Grassroots Action Network:Intersectional Movement Building for Food Justice

A Movement begins to assume momentum when people begin exploring visionary answers to the questions being asked at the grassroots and engage in practical activities which can be replicated without huge bureaucracies. In the early stages of a Movement, the visionary answers being explored usually strike most people as too radical or too impractical. If they don’t, they are probably not profound enough to build a Movement.

– Grace Lee Boggs, “Towards A New Vision and a New Movement,” presented at the University of Michigan Law School Symposium, October 13-14, 1995

Using a transformative organizing lens, we understand our primary and most effective asset—as individuals, as an organization, and as a movement—to be relationships, as it is through being in relationship that we find the possibility, the pathway and the hope of the transformational change and collective power building required to achieve social justice.

Intersectional movement building requires an understanding of the relationship between diverse identities and challenging systems of oppression. Building capacity with and focusing on those most marginalized and on the frontlines of injustice, intersectional movement building fosters the ability of people and communities working for collective success and liberation over individual success. Valuing mutual commitment and accountability leads to inclusive organizational models that are collaboratively designed and constructed to support a multiplicity of representative leadership, instead of replicating privileged leadership and power structures.

Forming and supporting Communities of Practice is a core strategic approach used by the GAN to develop intersectional networks, alliances, training and collective action that would result in movement infrastructure such as coalitions, campaigns, and transformative organizations and institutions.

We believe that engaging with and supporting these Communities of Practice will:

  • result in deeply supportive and generative relationships that will last longer than specific programmatic timeframes;
  • have profound and progressive impacts on the individual participants as well as the communities and movements we are part of;
  • become integral elements of the pragmatic support structures necessary for long-term change;
  • and be innovative and visionary leadership sources (with a priority on people of color and marginalized communities most directly impacted by injustice) in our movements.

Communities of practice (COP) are often defined in the peer to peer transactions that a group of people who share a certain level of expertise, or body of work engage in at some level for the purpose of shared learning and storytelling for refinement of specific skills. We define a community of practice as a coalition/alliance/network or other grassroots formation working locally or nationally who is engaged in deeper political education and transformative organizing in partnership with other coalitions/alliances/networks or other grassroots formations who seek to create autonomous spaces to align with broader movement building within and outside of their respective issue areas.

Institution Building: Oppression and privilege are systemic and institutionalized at the national and international, levels. Practices and policies within institutions either reinforce at the foundational level oppression, or justice and often times paradoxically both. Rebuilding a social justice infrastructure that centers the leadership of black people, people of color and other marginalized communities is critical to building movements that catalyze long term systemic change. Supporting the creation and development of grassroots institutions with mass base collective power within a grassroots support function allows us to strategically see the actualization of collective power in structural formations. Institution building as a tactic for building intersectional movements supports the theory and practice of building shared power through relationship building.

Coalition Building: Understanding the mechanics, resources and capacity required for successful coalition building is a critical aspect of intersectional movement building. Identifying shared values and goals, as well as emerging potential overlapping strategy and resources are important tools for building the relationships across issues and identities.

Allyship and Accompaniment: When working in partnership with grassroots communities, organizations, leaders and organizers we often play an ally role. Whether we are playing the role of organizational or individual allies, we seek to practice accompaniment with our partners because this reflects our commitment to the transformative power of mutual, equitable relationships- of being active and equal participants in the dialogue, learning and capacity required to shape our mutual future.

Key assumptions regarding accompaniment and allyship:

  • Understanding where we stand in relation to systems of privilege and oppression, and unlearning the habits and practices that protect those systems, is life-long work for all of us, without exception.
  • Authentic relationships of solidarity and mutuality are not possible when we try to avoid or transcend power imbalances.
  • Authentic relationships are possible only when those imbalances are honestly acknowledged and confronted.

Spacemaking: We work with resource partners to practice and innovate the strategy of spacemaking to provide inspiring, supportive and generative spaces for these communities of practice to engage with each other and across movements and issues. Effective spacemaking allows participants to safely and respectfully challenge the social divisions that result from a politics of identity and the divisions that often arise between differing approaches, styles and practices of organizing and movement building. Spacemaking also puts participants in touch with “the adjacent possible”- or the generative potential (and serendipity) created when you notice and connect the unlikely (sometimes without intending to do so). By investigating lateral networks of ideas such as design theory, storytelling, and others, participants are familiarized with, inspired by and sparked from a broadened scope of issues, ideas and tools that can be effectively leveraged in their exploration of transformative change.

Campaign development: We work with partners engaged in various issue campaigns, including but not limited to access, labor, land, water, racial justice, healing justice, and economic inequity. We seek to leverage resources, and national posturing to support the development of tactical investigations that identify problems that shape and or support the identification of solutions and partial solutions to issues. This is what we refer to as campaigns.

Within campaign development strategies GAN seeks to engage in, accompany and support the development of issue and ideological campaigns that emerge from local organizing and have national ramifications. In leveraging national relationships and access to resources we hope to reinforce the capacity to engage in storytelling that translates into effective communications and media campaigns and in direct action organizing that shifts power within respective issues and or if policy related, creates more equitable policy.