Thursday, July 10, 2008

Inciting Democracy

Randy Schutt, an activist out in Cleveland, has written what he calls "A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society". His book is Inciting Democracy (a great title, by the way) and is available through through his website.

The project that he proposes is interesting and detailed. But it's the analysis and strategy behind the project that I found so inspiring. He writes clearly and comprehensively about the skills and values needed to change the society. He lists what he views as the five primary obstacles to progressive change. Then he outlines what he considers the 'Essential Components of an Effective Strategy':
  • Clear Conceptions of Progressive Change (what I've been referring to as 'Vision'),
  • Widespread Education (so necessary, as I've said),
  • Widespread Emotional Therapy (I would put this more in terms of personal growth or personal healing, but yes),
  • Supportive Community for Progressive Activists (absolutely!),
  • Large Numbers of Activists Working Simultaneously for Progressive Change (of course), and
  • Many Concerted Change Efforts Continuing for Many Years (ie, persistance pays off).

He follows this with what he entitles the 'Four Stages of Societal Transformation':
  1. Lay the Groundwork,
  2. Gather Support,
  3. Struggle for Power, and
  4. Diffuse Change Throughout Society.

He breaks each of the first three stages into sub-states; for example his first stage of 'Lay the Groundwork' has sub-stages of: Find Other Progressives, Learn How Human Affairs are Now Organized, Learn and Practice Change Skills, and Form Supportive Communities.

Most of this is very similar to what I had been thinking even before I read the book, but Randy Schutt writes so well and has thought so thoroughly about social change that reading this has crystallized much of my current strategic viewpoint. On top of all this, he includes an entire chapter of the book devoted to useful resources, including 21 pages of books and articles (with annotations), a list of progressive book publishers, an annotated listing of magazines that have a social change focus or alternative perspective, and lists of progressive radio programs and

Beyond the book, Schutt's website contains papers that he has written on Nonviolent Action, Social Change, and Cooperative Decision Making, as well as links to nine different activist training programs. He is also partly responsible for another website (along with long-time activist, Pamela Haines): the START project which is a home study course that teaches social change basics by giving people the information to be able to do analysis, vision, and strategy (it's one of the links I keep on my sidebar).

I'm quite grateful to Randy Schutt for offering the world so much really useful stuff.

Quote of the day: "As I stood with my colleagues singing songs of struggle and love... I knew what it was like to really live--to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other people, to boldly fight oppression and injustice, to courageously risk my career and my life for something truly important, to love people deeply, to cherish all of humanity.
"What if everyone did this? What if the whole world were like this? What if our daily lives had this same camaraderie and loving spirit?" - Randy Schutt
Word (or phrase) of the day: Watershed
Hero(es) of the day: Jeremiah Wright and James Cone

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