Thoughts on Organizing and Leadership
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 07:33:51 PM EST
I can't be at Netroots Nation this year, and I find myself thinking about things decidedly not netroots.  These thoughts are certainly not mutually exclusive, after all, here I am writing about them online.  But today I am considering how my thinking in recent years has been deeply informed by the many wonderful essays I had the honor of compiling and editing into an an anthology a few years ago. The book helped to give focus to, and to surface some useful debates, before and after publication. So I am not surprised when recent events, writings or conversations remind me of some of the valuable lessons I found in relating to some of the powerful essays in the book.

As I got into it, I realized that publishing the book was in itself an organizing project -- one that I think continues to have many implications for how to think about and respond to the Religious Right.  

Questions about the nature of organizing and leadership have been on my mind lately.

My post about Religious Right figure Samuel Rodriguez is about the relationship between leadership and followership, and the kinds of questions that arise when there is an apparent disconnect. Does he actually have many followers, and if so, who exactly and how many are they?  And in light of this, how then should we then view the nature of his leadership, as celebrated by himself and a fawning media and political class?  

My post , based on a syndicated news article about how the progressive Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is making changes in their approach to organizing in light of a changed and hostile political environment, goes to the heart of the matter for everyone concerned about the growing political power of the Religious Right and the meaning of its political agenda -- and not just prochoice religious progressives.

Today, I want to highlight a few quotes about organizing and leadership from Dispatches from the Religious Left:  The Future of Faith and Politics in America.

Marshall Ganz, former Organizing Director, United Farm Workers:

"To find the courage, commitment, and hopefulness  to face the challenges of our times, why would we turn to marketing mavens, management gurus, and niche strategists when our real sources of strength are in learning who we are, where we come from, and where we are going?

When I am for myself alone, what am I? The implication is powerful.  When I think of myself, I lose my humanity. No longer a 'who,' I have become a 'what.' To be a 'self' is to be in relationship with 'others' ...  To be in relationship is about justice, not charity. Relationship required recognition of the 'other' as 'self' created equally... unique and capable of choice.  It is to do 'with' the other, not 'to' the other.  Entering into 'relationship with' requires speaking and listening; exploring values; interests, and resources; discerning commonalities and differences; committing to a shared project. Understood in this way, relationship is demanding because it requires giving of ourselves, not only our goods.  But this is also why it is so powerful."

Jean Hardisty, founder and president emerita, Political Research Associates and Deepak Bhargava, executive director, Center for Community Change

"Organizing is central to any effective strategy for revitalizing the progressive movement.

Organizing, not to be confused with mobilizing, is ultimately what changes people's minds. Whereas mobilizing is about moving people to take certain actions (voting, lobbying policy-makers, coming out to an event or calling your Congress member on an issue pre-selected by someone else), organizing is about developing the skills, confidence and practice among ordinary people to speak out in their own voice.

What ultimately forces change is human beings seeing fellow human beings act from a place of deep conviction. That moment of recognition can occur only when people who are living with an injustice bring their experience to the public square. Of course, solidarity efforts are crucial to social change. It's hard to imagine the farmworkers, or the civil rights workers in the South, succeeding if they had failed to rouse broader sympathy throughout the country. But they were able to do this only because they spoke with an authenticity that transcended walls of race and class prejudice. No policy paper or slick message will ever replace the power of organizing."

 

Marshall Ganz:

"Leading social movements requires learning to manage core tensions, tensions at the heart of what theologian Walter Brueggemann calls the 'prophetic imagination':  a combination of criticality (experience of the world's pain), hope (experience of the world's possibility), while avoiding being numbed by despair or deluded by optimism.  The deep desire for change must be coupled with the capacity to make change.  Structures must be established that create the space within which growth, creativity, and action can flourish, without slipping into the chaos of structurelessness.  Leaders must also be recruited, trained, and developed on a scale required to build the relationships, sustain the motivation, do the strategizing, and carry out the actions required to achieve success."

"Although we associate leaders with certain kinds of attributes (like power) , a more useful way to look at leadership is as a kind of relationship.  Historian James McGregor Burns argues that leadership can be understood as a relationship that emerges from repeated 'exchanges' or 'transactions' between leaders and followers or constituents.  Leaders can provide the resources constituents need to address their interests, while constituents can provide resources leaders need to address theirs.

What do we exchange in this kind of relationship?  Constituents may get help solving a problem, a sense of empowerment, access to resources, etc.  Leaders may get the same things-- and something else too, something that makes us willing to accept the responsibilities that go with leadership.  Dr. King described this as the 'drum major instinct' -- a desire to be first, to be recognized, even to be praised.  As much as we may not want to admit it, this might sound familiar.  Rather than condemn it -- it is, after all, part of us -- Dr. King argued that it could be a good thing, depending on what we do to earn the recognition we seek.

