Submitted by: Romanda Simpson
During the winter semester I was in a graduate course titled “Community Organizing”, taught by Maggie Hutcheson, which I ultimately discovered was quite a suitable background lesson before the strike. It was only a matter of days before I realized that the strike was playing out many of the discussions in our class. It thus became a learning experience that, while I wouldn’t’ choose it, was an excellent hands-on instructor. To be honest, it also felt a little like being thrown into the pool to learn to swim, but with hundreds of others all trying to do the same. The pressures of time and limited knowledge and skills were compounded by the lack of communication and support from the “leaders”. This was a case study in community organizing in action!
One would think then, that a final paper on the strike would be practical and relevant. But I didn’t want to just write…I wanted to ‘do’. To bring or create something useful that would live beyond the strike and my experience and learning in class. Something that could be insightful for future students, and for those who are just realizing that community organizing is going to be imperative if they want to build the just world they envision. I wanted to move beyond the confines of the classroom and engage in praxis, in which I could take the theories I was learning and utilize them in an action and then reflect on it after.
This desire for action and tangible outcomes likely came as a form of resistance to what was experienced in the context of the strike – so many people talking, but not a lot of action, except by a few (typically the loudest). Of course this crushing of creative action was primarily due to the historic structures of unions; walking the lines of the picket was the only action recognised by CUPE national. This traditional action (tactic) of unions could be argued to not be effective in the dynamics of our changing world.
Ultimately, I came up with the idea to create a series of pod-casts that featured Canadian community organizers offering their sage wisdom and advice through Top Ten Tips. The idea was to have each person share tips on a different component of community organizing; for example, communication, strategy and tactic planning, motivation, how to use media and/or technology, etc. While we stuck with that structure generally, there were a few hiccups (two people wanting to do the same topic and another not specifically having a theme). But, what was interesting was the even though most selected different topics or had completely different ideas within the same, there were overarching ideas/concepts/values that can be heard through all sessions.
Rather than me sharing all the connections I heard, why not listen below to the five organizers, and see if you can discover them too!
I’d like to thank John Anderson, Guy Dauncey, Sabrina Bowman, Greg Macdougall, and Deborah Barndt for taking the time out of their very busy lives to share their insights and wisdom!
Note: If you are a community organizer and would like to share your top ten tips for a specific component of community organizing please get in touch – romanda (at) yorku.ca
John Anderson – Acorn Canada
Guy Dauncey – Earthfuture
Sabrina Bowman – Environmental Defence
Greg Macdougall – Equitable Education
Deborah Barndt – York University Professor Emerita