Sunday, September 17, 2006

On Our Way

One of the benefits of the future Public Good Research Learning Center that we did not initially emphasize but perhaps should have, is the information sharing between affiliate organizations and individuals that naturally occurs as a matter of day-to-day interaction around student research projects, fellowships, and guest-instructing by PGRLC faculty, advisors, and mentors. Not surprisingly--as we recruit involvement and solicit ideas during the startup phase--some of this synergy has already begun to happen.

In fact, not only have we just received an offer of support for ten annual research scholarships for our prospective students, but we also were able to connect two leading investigators of international criminal networks involved in producing information vital to the US State Department as well as on-the-ground community organizers around the world.

In the end, it is this facilitation of connecting the international with the national, regional, and local--including the lateral collegial networking necessary for cross-pollinating ideas and supporting otherwise isolated efforts--that is at the root of our project. As John Trudell recently remarked, "It's time to synchronize our energy."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wheat from Chaff

Convergent responders who self-organize to meet a civic problem at the local level are often very effective but unconnected to philanthropic sources. Many are not even incorporated as non-profits. The regional and national organizations, networks, and individuals that support, nurture, and empower them, are, unfortunately, sorely neglected by foundations.

One way to turn things around, is for philanthropy networks to do research on who the effective activists are--regardless of organizational structure--and find ways to help them, rather than ignore them because they are too busy doing the important work to spend time formalizing and applying for grants. An alternative way of obtaining that data is to simply ask the regional mentors and national advisors what's going on, allowing serious funders to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Not Looking Good

I was running down some names of investigative researchers I haven't heard from in awhile, and noticed that the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta hasn't published anything in three years. Unable to locate anything more recent by two of the top undercover operatives in the US is more revealing about the state of affairs than I was prepared for.

Somehow I naively plugged away at my academic research and weblog writing, wrongly assuming that the Pacific Northwest was the only region devastated by philanthropic withdrawal from the pro-democracy movement. Now I understand what Devin Burghart from the Center for New Community in Chicago meant last December when I asked him how the network other than those present at the national human rights conference was doing, and he replied, "this is it."

Observing the current public process in Washington state, I notice the Democrats and organized labor have successfully hijacked the pro-immigrant human rights campaign, but have yet to overshadow the grassroots advocates. What is not clear at this point--just prior to next Monday's launch of the Minuteman/GOP joint campaign to retain Congress in the November election--is what organizing and subversion is taking place in the shadows.

Ten years ago, Public Good and our colleagues would have been on top of that, sharing information, as well as publishing reports and updates. As far as I can determine, no one is doing that today--a very unhealthy sign. But that's what happens when resources are withdrawn.

I'll be the first to admit our network has been impaired by starvation, and the Pacific Northwest is particularly vulnerable. One thing any potential funder will need to understand is that while we can hit the ground running on some stuff, other areas will need repair and rebuilding; you just can't neglect sociopolitical communications infrastructure for a decade and expect no deterioration.

If the Democrats get beat again in November, let alone in 2008, this country will likely have a nervous breakdown with unforeseen consequences, some indications of which we've meticulously elaborated on in recent posts at our weblog Skookum. Avoiding panic and confusion in our ranks might be aided by an estimate of the situation in the form of a white paper, which I am not inclined to produce, but would be willing to contribute to.

From where I sit, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, things are not looking good.