I’ve been feeling a little guilty about recent posts on the Occupy movement. Not because I’ve said anything that on reflection I disagree with, but because I know that I’ve been offering a negative critique of both choice of tactics and the robustness of the actions so far without balancing it with a positive critique. So it’s good to read a positive assessment of activist organising from Chris Corrigan and be reminded that whilst, as a community of changemakers, we could undoubtedly do things much better, we’re pretty damn good at it most of the time. Whilst not Occupy-specific, in his post The activist model of action Chris makes an upbeat assessment of those working for change and shares some observations about how to organise most effectively:
When you are working for community change, there is often more at stake than working within organizational settings. Leadership in organizations, especially commercial organizations tends to focus on efficiency, production and increasing revenues. Within communities, change is often precipitated by the threat to lives or livelihoods, addressing violence or inequality and improving complex indicators of health and well-being. Those needs have a way of focusing activist on doing things well, and people who don’t work in this world would do well to learn from those that do.
Starhawk has also been blogging from the Occupy frontline in the USA, and finding real power, energy and inspiration on the streets. Despite my reservations about the choice of tactics, like Climate Camp, Occupy protests are providing a focus and a way in to people who are just starting their activist journey.
I particularly appreciated Chris’s words on activist’s power and privilege, an issue that plagues parts of our movement, and is deservedly getting more attention nowadays than when I first got involved:
If you come to a change initiative with privilege (ie you have power within the system) the best thing you can do to enable change is to check in with your privilege and step out of the conversation to create space for new leaders and new forms of leadership to come forward. Asserting your privilege closes space down. Becoming an ally to change initiatives is a powerful and important way to support emerging solutions and to allow leadership to come from anywhere. People with power and privilege can open lots of space if we get real about how our power works.