Complicating the Democracy Genuflect (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

by: educationaction

Tue Jun 17, 2008 at 15:08

(A bit lengthly, but, as usual, will make you think. - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

Progressives tend to genuflect before "democracy."  If "the people" are to be involved, if there is to be a "grassroots" effort, the assumption is that a process of inclusive democratic decision-making has been followed.

As I have noted before, the progressive vision of a world fully driven by egalitarian democratic participation is a dream, a fantasy.  The truth is that democracy is expensive.  Extensive resources are required every time one seeks to involve large numbers of people in decision-making.  Only very privileged people could think that this could happen on a continual basis.  Historically, poor people's movements have been much more hierarchical than progressives (including many progressive scholars and historians) have imagined.  

Of course, democratic participation is critically important.  In labor unions and elsewhere, working-class propensities for hierarchy have too often resulted in clearly non-democratic, and even authoritarian regimes.  Given pragmatic limitations in resources, then, community organizing groups must choose carefully those moments when robust democratic participation seems required, and when it seems less important.

In this diary, I explore the implications of the "cost" of democratic participation for community organizing.

Those new to these posts may want to read Part I and Part II of "What is Organizing?"  See the full series here.

More on the flip.

Note: those who were interested in my last diary on Obama and Organizing may want to look at an update I added.

educationaction :: Complicating the Democracy Genuflect (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)
[UPDATE: It may help to stress that I mean this as much as an extended question as an argument.  It's not PC to suggest that democracy isn't always right, or that small groups of people should develop ideas "for" others.  I don't even particularly like writing stuff like this.  But I'm interested in any responses this post might incite, and this is an issue I struggle with, especially with the very limited time that I, personally, have to volunteer to these overall efforts.]

One of the issues I am working on at the moment is health care in schools.  Last year we successfully won $4 million dollars for school nurses in the state budget.  Since then, we have been exploring possibilities for providing dental care to inner-city kids through a school-based program.  

I may talk more specifically about these efforts later on.  Here, I just want to discuss how we decided on health and dental care as an issue.  

Real Choices in a World of Limited Options

Fighting for school change in my state is extremely challenging for a city-based organization because funding is controlled on the state level.  Unless it achieves the power to "move" the legislature, then, an organizing group is generally limited to non-funding issues on the local level.  After banging our heads against this challenge for a couple of years, key members of the education committee of the congregational organizing group I work with, MOVE, came together and decided we would try to focus on "school" issues that might be able to tap funding streams outside of the traditional funding process.  

We decided that health care would be an important arena to explore.

For the next year and a half, or so, the committee spent time doing research and talking to key stakeholders about health care for children and about the effects of health issues on education.  As part of this I created a brochure about the health care challenges of Milwaukee children and relationships between health and learning.  Still, we struggled to find a good issue to "cut" out of the "problem" of health care for kids.  

At one point, we began to focus on the fact that nearly all low-income Milwaukee children were not only eligible but actually signed up for the state Medicaid program.  Would it be possible, we wondered, to leverage children's health insurance to fund school-based programs?  We asked a key representative of the state health department, and, to our surprise, they were quite interested in this idea.  

I won't go into all of the details of our negotiations or our engagements with the local district to help make the school nurse funding a reality.  Interestingly, we ended up dealing with the state anyway around this issue, but because we had an identified funding stream to help support the effort, it was easier to make change happen.  

Hiring school 24 new school nurses for the schools that had had no nursing support at all prior to this was a real achievement, but we had actually started our discussion with the state talking about how specific services might be provided through schools.  After winning the nurses, we turned back to the services issue.  And everyone told us that the "hot" issue right now was dental care.  So that's what we began to focus on.

Over more than the last year, with more and less intensity, we've been exploring how we might "cut" an issue out of the dental challenge, talking, again, to different stake-holders in an attempt to uncover a specific model that we might fight for.  This time, given the interest in the issue, we recruited our state-wide network to this issue, which agreed to join us if we could figure out a way to "cut" this issue by finding a specific, effective model.  This is where we are at the moment.

Benefits of Being Anti-Democratic?

You will notice that I have nowhere in this story talked about any effort to foster broad-based democratic discussions.  While we received agreement from the organization at our yearly meeting for our direction, this did not involve any significant or substantive consultation.  All of the decisions were essentially made by an extremely small group of leaders.

