Affinity Groups for Social Action

It is not situations that are hopeless, but rather people who feel hopeless because events have left them discouraged or disempowered. Yes, these are tough times, politically and economically … all the more reason for us “peace activists” to review and renew our sources of hope. Actions DO make a difference, as all of us can attest. What is very difficult – even impossible – is to take action, consistently, by oneself. We must BELONG to groups which inspire action, facilitate action, and support us as we take actions. What is also challenging is take actions which are effective in bringing about social change.

At the Peace House, we encourage everyone to join an existing group taking regular action for change … or start one. By taking regular action in concert with others in small affinity groups, we can feel a part of the larger movement for social change that motivates and inspires all of us. To me, taking action is the antidote to feeling hopeless. I must decide what actions to take, and I must decide “how much is enough.” Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone will find a way to take regular effective action for social change, our collective “somethings” will make it happen.

Indeed, at the Peace House we want to identify and communicate with affinity groups willing to affiliate with us. Contact us to list your group as an affinity groups affiliated with the Peace House. Perhaps we can offer advice, tips, suggestions, and alerts.

Batch presents a program titled “Healing the Break Between Citizens and Government” which addresses these issues and encourages affinity action groups. Imagine the impact if 100 such groups around the state were aligned in monthly actions for justice and peace. (Call the Peace House 405-524-5577 if interested in hearing more about this idea.)

An effective Affinity Group for Social Action has certain characteristics:
– meets at a regular time and place;
– has 5 to 12 members, one being the convener or facilitator;
– probably offers refreshments and/or snacks;
– shares identity with some larger group or groups;
– takes actions coordinated with a larger group: “action alerts;”
– develops accountability or “check in” systems on actions;
– develops measures of “success” based on actions taken;
– is intentional about fun as well as doing work.

It could be the “Social Justice Committee” at a house of worship, or a living room group which someone initiates.

Actions should focus on a “power center” in position to bring about the desired social change. Examples of power centers include the US Congress, large corporations, the media, religious denominations, the World Bank …. etc. etc. Actions are most often communications such as letters, calls, or faxes. Effective communications are short and specific: the action request should come first, and be crystal clear and achievable. If possible, follow-up communications are desirable to speak with someone who saw your request … or may need another copy of it. The squeaky wheel gets more grease. Emails are good if there is already a relationship with the person receiving the email. Congress members must receive thousands of emails, which may or may not get read. I like letters and calls.

The coming national elections in 2008 offer a huge opportunity to take action for social change. All US Reps are up for election every two years. US Senators are up for election every six years (Senator Jim Inhofe is up for election in November, 2008, and is challenged by State Senator Andrew Rice).

Whatever your issues or your candidates, social change requires more from us than that we “care,” and read lots of books and articles. Our passion for social change must be FELT by those in position to bring change about.

All the great social change movements – the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights – required struggle. Now we must struggle to bring the USA back on track … to become a nation working in concert with other nations for environmental sustainability, the elimination of the worst poverty and disease, for human rights and civil rights, for an economic sufficiency for all families, and for peace.