Sun Tzu once said: “A victorious army first obtains the conditions for victory, then seeks to do battle. A defeated army,” he said, “first seeks battle, then seeks the conditions for victory.” (I don’t think I have to tell you which side of the equation we often are on…)
Organizers and movements must understand that transformative storytelling, art and culture from those pushed to the margins of public debate – strategic communications – is key to obtaining the social and political conditions for victory, and an essential element of a healthy progressive communications ecosystem.
This is particularly meaningful as we live amidst a profound cultural and ecological turning point.
An almost perfect storm of climate change, a transition of power in the global economy, an unprecedented demographic shift in a young, growing democracy, and a new political landscape shaped by the election of America’s first post baby boomer and African American president. This transition is taking place across all sectors – public, private and nonprofit.”
During this time, we have to offer folks a choice. A choice between crisis (and fear and scarcity) and transformation (and hope and change).
And as we transition from an industrial economy to a service and knowledge and information based economy – a world in which our narrative power and cultural currency is as important as our consumer power – we need to revisit the strategic questions we ask ourselves to communicate and navigate justice, opportunity and human rights in this new digital world.
And we have to always remember that their brand is crisis…and our brand is change.
So what is currently referred to as simply an “economic crisis” in the dominant narrative is really a complete Cultural, Political, Technological, Ecological Transition and Transformation. As a result, people across the political spectrum are asking how we govern ourselves, how are we organizing our communities, what is the role of government/what is the role corporations in our lives, etc.?
And it is in this moment of transformation and opportunity – this leadership, generational, and demographic transition in which new political formations and social movements are emerging on the cutting edge of democratic participation – that we as a movement for racial and social justice, economic equity and human rights need to consider deep cultural and strategic changes to keep up with the times.
Each time humans reach a point like this, there are two key types of responses: we either fear or embrace the change.
I say we need to embrace a cultural change at a level that’s up to the task of our times.
We need a complete cultural shift in the way we resource and deploy our communications and cultural work at multiple levels – at the research level, at the intermediary level (we need to build strategic communications effectiveness across sector, race, class, geography, etc.) and on the ground (we need dedicated communications organizers at the grassroots to work with…)
This transformation/change presents a unique opportunity to integrate collaborative, creative, and strategic storytelling and communications for community organizing as core movement building strategies for political, cultural, and social change. It simultaneously offers a key opening to define the media justice policy and framework needed to produce structural change and media platforms that support the narrative change we seek. So what we’re talking about is both narrative and structural media policy change.
Often we only ask ourselves: What is possible to win given the current political and cultural terrain? Together with this project and through our work, we want to begin to answer the question, “How can we transform the current political and cultural terrain through cross-sector framing, coordinated storytelling, new forms of journalism, and collaborative media policy campaigns that create the conditions for systemic and narrative changes that increase racial justice, economic equity, and human rights and dignity for all communities.
To put it simply, we must to lay claim to civil society, and fight for space in all the places where knowledge is produced and cultured.
At the USSF 2010 we resolved the following:
“As organizers, communicators, cultural workers, artists, media makers, and technologists we believe the right to communicate, and therefore the power to transform society, must belong to everyone.
We call for full and equal access, rights, and power to create and use all forms of media, communications, and technology to democratize the production and distribution of information, culture, and knowledge- and to use these as tools in the furtherance of our own collectively determined liberation.”