This past May, over 800 attendees and hundreds more online viewers joined us for the livestream event Complementary or in Conflict? Community Organizing and Collective Impact, a keynote and panel discussion at the 2017 Collective Impact Convening in Boston.
The Collective Impact Forum is excited to share with you the video from this livestream event, as well as a transcript of the keynote remarks by Marshall Ganz (Harvard Kennedy School), with introductory remarks by Monique Miles (Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.) We have also included tweets below from attendees and livestream viewers who shared their thoughts during the session.
Find below both videos of the keynote and the following panel discussion.
Complementary or in Conflict? Community Organizing and Collective Impact
Video and Transcript
[Introduction by Monique Miles]
I am honored to introduce our keynote speaker.
As we consider the national moment that our country is in and we collectively navigate complex questions such as how to solve multigenerational challenges like poverty, inequality, threats to social, racial, and economic justice, we know that there are many ways to respond to this question. In fact, as I look around this room, I see many people who are working daily and arduously on these core issues. And as we do this work, there are a few things we know are critical to our long-term success including how we sustain hope and faith for the long-term arc of this work. We also know that it is important to design a theory of action that creates a footpath, a roadmap to the outcomes we seek and the changes that we are aiming for. Finally, we know that in order to figure this all out, we need a way, we need a structure to do so.
The lifework of our keynote speaker, Marshall Ganz, who has been called the maestro of organizing, is about bringing these pieces together in the fight for justice. As a pioneer of grassroots organizing over the past five decades, his work offers a blueprint as we consider the national moment our country is in and collectively answer questions, some of which have come up already in the convening of our Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund Network, including who are we as a country, and how will our communities respond right now in real time to this moment?
Marshall’s research, his practice, and his lived experiences reminds us that we have the power and the narrative. It is in the narrative, the stories, the stories that we share that drive the movement and get us to the resolutions that we all seek. The lifework of Marshall Ganz is a story of working with people, working with communities, and working with movements to answer some of the most important questions that define our times and shape our history.
Beginning with his work with the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964 and continuing with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marshall was called into organizing at an early age. In 1965, he joined Cesar Chavez in his efforts to successfully organize farm workers in California. Let’s give it up for that. And over the next 16 years, he worked with United Farm Workers and gained experience in union, political, and community organizing.
For Marshall, this work wasn’t about charity or helping. It was about justice and about working with people in a way that is respectful and enhance their agency as well as his own. Marshall went on to become the director of organizing and was elected to the National Executive Board on which he served for eight years. During the 1980s, he worked with grassroots organizing and developed new organizing programs and designed innovative voter mobilization strategies for local, state, and national electoral campaigns. He went on to become the architect behind President Obama’s first campaign which organized students and volunteers. He also founded an organization called The Leading Change Network which brings together a global community of organizers, educators, and researchers, all organizing for democracy.
Marshall Ganz is widely published and in 2009 he won the Michael J. Harrington Book Award for his book titled Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement. He’s a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard where he teaches, researches, and writes on leadership, organization strategy and social movements, civic associations, and politics.
Before officially calling Marshall to the stage, I want to first share that following his address, we are going to hear from Melody Barnes and some local community organizers who will respond to this address and share their own work and solutions for responding to the current moment that our country is in. But before Melody comes up, please first join me in welcoming Marshall to the stage.
[Remarks by Marshall Ganz]
Thank you for the opportunity to reflect with you today about the role of organizing in addressing critical challenges we face as a community, as a nation, and as a democracy.
Modest objectives should take about five minutes, but I do want to say that there’s something very particular about this audience. Walter Brueggemann, a protestant theologian, wrote a book called The Prophetic Imagination in which he said that transformational vision occurs at the intersection of what he calls criticality, a clear view of the world’s pain and hurt, coupled with hope, a sense of the world’s promise and possibility. One without the other leads either to despair or irrelevance, but together they create the energy for transformational change.
Young people come of age with their critical eye on the world they find and almost of necessity, hopeful hearts. So it was so for my generation and I hope it is so for your generation and so I look forward to our dialogue this morning, our conversation this morning about how to make that happen.
This is an extraordinary time. The late Tom Hayden once said, “Change is slow except when it’s fast.” We’re in a fast moment right now in case you haven’t noticed. A moment in which chickens come home to roost, in which we’re confronted with truths that we’ve denied for some time. A moment in which small differences can produce enormous change, and a moment in which the choices we make really matter. It’s also a moment in which our democratic institutions may be more at risk than at any time since the 1930s.
