Organizing Means More Than Winning


A few months ago, I met with the co-executive director of a statewide organization that has been instrumental in transforming his state. It hadn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, then voted blue in every cycle since 2008. They’ve also legalized marijuana, restored voting rights to thousands of returning citizens and passed a voter’s bill of rights.

His organization is thinking through some local action strategies to complement their state political work. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned several campaigns they’re brainstorming.

💡organizing with parents to establish safer routes to school for students who faced gun violence at a bus stop

💡challenging the terrible working conditions of gig workers

💡regaining control of a city council from the rigid grip of developers

Build Power In Addition to Winning

Each time he mentioned a policy idea, I thought about the wider impact they could have if the focus was on building power in addition to winning.

✊🏻The opportunity of bringing parents together could build power for systemic change in the school system.

✊🏻Bringing gig workers together could create momentum for structural changes in the exploding economy in the region.

✊🏻Bringing residents together to challenge the grip of developers could bring much-needed transparency to city government – and all the improvements that come with sunshine.

This organization has been part of dramatic wins in this state for decades.

Powerful Questions: What Does It Look Like When. . .

Just think of the impact they will have when they add bigger questions to their planning:

❓What does it look like when parents have the power to create schools that provide an equitable education?

❓What does it look like when workers have the power to negotiate with their employer as equals?

❓What does it look like when low-income residents have the power to hold their elected leaders accountable?

True equity and justice depend on power. We can win every campaign we launch, but if we’re not building power, we’re always going to scramble.

That’s why I organize with the objective of bringing people together to build power, using the opportunity of the campaign to do it.

To be strategic, every campaign, training, coaching session or disrupting white supremacy culture program should have two purposes: winning in the moment and building power for the long-term.

What would you transform in your community if you could build power in addition to win?

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