The following proposal will be voted on by each member organization of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) at its Delegates Assembly on April 11, 2019. (The assembly will take place at the Dearborn STEM Academy, 36 Winthrop Street, Roxbury on April 11 from 7 to 9 pm.) We hope the University Lutheran community will read the following description and let John Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Raija Vaisanen (email@example.com) know if you have any questions.
The proposal before the Delegate Assembly is to focus GBIO’s energies for the next 12 to 18 months on:
- An intentional recruitment campaign to lead to a GBIO “refounding” assembly with 10 to 20 new member organizations in the Spring/Fall 2020.
- Deepen in existing member congregations through training.
- Engage in Healthcare Legislative campaign.
What does that look like?
- Refound. Recruit 10 to 20 new member congregations and organizations, primarily immigrants, congregations of color and low income populations in the City of Boston to better reflect Boston demographics and build power for action with those most affected by housing, healthcare, immigration and other social justice issues.
- Deepen. Increase organizing skill and engagement in current member congregations.
What does this mean on the ground?
- Paid organizing staff will spend nearly all their time working with a small team of clergy and key leaders to build new relationships and recruit new members.
- Train and Develop. Current member congregations will take advantage of this time to develop their healthcare teams, do training and build their leadership teams, and hopefully develop local action. Some facilitators have agreed to be trained to be trainers and give liaisons the support that many have asked for.
- Healthcare Action. The Healthcare Team is working on a large Legislative Campaign (similar to the work on criminal justice reform) to address problem areas that came out of house meetings such as costs of medications/Rx Drugs; cost, access to mental health care etc. To move ahead, they aim to work with leaders to assess appetite and build power by building a team of 25-35 Healthcare Captains across member congregations to go into legislative action to change legislation between now and July 2020.
Why do this now?
This is good timing because of where we stand on issues that emerged from house meetings. After substantial wins, the Criminal Justice Reform team has wound down its work. The Affordable Home Ownership Team will gain more power to get the mayor’s attention by adding and organizing more folks who need homes. Recruiting immigrant groups will position us to act with power on the emerging issue that had by far the most interest. (Two other small groups, environmental justice and racial justice decided to continue on their own coming out of the emerging issues meeting to explore whether they can carve out an actionable issue.)
What does “Refounding” mean?
The foundation of GBIO is people. While we are not proposing to change what GBIO does, power organizing, we need to change who GBIO is if we want to build power. The house meeting campaign was a revelatory moment that showed a spark of interest in issue areas that we all know affect Greater Boston, like immigration, but do not reflect the self-interests of the people of GBIO deeply enough for us to effectively organize power. For example Metro Boston is 19.1% Hispanic and 9.7% Asian. GBIO has currently has 0 predominantly Latino and 0 predominantly Asian member organizations.
GBIO does not do for others, we do not advocate or provide direct service, we organize people and organize money in order to build their power to act.
We are proposing that Clergy and GBIO organizers, Kathleen Patron and Zienab Abdelgany go out and do the relational work with institutions that better reflect the demographics of Greater Boston—immigrants, Catholics, Latino communities, African American communities, Muslim communities, labor unions, and so forth. Through that relational work, we will root out the self-interests of these institutions and invite them to bring their people and their self-interests into our fold so that we can find consensus and build power towards action. That consensus will very likely include areas where GBIO already has power and continues to act, such as healthcare, affordable housing (some power but not enough), and criminal justice, but also possibly areas where we don’t have power because we don’t have people, like immigration.
Because we are looking to shake our foundation of people at such a large scale, this is more than just recruitment—it is a refounding.
In the meantime, we will continue to build the organizing capacity of current GBIO institutions through an increased focus on training, buoyed by our beefed-up facilitator team, local action, and major GBIO action around healthcare.