Transforming Ruckus: Actions Speak Louder
I am going to tell you a story about one organization's
transformation from good intentions to good practice. The setting is the
U.S. social and environmental justice movement, and the story is
relevant to anyone who feels that the world can be better—or rather
that it must be improved.
We are facing a crisis of inaction in our organizing work. Those of
us trying to transform our country need to evolve into the movement the
world needs right now. The opportunities are all around us, but we are
still hesitant to deeply engage in the type of personal transformations
and collaborative work that raises expectations around what humanity can
be. We must identify the needs that emerge from our shortcomings,
focusing in on the tangible solutions with which we can drastically
shift from where we are currently—largely disconnected from the
communities that need to be centered in our work—to the type of
movement needed to answer the call of a world (people, planet, animals)
that wants to survive.
We have lived through a good half-century of individualistic
organizing (led by charismatic individuals or budget-building
institutions), which intends to reform or revolutionize society, but
falls back into modeling the oppressive tendencies against which we
claim to be pushing. Some of those tendencies are seeking to assert one
right way or one right strategy; most believe that constant growth is
the only way to create change.
There are new strategies emerging, or being
remembered—collaboration, storytelling, and culture, honored as a way to share
analysis, deep small transformations that pick up and echo each other
towards a tipping point, organizing based in love and care rather than
burn-out and competition. This is not an accident—this is an evolution
of how we practice the world we wish to see in the current landscape.
Many would describe this as a shift from a masculine to feminine (or
patriarchal to feminist) leadership.
I was the executive director of The Ruckus Society for four and a
half years, starting in 2006. Ruckus has historically been the kind of
organization that wouldn't be described as feminist in any way. Founded
in 1996 on the model of Greenpeace action camps—get 100 activists in
the woods and show them how to do non-violent civil disobedience in an
effective way—Ruckus was rooted in a masculine action culture.
The best way I can explain this culture is penetrative. Rather than
forming long-term partnerships with communities, Ruckus was in and out
with mind blowing creative actions. This was in line with a model of
action grounded in spectacle. The politics were radical and the actions
historic, but there wasn't a sense of community ownership or engagement
in the work—which meant that at a fundamental level the power dynamic
wasn't changing. The communities still come to rely on someone else to
change their situation.
Page: 1 |