The Iron Rule of community organising is this:
Never do for others what they can do for themselves.
Saul Alinsky was responsible for those words, and I always thought they sounded good. But lately, after being challenged at some Sydney Alliance training, I decided to see what would happen if I actually applied them to my own work.
I’m part of a group called Cassidy’s Place. It started when I called a meeting of people with lived experience of homelessness and housing stress, and we have since formed into a collective that meets monthly to address the systemic causes of the housing affordability crisis.
I have continued facilitating the meetings each month. I have also done other ‘group maintenance’ tasks like sending out email reminders and setting up Facebook events. However, as I thought about it, I realised there were people within Cassidy’s Place who were more than capable of doing these things, and probably better equipped than I!
I am now trialling an approach that involves coffee more than it does computers. I have been enjoying getting to know my co-workers at Cassidy’s Place more over a cuppa, and hearing about their skills, gifts and passions. I have then been encouraging these co-workers to step into new areas of responsibility and leadership.
Sometimes these areas involve things I had previously been doing myself, and other times people’s passions are taking us in new directions I had not considered possible before. This is good news!
Everybody needs support in their leadership; a space to reflect, talk about what’s working well and what’s challenging. I’m trying to put my energy into instilling a culture that supports us all in our leadership. I want to be someone who can help my co-workers to reflect on their work, and encourage them to do the same for others.
So far, the results have been pretty good! The last Cassidy’s Place meeting had heaps more energy, with a whole lot more voices being heard and ideas being entertained. For me, this is a process of letting go of control. This isn’t always easy for me, but it’s SO much more fruitful and fun!