Sunday, January 13, 2008

the power paradox...

I just finished a week long community organizing leadership training with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). It blew my mind! It also gave me some incredible ideas for organizing with OnFire. I'm excited, but at the same time, I'm nervous. I'll explain.

We've been struggling a bit at OnFire with direction. I mean, we know where we want to go eventually. We'd like to be a national group who equips local groups of young, justice minded people of faith with the tools they need to transform their communities for Jesus Christ. Sounds simple, right? (yeah, sarcasm never plays as well when written. My bad).

But we're struggling with how to organize people and do action at the same time. We know people don't want to sign on to another email list for a group who doesn't DO anything, but we can't really DO anything effectively without a critical mass of people. Quite a conundrum.

IAF knew my problem before I did. We can't do both at once. First we need to organize the people and organize the money. THEN we can work on effective action. "But until we've done something," I asked the trainer, "what are we organizing people for?"

"Power." That was the response. He went on to explain that the key is organizing people and money so that, when the time is right, you have the power to stand up to the powers of injustice. Sounds exactly like what we're trying to do! there's only one problem...


We're all uncomfortable with the word. We've all seen the old saying about power corrupting played out over and over again. Power. It's what we need in order to counter the self-serving powers that create injustice but, assuming we achieve power, how do we keep from becoming the unjust ourselves?

The key is in you. All of you. Us, in fact. As long as the power of OnFire, or any community based group for that mater, is centered in the people, rather than in the organization, in the community rather than in it's leaders, there may be a chance. I don't know for sure, but I think we need to try. I'll hope you'll try with us.



Ingrid said...

Brian - I was glad to stumble across this blog. I've been a LOT out of the loop lately. I would love to hear more about your training week - something I thought a lot about doing while in DC, but never had the time. Ugh. I'm in the Bahamas working @ Habitat with my brother right now & am planning on being back in plenty of time for Gen. Conf. ANy idea on what RMN, On Fire, MOSAIC have in mind? I've been searching with no luck. Look forward to hearing from you - PEACE, Ingrid

~brian said...

Hey Ingrid,
OnFire and MOSAIC are meeting this weekend to make our General Conference plans. I'll be sure to let you know (and post here on the blog) what we're thinking and how you can get involved!