FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

How to Organize

A good friend recently reminded me that there is a big difference between activism and organizing. Activism is to be involved at some level in political struggle; organizing is to make that struggle effective by planning for success.

Organizing requires attention to the smallest details and the broadest overview. It takes a great deal of strategic thinking, critical self-evaluation, people skills, and persistence.

Organizing is hard. None of us are born with the skills needed for effective organizing; we have to pick them up as we go.  All we have is us, and so many of us are tied up with families, jobs, and other responsibilities. But if we’re going to win struggles for social and environmental justice, we need more organizers.

With that goal in mind, I would like to share with you this list of points on organizing. I’m by no means an expert organizer, but I have gained some experience in the past decade. This list is not definitive or faultless. If you think I got it wrong, or if you have more points to add, let me know in the comments.

15 Points on Organizing

1. Reliable people are irreplaceable. One solid person is worth a dozen who don’t follow through on their commitments.

2. Beware of abusive and toxic people, as well as those who are bring nothing but drama and distraction. Set boundaries.

3. Social skills are profoundly important for organizing. Cultivate these skills. Avoid stereotyping or dismissing people based on their lifestyle, job, or any first impression you may have. Movement building requires getting outside of our comfort zone and engaging with people as individuals. You can’t have political conversations if your prerequisite is that everyone should agree with you. This is a dead end for making change.

4. When organizing people, folks seem to respond well to individual requests for assistance. For example: “I’ve noticed that you’re really skilled about getting people motivated. Can you help with promotion for our upcoming event?”

5. In organizing, details matter. Small problems can grow into major ones. Pay close attention to what is happening in and around your organizing community. But be careful to avoid getting bogged down in the small stuff.

6. Build coalitions and relationships with a wide variety of people and resistance-oriented communities. Sometimes you will be surprised at who is willing to lend support. Draw out linkages between struggles and focus on the shared visions and overlaps in thinking. Radicals are scattered and disorganized, so solidarity is critical.

7. Humility, respect, and appreciation for others are the foundation of relationships. Shared hardship, struggle, and joy are the mortar that cements these bonds. Build friendships and caring relationship with the people you organize with.

wilbertfoto

Protest at Swamp Cedars sacred site, eastern Nevada.

8. Do what you say you will do. Follow up on commitments and responsibilities. Don’t give your word lightly.

9. Ask for help when you need it.

10. Make time to recharge. Burned out and overworked activists are no use to the movement. Allow time for relaxation and self-healing after intense periods.

11. Focus on the long term struggle. Make sure that each action, event, and campaign you engage in leaves your group stronger and more engaged than before. Try to maintain positive momentum, while at the same time understanding that we fight regardless of winning or losing. We fight because it is the right thing to do.

12. Sometimes you have to take risks.

13. Never stop learning. Deepen your wisdom and plan to become an elder and mentor as you age.

14. Justice is on our side. Be heartened by the spirituality and community that comes from battling injustice and building beautiful cultures of resistance.

15. Be so stubborn they will never stop you. Never give up.

Max Wilbert is an activist and organizer from Seattle. He primarily works with the local chapter of Deep Green Resistance, and can be reached at (max@maxwilbert.org

More articles by:

Max Wilbert is a writer, activist, and organizer with the group Deep Green Resistance. He lives on occupied Kalapuya Territory in Oregon.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
David Rosen
Say Goodbye to MAD, But Remember the Fight for Free Expression
Nick Pemberton
This Is Heaven!: A Journey to the Pearly Gates with Chuck Mertz
Dan Bacher
Chevron’s Oil Spill Endangers Kern County
J.P. Linstroth
A Racist President and Racial Trauma
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Julian Assange
Rose Ramirez – Dedrick Asante-Mohammad
A Trump Plan to Throw 50,000 Kids Out of Their Schools
David Bravo
Precinct or Neighborhood? How Barcelona Keeps Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Global Capital
Ralph Nader
Will Any Disgusted Republicans Challenge Trump in the Primaries?
Dave Lindorff
The BS about Medicare-for-All Has to Stop!
Arnold August
Why the Canadian Government is Bullying Venezuela
Tom Clifford
China and the Swine Flu Outbreak
Missy Comley Beattie
Highest Anxiety
Jill Richardson
Weapons of the Weak
Peter Certo
Washington vs. The Squad
Peter Bolton
Trump’s Own Background Reveals the True Motivation Behind Racist Tweets: Pure White Supremacy
Colin Todhunter
From Mad Cow Disease to Agrochemicals: Time to Put Public Need Ahead of Private Greed
Nozomi Hayase
In Crisis of Democracy, We All Must Become Julian Assange
Wim Laven
The Immoral Silence to the Destructive Xenophobia of “Just Leave”
Cecily Myart-Cruz
McDonald’s: Stop Exploiting Our Schools
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis
CounterPunch News Service
A Homeless Rebellion – Mission Statement/Press Release
Louis Proyect
Parallel Lives: Cheney and Ailes
David Yearsley
Big in the Bungalow of Believers
Ellen Taylor
The Northern Spotted Owls’ Tree-Sit
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail