Themes and Questions from Rolling Think Tanks 2010

Is this what YOU see when you look at our movement in rural Oregon? 


·    Scores of people mapped the change that they wanted to see onto Obama’s call for change.  Those people have not gone away.  They are still there, along with their longing for change, but our movement has not yet been able to become the container that can engage them.  What can we do to build this container?  Is the human dignity group still a viable way to structure and hold local movement centers in rural Oregon?

 

This Valentine’s Day the leadership of ROP spent our morning with one of ROP’s longest and dearest relationships.  It’s a love affair that spans nearly two decades with someone, like only the best partners can, who makes us smarter, stronger, and all together a better organization.  Since our beginning in 1992, our heart stills belongs to Suzanne Pharr.

This February, Suzanne once again made the trek from the South out to Oregon to sit and talk with ROPers in living rooms and church basements about the state of democracy and of our movement in rural Oregon and the world.

In 2010, ROP is nearing two decades old.  We’ve chosen to do some deep organizational visioning and reflection over the next year.  Suzanne’s visit was part of kicking that off.  Through the 7 conversations with more than 165 people, including long time ROPers who have been with us since the beginning and new friends who were joining us for the first time, spanning student leaders, Latino organizers, peace activists, PFLAG members, union reps, and human dignity leaders from as far away as Christmas Valley in Lake County to the mouth of the Columbia River in Clatsop County.

It’s a trip she’s made quite a few times before – most notably when ROP was just beginning to organize in 1992 and Suzanne, Marcy, and a few other folks made the decision that the effort to defeat the OCA’s homophobic ballot measure 9 was about more than queer rights, it was about democracy and what each of us were willing to do to defend our democracy.  These initial conversations led to the original twenty human dignity groups that became ROP.

Then in 2005, Suzanne joined us again for a round of ‘rolling think tanks’ to provide perspective on how democracy has expanded and constricted over time and the forces that have made that possible – and would again.  This led ROP to take a stand – literally – and walk for a week from Salem to Portland in the Walk for Truth, Justice, and Community.  We were making visible our defiance to the notion of rural as ‘red’ and affirming that MLK’s ‘beloved community’ was alive in our hearts and worth continuing to create in our communities – especially after the re-election of George W. Bush.

The conversations last week were just the start.  More than anything Suzanne was helping ROP to listen to those of us that make up ROP – to raise up themes and questions that the organization has been engaged with and ask whether these are the right questions that we ought to grapple with over the course of the next year as we head into the next 5 years and beyond.

Below is a snapshot of some of the themes we heard.  Our next steps will be to take these questions more broadly – we are more than 60 local groups in 36 counties including more than 15000 households!  To begin, we’d love to share this short snapshot with you and invite your comments and questions back.  Our next place for collective reflection will be at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session in Albany on April 10th.  Register your team today to be a part of the visioning of our movement and the work of ROP.

Themes and Questions from Rolling Think Tanks 2010: Is this what YOU see when you look at our movement in rural Oregon? 

·    Scores of people mapped the change that they wanted to see onto Obama’s call for change.  Those people have not gone away.  They are still there, along with their longing for change, but our movement has not yet been able to become the container that can engage them.  What can we do to build this container?  Is the human dignity group still a viable way to structure and hold local movement centers in rural Oregon?

·    Isolation is still a major barrier to movement building.  Even after twenty years of email, internet, and social networking advancements, groups are challenged to reach beyond their current members or to connect beyond their issue focus, points of entry for new contacts are limited, and we lack the ability or skill to easily connect up disparate projects within our communities.  Linking among groups and projects across the state is still needed, and perhaps now more than ever.

·    In 1992, ROP staked our claim to counter isolation in rural Oregon by working with progressives in every county in the state, and the smaller the town, the better.  In 2010, are there groups in rural Oregon that need more organizing support than others?  Is it strategic to prioritize working with groups who are the most isolated, most vulnerable, most targeted, and most central to a revitalized movement for justice in rural Oregon?  Who would these groups be?  Rural Latinos, youth, queer people, poor and working class people?

·    We need a statement of our values to bring our movement and vision together.  Facts and figures are not what compel people to action.

·    Civic engagement is more than elections and policy work; it’s about all that we do to build power to make change as a movement.  Electoral politics and policy are only one slice of our movement, even if that’s where the majority of funding is focused and even if that has lead to our bias that that’s what ‘real’ change means.  How do we define winning for ourselves and for our movement? 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
English