Cross Posted from Organizing Upgrade/Fast Forum:

Joseph Phelan, one of the editors at Organizing Upgrade, pulled together a FastForum exploring the intersection of strategic communications and left organizing.



By Malkia A. Cyril, Karlos Gauna Schmieder

At the Center for Media Justice we believe that the human right to communicate, and therefore to organize and fight for a better future, should belong to everyone.

Unfortunately, in the context of the big money media environment of the U.S. and the dawning of Tea Party politics following the this year’s mid-term elections- the vast majority of voices are shut out of the public debates that shape the daily material conditions of their lives. Center-Left research and communications organizations have staked a color-blind poll in the middle of debates on race and equity, legitimizing a do-nothing approach when it comes to confronting racism in the context of wedge issues.

This has left us with not only a very real need to re-train a new generation of progressive organizers in the art of strategic communications for equity and justice, but also a public debate on race and equity dominated by regressive voices.

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By Patrick Reinsborough

As movements around the planet mobilize to counter the effects of climate destabilization on their communities, cultures, and ecosystems, a framing battle of global significance is underway.

In the climate fight, as with so many other struggles, the heart of the framing battle is naming the problem, since how we define the problem determines what solutions are possible. To varying degrees, governments and multinational corporations around the world have acknowledged the crisis and they claim they are working to address it. However, they present the climate crisis through a reductionist lens as merely a problem of too much carbon in the atmosphere while ignoring the underlying issues of justice, equity, and humanity’s relationship with the Earth. This framing allows exploitation of the crisis to justify escalating the very policies and practices that have pushed the planet to the brink. Essentially the world’s richest countries and companies are co-opting environmental rhetoric to put a PR friendly “green” face on the same old politics of unlimited economic growth, resource thefts and corporate exploitation.

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By B. Loewe, Opal Tometi

Organizing is the process of retelling our lives with ourselves scripted as the protagonists instead of objects in an unjust world who’s future is up for grabs. If our inactivity is a result of being told that we don’t deserve better and that there are no possible alternatives to the world we’ve inherited, organizing tells us our personal problems are not ours alone. They are social. There are solutions. And we can be the ones to solve them.

 Simply put, organizers are storytellers. The stories we decide to tell and how we decide to tell them shape our consciousness and shape how we engage in our world. Thus strategic communications is not about the magic bullet phrase we utter nor is it about having the most communication technologies at our disposal. Strategic communications is about asking ourselves: what narratives are powerful enough to pull the wool from people’s eyes and expose that the emperor has no clothes.

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By Doyle Canning

While the first Tea Party convention, with its 600 attendees, was covered extensively on every major network, the US Social Forum, with over 12,000 people, was largely ignored by the establishment media. Of course, there are many structural reasons for this. But we’ve got to be honest with ourselves that when it comes to the shaping the conversation in the mainstream media, we’ve got to step up our game. There is a critical gap in many grassroots organizations between great organizing on the ground, and getting the message out on primetime.

In the big picture, we are losing the Battle of the Story for this historical moment to regressive forces. There are cultural conversations happening now about the role of government, race in the US, the market’s implosion, the ecological crisis, and so much more. And, with a few exceptions, we’re not the ones commenting on talk shows or stealing the headlines on Sunday.

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By Sangita Nayak

Grassroots organizing and strategic communications should be resourced in tandem to grow and deepen our work and advance the struggle. If organizing gets people on a movement train, then strategic communications should accelerate and fuel that train for justice.

Communications should help identify and invite more audiences that organizers need to win the battle for the short and long haul. It can also help identify the tracks, or ways of moving, so the organizing has greater impact. In tandem with people-centered organizing, communications assists by amplifying messengers and exposing targets, so that more and more people jump on the movement train.

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