It gets worse.  There is an extent to which what we have been doing is actually somewhat "non-"democratic.  

Some years ago we went through a process of surveying our members about what they thought the key issues were in education that we should focus on.  The clear winner was "discipline" in schools.  But we never went in this direction.  Why?

The "discipline" issue is extremely problematic for a progressive organization to tackle directly.  Focusing on "discipline" can, for example, frame youth as the problem, not part of the solution.  Focusing on discipline also may end up magnifying what may not be the key problem for schools for the organization's members and the larger public.  Further, many discipline issues are the result of non-discipline, community and school challenges.  In fact, the most effective efforts to increase order in schools involve building school community, not punitive interventions.  In fact, punitive measures have been shown to actually increase disorder.  But "building community" is a pretty vague and hard-to-measure challenge-not something community organizing groups with their fairly blunt tools of conflict and demand are best equipped for.  

Furthermore, we discovered after we finished the survey that almost none of the survey participants from members churches actually had children in the most challenged schools in the city.  In other words, the relative privilege of this population allowed them to keep their children in "better" schools.  Were our members really representatives of the "grassroots" in the community, then?  How much did they understand about the school issues they were surveyed about?  

I could go on.  There are other pragmatic limitations of this area.  I'm sure if we thought hard enough we could have cut some kind of effective issue about discipline.  But we didn't.   Instead, we focused on health care, which wasn't even listed on this earlier survey, and that people we surveyed didn't raise as much of a key issue either.

It gets worse.

Some months into working on the dental issue, after we submitted a response to a request for information for grants from the state to work on this issue, a key person on a local health task  called me.  One of the things she noted was that they had actually run focus groups with parents, and that parents had indicated that having kids served in schools wasn't what they most wanted.  What they wanted was direct and usable access to dentists themselves.  

If parents don't want their kids served in the school they don't have to, of course.  But there are over 90,000 students in our schools.  And the school-based approach could actually get them comprehensive care, which we don't have any other effective (e.g., winnable) strategy for achieving right now.  

So it turns out that we may actually be going against what some parents actually most want with this school-based program.

How Much Do People Want to Be Consulted?

Middle-class professionals expect to be consulted on pretty much everything.  But if you aren't so privileged, don't have a lot of time to learn a great deal about education issues, and are facing enormous challenges, and someone comes to you and says, "hey, I can help you solve one of these challenges," are you going to worry so much about which one of them gets chosen?  I doubt it.

Does it really matter that much if we focus on dental care, or vision care, or smaller class sizes first?  Not really, to a lot of people.

And, as I've tried to explain, the fact is that there is not like there are huge numbers of good issues just lying out there to be engaged with.  Finding an issue that is both important and that you have enough power to intervene in turns out to be pretty challenging.  We'd be happy to work on broader access to dental care instead of the school-based issue but it's not clear that this is winnable right now.  Certainly, there is not a groundswell of support for broadly increasing payments to seemingly already privileged dentists, which would need to be part of any effective solution.  

Democracy Is Important

The point is not that you shouldn't consult with your members.  Broad-based democratic participation is still important.  But you need to choose when and how you make this happen.  Because every time you do it, it requires a lot of resources-especially time for busy members-to have extensive discussions, meetings, etc.

For example, if we can get the dental issue cut, which is still a big if, then we could have many educational and discussion sessions about how to pursue it, how to tweak it, how to get broader participation in the effort etc.  You can't get grassroots engagement without grassroots participation.  

But the fact is that the statistics about health care for inner-city children are horrific.  For example, 64% of the children in our schools have significant dental problems.  64%!  And there are very few dentists that are even willing to see them.  People see these numbers, come to understand the problem, and they become engaged.  They probably didn't realize before.  

If we put this issue out, and people yawned, well, then we couldn't pursue it.  

But the fact is that there are a huge number of horrific problems out there that would engage people if we could just find some realistic solution (and I mean politically realistic) to fight for.  As I've noted before, it's by finding a realistic possibility for successful change that one can get people engaged.  Going around and around about challenges that you have no realistic way of approaching is likely just to make people stop showing up.  This is true EVEN IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THE PROBLEMS THAT THEY WERE NOT INITIALLY MOST CONCERNED ABOUT.

