance Dialogue with Global Grassroots, Jobs with Justice, National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network, and others which seemed to be going well.

These workshops are largely self-organized so run the gamut of topics. I found myself fascinated by the number of new organizations and subjects being covered. Just studying the program I noted quickly 20 or so groups that were worth looking into to see how Social Policy might cover the work and get a feel for the pulse of coming generations of activists. Many scoff at these things, but for the life of me I can’t see them as bad things. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but a good spirited, intense opportunity to bring together a fair number of folks to try out ideas on others. If that’s threatening to some, then they deserve to be threatened.

Why also made me think about the marchers going through the streets of Toronto today to send a message to the G20 about fair and equitable economic policies. Hear, hear! A number of the ACORN Canada organizing staff and some of the members and many of our allies had gotten up earlier and joined the crowd to both lend support and their voices, but also (I hope) to learn a little something about how these things really work and how and organizer has to keep their eyes and wits about them.

It was quite a treat to be able to follow different perspectives on both the G20 march as our organizers tweeted away and the same for some of the folks I was following on twitter at the US Social Forum closing session. Reminded me in “real time” how powerful an organizing and communication tool Twitter can sometimes be.

It also sometimes seemed like the Biblical parable of the blind men touching the camel and all feeling like there was something different under their hands, since the tweets would be so different depending on where someone might be in Cobo Hall or going past Bay Street and smelling smoke and wondering why.

Either way, these are all small steps we have to keep taking in hopes of being heard.