Organizing on the Side of Love: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Why is Standing on the Side of Love offering this course?
We believe we are in a time where thousands of people are coming into social movements and learning about organizing: the majority of them not through non-profits, faith institutions, or academia (though not all). Many are in the streets because they don’t want to wait any longer for Black Lives to Matter, or for economic justice. There are also many in motion because they don’t like the progressive advancements we have seen in the last 8 years: President Obama as the first Black president, gay marriage, the growing political power of young people of color. Many of us (whether new to social movements or seasoned) are trying to make sense of the moment, do what we can, and ground our organizing work in our spiritual resources so that we can bring our best selves to this work. We are hungry to talk with each other. Many of us (whether in grassroots organizations or UU congregations across the country) can’t afford or access national in-person trainings on these subjects in big cities. This course hopes to fill some of these gaps. This is a course that seeks to be accessible to folks with varying levels of ‘formal education’ and varying levels of ‘street smarts’ ;). What we mean by that is that people bring different knowledge from different experiences to the hunger for this kind of information. Questions are welcome, and reaching out individually is most welcome. Language in the text or the videos got you confused and discouraged? Reach out, and we will talk it through as much as we can. (Many people have done that with us over the years). Cost of the course and book putting this course out of reach? Reach out and we will work it out.
Will this course be one big comprehensive overview of movement building and organizing?
No. There is so much material out there about movement building and organizing! All material is told in different voices, shaped by the experience of who writes it. So written material is not the core of this course. The goal of this course is not to be comprehensive, but to center on knowledge grounding, tips, tools, and discussion starting. The course is a container to learn, but also to start conversations and ask questions. Movement building and organizing are not pure sciences: they are also arts. They work (and deal) with people. So, they are messy. They are best learned through knowledge foundation, practice, and reflection.
Am I welcome no matter what my level of organizing experience?
Yes!!! If you are brand new to this stuff, you are welcome. If you are seasoned and still curious, you are welcome. If you burned out on organizing and took a break, and are not sure how to come back, you are welcome. If you feel like all the organizing you are doing keeps ‘failing’, you are welcome.
Is this course only for Unitarian Universalists?
No, but we are working out of our home at the Unitarian Universalist Association. The UU’s believe in ‘deeds not creeds’ so the UUA offers this course as a resource to UU’s and beyond. It is not a faith-based course, but it does talk very broadly about spiritual (not religious) resources and practices for organizing. It is broad enough that we hope information can be applied to organizing in congregations, any kind of group, seminaries, non-profits, etc. It is designed to be low-cost, as accessible as possible, and not heavy in terms of reading. It is also designed for people with different schedules (see below).
Is this an online book group for ‘This is an Uprising’?
No. This is a very important point. We use this book as an example of how we can be critical of a text and see it as very helpful at the same time (an essential skill for organizing). ‘This is an Uprising’ is a book that blends many old ideas and new. It was released this year. We like it because it is humanizing (leaders get to be humans and not martyrs or saviors in its stories), specific, and international. The book notices and names patterns between leaders, groups, and movements. This book is also deeply informed by Harvard University, and written by two white cis men that have a lot of access to resources. This means the examples they chose and their perception of history’s arc are informed by their perspectives. For example, we think the book lacks sufficient coverage of the impact and leadership of women of color (Trans and not Trans) strategists on the history of social movements in the US. It also has a tendency to wrap up very neatly ideas and patterns that are actually really messy and complicated. Part of organizing is accepting that nuance. So, we are proposing that the set of people in this course are in dialogue with this book as one text among many on these subjects.
It is supplemental reading for this course, there will be some questions on it (optional), but the content of the course is not based on the book. Additionally, not all the chapters will be assigned, only select ones.
How does the format work?
There are eight modules. The first 6 modules are relevant for all audiences, #7 and #8 are specific to Unitarian Universalist audiences and are optional to the course (all UU Leadership Institute courses have these 2 sessions on cultural competency included). Each course is between 30 and 45 minutes of pre-recorded presentation. They will become available on the scheduled dates that you can see when you sign up for the course. But, once you register for the course you can watch them any time from when they drop until September 15, 2016. Each module has discussion questions (each participant is asked to pick one to answer publicly in writing on the Facebook group for the course) and quiz questions related to the course content. There are also three scheduled online video ‘discussion circles’ where we will lead discussions on the content and answer questions throughout the summer (Friday, July 1: 4pm pst/7pm est; Friday, July 29: 4pm pst/7pm est and Wednesday, August 24: 4pm pst/7pm est).
But what if I am taking this course because interacting with other participants and the instructor are the parts I am most excited about?? Three discussions are not a lot.
That is why we have created a Facebook page for the group. Participants can share their answers to discussion questions there, ask their questions or share additional resources. (This course will not offer a huge list of additional resources because these are readily available online these days, and we are counting on participants to share resources with us and each other online.) You can also tweet questions to @SideofLove any time (if Twitter is your thing), or email us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com any time during the course.
Finally, we will encourage participants to share their own organizing stories or Aha! Moments with us via email or the Facebook group, Organizing on the Side of Love, so that Standing on the Side of Love can share some of these throughout the summer.
Why offer a course about movement building and organizing that highlights the spirituality of organizing? How are those things related?
We believe organizing is tiring and hard work partially because it deals with people and with power: people finding their power, people working together, people confronting oppressive power. Most people need spiritual resources to be their best selves to do that work. We know we do! So, we seek to address that aspect of the work in a way that is not ideological, meaning does not make some people feel excluded because they do not share one set of religious beliefs. Additionally, we are heartened by all the people of faith and spirit who are in this work: many UU’s, but also many that do not identify as religious. We want people to have a place to talk about where social movements, organizing and spirituality intersect.