What Kind of Issues Require More Democratic Consultation?

Other issues seem likely to require more extensive education and dialogue. For example, we were thinking about joining the fight of a couple of local school board members to reinstate arts programs and/or other extracurricular activities in MPS schools. An effort like this, which would involve shifting $$ from one area of the school budget to another (instead of providing new $$ like the dental plan would, above) seem problematic to pursue without extensive and broad input. There is deep disagreement out there about what schools should "do" or "be." Should they limit their focus to the three Rs exclusively, or do they have a responsibility to provide more broad-based experiences to students? And do extracurricular activities really matter on an academic level? Are they simply add-ons that are fun, or do they, for example, keep students in school that might otherwise drop out?

To me, it seems problematic for a few leaders to decide what the general population of their organization believes on something like this without engaging with them in some way.

Three Kinds of Issues?

There may be three different kinds of issues, here.

  1. There may be issues like dental care or class size that don't require as much intense democratic engagement or education. Anybody on the street can see why they are important and they don't need to learn much to understand what needs to be done in a general sense.  The specifics of the solution are not really that important to them.

  2. Then there may be issues that require education and some democratic dialogue, but that revolve around issues that people generally will support unproblematically. People need to understand the complexities of these issues in order to participate effectively in the fight, but don't need to have extended discussion about whether this particular fight is worthy.

  3. And then there may be issues that require both education and more extensive democratic dialogue, like whether an organization should join an effort to bring extracurricular activities back given a limited pool of $ to do everything a school needs to do. They need to have discussions about whether this campaign is worth getting into in the first place. And they need to understand the structure of the budget-the specific details of where the funding will come from and the implications of this act for other programs-both to have the dialogue in the first place and to effectively fight for the change if they decide to pursue it.

To complicate this even more, there may be issues that you need to win on BEFORE you worry about democratic participation.  For example, if you could include avenues for community participation within the school dental programs, then the creation of these programs might CREATE opportunities for democratic participation that didn't exist before you developed them.  

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A few quick comments/questions. (4.00 / 1)
Another great diary as usual.  I haven't had time to digest it completely, but would just like mention a few things.

we struggled to find a good issue to "cut" out of the "problem" of health care

Identifying appropriate, winnable, popular issues seems to me like it would be one of the biggest hurdles in creating and expanding community organizations.  I think while you can fairly easily convince people that they need to focus on stopping babies from being thrown in the river, its a much bigger step to identify ways to do this.  Another related issue is that many people, myself included, have very limited experience with local and state governments and would have a very difficult time in identifying targets for a particular issue.  This latter problem would probably lead to many achievable issues being overlooked or neglected because they don't know how to find an appropriate target even when one exists.  Perhaps education on the function of various local and statewide government agencies with specific examples would expand the toolchest of potential organizers.  Because of our recent primary election, I realized just how little I know of what various elected officials actually do (yet alone appointed commissions, etc).

I won't go into all of the details of our negotiations or our engagements with the local district to help make the school nurse funding a reality.

Although I understand that tactics are specific to individual cases, I think the details of this and similar experiences would be invaluable to potential organizers.  Again, I would expect that the main problem in training new organizers would be their lack of knowing how to proceed with the details, rather than their understanding of or commitment to the generalities.

And finally, forgive my ignorance, but is what you're doing really community organizing?  It seems to me that you're a small activist group working with government agencies with little mass involvement (analogous to the "lawsuits aren't organizing" message in your previous article).  This is undoubtedly due to my limited understanding of various models of organizing, but is there a role for the larger community here?  I don't see how this leads to personal empowerment.

Wow, that sounds a lot like criticism, but I only ask because I'm trying to learn and think your efforts are quite admirable.  Thanks.

If we can frame the issue (0.00 / 0)
then we can start generating wider participation through our churches.  It's at that point, for this specific issue, that the larger campaign starts.  

Criticism is good :)

Part of the point of this diary is that more of community organizing involves small groups of leaders than people think.  At least in my limited experience.

Interestingly enough, Alinsky cut details out of his second organizing book because he worried that organizers would try to reproduce his specific ideas instead of coming up with their own to fit the unique needs of particular situations.

