Feb 2009 KTA: Innovation Evolving from Crisis

“Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.”
Elizabeth Alexander, 2009 Inaugural Poet.


Kitchen Table Activism
February 2009

This month we want to gather round the kitchen table (so to speak) and identify the most pressing needs of our neighbors and what resourceful local people are doing to transform social service into social change.

How many times a day can we hear that we are facing serious economic problems before we wonder what the reality is in our own communities? The reverberation is evident everywhere. 1 in 7 people in Crook County are unemployed. The state cut entire health services for low-income adults. What is the example in your community?

Let’s look deep into our counties to find innovative ideas that are evolving out of the necessity of crisis! For example:

What percent of your county is uninsured? Is there anyone running a volunteer community health clinic to address that need?
How many working parents in your community had their state-subsidized childcare cut in the last budget? Is anyone responding to the need for affordable community based childcare for local income families?
Have banks in your county halted lines of credit to small businesses and others? Is there anyone constructing community lending programs or progressive credit unions?

Share what you learn with us at cara@rop.org.

PS. Don’t forget to join us at the Caucus March 15 & 16 to build our Rural Power and to take our needs directly to our legislators in a Democracy Bailout!



What is the KTA?

For this month’s Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) activity, invite those people and organizations to your table who see first-hand the trials and tribulations of our communities and who might be creating local grassroots safety nets based in fundamental social change.

Someone is dealing with the implications of our communities problems – local service providers, local advocates, local elected officials and others are confronting the challenges and also might be coming up with some creative solutions.

Why this Activity?

We need to take a pulse on the reality of our communities.  Knowing our local situation gives us some criteria and perspective by which we can evaluate proposed solutions that are coming down from D.C.  As Mark from Yamhill Valley Peacemakers said, “To a large extent we [YVP] serve as the conscience of the community and give hope to those unable or unwilling to speak up themselves.  We need to be thinking about what important things are not being talked about and then become the voice for those issues.”

Grounding ourselves in the real needs of our communities will enable local groups to develop new and relevant ways to advance social justice – building stronger, more vibrant communities.

This KTA will also give us a chance to discover and lift up grassroots safety nets already being created by resourceful local people that are pooling community resources to meet a growing need for economic relief that is far beyond the scale of what our government has offered, and at the same time creating new models for community sustainability.

Steps to complete this Activity:

This does not need to be a comprehensive look at the needs and creative resources of your community. This is a snapshot for your group and to lift up to the rest of the community and state.

1.    Get your group together and pick the appropriate scope.

a.    The Interview Version: you and a friend go interview 3 local service providers for their experiences and assessments of the county.
b.    The Small Group Version: Your organization invites 3-5 local service providers, elected officials and others to share their experiences with what the pressing needs of the local community are and what they are doing to build common solutions.
c.    The Large Group Version: Similar to small group version except it is an open forum for the community to participate in as well. The community is invited to share their thoughts, experiences & solutions.

2.    Make an agenda, decide how many people you’d like to talk to and how long you’d like them to speak. For any size project, write out what you’d like them to speak about specifically.

3.    Find 3 – 5 service providers in your community. These contacts can come through experience, conversation, or the Internet.  Start with what you know! Good ideas include: food banks, community action network, shelters, women’s shelters, vets groups, local school board members, mental health clinics, community college staff, or library board members.

4.    Call your prospects to set a meeting date or to invite them to a community meeting. Explain to them that your HDG is researching some of your communities social needs, how these have changed or grown over the last year, and creative solutions that local folks are coming up with to tackle these problems and     empower those most directly affected by the issues. Ask them if they would be interested in sharing what their office, program, or institution is facing and what they are doing to create change. You are trying to education yourself and your group, while also looking for direction for your organizing this year.

5.    Confirm your meeting the working day before the scheduled meeting.

6.    At the meeting, have an active conversation. Make sure you take notes.  Here are some suggestions of discussion questions:

·    How has this community been impacted by the current economic crisis?
·    Have jobs been cut?
·    Are you seeing an increase in the need for services?
·    Have particular services or programs been cut or reduced?
·    What impact have these changes had on you and/or your community?
·    What do you envision as a community based solution/safety net for the problems you are confronting?
·    Are there creative solutions that the community is developing/could develop to support one another?

7.    Summarize your meeting and send that information out to your whole group and to ROP.

8.    Decide on your group’s delegation to the ROP Caucus and Democracy Bailout Day in Salem on March 15th and 16th!  Bring your summary with you to share in our “Organizing with Hope in Times of Crisis” session at the Caucus and with your legislators in our personal visits.  Register at www.rop.org.