WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program uses the practice of contextual analysis to sharpen our skills of analysis to work effectively with dynamic social movements for positive change. Being an effective grassroots movement support organization means understanding the context for community-based organizations. And in order to build international solidarity between grassroots organizations and social movements in the United States and in the Global South, we need to be able to understand and analyze the different contexts. The practice of contextual analysis expands our capacity to help social movements and informs WhyHunger’s decisions about how to use its resources in an effective way to support communities who are fighting for food sovereignty to eliminate hunger.
WhyHunger sees Food Sovereignty and Agroecology, together, as the path to “feed and cool the planet.” These two concepts were carved out of the struggle and knowledge of landless peasants and indigenous people. Food Sovereignty is the right of communities to produce food and decide their own food policies, and Agroecology is the traditional and indigenous knowledge and practice of food production and community organization that is both ecological and just. According to La Via Campesina, the origins of Agroecology and Food Sovereignty “lie in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of rural peoples, organized in and as a dialog.” This process of generating and accumulating collective wisdom through dialogue is the practice that social movements use to articulate their vision, their analysis, and their solutions and actions. Contextual analysis is more than abstract or objective study and research or a description of challenges and opportunities. Contextual analysis relies on the experiential truths of individuals and communities, and it always takes into account the “position” or “perspective” of the one who is articulating the analysis. The reality or context of a peasant in the Philippines is very different from staff at a non-profit organization in the US.
Contextual analysis also does not just explain a worldview and its purpose is not just to outline a current situation. It is a method of understanding lived reality through dialogue that actually generates new ideas and solutions to real problems. This is the process that rural and urban social movements have utilized to develop agroecological practices that are benefiting hundreds of thousands of families worldwide, and the concept of Food Sovereignty is being continually developed through contextual analysis in communities around the world. Contextual analysis serves as a tool to understand multiple realities and develop nuanced strategies accordingly in a fast-paced, changing world.
For WhyHunger, contextual analysis enriches our political education and our capacity to accompany social movements. As a grassroots support organization in the United States, WhyHunger applies these methods of collective learning and analysis to build long-term alliances, contribute effectively to the work of allies, and have a greater and more profound impact.