At A One-Day Democracy School
On August 17, I went to Nottingham, New Hampshire, for a one-day Democracy School co-led by EAOP graduate Ellen Hayes of Advocates for Community Empowerment and by Tom Linzey and Gail Darrell of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. It was a great experience--and it was just wonderful to meet the folks that led the effort to pass a local ordinance in Nottingham that outlaws corporations from making commercial water withdrawls from their town and also strips corporations of their so-called constitutional personhood rights within the boundaries of Nottingham. Very inspring.
There were also three other EAOP grads in the room as participants and three current EAOP students. I always focus quite a bit on this new "rights-based" organizing strategy in my "Corporate Power, Globalization, and Democracy" course in the Spring. But, I also hope all of my students get to take part in a weekend Democracy School before they finish their work here at Antioch.
Personally, I become more and more impressed with this "outside of the box" organizing strategy designed to challenge corporate rule and and build genuine, grassroots democracy in this country in the process. The box in this case is the conventional regulatory route embedded in most US activist approaches over the last fifty years or so. Now this conventional approach does sometimes mitigate the worst harms of some corporate activity, but it doesn't really scratch the surface of how judge-made law over the last 150 years has elevated corporate power and downsized grassroots democracy--perhaps the biggest obstacle facing those people working for serious environmental and social change today.
To get a better sense of the Democracy Schools, you can view this 15
minute introductory Democracy School video Also, for a look at the thinking of the leading figure at CELDF, check out this video of a talk by Tom Linzey.
Ellen and I will be working hard this week to write a grant proposal to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in support the effort by Advocates for Community Empowerment to help northern New England folks learn how to use this new organizing model--which helps local community by teaching them how to pass local ordinances and bylaws that challenge corporate "rights" and drive democratic citizen rights to decide their future into law. I'll be doing that--and getting ready for my Fall classes in "Organizing Social Movements and Campaigns" and "Patterns of Environmental Activism."