Rooting our Organizing in Healing Justice

Amidst the unanticipated challenges of the last few years, we have learned an incredible amount about how to build strong groups and support one another so that we are ready to meet whatever comes. With so much to do, it can be easy to forget about the things that sustain our organizing for the long haul—like joy, creativity, and delicious snacks! At the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session in June, organizers from across the state strategized about how to foster a culture of communal care and healing in our organizing. Read on for takeaways from that amazing session and for ideas about how you could bring this conversation to your local human dignity group! 

As organizers, we know that we have to be building the world we want to see, even as we fight against a system that is beating us down. That vision includes joy, healing, and health for everyone, and that includes us! The organizers! At the Caucus, folks came together to not only talk about healing justice but also practice it. 

Many pointed out the importance of being able to ask each other for what we need, whether that’s a hug, a chance to doodle during the next group meeting, or taking some time away to rest and recharge. We also talked about how not every opportunity to be together with other local organizers has to be a time for work. So much of why we’re in this movement is because we enjoy hanging out together, and we can allow ourselves to just have fun! There were so many other ideas shared, but one of the most important takeaways was that this conversation about healing justice is one that we can take back to our human dignity groups as a way to check in with one another and build a community that we’re excited to be in for the long haul! 

This strategy session was just one of many ways we explored and created healing justice together at the caucus. There was also a song circle outside at lunch with Yanin, a paper crane making activity on a break with Karen, and a room for folks to drop into throughout the day to color, sit in silence, or decompress in other ways. Click here for the full list of healing justice activities throughout the day.

Group of people talking while seated in chairs in a circle under a tent.

Below is the agenda that was used to guide the powerful strategy session conversation. Feel free to use it with your human dignity group! You can also find a downloadable version here on our website. Let us know how your conversation goes and what you changed by emailing us at Do you have ideas of how to adapt this to better meet your group’s needs? We’d love to hear how you’re working on healing justice in your group!

Rooting our Organizing in Healing Justice 

  • Create some shared understanding of what strategies make for a human dignity group that is life-giving, which helps it last over time because people want to be a part of something that is effective and also supportive/fun/creative, etc. 
  • Acknowledge the shared experience of so many that the pandemic has only made worse: lack of mental/health resourcing in our communities, isolation, etc.
  • Come up with ideas for how to turn the strategies we’re naming into practical ways our group functions. How do we take ideas like ‘effective,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘nurturing’ (these are just examples) and put them into practice in the day-to-day? 
  • How do we determine not just what we want to do but how we want to be with each other, and then turn those values into practices that shape our group cultures? That shape how we interact with our community? 
  • Greet folks as they trickle in, get settled (5 min)
  • Opening go-around: Introductions, what brought you to this conversation (20 minutes)
  • Brainstorming activity (20 minutes)
      • Think about groups you’ve been a part of in the past (this can be community organizing groups or other things- church, PTA, etc.) What was it about that group that made you want to be a part of it? What kept you coming back? And/or… what made you not want to keep being a part of it? Why did you leave? 
      • Two big brainstorm papers going: what works, what doesn’t work. Things might be named like: we accomplished things, we had fun, food, friends, etc. Can ask impromptu questions throughout to help people think through things that aren’t named. 
  • Quiet writing/thinking/drawing exercise (5-10 min)
  • We built out this beautiful list of what makes for a life-giving group that people want to be a part of, and also things that steal the joy/meaning from being a part of a group. Think about your group dynamics currently, where are you thriving? Where can you grow?
      • Provide drawing materials, play dough, etc. for people to use for creative reflection. 
  • Group discussion: Share back from the self-reflection activity (10 min) 
  • Quiet writing/thinking/drawing exercise (5-10 min)
      • Provide drawing materials, play dough, etc. for creative reflection
      • Look at the list of areas you want to grow. For each thing you’ve written down, brainstorm some ideas of how to make this shift! For example: meetings feel like a drag.
          • Is it a drag because it doesn’t feel like we accomplish anything? Ideas for shifting: Is there someone who is in charge of helping meetings to move and flow, so that business can get accomplished every time and we make progress toward our goals? Do you have clarity about what you want to accomplish? If not, how do you get it? (Also, you can call your local ROP organizer to help your group create an action plan!)
          • Is it a drag because it’s all business and no pleasure? Do you have people signed up to bring snacks? Are there members with creative skills that could be implemented into your group? Maybe someone in your group does community theater and can lead some fun activities. Maybe someone is a painter and part of a meeting can be painting your vision for your community! Maybe there are kiddos who can lead your group in a song to open the meeting. 
  • Group discussion: Share back from the self-reflection activity (20 min)
  • Closing go-around: In one sentence, what are you taking home with you? (10 min)

We know that part of making a thriving rural Oregon for all is taking care of ourselves along the way. You can download this template healing justice agenda here. How is your group striving to be nurturing, supportive, and joyful even during challenging times? Have you found ways to fold these practices into your day-to-day organizing? Reach out to your friendly ROP organizer or Sidra and to let us know!