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Why Building Power is the Key to Making Change

Our political climate is getting more and more polarized, but despite this Canadians’ opinions continue trending progressive. Voters across the political spectrum have come to a consensus on the need to tax the rich and for a fair recovery from the pandemic. Similarly, the urgent need for climate action is now a given and no longer debated. 

It might feel like this was a spontaneous response to the pandemic, but this kind of shift does not happen by accident. It’s the result of months and often years of dedicated effort. Organizing is what produces these kinds of shifts in collective opinion.

After all, the twin contagions of right-wing ideology (including nationalist populism) and white supremacy are simultaneously making an advance. Having connected government lockdowns and the simple public health message of wearing a mask with a cluster of ideas including racist xenophobia, male chauvinism, and distrust of democratic institutions, the right is successfully spreading its message through ever-multiplying digital media channels. 

The inequality crisis is the backdrop

Workers and communities in Canada continually face worsening conditions. Workers balance two or three jobs and barely meet the essentials of life while the gig economy and app-based employment grows. The housing crisis displaces people increasingly onto the street in every community. On top of people’s pandemic experience, the rich got richer and meaningful constraints to corporate profiteering and unfettered wealth accumulation have yet to materialize. 

These conditions erode social solidarity. What, then, should the responses be to the urgency for building resistance to the right? How are we to build a broad base of support for worker and community power to pursue a fair, equitable and sustainable future? 

Solidarity starts with talking about power.

Focus on power

Power matters because it determines our ability to shape the future. Inequality, discrimination, even the climate crisis - these are the results of unequal power relations in society. But people and communities have the ability to change those conditions, because power is within all of us, and we can flex it like a muscle. When communities come together to define the problems we face and the solutions we want, we can build our people-power through collective action.

While every situation, place, and group of people have unique histories, an important step is asking ourselves who we are and what we want when our goal is to make people-powered change. As workers and communities we need power to get what we need, and yet it’s a resource that exists within all of us - when to tap into collective action, which is enabled by organizing.

The essence of organizing is in people learning how to help ourselves, knowing and asserting our rights. Organizing, as opposed to mobilization or advocacy, relies on local leadership that grows from within the community, building trust and moves people to action. It is the real-life stories told by people affected that show the urgent need for change and become a valuable organizing resource.

Once demands are determined by the people most affected by policy, funding and other decisions, organizing efforts turn to developing strategy. This includes mapping and connecting with decision-makers and those who influence them. Mobilizing in numbers to demonstrate your power in numbers is the leverage to meet goals for change. Building on small wins, we collectively increase our capacity and our ability to build the future we want for ourselves and our communities. 

Learn more about power and how you can build it within your own community through our new training module, What is Power?.