The Origins of GES Coalition's Organizing Model
The call for a collective vision rooted and built in community, by community,
and for community began in 2015
Organizing is about building collective power through relationships. As a model, building collective power through neighborhood-based community organizing allows GES Coalition’s members (neighbors) to first identify and organize around a collective vision and then develop collective tools to fight displacement. Focusing on political education, advocacy and direct action that leads to community-determined governance and development of programs and projects have been some of the few relevant tools for our communities to collectively approach social change. This focus coupled with the collective effort to move (and show) power at the neighborhood (and municipal or state) level, community organizing is distinguished from other forms of social action. Building collective power through community organizing also highlights the large-scale and continued involvement of people from the base-- the people who are most impacted by the issues. GES Coalition’s organizing model for building collective power relies on “Group Centers” and “power sharing“ between neighbors who have been most historically targeted for extraction (exploited and excluded from public benefits and decision-making structures), and focuses on collective and decentralized cooperative leadership models organized for building grassroots capacity between a group of coalition members (neighbors) and leaders (neighbors) and community organizers (also neighbors). The process ignited in 2015 for GES Coalition with the collective writing of the shared vision and norms. This process began the organizing model that features this power-sharing model between staff organizers (neighbors) and coalition members (neighbors). The point of this collective process often serves as a type of political education and collective capacity building-- and often becomes a form of collective policy analysis that connects this structural violence of policy to real-life experiences of organizing neighbors. In addition, this organizing model deliberately imparts peer analysis (between neighbors) and perspectives on neighborhood-level social bonds and relationships, collective grassroots power, with a focus on social issues connected to policy and health/housing stability, and social change rooted in strategic collective action.
Foundation of the Organizing Model: In Community, By Community, For Community
The base of our organizing work is defined through the following three components:
1. Power-Sharing for Community-Determination
2. Culturally Relevant, Data-Informed
3. Theoretically Framed
Power Sharing for Community-Determination
The GES Coalition engages in a model between neighbors and staff organizers to build collective power through strategic community action. This EDP Workbook was created with the collective leadership (neighbors), the Coalition’s staff organizers, and a team of volunteer policy experts, contracted professionals and researchers. The GES Coalition’s power-sharing partnership model was designed to build and share collective, community power between Coalition leadership (organized neighbors) and Coalition organizing staff. In this way, the collective vision allows participants (neighbors) to work under the larger structure of the GES Coalition, when committed to collective work and aligning the work to the vision and goals defined around community health. The GES Coalition taps into then bolsters neighborhood energy to drive community-determined campaigns around health and housing, anti-displacement and community stewardship.
Culturally Relevant, Data informed
The GES Coalition established a group of trained Neighborhood Navigators in 2018, which launched in early 2019. Neighborhood Navigators surveyed the neighborhood to capture data in order to evaluate the current displacement drivers and factors impacting the health and conditions in the neighborhood. Much of these quantitative and qualitative findings are the basis or our recommended strategies to reduce inequities. The data we are using for the EDP was drawn from three discrete surveys of residents in GES and conducted immediately before and during the writing of this EDP. The first of these surveys, conducted by the GES Coalition Navigators before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, collected displacement and housing data from more than 140 families across the three neighborhoods. The second survey was conducted by GrowHaus, a nonprofit farm and food justice organization focused on access and education in Denver that serves residents in need, and collected information about Denver residents’ food concerns shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A third survey was also conducted by GES Coalition’s Navigators, and focused specifically on the impacts of COVID-19 on family health, employment, food, rent and mortgage. The majority of the respondents were from the GES neighborhoods, and only responses from neighbors were included in the data analysis. This data analysis of neighborhood conditions and precarity is populated with maps and graphs to provide background and support for the recommendations included in this Workbook.
The systems and structures of racial capitalism replicate themselves, and these systems are based on individualism, and are directly opposed to collective power. We must interrupt these systems, replace and make them irrelevant by building our own collective structures that meet real community needs. Racialized political structures are central to undermining and destroying the quality of health of our communities, and this is the system of racial capitalism that shapes and informs the harsh lived health disparities (inequities) experienced by low-income and working families in Black and Brown communities across the world today. The organizing model of GES Coalition is defined by a theoretical framework that draws on many mutually inclusive, theoretical approaches. This cumulative approach creates the foundation of our work to identify the most relevant ways to analyze systemic harms, build collective power to act on solutions created by those most impacted by these harms. Our approach to developing a theoretical framework is based on the traditions of community organizing that show a pathway for communities to best collectively address the systemic roots of their most prominent issues and how to collectively mobilize to prevent harm, and build new community-determined structures and assets. We act under the belief that to address systemic violence (for example: racialized policy, norms and investment), we must address this harm at the root of the problem, and we must understand how these disparities are manufactured by the system, as the root of inequity.
The GES Coalition theoretical framework was organized and synthesized around historic organizing and political education, including:
Power-Analysis: Much of our organizing model came from Coalition (members) who have been trained and organized in the Saul Alinsky model of community organizing. Alinsky used strategic leverage of nonviolent conflict to create a structured organization with a clearly defined goal that could take direct action against a common abuse of power. Alinsky also promoted paying staff organizers, a controversial part of this model that is also utilized by GES Coalition. This approach to community organizing leans heavily on horizontal power-sharing and through the analysis of power-- for understanding how political and economic power dynamics (policy and investment) shape material conditions (health disparities/ inequities) in the neighborhood, while also using a power analysis as a tool used to identify, target and make demands for social change on influencers, decision-makers, elected officials, and corporate developers, and to begin organizing that holds the powerful to account.
The Black Radical Tradition: The Black Radical Tradition is tradition of resistance (building new worlds) and struggle against structures rooted in slavery, imperialism, capitalism and mass criminalization. We recognize the Black Radical Tradition at the center of a great number of organized communities that have grounded our organizing work through this theoretical framework and praxis to redress harm and build new autonomous structures around community survival (such as: cooperative economy, collective governance, solidarity and mutual aid) in community, by community, for community.