International Organizers Meet

ACORN International Affiliates Australia Cameroon Canada England France India Ireland Kenya Liberia Scotland Uganda United States Wales

            Shepley, Yorkshire      Fifty organizers from France, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the United States came together in Yorkshire, England for our annual ACORN International organizers’ meeting for this year.  Another bunch from Kenya, Australia, Liberia, Uganda, India, and Cameroon joined at different times via Zoom, along with other leaders and organizers from France, Canada, England, and the USA who weren’t able to travel.  After the first plenary session of reports on a Friday evening, walking downstairs to the large room in the basement of the Cliffe House where we were staying and meeting, I opened the fire door and was met by a deafening roar of everyone talking together in small groups, talking at the top of their lungs, and leaning close to hear each other.  A foosball game was in progress.  The energy and excitement could have powered a plane.

As the reports went, one after the other, it became clear to everyone in the room, if there had been any doubt, that we were having a very, very good year.  Membership had leaped forward, and they were paying dues to the organizations at a clip of more than $1.25 million per year and growing.  Budgets were over a million a year in Canada and England/Wales.  Ireland was 90% self-funded by membership dues, while we were close to 50-50 in Canada and the UK.  Nearly 100 organizers and staff were now working throughout the affiliates, and all of that were the minor items, compared to the victories the members had won in local to national campaigns.

Under the rubric of our “Healthy Homes” campaign we were steadily winning more housing security whether it was anti-eviction bans or progress on retrofits to both keep our members and their families warmer as well as to impact the 20 to 25% contribution to climate change impacts released by building emissions.  Sucess was reported on dealing with predatory installment loans in Canada, banning bailiff evictions in Manchester, winning access to public facilities and sports for Islamic women in France, expanding nationally in Ireland, and winning on local services in Douala.  We had organized giant rallies with the Enough is Enough campaign in England, strikes of sugar workers in Cameroon, and actions by McDonalds’ workers in Paris.  In the US, we issued reports on rural electric cooperative diversity and governance, hospital pricing transparency, and voter purges and election security.

The public face of the organization was matched by huge developments in our internal capacity and structure.  Work on the ACORN Organizing School had moved forward in France, England, Canada, and the USA, with a projected launch early in 2023.  The training structure developed during the year for various levels of organizers in the UK had everyone taking notes.  A mobile-phone based organizing app led by France was near to launch in English and French.  New licenses for radio stations had been issued in Uganda and the USA, and several were moving to on-the-air status.

Nothing happens overnight.  The reports were not really the result of a year of work, but eighteen in Canada and almost a decade in the UK and France, and of course more than fifty in the USA.  It was exciting to see that new fledgling efforts were on their way in Australia and Nigeria with additional developments in Belgium and the Netherlands.  The board wrestled with how to structure the growing organization to respond to affiliation and new organizing requests as well as creating a financial structure that would also assure the federation’s self-sufficiency, not just the affiliates.

While the board met in the early evening, the staff hiked to the town center in Shepley.  It was the annual bonfire night and Guy Fawkes Day.  There were fireworks.  As the board met, we could see some of them bursting into the sky.  The reports from the staff were that it was a dud.  The display didn’t go high enough and pieces of paper from the streamers rained on the heads of the small crowd.

I wasn’t surprised.  All of the fireworks had really been in the meetings.