One is helping in protest against and resistance to bad things our governments (national and state and sometime local) are doing right now. While our chief focus is on building an organization capable of taking back the government many are protesting, we’re extremely concerned about the present moment and support all kinds of peaceful direct action to show, with our bodies, that we don’t like what’s going on and will resist it. Our members protecting Trump’s sadism on DACA changes and the DREAMers, and willing to go to jail to show these new Americans are welcome here, is a case in point.
Two is member development. We’d like all our members to have a clear picture of the world they’re acting on. That means knowing what’s happened to this country and state, what/who’s to blame, and what’s a feasible way to improve it. Getting everyone on the same page on these things will take some time and work. We also want our members to have the skills needed to do the work we’re going to ask of them. Some of that is about “soft” (but harder to learn) organizing skills: how to talk with those who disagree with you; how to develop the patience with others to really listen to them; how to identify the issues and interests they have that might lead them to see what you want as good for them. These skills aren’t magic; they can be learned. But like a musical instrument, they take time and practice to master. Finally there are management, technical, and research skills we want chapters and members to have — knowing how to organize and run a productive meeting, construct a work-plan, enough of the election law to keep us well within it, or competence in using the VAN (Voter Activation Network) database to cut some turf for canvassing, Action Network to keep in touch with members, Relay to do mass text-messaging and response, ’Lil Sis to begin to map the power structure in community or region, etc. We don’t expect everyone to learn all these things, but we need a lot of people to know them, and this too will take work and time.
Three is chapter development. We want chapters to get things done, but we also want them to be the kind of community people would actually want to belong to — that feeds their brain and spirit, not just political success. So only part of chapter self-management is about setting clear goals and work-plans, with metrics on progress, and delivering political success. Another part is offering members the range of activity needed to engage them — anything from opportunities for direct action in protest, resistance, or support of different government actions; to public events like community town halls; to films series, speaker series, or reading groups and discussion circles — while keep an eye on the prize of that success. And a final but very important part is developing a culture of mutual respect, encouragement, fellowship, and even fun. We have some ideas about how to build that culture, and much more to learn. Its care and development will also take work and time.
The key to OWR’s success is developing a large organized base of informed members having fun doing good work they really believe in. If that’s what OWR becomes, we don’t think anything can stop us. If it doesn’t we think we’ll fail, and the state will continue to fail. It’s really that stark and important. That’s why we member and chapter development stuff so seriously, and have taken as much time as we have with an answer.