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Hope exists in organizing

October 20, 2022

I don’t want to offer a platitude about hope right now. I can point you toward the “Hope is a discipline” quote that you’ve likely already seen on endless social graphics (and if you haven’t, open a new tab and Google Mariame Kaba immediately). I won’t tell you not to despair because to feel the emotional gravity of the last two and a half years is not only important but incredibly healthy. Through repeated events of mass upheaval, we are continually being asked to stretch the capacity of what can be sustainably held. 

It is necessary to feel all of this because, given the fragile state of our democracy, you need to start organizing. And the discipline needed to organize requires attention you can’t achieve if you have not yet processed your feelings. Protest is an important site to galvanize your energy and move in unison with fellow progressives but protest is short-term. How does your protest relate back to a larger strategy that supports the lives of your community? How are you building an understanding of the conditions of your community? 

You can answer these questions through organizing. Here’s how: 

  1. It is an investment in community. Right now, the leaders that will take the national stage in the coming years are being developed locally, whether on their community boards, as precinct chairs or on school boards. As an organizer, you have the privilege of identifying, recruiting and developing those leaders. At Arena, we believe the best organizers come from all walks of life and bring a deep passion for their community to this work. This is regardless of the route you take to organize. No matter their size, campaigns build community power. Mutual aid groups create networks of care between neighbors that create long-lasting relationships. What begins on a small scale reverberates to larger networks and scales, building our capacity to have a greater impact as a progressive movement. 
  2. You’ll better understand needs. The last two and a half pandemic years have disconnected us from one another and built the reflective muscle of debate rather than dialogue. We’ve been engaging in conversation with the goal of winning, rather than to discover common ground and shared values. It creates a fragile understanding of each other, further weakened through our reliance on social platforms as sounding boards for the national tenor of conversation. You can’t break the algorithm but as an organizer you can relate to others. Marshall Rosenberg’s principles of nonviolent communication assume that all actions are attempts to meet needs and as an organizer, your super-power is understanding the needs of a community. Relating to others from this place of understanding needs increases our ability to have conversations that move the needle on an issue. More campaigns are investing in deep canvassing and year-round organizing, having longer one-on-one conversations, really diving into an issue with community members and engaging in the type of depth required to persuade a voter or change minds. Being in your community as an organizer, you’ll better understand your neighbor, the barriers to access they face, what their fears are, what their values are and what they care about. You’ll learn what your community is thinking about what needs to change for your community to thrive.
  3. Organizing is an opportunity for your creativity to flourish. Movements and campaigns are constantly responding to new conditions. They require flexibility, innovation and the ability to test new ideas. If you have even the slightest creative instinct, organizing will allow you to flex and strengthen that muscle. Artists are adept at revealing truth in an unexpected way. Graphic designers use text and color to tell a story. Creativity requires you to step outside of yourself and shift your perspective. Organizers get to bring all of this to the forefront of their work, responding to new challenges and opportunities with imagination. Our progressive movement desperately needs your imagination, to create an opening for something new to emerge from this moment. 

With less than three weeks to Election Day, we are in a critical moment for organizing. In the coming weeks, organizers will be having conversations in their communities and advocating for candidates that will work for lasting, transformative change. Because we’re in a mid-term year, when turnout is typically about half of that of a presidential election, the action of organizers at this moment will have a bigger impact. There are a lot of voters to reach between now and November 8. 

There’s no better time to get started than today. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of ways that you can get involved right now and in the months to come:

You need to start organizing. Organizing will provide you with a way to move out of paralysis and to shift your perspective outward. Whether in person or online, organizing is a tangible way to move beyond the self. Tangible action is the closest thing we can find to hope at the moment.