Bridging episodic social movements

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Problem statement: how do we go from one-off protests and actions to sustained momentum


Visual notes provided by Willow

  • Provide mutual aid — cab fare etc
  • We should pay attention to groups who have been active for a long time; example: Ferguson activism was going on for a lot of time before Mike Brown’s death.
  • Listen first, assess, then act
  • Whenever you start something, we need to assess what has been done and tried. Integrate lessons into future actions
  • Nature of movements is that no one is accountable to them, so actions move on different timing
  • Establish leadership and spokespeople; assigning responsibility; if it is a mob, hard to have a message
  • Structure can be very useful to help
  • After a good mobilization, even without leadership, the crowd was policed into control and dispersed — we don’t want to see that. We want to be in control of our actions and the continuity of actions — for subsequent actions.
  • The distinction between activism vs. organizing; can be helpful to know roles that are helpful to have an engaged, effective series of actions
  • Cycles: public engagement and education phase; research phase to learn what has been done, what is effective, what would collaboration look like, targeted communication. Mobilization is the flash point.
  • Outreach phase ideas: poster up for outreach; reach out to folks who may not be online or connected via social networks online; branding is super important — by establishing a brand, people immediately see and can connect with the invitation or action.
  • Culture jamming — deployment of ubiquitous imagery to queue dissent. Street art can be incredibly influential.
  • Prioritizing listening, don’t give unsolicited advice
  • Be interested and willing to take action to redeploy privilege. What training or networks might you have or resources.
  • A helpful question: “is there a way that I might be of assistance?” rather than assume you are of assistance or helpful.
  • I just experienced this at Standing Rock — there were so many people that it was a burden for the organizers to manage the people who showed up. How do we feed, house, etc. these folks. There are initiatives of folks that may not just be unwelcomed, but could increase risk for folks who are already at risk. Additional emotional, physical labor.
  • Sometimes just showing up and being willing to be present and available is a great way to engage.
  • So important for one to educate oneself before engaging.
  • When the community you are working with calls you an ally is when you can call yourself an ally. Allyship is given, not claimed.
  • 90% of success is showing up. — Woody Allen
  • Doing the work in your own community with people who identify in the same way you do is critical. That outreach phase is incredibly important.
  • It can be very helpful for those of us on the outside to be invited in. Listening to the ask for help is a good indication of when to move forward or engage with communities. It is great to look and find those groups who have asked.
  • A good way to engage is to share info and links of groups with your own community and followings.
  • At Occupy Sandy, some of the orientation was focused on delineating those who were there to help other people vs those who were there to help themselves. When Oklahoma happened, Occupy Sandy folks contacted them and offered their lessons and template without strings attached.
  • Occupy Sandy had a lot of small group clusters and work. Affinity group structure. There were multiple locations with different activities and ways for folks to both get services and support those services (work in the kitchen, etc).
    • You were expected to take one day off each week for self care;
    • You were expected to go to other locations or work centers;
    • Once a week there was a phone call with all involved to check in and address any — Maestro conference can handle 100s of people and expensive.
    • There were teams who had their own management and orientation.
  • Occupy Sandy was able to do more and quicker than big institutions — like Red Cross, etc.
  • Occupy Sandy built on Occupy Wall Street and mutual aid analysis — service-focused work.
  • We want leader-FULL vs leader-LESS movements
  • Toronto had Trent City Black Lives Matter movement in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters. It was during the fall and going into winter. There was a medical section, food, and community dinner every single day. There was an action folks could do every single day. Every evening there were activities and a lot of art, shows, movies, etc. By making actions available in the evening folks were able to plug-in and feel connected to the actions. Things were really helpful: foot and hand warmers, gift cards to support folks. More people came because there was such a range of welcoming activities.
  • Pyramid of engagement: 1% or less: create content; 9% that comment; 90% who learn. We want to onboard those who are learning and interested and movie them up the chain of engagement.
  • Flash mobs have been really fun and engaging. We are often a plug-in to a protest so we can play a variety of roles — fun role, serious. The challenge is to ensure we are bringing the right energy at the right time. Sometimes we are fun and sometimes we get between the cops and protestors to diffuse tension or to be a distraction.
  • We need to create trusted community in small groups.
  • There is a wave theory — something will happen that will motivate action to ride the wave, we are stronger if we are on the board already(meaning engaged)
  • Finding our pockets of places to engage with folks, add energy, and to be ready.
  • Being prepared for what will be — when we know things may happen, we can do more to prepare and be ready to act.
  • In the months ahead, we may want to take offensive action but will often need to do reactive activism and support. It is good for us to know in our areas who is or may want a support plan.
  • By systematizing what we do, we can (or are) make ourselves or people we work more vulnerable. This is something we are grappling with. How open are we and inclusive with on boarding and engaging folks. Data management policies are super important. What you print, what and where you store etc.
  • One major lesson is to get people to work and make sure there are multiple points for failure — ensure that one person will not endanger an entire operation / initiative / organization
  • Ruckus is a great resource for tactical communication information.