Organizing is Hard

Over the last 5 years I’ve been working with community organizations that are more deeply grounded in organizing as a model of change.  I’ve always believed that everyone is an organizer, to a certain degree.  Parents are amazing at getting their kids to where they need to go.  Young adults plan big parties.  My friends who have “retired” are busier than ever.

Working as an organizer in a professional setting is different, and is probably one of the toughest jobs.  There isn’t a simple model, and there are many intangibles.  I’ve worked in a range of organizing jobs, or jobs where I brought an social justice organizing framework: campus, electoral, neighborhood, faith, multiracial and culturally specific.  They’ve been some of the toughest and rewarding jobs.

Organizing for social justice is hard because the work is at the intersection of the worlds suffering and the deep aspirations of humanity.  Each of these are precarious in the sense that they are both very complex and rarely do a group of people agree.  Yet when they do, great things can happen.

I think there are many incarnations of a good organizer, and no monolith.  There are important hard skills like being able to set goals, manage your time, and have the technical know-how to bring people together.  There are soft skills such as genuinely liking people, being energized by cooperation, and having a strong internal practice of reflection.  There are many other components such as analysis, history, networks, language skills, and more.  

Recently I’ve been contemplating the attitude of a good organizer.  What is the ethical nature of an organizer? How do they adapt to the change they create?  Why do they keep moving forward in the face of opposition, changing situations and limited capacity?  One of my colleagues reminds me about how important it is to cultivate peoples passion.

What is your passion?


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