Four passionate and committed organizers working on different types of issues and campaigns and with diverse communities joined us on October 29 for a discussion about challenges and opportunities for community organizing in the wake of this year’s election: Helena Wong, Director, Seeding Change; Fernando Garcia Executive Director, Border Network for Human Rights; Garland Yates, Senior Fellow, Community Democracy Workshop; and Jared W. Turner, CEO, Jefferson Stevens, LLC. Here’s what they have to say to funders who are funding or interesting in funding community organizing:

  • Don’t expect rapid results; true community organizing takes time because building consciousness and community capacity take time. Leadership development is also important and that takes time as well. If philanthropy doesn’t acknowledge the time factor and expects immediate results for its investment, then it will set communities up for failure. “It is not a marathon, it is a long journey.”
  • In some ways, philanthropy can impede community organizing work because it doesn’t fully understand community organizing. There is a gap between the people who have the money and the people on the ground doing the work and experiencing the injustice.
  • There needs to be more forums for learning across communities, not just across organizations.

To what we can expect regardless of which party will be in the White House, here is what they offered:

  • Community organizing is and will be necessary no matter which party is in the White House. It is more a matter of whether community organizing takes on an offensive or a defensive orientation.
  • It’s an opportunity as much as it is a challenge. In the past year, more social clubs have become advocate for social justice and organizations that never worked together before are doing so now. “Black/Brown alliances wasn’t so real before.”
  • Human rights is the thread across all our communities of color. It connects the need for organizing in and across our communities.
  • Cross-racial organizing is essential because of the division that our nation’s leadership has sowed. For instance, while Black communities want less police presence in their communities, Asians feel that more police presence is necessary to deal with the attacks they have experienced because of the reference to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” Leaders and community organizers have to help their respective communities understand how one community’s wish can have adverse consequences on another community of color. Developing empathy for each other’s struggles is foundational to cross-racial organizing.