Resilience Based Organizing & Translocal Organizing

Building a Movement of Movements:
Resilience Based Organizing and Translocal Organizing

At Movement Generation, we have been learning about and supporting inspiring stories of direct action resilience in many places across the country and the globe. We have been particularly interested in organizing work that has in common a shared recipe for change – one that draws deeply from our diverse ancestral and experiential wisdom of how to live well together (buen vivir) and combines it with the strategies needed to upend the power-structure of the dominant political-economy and usher in the next economy based on a new, single bottom line: balanced, life-affirming relationships in the places we call home.

Resilience-Based Organizing

This recipe for resilience combines the right ingredients to cook up effective change. In traditional campaign-based organizing, communities identify a problem/issue and then target a political figure with decision-making power to change rules, implement regulations or provide resources in order to alleviate that problem. This is still absolutely valuable and needed work – the work of winning the incremental changes that improves conditions. However, a different strategic approach (new for many today) has emerged among organizers across the country and the world. Resilience-Based Organizing (RBO) has been emerging among communities that are steeped in an ecological consciousness.

Using Resilience-Based Organizing, or RBO, we apply our collective labor to meet our collective needs, in such a way as to publicly expose illegitimate laws/power, and instead assert our right to self-govern. Rather than asking a corporation or government official to act, we use our own labor to do whatever we need to do to survive and thrive as a people and a planet, knowing that our actions conflict with legal and political structures set up to serve the interests of the powerful. This forces the question of whether we have permission to take right action in our collective interests. We call this creating a crisis of governance.

There are 3 core ingredients that make Resilience-Based Organizing effective:

Broadcast a Transformative Narrative

People will not go someplace we have not first traveled to in our minds. We must first craft together and paint for others an irresistible vision of the future. A vision that is not built on a fear of the worst, but of knowing that everything can be better. A vision that recognizes that social inequity is a form of ecological imbalance, and the solution to millions just “getting by,” is not in “getting ahead,” but in “getting together.” What has anchored so much transformative organizing is a willingness to articulate a bold vision worth working for.

Restoring our labor

What you feed grows. While there is no way forward without vision, vision is not enough. We must apply our own labor to build that vision now, regardless of how “unrealistic” or “impractical” we are told it is. If we put our work only into opposing what we don’t want, we build not love for our vision, but only longing. The first rule of ecological restoration is the restoration of our own labor. Human labor (the ways we expend our energy) is the precious natural resource, concentrated, controlled and exploited, that has been wielded like a chainsaw against the rest of the natural world. Because of this, we must take it back from the chains of the market and restore it to the web of life! This should be the basis of our organizing at every scale, from the school to the workplace; from grassroots organizing to trans-local movement building. Through models of Transformative Justice, for example, in which people self-organize to directly address harm in their community without relying on policing and prisons, organizations such as Creative Interventions based in Oakland, Ca are working with victims of violence to create their own solutions.

Contesting for Power

If it’s the right thing to do, we have every right to do it. Ultimately, the struggle at the heart of Resilience-Based Organizing is one of democracy. In order to remake the very shape of governance, from one that centers power in the illegitimate authority of corporations, military states and global financial elites to one that centers power in the hands of the people, we must organize in our communities to take the visionary right action that directly asserts our right to self-govern. If it is the right thing to do, we have every right to do it. This is how we expose and depose the corporate oligarchy that is the barrier to the collective liberation of our communities and ecosystems.

Translocal Organizing

A strong and successful movement for Just Transition is going to require building community power and resilience, as well as growing the scale and impact of our work.

Translocal organizing is autonomous and place-based organizing that is tied together across communities with a unifying vision, shared values, aligned strategies and common frames. Through Translocal Organizing, we seek to build to scale not by creating larger and larger organizations with greater and greater concentrated power but by aggregating to scale by uniting across places. Rather than creating one big (and clumsy) bowling ball, we are amassing a weighty yet nimble bag of marbles. This makes it harder to stop or disrupt us.

By decentralizing our organizing in this way, we can create more diverse structures for organizing based on local context and capacity (we are not forced to all use the same organizing or decision-making models, or depend on the same structures, such as 501c3 on profit status). We do not require top-down direction, and can lean into a leader-full movement more effectively this way. Being decentralized we can create greater diversity, more rapid innovation, and can propagate ideas more quickly.

This, of course, requires some shared infrastructure, what we think of as “connective tissue.” We do not seek to build “super structures” that direct local organizing, but rather living webs of relationship through which information, interventions and innovations can be shared. And though the connective tissue is important, the least amount of decision-making and power should be held there, and the greatest amount should be held at the local level.

Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is one example of a national alliance that is working to build a Translocal Movement. CJA has member organizations that all adhere to a shared vision and values, and through local, regional and national convenings creates the connective tissue needed for communities across the US to share and align strategies towards the unified vision of a Just Transition. Shared curriculum is being used with CJA member organizations across the country to generate common language, political analysis and strategies that can be applied in the many specific localities. When several local cities are applying a common strategy framework and making it publicly known, it can get the attention of national decision-makers and create pressure to make institutional change at the national level.