Based on this view of leadership, then, who makes leaders?  Can they be self-anointed? Can I decide one day that I am a leader?  Or do I earn leadership by entering into a relationship with those who can make me a leader by entering into a relationship with me -- my constituents?  There is one simple test.  Do they have followers?  Fine speeches, a wonderful appearance, lovely awards and excellent work aside -- no constituency, no leaders.  You may not agree with this, but consider it."

"Many of us may not want to think of ourselves as followers. While leadership is highly praised, no one says anything about being a good constituent... or citizen.  I argue that voluntary associations only work when people are willing to accept roles of leadership and followership.  Leading and following are not expressions of who we "are" but of what we "do" in a specific meeting, committee, project, organization, or institution.  We may play a leadership role with respect to one project, and a followership role with respect to another.

Another important distinction is that between leadership and domination.  Effective leaders facilitate the interdependence or collaboration that can create more" power to" based on the interests of all parties.  Domination is the exercise of 'power over' -- a relationship that meets the interests of the 'power wielder' at the expense of everyone else.  Leadership can turn into domination if we fail to hold it accountable."




Display:
was archived awhile back.  If you were a member and would like to rejoin, or if you were not a member, but would like to become one, let us know on our Facebook page, and I'll add you.  

There is also a Fans of Talk to Action page. That one is active. TTA fans are welcome there too, of course. (Same rules apply as the site itself.)

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 10:58:06 PM EST

but a lot of us don't. I recognize it as a tool for both organizing and mobilizing, but can't get into the convoluted ins and outs of Facebook. Too complicated. And the privacy issues go without saying. I would soooo much prefer a good old fashioned forum. ;o) Show up, comment in threads, and come back later to see what others are saying.

by phatkhat on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:34:15 PM EST
Parent


by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 04:25:31 PM EST
Parent
This site has some of the best discussions, albeit somewhat small discussions, but still really polite and unlike most internet debates actually goes somewhere.

by Hirador on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 01:18:25 AM EST
Parent
We know that conversation in this area is difficult. We do try to raise the bar, and remove the obstacles. Like lots of things, it is not for everyone. But I'd like to think it has been worthwhile for those of us who passed through.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 02:28:07 AM EST
Parent






WWW Talk To Action


The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
The Washington Post recently underscored the larger point in this post, which goes far beyond the issues of the GOP diversity program. So I......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Unholy Alliance for Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety
When I obtained a post from a private email listserv of gun control advocates, I wasn't sure what to do with it. Then I......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Bobby Jindal's Big Rally for Christian Right Dominion
There is a big Christian Right rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, January 24th. The event, called The Response, is intended to, among......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Dominionism, Gov. Rick Perry and The Response Rally of 2011
The David Pakman Show recently rebroadcast this "Classic Interview"  with Rachel Tabachnick in which they discuss her groundbreaking work on the New Apostolic Reformation,......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Freedom as Revolution
In which I discuss Religious Freedom Day on the David Pakman Show. I said, among other things, "The idea of religious freedom was one......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
President Obama's Religious Freedom Day Proclamation
As is the annual custom, Mr. Obama issued the the Presidential Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, 2015. I have republished the whole thing after......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Seize the Day (Religious Freedom Day) on Social Media
Today is Religious Freedom Day! And there are ways to participate on social media on this, the most important national Day that most of......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Silencing Dissent: How Biased Civil Rights Policies Stifle Dialogue on Israel
"Silencing Dissent: How Biased Civil Rights Policies Stifle Dialogue on Israel" is a new article in Tikkun Magazine, (January 2015) by Chip Berlet and......
By Chip Berlet (0 comments)
Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses
Here are the Recommendations from the Report "Constructing Campus Conflict: Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses, 2007-2011: published by Political Research Associates, 2014......
By Chip Berlet (1 comment)
What Did Jefferson & 18th Century Evangelicals Have in Common?
What did Jefferson and 18th century evangelicals have in common?  If you guessed separation of church and state, you can go to the head......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Waking the Sleeping Beast of Religious Liberty
This piece originally appeared as an op-ed at LGBTQ Nation. Something remarkable happened in the run up to the decision of the U.S. Supreme......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Rousing Remarks: Remembering Mario Cuomo's Powerful Speech On Religion And Politics
Two memorable speeches were delivered in the early 1980s on separation of church and state. The first was by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Huckabee Dumps Fox News -- Might Jump in to the Race for 2016
According to a statement on his web site, tonight will be Mike Huckabee's last show on Fox where he has held forth on Saturday......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Seize The Day!: Upcoming Religious Freedom Event Provides An Opportunity For Separation Advocates
Note: Like all of my posts, this one is a cross-post from Americans United's "Wall of Separation" blog. Two weeks from today, the nation......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
War on Public Education
     Will Rogers once said "the schools ain't what they used to be and then again never was." Public education has become the......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)

Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (0 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (0 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.