How did we get there? I’d argue there’s three principle proximate causes. Galloping inequality and fragmentation in terms of class, race, gender, the hollowing out of the capacity of democratic government to do what it needs to do, and the atrophy of nonelite, civic, political organization, including unions, that rendered many sectors of our country, especially those hardest hit relatively voiceless. And although we can attribute these realities to globalization, digitalization, and financialization, certainly they presented major challenges. Their consequences, especially in this country, go back to failures in public policy that not only did not respond but made things worse by privileging reactions of privatizing, marketizing, and donarizing, that’s a new word I just invented, that goes back to the 1970s and has turned people into customers or clients rather than citizens engaged with one another in the challenging but critical practice of democratic politics.
How we respond to this challenge matters. Addressing the symptoms in domains of health, education, youth, with disciplined, focused, and accountable community collaboration is a very, very, good thing. But unless at the same time we’re strengthening the voice of the voiceless, rebuilding the capacity for democratic governance, and begin to have a structural impact on the inequality, we have to ask ourselves whether we’re trying to compensate for a failing system rather than changing the system.
You know the metaphor, the miner’s canary. The miners would take a canary down into the mines because if there was poison, the weak respiratory system of the canary would react first and keel over so the miners could get out of the mine. We have to ask ourselves whether we are not only finding ways to save the canary but doing what we need to do to get the poison out of the mines. In our country, given its problematic electoral structures, a reality of which people have become acutely aware recently, that task is often followed to social movements, at the heart of which is the practice of organizing.
These movements of moral reform, modeled as they were on the great awakenings of the early 19th century, fought for a change on behalf of temperance, abolition, women’s suffrage, populist agrarian reform, labor reform, progressivism, civil rights, environmentalism, gender equity. Organizing is indeed focused on problem solving, but on doing so in ways that can develop the leadership to empower the powerless, to address the structural problems of political, economic, racial, and gender inequality, thus opening pathways to change. So what I hope we can explore today will be how to solve the urgent problems we try to solve in a way that strengthens the democracy rather than weakening it. And asking whether at the most micro level of analysis and action, are we strengthening the individual and collective agency of those most in need of change or diminishing it?
This is why organizers strive to put questions of leadership, constituency, and power at the center of their approach. This isn’t something new. It wasn’t even invented in Chicago by Saul Alinsky. But in the west, the organizing tradition has at least three core roots. There’s the story of the people who launched a journey from slavery to freedom as told in the book of Exodus, a faith foundation to this work of social change. Then there was the day the Greeks decided they didn’t need kings, that they could govern themselves, the beginning of a civic tradition. Then there were popular means like the Irish tenant farmers of a British landlord who withheld their crops until he made the improvements to which he was committed. A man who gave his name to that tactic, Captain Boycott. Yes, that’s where the boycott comes from. And I’m grateful for the fact that my introduction to this tradition came in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964 which is really where my education about race, power, and politics in America began. And the farm workers in California which helped me learn the difference between charity and justice. Charity asks, “What’s wrong, how can I help?” Justice asks, “Why is it happening, how can I change it?” That’s when people get uncomfortable because it is often the case that people over here have less because these people have more. And when we try to change that, there’s resistance and there’s struggle and there’s conflict, and that’s a positive midwife of change. It is how change actually works. So let’s talk about organizing.
The first thing about organizing is that it can be understood as a form of leadership that’s rooted in three questions posed by a first century Jerusalem scholar, Rabbi Hillel. When asked about, “How do I think about what to do in the world?” he responded with three questions to ask yourself. The first question, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” That’s not meant to be a selfish question but rather a self-regarding question. If you presume to lead, to take responsibility for others and engage with others, you better be clear about what’s in it for you, what are your values, what are your resources, what do you expect from it? But secondly, he says, “Ask yourself, ‘If I am for myself alone, what am I?’ because to be a who and not a what is to recognize that our capacity to realize our objectives is inextricably wrapped up with the capacity of others, that we exist in relationship with others in this world.” Thirdly, he says, “Ask yourself if not now, when?” Which isn’t advice to jump into moving traffic, I don’t think. It’s a caution against what Jane Addams called the Snare of Preparation. Just another year of strategic planning and finally we’ll have the perfect plan and then we’ll implement it and the world will totally conform to our expectations.
