I am currently in this session at the No Better Time Conference.
Community organizing and deliberative democracy: How do they relate?
Description: From the beginning, deliberation projects borrowed a number of tactics from the field of community organizing. Meanwhile, community organizing has evolved and diversified tremendously. The line between these two approaches to social change seems increasingly blurry. What are the similarities and differences? In what ways can they compliment each other and learn from one another?
- Mark Linder, City of Cupertino, California, and vice chair, Democratic Governance Panel of the National League of Cities
- Ian Bautista, United Neighborhood Centers of America
- Wendy Willis, Policy Consensus Initiative
- Alma Couverthie, Lawrence CommunityWorks
The session began with stories from field that were inspiring to hear.
Danielle Atkinson with Michigan Voices described the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-MI) that is dedicated to winning improved conditions and raising industry standards for all Detroit metro restaurant workers.
Paul Alexander, Director of the Institute on the Common Ground at Regis University: When we began holding community dialogues, no one would come so we had to get into the community and engage in community organizing. Getting people to the table was only part of the issue; we also had to address power to make dialogue work.
Heidi Klein at the Snelling Center for Government in VT: We are doing deliberation first and then organizing later. In Vermont, several organizations are interested in transportation – providers, user, environmental concerns. We are using deliberation to help them develop principles for transporting the public – to find some agreement. They have 10 principles that they can use to organize. For example, environmentalists have their own talking points, but they go into the community to organize with an understanding of the needs and difficulties that seniors face in transportation.
There are tools that the deliberative democracy and community organizing field need to share – we are two tools in the same belt.
Community Organizing: Capacity and community leadership building in a community. Very action-oriented, short or long-term and includes stakeholders. In society there are three forces at work market, government and civic. Per Mark Linder, we need to civic side because the other two sides are running amok. We have an imperfect union by becoming consumers rather than citizens. Bringing the resources, talents and skills of people together to transform their world.