I have this addiction to trying to change things, as you can gather from this blog, and it’s a bane theme of my life that I find myself dissatisfied with The World and feel compelled to do something about it. By ‘The World’ I probably mean social injustice. Why can’t I be one of those people who just mind their own business?
Anyway, as part of this quest to make some sort of impact I went along to The School of Life‘s event How to Make a Difference last week with Dominic Campbell. He tweeted from the event so you can check out some of his tweets here, here and here.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but the whole thing was brilliant. I came away with a step-by-step practical guide on how to change the world, complete with theory and case studies. Amazing.
Maurice Glasman spoke about the Alinsky approach to community organising and showed how slavishly following the 12 rules Alinsky set out can actually work. How does he know? because that’s exactly what Obama did. And whatever you think of Obama, you can’t deny that his campaign worked. Glasman also gave us some personal examples of how it works from his experience of working with the London Living Wage campaign.
There are a few hang-ups I have to get over before I can totally make this approach work – for one I’m rubbish at conflict and have a tendency to want everyone to play nicely. This is completely unrealistic but undoubtedly a product of my upbringing. I can think of worse hang-ups to have, but the fact is that social change requires conflict. So from now on I’ll be saying: Suck it up, Nerd.
As long as you can get over the discomfort of conflict and accept that there needs to be a leader, I think these 12 rules will do very nicely. Alinsky is my new hero:
- Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have
- Never go outside the expertise of your people
- Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of your enemy
- Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules
- Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon
- A good tactic is one your people enjoy
- A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag
- Keep the pressure on. Never let up.
- The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself
- If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive
- The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative
- Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarise it
Lots of these need more explanation than I’ve got space to give, but happily Alynski wrote a book called Rules for Radicals, which I’ve already ordered Social change: sorted.