Here’s the good news: we don’t have to sit through tedious convenings or master the newest social media technologies to attain this coordination. To borrow from the language of the Wall Street occupiers, there is a no-cost “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based” way to work together more effectively for social justice.
The idea is simple: The next time an issue—let’s say it’s immigration reform—garners sustained national public attention, all of us who are progressive funders, advocates, and community organizers should drop whatever we’re doing and get behind the issue. Even if immigration reform is not our thing, we should devote a substantial part of our organizations’ resources to helping the progressive advocates for that issue win their legislative or policy victory.
Call this the “Drop Whatever Else You’re Doing Rule,” if you like.
Recall what happened two years ago during the national debates on health care reform. Here was an issue that would affect the fates of people in low-income communities for years to come. Yet while many health advocates struggled valiantly to win support for a national health care system, I saw many more activists ignore the issue because it simply wasn’t theirs. They saw themselves as education advocates, or housing advocates, or criminal justice reform advocates, or something other than simply advocates for low-income people.
Imagine what would have happened if funders, advocates, and community organizers across the country had adopted the Drop Whatever Else You’re Doing Rule. Imagine if the voices in the pews, in the schools, in the neighborhood centers had been able to shout down the policy-makers who had been bought by powerful interests.
Now in the advent of the Arab Spring, with the rise of multiple people-led movements in the United States, we’ll be challenged again to break out of our siloes and support Americans who are taking to the streets for economic justice.
Consider supporting the Drop Whatever Else You’re Doing Rule. Bring it up and debate it with your friends and colleagues. If you have other ideas for coordinating progressive action, please share them. How do we keep progressive advocacy from becoming a random walk?