But I may go into the details later.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
I think (4.00 / 1)
I think part of the reason people are asking "is this really community organizing?" is because you haven't gone into details about how you make these demands and win the conflict.

Understanding how the "community" part of the community organization is involved in actually making the noise and winning the battle might clarify how this really is empowering even if the leadership functions relatively autonomously.

Right now, you make it sound much like the more middle class groups who sit down with city government, present a problem, and work out a solution to everyone's liking. But this is different from that partly 1) because the problems being solved are the problems of a much more disadvantaged community, but also 2) because the community is probably essential to winning the conflict.

At least, that's my understanding.

I continue to enjoy this series a lot. Maybe one of these days I'll actually read some Alinsky.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
Good Points (0.00 / 0)
If you go for any Alinsky, I'd recommend Reveille over Rules for Radicals.  Rules is more instructional, but Reveille gives a better sense of the story behind the instructions.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
curious (4.00 / 1)
There's an analogous argument in development circles which I buy more (that you need a small disciplined bureaucratic cadre that's autonomous from society to make appropriate policy decisions).  It might actually get better results in terms of policy, but the question is how sustainable it is without the use of massive coercion.  And since you don't have that option, how sustainable is this approach if you're actually serving the people in your base?  And why was the state willing to go along with it?  To reduce political pressure from you (i.e. a buyoff?)?  

I think this comment was appropriate:

And finally, forgive my ignorance, but is what you're doing really community organizing?  It seems to me that you're a small activist group working with government agencies with little mass involvement (analogous to the "lawsuits aren't organizing" message in your previous article).  This is undoubtedly due to my limited understanding of various models of organizing, but is there a role for the larger community here?  I don't see how this leads to personal empowerment.

How does what you're doing build social/economic power for your base or more broadly for social justice aims?  You win a demand, yes, but it's the demand of a small group as they define the best interests of other people, won through a political deal with people who are part of the bureaucracy.

Here is an alternative - trying to figure out what people meant by "discipline."  Going into further depth in conversation to see what the attitudes actually were and whether there was some other issue that they were talking about (poor school quality, etc.).  To me, the word is not really meaningful as an idea - it's just a norm blaming students, as you pointed out.  But it might have to do with poorly run schools (i.e. leadership problems) or poorly funded schools or issues external to the school environment.  

Or your base might be projecting random ideas that are not really progressive onto other people (like the whole "teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs" thing that a lot of working class citizens bought into), in which case, they're not the people you should be organizing on this issue - but then you could, as you did, find another issue on which to organize them.  And organize them.

I don't know if that's coherent, but just my thoughts.

Indeed (4.00 / 2)
I think you are right on in your comment.


I get the feeling that you're bashing democratic mass organizations more to be edgy than to be constructive.

As I have noted before, the progressive vision of a world fully driven by egalitarian democratic participation is a dream, a fantasy.  The truth is that democracy is expensive.  Extensive resources are required every time one seeks to involve large numbers of people in decision-making.  Only very privileged people could think that this could happen on a continual basis.  Historically, poor people's movements have been much more hierarchical than progressives (including many progressive scholars and historians) have imagined.

Really? You get that impression? I'd certainly want to see evidence to back that historical assertion up. It seems pretty clearly to be the opposite case: only when those in privilege take over/co-opt working class movements do we get the worst kinds of anti-democratic and authoritarian tendencies and regimes: from both Paris Communes, to Russia in 1917, to Spain in '36, to Hungary in '56, to Argentina in 2001, etc. I could go on.

And instead of just calling it expensive, let's be clear: democracy is hard work. And especially when one is negotiating with bureaucrats for policy changes, it's a lot easier to forgo (and look down upon) mass participation - easier for you, at least. Real democracy doesn't happen when people are just polled; of course you're likely to get rather unprogressive results. The process of educating and maturing the community's political consciousness has to go hand in hand with the introduction and integration of the democratic process: if we have just the first process, it's mere propagandizing and manipulation; if we have just the second, it's little better than the latest SUSA poll.

Join the fight to give students a real voice on campus:

[ Parent ]
Well, I'm referring to aspirations (0.00 / 0)
of people who are usually looking from the sidelines, not the actual work of people who are actually engaged.  

