By Jessica Nowlan-Green,
Center for Young Women’s Development
Using my experiences of working at the Center for Young Women’s Development,
I put together this list of useful tools for organizing. I realize that
there are many tools and strategies used to organize around issues in
our communities, and these are just a few.
Organizing is working towards something. It is building a movement,
having an overall goal. It is for the people by the people.
Planning an action is not the only type of organizing. In fact,
an action such as a walk out or a protest is a small piece of a larger
picture. An action in itself is a tool for organizing.
You cannot organize someone. As an experienced organizer your
role is to assist the people in organizing themselves.
TOOLS FOR PLANNING AN ACTION AND BUILDING A MOVEMENT
Popular education is education for the people. This is the most
important tool for organizing because it enables people to find solutions
to their own problems. It is built on the framework that people have
the answers. Through constant analysis and critical reflection of lived
experiences, we can discover our own problems and begin to make concrete
efforts that will effect change.
Popular education equips people to define their own struggles and make
their voices heard while bringing ongoing “consciousness-raising” to
organizing. Rather than only focusing on one event like a rally, popular
education is focused on bringing people together for building a movement.
Knowing the facts is also very important. The more we know the
stronger we become. Despite the fact that the school system has not
taught us our histories and has falsified facts about past movements
and struggles, it is up to us as organizers to un-learn what we have
been taught and educate ourselves.
When organizing around a specific issue like California spending more
on jails then on school, it is important to have your facts down. If
you state a fact, you need to have information to back that up. Do your
research and know your stuff. If you are speaking to the media, for
example, and you say that California built twenty prisons in 1998 and
only one school, that night on the news they might show you saying that
and then show a graph with the real facts. Not only does this make you
look like you don’t know what you are talking about, it takes the focus
off what we are trying to do.
Media is an important asset to organizing. If you will be having
an action of some kind, it is good to have media there because they
get your message to the general public. You can reach more people, and
you get a chance to say what is really going on. Although media can
be a good tool for organizing, you need to be prepared to deal with
them. Remember that usually they are just trying to get a story and
will often times try to twist your words around to make their story
more “appealing” to the general public. They often times portray organizers
in a negative way and focus on things that go wrong. It is also just
as important to get connections with cool people that work in media
so that you have allies on your side. Research media. See what the progressive
newspapers or magazines are that might portray you in a positive way
and make connections with them.
Specific Tasks are key to organizing. When you are planning
an action, for example, everyone should have a designated task. Delegation
of Tasks is important because one person cannot do everything. When
tasks are split up between individuals, we can get stuff done in a more
effective way. For instance if someone is in charge of propaganda, they
can organize sign-making parties and set up a team to make flyers. This
does not mean that they do everything, but, as a contact person, they
can report back to the group and oversee this specific area.
Outreach is contacting people. Talking to people on the streets,
at schools, community centers, etc. is a good way to let people know
what is going on, because not everyone can make it to the meetings or
wants to go to the meetings. Some people might not even know what you
are doing. Outreach is how to get the word out.
Phone Banking is a way to get in contact with all the people
that you have previously worked with or that you have contact with and
are down for the cause. By doing this you can get people to come to
the meetings and to participate in organizing. This is a good way to
get the masses out to an action and to spread the word. It is good to
have everyone at every meeting sign in; this way you can make sure you
always have everyone’s current information so that you can contact them.
Agitation is a very useful tool. During outreach or other times
you can use this to get people pumped (mad and excited) about an issue.
When you agitate someone, you are pushing his or her buttons. Agitation
can also be used to confront your target.
© 2000 by Individual Authors