Is that how it works? The reality is that getting that in order to learn to do well what we try to do, we have to often begin to do it. In other words, understanding flows from action. It doesn’t precede it. And that takes courage because it means leaping into a dimension of the unknown which is the future in order to be able to learn what it takes to create the change that we hope to change.
So for me leadership is about the interaction of these three, self, other, and action. The fact that they’re questions and not answers is also important because it makes clear what the domain of leadership actually is.
I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of being in an organization, everything’s going great, and people say, “Where’s the leadership so we can thank them?” When do people say, ‘Who’s in charge here?” When do they say, “Where’s the leadership?” When? Yeah, we know, problems, contradictions, difficulties, and it means coming to terms with the fact that the domain of leadership is not one of certainty but uncertainty. It is not about establishing control that we never really can but how to pursue purpose in the face of uncertainty.
That’s challenging and problematic. It’s a challenge to the hands. Do I have the skills I need to deal with these new challenges? It’s a challenge to the head. Can I use my resources in new ways to deal with these challenges, a strategic challenge? And then, where do I find the hope? Where do I find the courage? How do I inspire that in others? And that’s a challenge to the heart. So it’s really a head, hands, heart proposition when we’re thinking about leadership, and the definition that I’ve come to use is that it’s about accepting responsibility because there is a choice for enabling others to achieve shared purpose. So this is not leader as diva or sun, right? You know, the sun that illuminates, you get close, you get lighter, maybe burned, or whatever happens when you get too close. It’s not that idea. It’s leadership as a form of social interaction in the pursuit of common purpose under conditions of uncertainty. So that makes leadership less of a position than a practice, less about trying to assert control than developing the capacity to respond to uncertainty.
Now organizing, and I do want to say this, thinking of leadership as a practice means being clear about the difference between a formal position of leadership, positions of authority, and the exercise of leadership which are . . . Aren’t they two different things? You know people in formal positions of authority who are not such great leaders, does that ever happen? Doesn’t just happen at Harvard, okay. On the other hand we meet people in neighborhoods and at kitchen tables and in work places who are exercising leadership in the sense that I’m using the term all the time. So it’s understanding as a practice of which many of us are capable.
Now organizing is a particular form of leadership that asks three more questions. The first question, not what is my issue but who are my people? Who is the community with whom I am engaging in a leadership contract? With whom am I working? To whom am I accountable? And second, what change do they need rooted in their lived experience and understanding, and what would change look like in terms of their needs? And finally, how can I work with them to enable them to use their resources to build the power that they need to achieve that change? So organizing is not about providing services to grateful clients. It’s not about marketing products to customers. It’s about turning communities into constituencies. Constituency comes from the Latin con stare which means to stand together. Client, interestingly, comes from the word inclinare, which means to lean upon, to depend upon.
Organizing is not about creating dependency, it’s about enabling power. This tradition is an old tradition. So how does it actually work? Well, one way to think about it is in terms of five practices that can enable a constituency to turn its resources into the power it needs to achieve the change it wants.
In the Montgomery bus boycott, for example, that launched the modern civil rights movement, people discovered that if they used a resource they all had . . . Any idea what was the resource they all had in the Montgomery bus boycott that was so critical? Any idea? Yeah, they all had feet, and if they used their feet to walk to work instead of getting on the bus, on the segregated bus and riding to work, then their individual dependency on the bus company and the power of the bus company over them as individuals could be turned into their power over the bus company when acting collectively. And that dynamic of how individual resources can be turned into collective power, that’s at the heart of what organizing is all about. Because it isn’t change coming from out there, it’s change coming from right here. And that means changing ourselves even as we change the world around us.
Now one way to think about this organizing framework is at one end relationships, at the other end action. And in the middle story, strategy and structure as ways to turn the relationships into the power for action. Let me explain what I mean.
First relationships. Organizing is grounded in the building of relationships rooted in shared values based on commitments to work together. It’s the process of association with each other, not simply the aggregation of individual resources that can make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, aggregating a whole lot of mouse clicks at the same time is not the same thing as thousands of people forming relationships with each other so that they can act collectively together. This is an important distinction. It goes to the distinction between mobilizing and organizing.
