My Life Update and Organizing Change’s Direction

Photo: Vinoth Chandar via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: Vinoth Chandar via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Normally on Organizing Change my focus is on what’s going on in the world of social change and what we should be taking the time to learn about. However, this week I thought I’d share a little bit about what I’ve been up to and what’s in store for Organizing Change.

Though my posts on Organizing Change have been pretty sparse over the past month or two, I’m still adding new ideas to my “Future Posts List.” Whenever I find a new skill-building resource or strategy to dismantle injustice, I think of how best to share the information with others here on this blog.

So here’s a life update and what I’ve been learning about.


Education Organizing Landscape



I recently moved to Delaware and have been taking a bit of time to get oriented in this new place and explore the area. I’m slowly starting to get in a great rhythm here and now I’m seeing how I can get more involved in organizing here.

One of the key parts of organizing is relationships, so it often takes a bit of time to get a “lay of the land” and know what efforts are already going on and how you can contribute at a local level.

For example, there’s a big commitment to increasing the ability of Delaware’s education system to support all students. Concurrently, there’s also a specific interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.

As is generally the case, government and nonprofits are taking a leading role and there’s little true engagement from the grassroots. These institutional entities have important roles, but we still must find ways to include those outside of the established organizations.

Already I’ve talked to so many people who want to participate in making a better education for kids…they just don’t know exactly how to get involved. The main reason for that is there isn’t a ton of opportunities to get involved.

Even if a nonprofit advocacy group conducts “community organizing,” it’s generally just on the scale of getting people to speak at hearings or sign petitions. Very few closely involve those most impacted in planning and implementing projects/campaigns.

So what this means for me is that I’ve been thinking of ways to create truly grassroots campaigns that involve all constituents here. Interestingly, the one that has the most promise is a chess-in-the-schools initiative.

Whether people have read the studies or not, that show how helpful chess is for increasing academic abilities, many families and schools all seem to enthusiastically support chess.

Now I am wondering how we can use this interest in chess to create a campaign that builds a base of people that can also work on other issues of addressing institutional injustices. This work is still in the formation stage, but I see how many want to get involved so it’s time we find a way to get them a chance.


Leading Change Network


I joined the Leading Change Network (LCN) last July at their Global Event, because I was immediately interested in their efforts around learning, resource sharing, and identifying best organizing practices.

Since then I’ve started working with an incredible team on researching how to “restrategize” (i.e. what do you do once you create an initial strategy, but then have to modify it) during a campaign.

We’re also getting the chance to investigate strategy from a variety of fields (e.g. business, military, and education) to see what else our social change work should consider or at least be prepared for. We’re even comparing strategy from across the social change world (e.g. Marshall Ganz’s frameworks and the work of the Midwest Academy).

Basically we’ve set ourselves up with the ambitious goal of identifying the key elements of “restrategizing” and laying out the core baseline of “strategy” from numerous disciplines. Though, it’s pretty cool to have the chance to compile best practices for an important aspect of our campaigns.

This “restrategizing working group” is also the highest functioning digitally-based group I’ve ever got the opportunity to be a part of! We have tall aspirations, but I feel that this team is going to keep on surprising folks with how much we get done.

Similarly, I’m also working on LCN’s Network Resource Center to highlight valuable organizing articles, videos, workshops, and guides. Eventually we’ll have an easy-to-use online repository to showcase some of the most important documents on social change.

Both of these projects I currently have the opportunity to work with are especially enlightening for me because I hoped to do similar things with Organizing Change, but now I don’t have to wait!


Organizing Change Next Steps


Organizing Change has been publishing for about 7 months now and its actually about where I was hoping it would be!

I wanted the first year of Organizing Change to be about clearly identifying important organizations and their work, along with improving my own writing skills. Both of these I feel like I’ve definitely accomplished (though with some further goals to work on!).

Now over the next year I really want to finalize my “cornerstone content” (i.e. the core information I think all changemakers should be aware of). While I hope to make most of my posts here informative, I aim to compile the key essentials that would be useful for organizers in any field.

One of my first forays into this endeavor was my post on The Comprehensive Activist Guide to Dismantling Neoliberalism. I used this post as a way to bolster my capacity to delve into the details, but also summarize information in an easily accessible format.

Here’s my 5 main pieces of “cornerstone content” I’m going to be working on over this next year:

  • Changing the Narrative of Dominant Culture
  • Strategy Development for the Long-Term
  • Organize for the 21st Century (i.e. organizer skills – the “toolbox”)
  • Injustice We Must Fight – Solutions We Must Create
  • Movement Building

This is going to be a gradual process, but I’m already looking forward to writing each of these!

You might see a post or two contribute to these 5 main pieces of content, but I’m still going to try to have a mix of what I discuss here at Organizing Change.

I hope that gives you a little better picture of what I’ve been working on in my life recently. I think being out here in Delaware, though a little unexpected, has a lot of positive possibilities!

Thank you for all the support over these past few months, you keep giving me energy to keep on writing!


Do You Know Your Activist History?

Photo: h.koppdelaney via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: h.koppdelaney via Flickr (Creative Commons)

If you had a similar early education path as myself, you probably only learned about a few justice movements (e.g. women’s suffrage and civil rights).

You probably also learned that these movements had a few charismatic leaders that led them to victory (e.g. Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr.).

