Grassroots organizing at the NCMR

June 6th, 2008 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

I’m at a grassroots action session at the Media Reform conference in Minneapolis. There’s some useful tips on productive activity, but perhaps the most useful aspect, for me, is a reminder is of the common aspects across organizing – talk to people, identify goals, set achievable (and concrete) targets.

I got in a little late – no surprise – but caught the talk from the Reclaim the Media speaker, Karen Toering, who talked about their use of events (film screenings, parties, play dates for parents) to draw in those who might not otherwise attend a ‘meeting.’ Just as I heard at last week’s AGEL conference (where grad union leaders met in Urbana) the reminder to capture names at each event seems very basic, but is a key point to building a network of activists and supporters. Leveraging links to established groups – building on their capacity and networks – is of course a delicate political balance on occasion (how do you reach out to those networks, in a way that’s seen as mutually beneficial, which relies I think on getting ‘buy-in’ from leaders and gatekeepers, so that they will grant access to mailing lists, or to speak at meetings, etc.).

The Q&A session at the moment is addressing the complicated question of how to mesh radical activists with more moderate participants within a single network. Again, links to other organizing in the response, as mention is made of the Gay Rights movement, where direct action and lobbying both played roles, even if different participants prioritized different events.

Tracy from The Media Mobilization Project had some great quotables. Noting the seeming paradox of almost unlimited potential for expression online paired with increased media consolidation: [This is] “ultimately making the right to be head more important than the right to free speech.” Her closing riposte: “Movements begin with the telling of untold stories.”

To which I would note that the organizing approach is all about listening to those stories, encouraging individuals to tell their stories to each other, and to use those stories to identify desired changes and actions.

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