a community voice ACORN International Ideas and Issues Local 100

            New Orleans     Soon ACORN will have been organizing 52 full years and ACORN International will mark 20 years of action and work in countries around the world.  Every once in awhile it makes sense to step back, look at where we’ve been, and try to imagine – and plan – for the future.  We did this several times in the United States.  Once after the seminal 20/80 campaign concluded in 1980 as well as once or twice thereafter, on a five-year schedule.   This was the first time we had assembled in this vein on an international level.

We met at a fishing camp along a bayou near the Pearl River boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi, about forty minutes from New Orleans and twenty minutes from the beach of the Gulf of Mexico, which turned out to be a hit with this small group.  The participants were the directors of our largest affiliates from Canada, India, Scotland, and England, as well as Local 100 and our Louisiana affiliate, A Community Voice.  On zoom for part of the meeting was our director from France, who was not able to secure a timely visa to the states.

ACORN in the USA historically had been one, highly centralized organization with many shared services and functions housed in one legal entity.  ACORN International is a federation with each component organization organized according to the laws of its country with an indigenous staff and governance structure that unites on actions, issues, and programs as each country sees appropriate or is able, bringing “coordinated autonomy” to a whole different level.  The core of the agenda was to increase understanding of how the various pieces of the organization fit together, since some had little experience with their partners and none with some of the other organizations in the ACORN family, like the research institutes or radio stations.  Simply put, to plan for the future, it was important for this core staff leadership to understand the moving parts of the present.

Much of this discussion was in those weeds, and probably not of much interest to others.  One subject that was fascinating towards the end of the three days was about organizational legacy, which resonates with other contemporary themes in our society and countries.  For example, are the guardians of legacy most appropriately those who have been its stewards in the past or those who are entrusted with continuing it onward into the future?  When we look at the fight over the Civil War, its statutes and memorials, we are seeing efforts to reconstruct legacies of the past, often in an ideal and unreal way.  The current struggles are very much an epic tug of war over how that legacy fits in the present and should be understood and guide the future.  There’s an oft repeated maxim that “history is written by the winners,” but it is as easily understood that the losers in many cases, as we see in the American South and perhaps even in the Russia-Ukraine fight, do not simply desert the field.  History is also written by the survivors, we might argue, or at least those who agree or volunteer to carry the work into the future so that it continues to have meaning and purpose.

Thinking about the ACORN family of organizations, this conversation was profound and fascinating.  The Futures meeting itself was part of the process of shifting the burden to these organizers to make the legacy evergreen and carry the flag forward from the past to scale new heights in the years and decades to come.