Wael Ghonim who was one of the leaders of the Tahrir Square movement, in a recent interview talked about the fact that they mobilized very effectively, turning people out, especially relying on social media to do that. But they didn’t organize. They didn’t build the horizontal relationships. They didn’t build the structures. They didn’t develop the leadership. So that when they were successful in getting rid of Mubarak, who was it that was able to pick up the pieces and walk away with them? Not them. It was the people with the organization which in that case was the Muslim brothers. So it’s very important to understand the difference between individual aggregation and building relationships horizontally and building collective capacity. And although relationships are always based on exchange to some extent, my resources, your interests, your interests, my resources, it takes commitment to turn an exchange into a relationship rooted in shared values that give them a future, enabling learning, growth and development, endowing transactions with the possibility for transformation. Contracts, when you negotiate them, that’s done. Relationships, when you form them, they are only beginning because they open out into growth, learning, and new understanding.
The core skill in organizing is the one-on-one meeting, the house meeting, and these practices that in fact . . . You know, it’s interesting. So many of the practices in organizing are things we do all the time anyway. How many people here have ever had a relationship? Let me see. Wait, everybody didn’t raise their hand. I don’t know. I better rethink this, no. A lot of this is about taking what we know implicitly and making it explicit so that we can bring craft and intentionality and purpose to this work. And that’s why we talk about one-on-one meetings, house meetings, and so forth.
Now, second, and I’m watching the clock here. I’ve got to pick up speed.
Second story, narrative. Organizing requires learning to access emotional resources rooted in our values that can enable us to respond to challenges with courage, with hope, empathy, and self-advocacy as opposed to reacting to them in fear, isolation, and self-doubt. This is the work of public narrative. The role of narrative is based on the fact that we come to know the world in two ways, with the head and with the heart. We map the world of what is cognitively but we map the value we place on things, people, and experience emotionally. So it is through emotion that our values can inspire action.
As Saint Augustine observed, it’s one thing to know the good, it is quite another to love it. Loving it is what enables action upon it. Knowledge is not sufficient to produce action. It’s not that cognition is good and emotion is bad but rather, they are distinct. You know there is such a bias certainly in the academy against understanding emotion and how it works. That’s a little emotion, you know, and there is a lot of power in gender and there’s a lot of dynamics involved in that. But it’s important to appreciate that emotion has its own language just as cognition has its own language.
Pascal wrote that the heart has reason of which reason does not know, and one of the languages of emotion is narrative because narrative is one of the ways we’ve learned to access the emotion to deal with challenges with mindfulness. Most of the time we operate out of habit because it’s very efficient. But when confronted by the unexpected, habit no longer works. So we experience these encounters as anxiety, and the anxiety calls our attention to the need for action.
So at times leadership may require that we awaken people to the challenges they face, the work of urgency, the work of anger, not rage but outrage so as to create sufficient anxiety that people look at the circumstances with fresh eyes. Now I know that sounds kind of crazy. My job as a leader is to make people anxious. Well, yeah, but the danger is that the anxiety turns into fear in which case we run away, we strike out or we freeze and hope whatever it is that’s frightening us doesn’t get us. Now that may have been very, very helpful when we had to deal with saber-toothed tigers but when we began to live with other people culturally we developed ways to learn to manage our hearts in order to confront challenges not with fear but with hope. And that is the work of narrative, how to counter hope against fear, solidarity against isolation, self-worth against self-doubt.
Stories are made from a plot, a character, and the moral. What makes a plot a plot is a protagonist on his or her way to a goal when something happens, the unexpected, a khaleesi arrives with her dragon or, well, no, that’s a Harvard joke, not really. Something happens, and that’s when we lean forward and we start paying attention. That’s the moment we get interested. Up to that point it’s boring, and we pay attention because of our own encounters with the unexpected which we seem to be infinitely curious to learn how to handle small things like movies sold out of tickets, and then the big things, marriages break up, people get thrown out of school, we lose loved ones for whom we care about which we can do nothing. It is in fact one of the core dimensions of human experience to have to confront the unexpected, to have to deal with those challenges for which, by definition, we are not prepared. And because we can empathetically identify with the protagonist in a story, we are able not only to learn with our heads the moral like haste makes waste, we actually experience. We experience the fear. We experience the hope, and we experience the values and resources the protagonist draws on in order to find the courage to confront those challenges.
So the experience of the protagonist becomes our experience. So the moral that a story teaches is less to the head than to the heart. And this is why faith traditions, cultural traditions, families all teach through stories. That’s where you heard your first stories, right? From professional storytellers? Well, sort of. They’re called parents, right? Telling stories. Eighty-five percent of the time parents spend with young children is in storytelling. It’s instruction. It’s instruction to the heart. Let me tell you about Uncle Charlie. You don’t want to be like Uncle Charlie. He started out right but he took a wrong turn. Or about Aunt Harriet. Come on, every family the world over has those stories. So we are all storytellers.