Certainly the middle-class tends to focus on process and flat organization in their own organizations.

You are right that it would be better to do education all the time.  But the fact is that the organization I'm working with simply doesn't have the resources to pull this off and to do the other work.  So it isn't perfect.  

And exactly what would we educate about around this issue?  We don't really have a solution, yet.  We could talk about health as an issue.  But there's the danger of talking about the problem and generating disempowerment without the capacity to actually do something concrete.  

WHO is going to do the work of "educating and maturing the community's consciousness?"  It looks great in the ideal, but it doesn't just happen.  And doing one thing with limited resources almost inevitably means NOT doing something else.  

Let me acknowledge that I wrote this intentionally as an incitement, intentionally stressing the controvertial aspects.  Because you are right in the abstract.  But can we make this work in reality?

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
And you may be right (0.00 / 0)
perhaps we should have pursued the "discipline" issue more.  It wasn't my decision.

But would that have been the most productive use of resources?

Perhaps I should have put this post up more in the form of a question, since I'm really playing out questions I have that aren't very PC and that I don't have any easy answers to.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
As I noted above (0.00 / 0)
the work done by the small group is prep work for a wider organizing effort.  The nurses example was one that did involve wider involvement, but probably didn't require it.  Which illuminates some of the unexpected complexities of this work.  It doesn't always follow the standard structure.  

Of course, not needing to mobilize large numbers of people and leaders is a problem as well.  It's the actual action that builds your power and the commitment and understanding of members.  So you should be doing both at the same time, and often are by having different issues at the forefront at different times.  But I'm not necessarily presenting our efforts as examples of the "best" of organizing.  

For example, the Jobs Committee of my my organization has been doing more active mobilizing while the education committee has been doing more research work.  

It would be better if we had coherent opportunities for broad participation all the time, but we don't, really, right now.

Part of the problem may be that I'm only giving a piece of the bigger picture, here.  So I accept that.  But it's tough to do in a small space.  And as Paul noted, it's already getting long for a post.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
i think you know all the theoretical critique of this :) (4.00 / 1)
so i won't rehash it from above.  The only thing that disturbed me was that it was labeled organizing - I think that's dangerous when so many thing (and I have been funded by things like this) are labeled organizing which are not, which exacerbates the problem of limited funding for organizing that you've pointed to a few times.  As has been pointed out before by others, it's not necessarily a coincidence that funding structures (whether by intent or structure) are often geared to support work that doesn't mobilize people or build power.

But thank you for presenting this, for being clear here about strengths and flaws as well as the theory.  It is, honestly, appreciated.  I know that one of the things that's often missing from conversations about organizing are detailed conversations about real world examples because people get stuck in exactly the same kind of argument that I'm giving above - because "organizing" as a label has cache, but it's possible to value other kinds of work (like service or advocacy) and end the squabbling we all have and at the same time have honest conversations about organizing efforts, their strengths and flaws, what they mean for organizing theory, etc.  And it's a kind of work (whether paid or unpaid ;) that people are so emotionally tied to, that it becomes hard to talk about and separate a critique of the work from a critique of the theory behind the work from a critique of the self.  I know that happens to me, and sometimes, it really annoys me :)

[ Parent ]
thanks for this response. (0.00 / 0)
Writing something like this is a bit anxiety provoking.  After a couple of these responses I felt a little like "what did I say?"  And at least some of what I am talking about is the result of being imperfect people in an imperfect organization.  And some of it may reveal my own limitations--perhaps even my own privilege speaking.  Others will need to decide.

But this question of honesty is key.  These are things that we don't want to talk about.  We don't want to have to think that sometimes democracy is just too expensive to pursue at any moment, because it brings up real and very legitimate questions about control and authority and inequality and etc.  I think this piece could have been written a bit less "aggressively", and more as a process of self-questioning, but it is what it is given the limited time I had to bang it out.

So thanks.  

Let me push you a bit on one thing, however.  

This IS organizing.  I'm not entirely clear you were arguing it wasn't, but let me respond anyway.  Only organizing groups, people deeply involved in the ongoing work of a group, can cut issues like this.  It's not service work, and it's not academic work.  it's quite pragmatic.  Without clear and effective issues to work on, organizing groups die a quick or more often lingering death.  That's why what I'm writing is so troubling.  Because it is "organizing" work that isn't really happening through what looks like traditional organizing.  And that seems and is troubling in a range of ways.  

