June 2009 KTA: Schedule your “People’s Economy Living Room Conversation”

This month’s Kitchen Table Activity is all about understanding how we got into this mess and how we can get out of it as a stronger community. We need to smarten ourselves up around the economy & how to fix it; this is your chance to dig in with ROP to be a smart, savvy & rambunctious in confronting the economic crisis, with justice in mind and people in your heart.

 

June 2009 KTA: Living Room Conversations on the Collapse & our Recovery
Today, you and I bought 60% of General Motors for $50 Billion in tax dollars.  It’s an American story: banks are deemed insolvent left and right, unaccountable corporations fall to bankruptcy, public dollars bail out the both of them, AND…. we demand almost nothing in return.

In Oregon, we are feeling the blunt trauma of the economy & for us there is no corporate bailout in sight. Steve can’t afford health insurance, needed surgery and now is stuck with a bill he can’t pay. Sharii can’t get loans for college, can’t make ends meet as a waitress and has turned to the Navy to bail her out. Marko can’t pay his rent on his part time work and is couch surfing his way out of homelessness.

This is what our economy looks like.  So do we want to get back to business as usual, or do we want a new system that gives us control over our lives, our homes, our health, our education, these wars, & our dignity?

The opportunity is there – we’re at a rare crossroads where, with enough smart organizing and big-picture thinking, grassroots communities have an enormous opportunity – to tell the truth about the economic crisis, and give our government the kick in the pants it needs to start envisioning a new economy.

What?
Set up a Living Room Conversation on the Economic Collapse & Bringing our Money Home. Living Room Conversations are casual gatherings in someone’s home or another cozy place where community members agree to respect each other (but not necessarily agree) and talk about confusing, controversial issues of the day.  It’s a space for education, learning from one another, hearing about each other’s experiences & building our analysis of how issues are interconnected. Every social movement begins with honest conversation that honors the issues that we all grapple with, and gives us a strong foundation of community and shared understanding.

Why?
You and I deserve to know how we got into this mess. More importantly, our communities can use some space to think about how to use our resources to build our local economy for living wages jobs, affordable housing, smart development & other values we hold high. ROP staff will facilitate a LRC to help you sort through these questions and ideas.

The Rural Organizing Project promotes a community building culture where food, children and our friendship circles are all a part of our social justice efforts. We are experiencing a turbulent check on the lives that we’ve built and the values that we prioritize as a society; community is now more important than ever.

Steps to complete this Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) Activity.
Getting started:

Get together with a group of friends, your Human Dignity Group or on your own. Contact us (cara@rop.org) to schedule a time for us to come to your town. Follow these clear steps for success.

Finding a host:
This can be anyone who is willing to open up their home! Try to find a home that offers a central location with space for 10-20 people, not necessarily the biggest, nicest home you know of. A local church or other safe space can also work.  It is fine if people are cozy and some need to sit on the floor – in fact, that creates a certain excitement. The host might be you or it might be someone who is not incredibly involved – they might invite their whole address book or simply join the conversation and prepare some snacks.

Who to invite:
Who would you want to have this conversation with? Who in your town is actively working to make your community thrive? The invitees can be from the organization that your are involved with, a casual group of friends or a strategic group of people interested in local sustainable economies. We don’t all have to agree, the only rule is that we respect one another. The most important thing is to invite 3 times as many people as you want to attend. It’s an organizing rule that not everyone you invite will want to come and not everyone who says Yes will be able to make it. So it’s best to prepare ourselves. If you want 10 people – you have to invite 30! Let’s start out with people that we know before we invite the whole town. One step at a time!

How to invite them:
The best invitations come from a place of warmth and diligence. Call or in-person invite the folks from your list to join you for a casual conversation with food and friends about how we got into this economic mess, how it affects our human rights and how we might get out of it by building a strong local community.

There are no shortcuts in inviting people – invitees have to be given the basic information at least once, asked for a solid commitment regarding their availability and then reminded. A mix of phone, email and mail is ideal. Voices and faces build relationships — all email or all mail outreach doesn’t generally build trust or community.

Preparation for the LRC:
Though we live in a global age, every town is different, every local economy special and each personal story unique. Do a little thinking and digging before the LRC to set us up with all the information we need to succeed.

  • Where we keep our money & what institutions do with that money is a huge part of the economic collapse. How could your town Bring Our Money Home?
  • Think about your personal story and your town.
  • How are you being affected by the economic crisis? Personal stories are stronger than statistics or facts. Think about how you might share your story at the LRC.
  • What are the things your community needs that it’s not getting right now? Teachers, housing, food, doctors? How could local investment help these needs be met?

Beyond the conversation:
We know most people feel busy and do not need another obligation.  Most people, though, are also feeling isolated and slightly desperate in this wild political moment – they do want to engage in meaningful discussion.  Invite your guests to be a part of a conversation on one of the toughest issues of the day, the economy – people want to talk about it – but we don’t want them to feel like showing up commits them to more than just the LRC.  Because in fact, just being there does matter.

LRC’s are part of a larger effort to Bring our Money Home, invest in local institutions, build local living wage jobs and healthy communities. This is step one, talking to each other and inviting our neighbors into the conversation.

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