I'm currently reading Melanie Joy's Strategic Action for Animals and am enjoying it enough that I may feature more future excerpt posts. I suck at book reviews however, so check out the ones on Amazon, or take a look at Ginny Messina's review.
Back to the question at hand. Strategic organizers are personnel in key leadership positions whose role is to build the power base of organizations, and to channel this power externally to bring about change. A good understanding of power dynamics is needed otherwise organizers will not only be less effective, but also counterproductive as they risk disempowering staff, decreasing public support, and potentially damaging the reputations of the organization AND the movement. (p. 35) Yikes.
So what characteristics and skills make strategic organizers effective? According to organizer Saul Alinsky, the following traits and behaviours are helpful:
- avoid dogma and remain open to others' ideas while maintaining faith in your own position
- be realistic yet optimistic so that people retain hope and reason to fight
- help people recognize their own power to bring about change
- continue to learn new skills to enhance leadership and organizational abilities such as conflict resolution
- stay focused on goals and helps others do the same
- maintain a sense of humour to keep up morale
Effective organizers should also:
- have excellent communication and facilitation skills
- listen more than speak
- share information freely so that a) others are groomed into taking over if necessary and b) knowledge doesn't die with them (p. 35-6)
Well! A huge task no doubt, and one that I'm certainly not up to (although to be frank, I think some of our current "leaders" could brush up on some of the above skills as well, snort), but if you recognize yourself as having the badly-needed skill set of a badly-needed strategic organizer, then please step up to the plate and enrich our movement already! ;)
p.s. another interesting looking book (although not yet available on Amazon.ca) is: Animal Impact: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World -- hmmm, horrible subtitle in my opinion, but...