Note: Although I’m picking on the Green Party, they’re really just one example of a putative reform organization that doesn’t pursue strategies that I consider obvious. You can think of them as a case-in-point.
I firmly believe in the necessity of electioneering, and seeking to install candidates committed to reform into positions of power within the government; I also firmly believe that that should play second fiddle to a more generalized movement to build community power and community relationships, via tangible acts that build social capital.
In a previous diary of mine, Green Party Fails to ASK Public What it Would Take to Vote Green, Sets up Make-Believe Government, I elaborated in a comment, like so:
I’ve had some thoughts about services that Green Party members could provide, on the cheap, that could nevertheless provide great social capital to the Greens (or other organized group, of course). Maybe I’ll write a diary or two, though it’d be more confidence inspiring if the Greens showed evidence of such ponderings, themselves.
There are social entrepreneurs that are building web sites and mobile apps that are designed to help meet human needs. The GP could even survey these, then ASK the public which of them it found most useful, and then push adoption of these newish capabilities, perhaps on a co-branded basis.
E.g., I know a guy that has a good heart, that walks an elderly neighbor’s dog, for free. He even has spent money on the dog – the lady is on a limited income. He’s a sales clerk, and can’t be making a hefty salary…. This guy hasn’t said so, but I imagine that this lady loves this guy, to death….
Well, somewhere I saw, recently, a web 2.0 site for people who want to share dogs. There may or may not be one for people who just want to volunteer walking dogs, without being even a part owner. Clearly, though, such a thing could be made, if it’s not out there, already.
But just to give a for-instance of where a pre-existing organized group would have an advantage – a start-up website may easily not have a critical mass of supporters to make their volunteer type service get adopted sufficiently to make it worthwhile. But imagine if the GP first rounded up 1,000 volunteers, amongst it’s members, who would walk a neighbor’s dog once per week. (People who have dogs tend to walk them everyday, anyway, right?).
There are many human needs that need meeting. A good chunk of the country is on food stamps…. What about facilitating “green” (organic) urban gardens? Gary Null (an uber activist who is also a certified organic farmer) is working on techniques for some sort of vertically planted green house that will increase yields by a large factor (10x, if I recall, correctly). He’s going to share his discoveries for free, as a public service, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be widely adopted. Translation: an opportunity for the Green Party to acquire major social capital, by championing and adopting the promulgation of urban gardening, that could lead not just to food security for people who didn’t have much of it, but even a substantial income. That would catch the notice of large numbers of urban poor, who are a mostly disenfranchised sector of society, and that is reflected in their voting tendencies.
Another lemon that can be made into political lemonade: some public spirited efforts are being sabotaged by ALEC ‘inspired’ uber greedy legislation. E.g., local minimum wage laws are being attacked via ALEC legislation, at the state level, that would make local minimum wage laws illegal. The GP – or other public minded group – thus has a powerful narrative to sell, along with providing social services, along the lines of “we need to vote out greedy pig legislators from office, who are kow-towing to greedy pig corporations, who want to make you an obedient serf with few options for escaping their greedy manipulations.” Obviously, the poor and working poor will be more receptive to your overtures if you are actually doing something life-affirming and life-enhancing for them.
Another example: a lot of families should be looking to double up in their housing, in order to survive the on-going destruction of the standard of living. I’m not aware of any large group facilitating that.
Although I’m not following the GP closely, from what I do absorb, they are still mostly underwhelming. Feel free to educate me otherwise, but there’s no plan to significantly engage every community in the US, even absent mega $$ for doing so. And, if there’s even outside the box thinking on how this could be done, I’m not seeing signs of it.
Have no fear, metamars is here!
This diary is to suggest that perhaps an ideal way for GP members to go about inexpensively building social capital, is to set up timebanks in their respective communities. While not completely free, it nevertheless is inexpensive, for a small group of people employed at average wages. (See my recent diary, ActivistPost.com: Can’t Find a Job? Join a Timebank)
The GP could win the (hopefully) everlasting gratitude of members of the neighborhood by not just chipping in the modest $$ for starting a local timebank, but going around to community organizations and communities of faith, and enlisting their participation in getting a local timebank going. And also by doing the volunteer work to keep the thing going (it’s not completely automated; but that’s a good thing, in terms of building social capital; meanwhile, it’s largely automated, and that’s also a good thing, since the GP, and other reform groups, are starting off from a position of considerable weakness, and so can’t supply large amounts of manpower).