Nothing is Easy about Planning for the Future

ACORN International Climate Change Radio

             New Orleans       After three straight days of meetings, first an exciting one-day long training workshop with frontline leaders and activists in the Gulf Coast facing climate change and its threats, and then two intense days of staff meetings, you could have wrung me out like an old dishrag.  I was beat.  Luckily, as a consolation prize the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans were playing the Toronto Raptors, and a bunch of us, perhaps foolishly, from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada had gotten tickets for the game.  For those of us rooting for the home team, it was exhilarating and a perfect pick-me-up, with the Pelicans winning 138 to 100 behind star forward and fan favorite Brandon Ingram’s season high 41 points.

We needed that to clear our heads and allow us to change focus, because there is nothing easy about evaluating a year’s worth of work and planning for the next one, as we have been doing annually for more than fifty years at ACORN’s Year End / Year Begin (YE/YB) meetings.  We take it seriously.  Numbers are crunched.  Goals are made, challenged, and revised.  Lessons learned are shared.  Wins are celebrated, and setbacks are reexamined for renewed effort.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the meeting was participating in the Sunday morning discussions on our training programs and the opportunities and challenges involved, as well as the major expansions of the international organization into new countries and areas.  Currently, an organizer is in New Orleans and soon on his way to Toronto, as he prepares to open ACORN in the Netherlands beginning in the city of Heerlen in the southeastern corner of the country.  Additional initiatives are also moving forward in various cities in Belgium, including Brussels, Catania, Sicily, and Melbourne, Australia.  The question before us, simply put, was that “now is the time, but are we ready?”  So, the answer, as always is “ready or not, here we come,” so the conversation focused on what needed to be done to prepare adequately for this growth spurt.  We made good progress, but there’s a lot needed to make it work.

The other potential major problem and opportunity before us involved significantly expanding our work and footprint in the United States.  New training opportunities have opened the door to deep relationships with a number of groups.  How do we welcome them into ACORN?  Starting new organizations from scratch is hard, but it’s something we know how to do and to do well with proven experience.  Integrating existing organizations into ACORN could be huge, but everyone agreed that it would be different, so work would need to be done to smooth transitions, regularize support, and weld together an ever more powerful organization out of the federation.  As numerous partners also await decisions on whether they have won radio station construction permits from the FCC in forty-seven different communities, how do we also support these efforts, meld together programming and service to the communities, and advance the organization in these communities, too?  Can we put together the resources?  How do we build the staff?  How can the various affiliates join together to make this possible?

Once again, truth to tell, progress was made, but some of these questions were headscratchers, where we knew what might be needed, but weren’t sure how to get there.  There were gaps in the planning, some of which demanded us building new additions to our existing organizing models to accommodate these variants successfully.

As the day lengthened into night, one thing was clear to me.  We were all going to have to bring our A-game to these challenges, just like Brandon Ingram did on the hardwood floor.  If he could make four straight-threes to finish his work last night, as almost impossible as that is to do, we were going to have learn to do the equivalent of that and more in this and coming years in our work.  Fortunately, this is what we all signed up for without the millions of dollars in pay or the big crowds on their feet and cheering as we walk off the floor.