The reason I started writing on Organizing Change, came from my desire to learn how to be a better organizer and activist.
I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to organize, but I wanted to take a step back and really figure out new ways of accomplishing my work.
On the nights I journal, I try to think about at least one thing I learned that day. It can be related to anything and not just organizing, even though that is what I write the most about!
For me, I believe there is always so much information filtering in from the world, that sometimes it is really helpful to just sit for a sec and think about “what did I learn today that I want to remember?”
Learning in the organizer role
When I talk about learning, I’m focused on the skills and background we need to have in order to make the changes we seek.
In fact learning outside of academic institutions and from those with direct experience/knowledge may be more personally enlightening and impactful.
I know for myself that I have had to create my own path of learning, because many of history’s darkest moments and current realities (e.g. uranium mining on sovereign Native lands, military border rape, racial injustices in the foster care system, etc.) are ignored or glossed over by the media, education system, politicians, etc.
Specifically for organizing contexts, in order to create new alternatives and solutions, we must understand the sources of oppression and destruction, and why they have been able to succeed in their mission.
Also, to grow our own confidence and desire to grow, we should take as many chances to learn about what makes us passionate.
What do you want to learn and how are you going to make sure you get there?
Why it may seem intuitive to say “I need to learn more,” it is often hard to set aside time or know where to even begin.
I tend to read digital and print materials frequently, while also talking to friends to learn, but also to see if I truly understand what I am talking about.
While you have to come up with your own way of learning about the barriers in the face of change, and the potential ways of achieving our visions, below are some methods I’ve used that hopefully will stoke some inspiration!
1. Learning Plan
We make plans for everything else, so why not learning!?
Think and/or write out what you want to learn more about and figure what you need to do to get there!
I thought up different ideas in an brainstorm (e.g. historical activist strategies, singing, clear communication, dominant political discourses, new languages, etc.) and then, due to my culturally linear way of thinking, I wrote these areas up into categories and have started to create timelines and SMART goals for each!
If writing up plans is not your preferred learning method try talking to a friend about your ideas, drawing out what you want to learn, etc.
No matter your method, the most important piece of this plan is to refer back to it and start seeking out new knowledge!
2. Book, Article, Workshop Summaries
Now after I read a really valuable article or attend a very thought-provoking workshop, I write up a small summary of my main takeaways and/or actions I will take.
When possible, I try to also meet up with someone else to intentionally discuss what I learned and it is during those spaces that I feel I grow the most.
I keep a fair number of lists going that help me keep track of resources since I don’t always have to time to really internalize what I just learned.
Some lists I currently have going are “Important organizing tips to remember,” “Facts/Ideas I never want to forget,” and “Life lessons, principles, and takeaways to keep in mind.”
Having lists allows you to put aside resources at the moment, until you are ready to really think about them since life for many folks is quite busy.
4. “Thing I Learned Today” – i.e. TILT
Now whenever I learn something I want to make sure to remember, I write it down either in my journal, or in one of my numerous Google Docs!
It can be really simple (e.g. one of my “TILTs” was to “provide more examples on Organizing Change”) or more complex (e.g. the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prisoners while only having 5% of the world’s population).
I generally think about what I learn about myself and about the world around me.
As you can probably tell by reading this post, I seek out new ways of learning all the time, as I am sure many others do as well, so if you have a moment to share your way of learning and remembering I would love to hear your practice!
A few weeks I mentioned my surprise about learning how many people in the U.S. were actively seeking alternatives to capitalism.
I first read those statistics a few months ago (sometimes I need to let posts ferment), and since then I’ve continually noticed how many people are truly seeking deep and “radical” changes.
“Radical” in this case meaning to truly address the “root issues” of our time and to implement intersectional and strategic initiatives.
From those just starting out in their organizing work to those who would never consider themselves an activist in any fashion, I hear people talking about how the need for change has never been higher.
Despite the media and our dominant institutions doing an excellent job of normalizing our oppressive systems, there remains this spark for making significant changes.
The main reason this attitude towards the “radical” becomes hidden, is due to the fact that we do not have an outlet for our radical thoughts.
These radical ideas and actions need long-term support and infrastructure, but we are still far away from having the capacity to truly bring about them on a large-scale.
However, a far graver issue is that we are often unwilling and/or unable to have these conversations with those that we are closest with.
I remember I was always so nervous bring up “radical” ideas (e.g. that we need to find alternative to the Prison Industrial Complex) and I would be unsure how folks would respond.
I still experience nervousness and uncertainty when discussing the need for deep changes, but I have a new frame around this dialogue.
I now see that my family, friends, and community want to have these conversations with me. They want to get to know me and know what I believe and am passionate about.
By talking about our radical views, we both support our own self-development but we also contribute to the lives of those around us by sharing ourselves with them.
Though there might still be topics we are not ready to talk about with all of our family, friends, and community, we should find the folks we are willing to talk to and build our community of support.
For me, the frame of talking to those around me about my radical views = contributing to those around me was all I needed to feel more comfortable with my nervousness/uncertainty.
I’m still learning about the ways that work best for me in having these discussions, but I’m definitely feeling much more confident in my ability to do so.
So whenever you are feeling alone with your “radical” thoughts, just try talking to someone you never expected to share your views. You might just be surprised to find they share your views.
Thanks Jeremy Blanchard for the brilliant coaching on this topic and helping me better share with others!
Off-line opportunity=talk to one person who you’ve been wanting to share your “radical” views with. What thoughts, ideas, or actions would you like to discuss? Talk to one person and see how this leads to authentic dialogue.
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