Organizing for a New Economy

Tim Fisk, Executive Director
Alliance to Develop Power

The Alliance to Develop Power has created an innovative model for transformation based on the idea that a sustainable economy works when people have power over decisions that affect their lives. What makes ADP different from other community organizations is in how we organize to create community owned institutions that are directed by our membership, while building community capital that can be leveraged to fund progressive policy campaigns, community building programs and new economic development initiatives. At any given time, ADP members could be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, launching a community-owned grocery store and attending classes on financial stability for working families. This holistic approach to change - with it's roots in community organizing - bringing members beyond the transactional and into the transformational - is part of a national movement toward creating a New Economy.

When I present on ADP's model for developing a New Economy, however, I am met with a mixed bag of reactions - from excitement to disdain. This holds true even in the progressive world of community organizing, where organizers mobilize communities to respond to problems often caused by economic exploitation and disparities along color and class lines. It's as if the idea of building alternatives to our current economic structure is progressive heresy - and that all we can hope to do is legislate the economy - in effect suspending exploitation and injustice... until its time to do it all over again.

At first glance these opposing reactions seem counterintuitive. Community organizing at it's core is about transformation and resisting the status quo. With one-to-one organizing, leadership development, and building people-power, community organizing enables a politics of individual and social transformation. In many ways, community organizing should be primed to engage in work that seeks to create new economic and social worlds. However, community organizing groups are more used to fighting for social justice by pushing back against unjust policies and social conditions that are negatively impacting our communities rather than supplanting them with alternatives.

There is no argument that the immediate needs of those who are most affected by systemic poverty and structural racism call for action - a battle cry for policy reform and an end to corporate greed. Exploitation, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are ever present in our lives. By speaking truth to power, the impacts of exploitation, corporate profiteering and oppressive policies are made all too clear. Pushing back against these conditions is not only the right thing to do, but it also empowers individuals and galvanizes communities. But in our eagerness to oppose, reform or even to protect - are we closing off other possibilities? If we do so, aren't we merely ameliorating the effects of these conditions? Can we not also connect with and move people to action through their desires for a world built on cooperation, sharing, and love?

ADP is attempting to build community and economic institutions, relationships and practices where we can learn to work together, learn to build trust, and share resources while building and wielding economic power. We are attempting to not just push back and improve individual and community standing within an unequal world, we are attempting to build the world as it should be. A world framed by our own definition of community values and shared prosperity.

As ADP continues to develop and become more intentional about how our model not only addresses the needs and interests of our members and fights for social justice, but concurrently proposes a different model for our society, we are discovering just how revolutionary this project might be.  We believe a project of creating social and economic spaces and relationships where people can work together and where people can love each other, is something that everyone can get on board with. Indeed, ideals of community and love are not confined to a particular political persuasion, or even a particular class. By continuing to develop our model that endeavors to create economic and social alternatives, we hope to join with other organizations and movements throughout the worlds that are showing that "another world" is indeed possible.

You can help make this work possible by supporting the Alliance to Develop Power through the Job Raising Challenge.