Capacity in Organizing Counts – Props to Those Who Get It!

Lake Buckhorn, Ontario     In the annual HO/LO meeting of ACORN Canada several hours north of Toronto in the urban-centric area called “cottage country” near the defining geological formation known as the Canadian Shield, the head organizers and lead organizers throughout the Canadian organization were taking the measure of their work thus far during the year.  They were also working out ways that they could move forward on an array of campaigns on predatory lending, affordable housing, childcare payments, internet access, and welfare systems.

In one exercise designed by head organizer Judy Duncan, they broke into smaller groups to hash out ideas for direct actions that might jump the campaigns up a notch.  Listening to the reports from the groups was fascinating.  The suggestions were dramatic and imaginative.  It’s tough to devise creative tactics that walk the knife edge between what exerts pressure, captures attention, and, most importantly, feels comfortable for the membership to do.  A couple of videos later in the day of actions against the pending eviction of more than one-hundred families in a giant Ottawa complex called Herongate, long a campaign and action, target for ACORN there, allowed the HO/LOs to see how that office had faced the task and how local television commentators had reported and responded, very sympathetically in one case.  Those clips and another from the bi-annual ACORN Canada convention held in Hamilton, Ontario also displayed the members’ humor, anger, and handiwork in making the protest signs.  I had some trouble watching the last because my eye always goes to the signs that fail to say ACORN somewhere since the slogans are aimed at the target, but the word “ACORN” is a hardwire signal to supporters and potential recruits that it’s time to join in and act now.

All of this is about building capacity.  In ACORN we know its lifeblood, but its amazing how often people outside the work miss the details that make the work effective because they are lost in the last tweet or the most recent white paper or the hope that some bright new star will point the way to the future.  This makes it more remarkable when it turns out somewhere, somehow, people so often blinded by the glitter, finally recognize the grit, and that leads me to give some props in a surprising direction to some of the rich that “get it” about putting some oil on the gears and flywheels that make it happen and increase the capacity.

I don’t know how it all really works, but the Climate Emergency Fund seems to have stumbled onto something that I would love to see commonplace, and that’s an understanding of funding the things that make stuff happen, even if smaller and harder to suss out behind the headlines.  Props to Trevor Nelson, Rory Kennedy, and Aileen Getty who have been among the primary funders of the Climate Emergency Fund supporting Extinction Rebellion and similar actions.  Its not Gates, Buffet or Bloomberg money, but it’s pennies from heaven that are paying for buses, plane tickets, signs and the grist at the mill of social action and organization building.

Their thing is climate.  Our thing is climate too, with a different constituency and a day-to-day grind on that issue and scores of others.  There’s more than enough money to go around, but we need more “emergency funds” that grease all the wheels that make action and organizing happen, so let’s hope more of the one-percent start to get it and follow their lead.

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