Creating Global Capacity for Organizing and Campaigns

Wade, Eloise and Adrien from ReAct

Wade, Eloise and Adrien from ReAct

Grenoble       Walking through the center of Grenoble my friends pointed out the statute in the plaza that heralded the French revolution. They reminded me that Grenoble took the pride of place in France that Boston, Concord, and Lexington claim in the American Revolution. Citizens began holding protest meetings and detailing their grievances with the regime and therefore the King. Troops were dispatched to quell the unruly masses of Grenoble, but were met with courage in the so-called “Battle of the Tiles,” when roof tiles were ripped off and hurled below at the troops. Other cities began meetings and protests as well, the King agreed finally to hear the complaints, and one thing led to another, and heads and governments feel.

A helpful reminder for the handful of us spending another day in meetings under the broken skies that would reveal the peekaboo mountains all around us, that changing the world isn’t easy, but it happens, and it has to start somewhere, whether New Orleans, Little Rock, Grenoble or beyond. For our part we were engaged in exciting speculation and planning about what might be possible if we examined the twenty to twenty-five countries where ACORN International has deep roots, relationships, and capacity and joined them with the five to ten countries where the Alliance Citoyenne and its sister organization operating outside of France, ReAct, had experience, some staffing, and capacity. Certainly, it’s not the whole wide world, but it’s not a bad swath of people and ground, and a great deal more than simply a good beginning.

Part of the conversation was a catchup from my earlier visit. ReAct had been able to put sufficient pressure on a French-based, global palm oil company with plantations in Cameroon, Cambodia, Liberia, Gabon, and Morocco, to get them to agree to negotiations around the issues, workers’ conditions, land utilization and distribution, and other concerns in Paris in recent months. The negotiations were not conclusive but they produced a path forward with further meetings scheduled and prospects for accomplishments. Additionally, the experience allowed ReAct to link its people together and bind their skills so that there was an appreciation of what might be possible.

Some of the debates were around orientation. Is it best to build a base, staffing, and capacity with organization so that people an act on issues or could one target companies, as ReAct did in palm oil and work backwards to organize the communities and workers around the company issues. Should the work be campaign based or organizationally driven? How could the efforts be sustained? How supervised? How would organizers be trained and recruited? Was there a model around volunteers? How could scare resources be deployed? What were geographical priorities? Were there corporate targets? All of this was heady stuff!

And, if we could build it, as the Field of Dreams line goes, “would people come?” How could such capacity be linked to other organizations, campaigns, unions, allies to add our two plus two so that exponentially more impact and power could be built and shared?

What a great way to spend a Sunday!

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