Thursday, March 22, 2012

Organizing vs. Advocacy

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will." - Frederick Douglass
At the National Bike Summit this week, I'm realizing the impact that the Midwest Academy has had on my view of the advocacy world — and my idea of the difference between advocacy and direct action. But why does "organizing" or "organizer" often carry a negative connotation?

Community organizing is a long-term approach where the people affected by a concern identify the problems and take action to achieve solutions. Every type of community organization — of any size and shape — has a spot on the spectrum from direct service to direct action. While all types of community organizing are essential to strengthen any community, some make change by directly improving lives while others demand change from people in power.

My work as an online organizer has mainly been somewhere on the spectrum between advocacy and direct action organizing, though there is always an educational component to the messaging.

I believe that we can create the change we need from the top down by demonstrating that we have power from the ground up.

Our elected officials are easy targets because they, most often, want to be re-elected. So if we can demonstrate to our elected officials that the community we're speaking out for (advocacy) is organized and powerful enough to shift the votes to the other candidates, they may give us what we want. In order to demonstrate the community's power, we need direct action from community members. We need the community to demand change.


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