~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

..................................Check it out!!..................................

February 09, 2008

Evolutions of grassroots organizing: a critical look at the non-profit model

One major theme that has been coming up among organizers near and far is the failure of the current mainstream model for social change, the non-profit. While I was in Africa, I got to experience firsthand what a “social movement” could look and feel like, as well as the important distinction between a “community based organization” (CBO) and “non-governmental organization” (NGO, though in the U.S. we usually just refer to these groups as “not-for-profit organizations”).

When I came back from Africa, I encountered a book that had just been published, called “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Nonprofit Industrial Complex”. Within its essays I came to understand a perspective and history that framed my observations from my year of traveling.

The essence of the “Nonprofit Industrial Complex” (NPIC) is that the non-profit sector has evolved to essentially mimic the structure and function of the dominant business world: non-profits have been carefully compartmentalized into niches and organized by a hierarchy controlled by funders. In other words, community organizing efforts are isolated from each other and run by a small number of over-worked staff or volunteers who are at the mercy of funders, instead of being energized by a broad community effort able to reflect and act within the real complexity and integration needed to truly confront issues today.

Why has this happened? I think there are three main reasons for how we (the “do-gooders”) got so caught up in this rat race:

  1. Funding sources
  2. Over-stimulation and apathy
  3. Lack of models or experience for good communication/coordination across cultures, issue areas, history or sectors.
The failure of this current form of “do-gooder” energy (non-profit organizing) is yet another compelling reason to focus the current conversation of organizing to seek new forms of relating and working.

No comments: