Manipulation and Trust in Organizing

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

Introduction

For people new to organizing it can feel like it’s about tricking people or manipulating them or guiding them to the correct place. People who shy away from organizing because of this have a healthy response to perceived manipulation. However, I think organizing that is sincere and empowering isn’t about manipulation at all and is just the opposite. Learning this distinction between empowerment and manipulation is of essential importance in organizing, both to be able to detect it in others and in your own efforts.

The reason people often say that organizing feels manipulative is that you have a goal in your interactions with other people. This is a key tension, and how you navigate this tension determines whether you respect someone’s agency and explore it with them or whether you try to use them as a pawn in your own desire to advance your activism. In short, empowerment vs. manipulation.

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Organizing Is Not about Getting People to Agree with Radical Ideas

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

Intro

There is one misconception in organizing, especially workplace organizing, that is responsible for more confusion and dead ends than any other. It manifests itself in many ways, but it boils down to this: “The way I was radicalized and got involved in organizing is the way everyone is radicalized and gets involved in organizing.”

Most commonly, people new to organizing and radical politics try to show others their own new ideas, when really those same ideas will refract very differently depending on others’ very different experiences. Most often, people don’t immediately cling to the ideas you cling to. This often leads new organizers to become exasperated and confused, “Why does no one else get radicalized when I show them the things that radicalized me?”

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Agitation and the 1-on-1

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. Check out the intro post here to see how agitation is defined. The below post is an exploration of ideas based on that definition and framework.]

Intro

Agitation in organizing is the spark that creates the wildfire. Like in all parts of life, our emotions lead, our thoughts agree, and then our behavior follows. In part AEIOU is about channeling this natural progression of human action.

Maybe at a later date I’ll be able to structure these thoughts more logically, but for now the thoughts below are an ad hoc collection of small analyses, reflections, and observations.

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An Introduction to 1-on-1 Organizing Conversations

 

[This is the first post in a series on 1-on-1 conversations. Sign up for email notifications at the bottom of this page or follow me on Twitter to see follow-up posts on this topic.]

The 1-on-1 organizing conversation is the heart of grassroots organizing. I’d go so far as to claim that if someone is trying to organize but is not using 1-on-1s, they probably are going to fail or at the very least will not be building towards success in the long-term. In my own personal estimation, it’s not even organizing if it doesn’t center 1-on-1s because 1-on-1s are where deep relationships form that are the foundation for building grassroots power.

How 1-on-1s are done differs somewhat across different organizing traditions and domains, but the core elements of 1-on-1s in each tradition are largely the same. Many of these techniques were developed in labor organizing but are just as commonly used today in community organizing as well.

As a basic definition, 1-on-1 organizing conversations are talks you have with someone to 1) build a relationship of trust, 2) identify common grievances and interests, and 3) move with them from a place of inaction to one of action.

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