You could fund a think-tank to work on the dental issue, for example, but they might not fully understand the kind of issue that a group like MOVE needs to be able to coalesce around it and be effective.  The local dental task force wrote a report, quite earnestly, with something like 15 different little recommendations.  You can't fight for 15 recommendations.  From an organizing perspective, the document was basically useless.  Everybody at the table got their little piece of the pie, and no coherent vision emerged.  And I'm sure they thought it was a quite useful blueprint.  

While the process I describe doesn't seem so "democratic", and it isn't, a good issue is just the thing that a group like MOVE can turn around and use to engage large numbers of people and new leaders in democratic approaches to action and strategy.  

So again, we return to questions about what aspects of organizing are most conducive to robust democratic engagement on a broad scale.  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
i think this comes back to basic definitional questions about organizing (0.00 / 0)
is organizing an ethic that we implement in our lives?
Is it a profession?
Is it an industry?
Is it a component of social movement building?

I think unless we answer these questions (for ourselves), and identify people who think along the same lines as us, we will get nowhere.  The real question that's getting papered over in the common terminology of "organizing" is what are we doing and what are its effects.  That's it - nothing more, nothing less.  As to whether we like those effects - well, I'd give a marxist rendering of how we decide what we like and what we don't.

Personally, I would rather see mass movement building followed by the creation of norms that will build human respect, than anything else.  I think, for me, the question you're getting at is whether that always happens in a way in which the process itself is reflective of the end goals.  I haven't made up my mind on that issue, because it goes into analyses of political economy, scarcity, possibilities and limitations, that I haven't resolved for myself.

So yes, "organizing" - which I prefer to think of as movement building - should be informed by some norms, but those norms are going to be specific to a society, to a locality, to the ideologies of the people leading and the people following (not necessarily as understood in terms of formal relationships), to sustainability (more social than financial in my mind), etc.

So in terms of practical effects, I support things that promote this as far as I can understand that they do so.  So I guess I would ask if you feel like the imperfect example you were giving did so and if so, how, with the understanding that hopefully we're all on the same side here (again going back to the marxist reading of who is on what side).

[ Parent ]
Movement Building and Organizing (0.00 / 0)
Actually, organizers generally do not see themselves as "movement builders."  And, in fact, there are significant issues in the connections (or lack of connections) between organizing and larger movements.

We can quibble about terminology, but let me be clear about what I'm talking about.  Organizing tries to create stable "organizations" that can embody and maintain the power of a community.  This is very different than more amorphous and multiply supported "movements" generally around specific issues.  Organizing in my vision is more than an ethic, and can, for some members, be a profession.  But for most, involvement in organizing is as an unpaid or partially paid leader, not as a salary-paid support person.  

How does one "build" mass movements?  What specific components can we build that are likely to support the emergence of these and to help them sustain themselves in fallow times?

I would say that the imperfect example I'm discussing does support the kind of movement building you are talking about, however.  If people don't really care about the specifics of a program--as long as they serve purposes that they can get behind and that excite them--then do we need broad democratic engagement in the issue development?  

It's important to stress that without a concrete and at least seemingly winnable issue to work on, except in unique moments like the Vietnam war, it's hard to get people engaged in coherent collective action.  In fact, framing an issue may in some cases (like this one?) need to happen before the movement building aspects happen.  

Further, as I noted, if you can get a couple of these dental programs, in particular, the existence of the programs and the possibilities they reveal may generate more movement building elsewhere.  

Does this count as coopting working-class movements as another commenter noted? Maybe (although, again, congregational organizing isn't exactly working-class) or maybe not.  It could also be seen as creating some of the conditions of the possibility of the emergence of such movements.  

Clearly we don't have an explosion of such movements right now.  So it may be that ideological commitments to particular visions of what "counts" as empowerment MAY be standing in our way, at least to some limited extent.

The silence out there is deafening.  I'm worried pragmatically about how to change that in ethical ways.  And this may require us to grapple with non-PC questions that make us uncomfortable, without losing sight of the key ethical and pragmatic issues around what really "counts" as empowerment or power.  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]

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