The Calculus of Organizing: A Strategy To Win

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February 8, 2013 in Labor & Economy

As I embark on a new chapter in my life as President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, I’d like to reflect here upon some of the lessons I have learned while working at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy for nearly 10 years. If we are going to help workers overcome the oppression they face on their jobs, and if we are going to work with communities to help them to become healthy and viable, then we have to have a dynamic plan and strategy that will lead to victory. Simply put in LAANE language, we must have a “strategy to win.”

For nearly 20 years LAANE has utilized this strategy to win to gain victories that have improved the lives of 350,000 people nationwide. It has engaged labor partners, environmental and community groups, and faith-based organizations, to score victories in and around Los Angeles. LAANE has also published this strategy and has trained other organizations around the country on how to apply it to their various campaigns.

During this time when we are fighting multinational corporations to make systemic changes that will enhance the middle class and improve the living conditions of people, one has to be mindful that you will be opposed by powerful forces.

That is why the LAANE strategy-to-win model is so pertinent. It helps guide your planning during a campaign. There are many models out there, but in my many years of working in the social justice movement and championing the rights of others, this is one of the most effective that I have seen.

LAANE has also shown me that there is just not one solution to any given problem, but that there can be many – so adopting a comprehensive approach to campaigns is essential. When a child, for example, falls behind in school everybody may believe it is because he is not studying. Yet if they would look at the problem comprehensively they might find that he lacks proper nutrition, a good studying environment and a support system at home. All of these contribute to his lack of success. When you look at a comprehensive approach you are able to come up with a solution for this child’s situation.

Whenever we look at such problems in myopic and biased ways, with no investigation of new ideas and more relevant approaches, we will continually lose the most serious fights that are being waged against the progressive movement. We have to see our fight as a long and protracted one in which we must employ new tactics and methods to overcome the greed and indifference of multinational corporations, businesses and government officials

This strategy has been developed over many years, which explains why it is so far ahead of the curve. LAANE’S comprehensive, strategy-to-win approach consists of:

  • A vision to win
  • Research, policy development and advocacy
  • Community organizing and coalition-building
  • A communications program
  • A legal plan and financial resources

When these components are working together in any campaign you have a strategy that can win and bolster the rights of workers, the stability of the middle class and the protection of the environment.

Before you take on a fight or attempt a campaign, make sure you know where you want to get to and then what you want to win. Develop a strategy that you can win with because you are inextricably tied together to a progressive movement that is in a war, and every victory counts.

(Formerly LAANE’s Director of Training and Outreach, the Rev. William Smart is the new President and CEO of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)

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