Public narrative is about harnessing the power of story to the work of leadership, by accessing it to be able to tell a story of self. That is, to communicate to others through my lived experience. Why I’m doing what I’m doing. And that’s a story of us. Not a categorical us like everybody with green hair but an experiential us, the values that we share, the experiences that we share. And a story of now, how to turn this moment into a narrative moment, a moment of challenge, a moment in which we must choose, respond, and a moment of action.
And for those you that watched the Democratic Convention and saw Michelle Obama’s talk, you see that? And contrast with Hillary’s, and we showed in my class this year the six minutes of each. Michelle speaks through narrative moments, one after another after another. And because of that we get the emotional meaning of that moment and of the person behind it. Hillary could never learn to do that, and so she remained opaque behind a screen. And when you’re in public life, if you don’t author your own story, others will author it for you. So you really have no choice but to claim your own story in public life. Does that make sense?
Now, third, and I see I’m going to run just a few minutes over here. Is there a guy with a cane or am I okay? All right, just want to be sure.
Third, organizing can’t stop at the why. It also has to grapple with the how. How do we turn what we have, our resources, into what we need, power, to get what we want, our goals, our objectives, and change? That’s called strategy. That’s called strategizing. Now that means talking about power and taking power seriously.
Dr. King described power as the ability to achieve purpose. And it’s central to organizing, the capacity to turn resources into new realities. Now how does power work? Well, everybody gets it really. If you need my resources, if you need what I got more than I need what you got, who’s got the power? You need what I have more than I need what you have, who’s got the power? That’s right. And reverse it. Who’s got the power? If I need what you got more than you need what I got, who’s got the power? All right, so that’s power. Power is influence created by interdependency, and sometimes when we have enough interests in common, we can collaborate in ways that enhance the power of both of us. We call that power with, like a cooperative. Like a cooperative daycare, like a collaboration or credit union.
But sometimes our interests are in conflict. And when our interests are in conflict, then the question is how can I make it in your interest to do what I need in order to realize my interests? How can I make it more costly for you to resist change than to accept change? And that’s power over, and that’s a lot of where the issue in organizing is.
Now the people in Montgomery, Alabama, discovered that by using their feet in a different way they could shift power over them into their power over the bus company and it achieved change. The American colonists here in Boston, you know they dumped some tea in the harbor, know about that? It was a boycott of British goods, of British products to influence the British government and the merchants. Ghandi used salt. In the farm workers, we had a grape boycott.
The challenge is how to access resources that are more widely distributed like time in order to challenge resources that are more tightly held like wealth. And this challenge of people and wealth is a critical challenge to appreciate and understand, and understand how it works and how it can change. The reality is and the reason why I call my book Why David Sometimes Wins is that while it is probable Goliath will always win, sometimes David does. It’s winning achieved by compensating for resources you don’t have with greater resourcefulness, with the creativity to learn the points of leverage and understand how you can enable your people to use their resources in ways to influence the interests of those whose cooperation and collaboration they need in order to get what they want.
It often involves conflict and conflict is often the midwife of change, something not to fear, something to recognize, something to embrace, and something to turn to constructive purpose which is really what the whole democratic project is about, isn’t it? The whole democratic project is about creating a system in which adversarial views can compete with one another and on the basis of equality, at least theoretically, lead to public choice. That’s what politics is supposed to be about. That’s what the art of politics is supposed to be about, and that’s what we have to reclaim if we’re to begin to make changes in the structural conditions that we need to deal with.
Now, fourth, social movements are often born in reaction to structures they experience as oppressive. So in that reaction they may confuse all structure with being oppressive. But exclusive focus on trying to free oneself from the past can blind us to the need to organize ourselves to become free to create a better future, freedom from to freedom to.
And the reality is that traditional ways of structuring authority, often one person, often a male, giving everyone else orders, have not really worked in many settings for a long, long time.
On the other hand, rejection of the need for structure can easily result in what feminist scholar, Jo Freeman, called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. You know, you go to that meeting and, “Well, we don’t believe in structure here. We don’t have any leaders here.” What Freeman points out is that anytime human beings get together, they will structure themselves, and it’s either going to be on the books, visible, transparent, and accountable or it’s going to be off the books, personalities, factions, and, “Well, who’s in charge here?” Does that sound familiar at all?