I was hard-pressed to answer if someone asked me whether I could name more than 2-3 other activists in those movements, let alone describe significant events or organizations that shaped the grassroots organizing.

While over the past few years I have definitely increased my understanding of the activist history that has shaped the world’s course, I know I learn new things every day about the leaders, groups, events, and achievements the dominant culture-focused history books tend to ignore.

So with this newest Organizing Change project, I’m excited to illuminate some of the main elements that have pieced together our activist history!




If you’re someone who wants to showcase how many people and organizations have dedicated their lives to making positive change, then check out #ActivismHistory (by “liking” the Facebook page and follow on Twitter) and consider contributing your own knowledge of our history!

Here’s the main areas from our changemaking past I’ll be looking at:

1. Individuals – both well-recognized (e.g. Angela Davis, Naomi Klein, and Dolores Huerta) and those we should know more about (e.g. Maggie Kuhn, Grace Lee Boggs, Haunani-Kay Trask). I’ll be bringing attention to an important changemaker almost every day of the week!

2. Organizations – though individuals are often the ones to receive the most media coverage, groups of people helped provide the capacity for movements to grow (e.g. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Fuerza Unida, Women of All Red Nations, and the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation).

3. Dates and events – while most social change work takes place over a long time span, there are keys moments in history that have dramatically (or subtly) shaped our world (e.g. 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riot, 1982 Afton protests in Warren County North Carolina, and the recent Idle No More National Day of Action).

4. Achievements – as noted above, our activist history is more than just a collection of protests and media events…it’s a long-term struggle for justice whether it results in monumental legislation (e.g. 2009 Matthew Shepard Act), fosters community empowerment (e.g. American Indian Movement), or brings about a step toward our visions (e.g. Atlantis Community – a model for independent living).


Purpose of #ActivismHistory


My aim with this project is to complement the work of others showcasing our activist history, such as the Zinn Education Project (check out their Facebook or Twitter pages for daily analysis and important moments), Transgriot, and the Disability Studies blog.

As with my purpose for Organizing Change, to increase the number of folks finding ways to amplify our strategic social change work, I hope this initiative gives rise to more analysis of our activist history as a way to support our current organizing.

So join Organizing Change on Facebook and Twitter and add to #ActivismHistory by contributing your own knowledge, while learning from the experience of others!


Introducing Organizing Change – A Space for Strategic Changemakers!

Similarly to many of you, it seems like every day I think about what we need to do to bring about positive, institutional, and lasting improvements in people’s lives.

I started this blog to identify ways to connect my work to a larger strategic shift for transformation. Over this past year I’ve been preparing to launch this blog by compiling activist lessons, examples, and ideas that illustrate how to Change the Way We Organize through:

  • The vision of where we are going with making change through strategic activism and fostering movements that create the world we seek
  • An analysis of what it takes to make change in shifting cultures and disrupting systemic oppression at many levels
  • A toolkit of how we will make change by building skills for what it takes for high-impact organizing

You can probably tell by now that I’m focused on how to achieve a just and resilient planet that fulfills the needs of current and future generations.

I know that what I want to see in society will take us coming at obstacles from many angles, but that is exactly why I want to be a part of initiatives coordinating long-term responses to the problems of our day. Whether you work in a non-profit, a government agency, a business, or a community group, we must break out of an emphasis on single issue areas to demonstrate the results of our collective efforts.


Want to Organize for Social Change…but Strategically?


Each week here I’m looking to build a committed group of changemakers to illustrate not only proven best practices, but also innovative and propelling actions. Organizing Change’s posts will emphasize the following 6 areas crucial to changing our world:

1. Learning from impactful organizing – profiles of current organizers and lessons we can learn from the history of activism

2. Increasing critical organizing capacity – honing skills, resource sharing, and building confidence in acting for what we believe

3. Crafting intentional cultures – shifting dominant narratives and truly representing the full spectrum of personal identities

4. Dismantling injustice – challenging power, privilege, and oppression at an institutional level

5. Propelling strategic action – cross-issue planning and communicating shared values

6. Activating visionary movements – collaborative effort, laying the groundwork for mass change, and stretching what we think is possible to achieve

I’ll be posting about 3 times a week on these essential themes, while also seeking out the most pressing needs and questions that changemakers want discussed. Though it is important to understand the large factors that influence change, I know that it is just as valuable to look at the details facing organizers every day.


Keeping up with Organizing Change


If what I’ve described so far about Organizing Change seems to be similar to your own passions, then think about subscribing to the e-mail and RSS notifications. Or for those more inclined towards the social media side check out the Google+, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

While this space progresses consider contributing your own experiences by guest posting or commenting! Let’s show the necessity of organizing and our commitment to change.


Launching this blog


I’d like to give a big thanks to Jeremy Blanchard (who gave me the space and support to start Organizing Change) and Meaghan Brennan (who made sure that I clearly wrote ideas and posts) for making sure this work became a reality!

As I wrote earlier in this post, I’ve been working on starting this blog for over a year now and my whole outlook on organizing change has dramatically deepened based on the collected organizing lessons I found. Thus, I’m excited to do my best to ensure that Organizing Change gives you as many new insights as it has for me!

Well now that you’ve heard about Organizing Change, check out the first few posts for strategic changemakers on the vision, analysis, and tools we need to Change the Way We Organize.