Field Organizing, Part Redux

There are a lot of things that people call “organizing.” I’m not here to debate that — and frankly speaking, gatekeeping what an “organizer” is seems like it would be pretty boring.

But I do want to encourage more folks who identify as progressive to engage in “field organizing,” that is, the organizing where you talk with a lot a lot a lot of folks, you have a lot a lot a lot of deep conversations, you inspire a lot a lot of people to action, and you develop a lot of leaders. It’s the type of organizing that — being fully honest — most progressives tend to avoid (including professional staff). Yet, I’d argue that field organizing is the most necessary. Movements that create structural change need lots of people; the people are out there.

I have a clue why real field organizing is one of the more rare forms of organizing: it takes up the most time. It’s the hardest to do properly. To get good at it takes a lot of effort and feedback. And it requires by far the most social and emotional energy.

But also — the people I know who have been field organizers for many, many, many years have become some of the most emotionally intelligent, socially sophisticated people I know. It’s just true: field organizing molds you into a stronger, more resilient, more caring person. And it enriches your sense of self and your ability to truly, truly listen to and connect with other people — and much more deeply. You just have to. Talking with lots and lots of random people everyday — and being required to try to connect deeply with all of them — stretches your social and emotional skills to the limit. Speaking personally, field organizing has enriched my life in such profound ways that the ways in which my life have been enriched become impossible to describe in words.

So I guess — as we start to open up and become more social — this is my public encouragement to go out there and incorporate field organizing in your life. The last year-and-a-half were horrific. And many of the horrors we witnessed did not have to go as they did. There’s a significant chunk of the Horror that was socially created and inevitably wound up in politics.

You know, when I was younger and more naive, I sincerely believed that field organizing could solve all the world’s problems; I’ve since learned field organizing cannot do that. Obviously. Yet this remains true: any true, deep, systemic and structural change that happens in our society will require much, much more field organizing than I’ve seen in my lifetime.

And yes, as I mentioned earlier, field organizing is hard — in my opinion, by far the hardest form of organizing to do properly. So yes, the most rewarding things in life are the things most meaningfully challenging. OK, I’ve ranted enough. End. (Go out there and do more field organizing, etc., etc.)

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