One of the most exciting and inspirational aspects of coalition building is seeing the success and victories that people get when they come together for the common good of their community. The time and effort that can go into the work is nothing compared to the feeling of victory once the campaign has been won, and the people and community feel the victory themselves.
Unfortunately, groups that have never worked together are often times unwilling to do so because of longstanding suspicions or differences, so building coalitions around economic enhancement projects, political campaigns, religious events and community change is a very hard thing to do. However if you apply some strategy rules to the process you can build a great coalition.
First, you have to believe in what you are trying to build together – and also believe that it can be built. You can’t waste time fighting a cause that is not winnable.
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.
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and long-time activist who has lent her strength to countless social and economic justice fights, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama on Tuesday.
“Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, ‘Si, se puede.’ Yes, we can,” Obama joked during the ceremony. “Knowing her, I’m pleased she let me off easy, because Dolores does not play.”
He explained that throughout Huerta’s work, “She has fought to give more people a seat at the table. ‘Don’t wait to be invited,’ she says, ‘Step in there.’”
“I was humbled, thrilled, and surprised. I never expected to be nominated,” Huerta, 82, told the Daily Beast about the honor. She said the medal highlights the power of “organizing at the grassroots level,” and “how important that is in keeping our democracy alive.”