The point is to find the sweet spot between those two, which is what we’ve been working on the last several years, which is about the development of collaborative leadership teams that can cascade leadership outward in the distributed way. It’s not a new thing. Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, in Exodus 18 tells him he’s going to burn himself out if he keeps trying to do it all himself, and he’s got to find the folks to delegate with and to engage as well. So team-based leadership is critical, I think, to structure.
Finally, action. Changing the world requires mobilizing and deploying resources in new ways that enable us to learn from our failures as well as our successes. One measure of the impact of an organizing campaign can be evaluated by counting votes, people, events, policies, laws. Achieving real outcomes in turn requires the commitment of real resources, time, money, effort to the task in ways that can be counted.
I was taught in organizing if you can’t count it, it didn’t happen. But one challenge is to determine the right metrics, what it is to assess progress or lack of progress toward our goals not only for purposes of accountability and recognition but most of all for learning. If we don’t know what we’re doing, how can we learn to do it better?
Learning to make change in turn is not a matter of following a blueprint but rather discovering pathways to learning as we go. The process of changing the future is not anything anyone has a blueprint to. It’s a pathway we have to discover. And we have to be smart about discovering that pathway by honestly assessing our failures, learning from them and our successes as well. And because in organizing, commitment is the foundation of power because you’re asking people to commit their time, it is a fundamental skill, learning how to ask people for commitment.
Let me just ask you right now, how many people in this room found it easy to ask other people to commit? Yeah, that’s the truth. The reality is we got to learn to do that because unless we are able to make claims on others . . .
See, it’s not like we’re asking people to do us a favor. We’re creating an opportunity for people to make a difference. But you can’t make a difference without sacrifice. You can’t make a difference without commitment. So sometimes we try to focus on making things so easy that we think that’s what motivates people when in reality what motivates people is making it valuable. That it will make a difference, that it will matter, and that’s really where the work lies.
We bring this work together in one way by developing leadership as fundamental to learning these practices, diffusing these practices, and deepening their capacity within our communities and constituencies. We also bring it together temporally in terms of time. Stephen J. Gould wrote there’s two ways to think of time. Time is an arrow, time is a cycle. Time as a cycle is a rhythm of continuity. Time as an arrow is a rhythm of change. We recognize that in the way we organize a campaign as opposed to a program. A campaign in which we start without the resources we need so that we can build the resources we need in the course of getting there. It’s not, “Let me wait until I get my grant, then I’ll start.” Uh-uh, you’re going to waiting for a long time. I gotta start, I gotta build, then I develop the resources that I need in the course of building, and that’s what campaigns do.
Finally, conclusion, end. The success of an organizing campaign is thus evaluated not only in terms of whether it solved the immediate problem but whether it did so in such a way as to empower a constituency with new economic, political, and cultural capacity and at the same time developing the leadership that will enable it to grow, get to scale, and create the power to achieve the structural change that we need.
One of the main reasons why organizing in the civil rights movement hooked me was it was about working with people to find the resources within themselves and each other to create the power to change the institutions around them responsible for their problems in the first place, and that’s what democratic governance should enable us to do. So I’m just going to conclude here with a song. I’m not going to sing. In the fourth grade they told me, “Would you please just mouth the words?” And that was sort of the . . . Yeah, that was a very mean teacher. That was sort of the end of the singing career. But this was the song from the 1960s recorded by Judy Collins and uses the word freedom. And I want to explain the civil rights movement never called itself the civil rights movement. It called itself the freedom movement. Freedom is a much bigger word than legal rights. Freedom is about dignity, it’s about community, it’s about power, it’s about the capacity to act and shape one’s own future. So think of it in that sense.
The song goes like this. “Freedom doesn’t come like a bird on the wing. It doesn’t fall down like the summer rain. Freedom is a hard won thing. You have to work for it, fight for it, day and night for it, and every generation has to win it again. Pass it on to your children brother. Pass it on to your children sister. They have to work for it. They have to fight for it, day and night for it, and every generation has to win it again.”
Pass it on to your children. Pass it on.
Thank you for the opportunity to pass some of it on. Thank you.
Panel Discussion: Complementary or in Conflict? Community Organizing and Collective Impact
Continue watching this session with the panel discussion featuring:
- Melody Barnes (Moderator), Chair, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions
- Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO, Philadelphia Youth Network
- Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
- Marjorie Parker, Deputy Executive Director, JobsFirstNYC
- Marc Philpart, Senior Director, PolicyLink
Share Your Thoughts
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