[Lee Stuart worked with South Bronx Churches (an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation) before he became Director of Development for The Hunger Project. I find his insights in the quote below extremely interesting, not so surprising and somewhat alarming. Overcoming entrenched poverty in entire communities is extremely difficult. If Stuart is correct here, it will only grow more challenging in coming days. I often have the feeling that many folks who drop by this blog don't understand or think in systemic terms when discussing poverty. To miss this dimension is to miss a large portion of the harsh reality of living in poverty.]
In organizing terms, what is happening is that the power of organized money is more and more trumping the power of organized people. In New York City, as recently as fifteen years ago, we could organize enough people to counteract organized money. Now, that is increasingly difficult to do. Methods of organizing that were developed to deal with a dominant public sector are not tuned to dealing with a dominant market sector, and much less a non-localized market sector.
All politics is local, but increasingly, economic decisions are made on a global scale, and local politics can do little but sit and watch as a century old sugar warehouse closes on the Brooklyn waterfront to make way for luxury condos, as a seventy year old plant manufacturing pots and pans in the South Bronx moves to Mexico and when tax breaks to an automobile manufacturing plant bankrupt the Tarrytown school system and the plant closes anyway.
Traditional community organizing, relatively powerless even in the old days of government strength, is even more powerless when the stage is global. Effective organizing is based on relationships and the types of relationships that organizing has depended on so far are undeniably local. In global economics, local doesn’t matter much. It feels as if we’re on the edges – good edges, to be sure and certainly important in the day to day lives of people, but edges nonetheless. (64)
Lee Stuart, "Theological Challenges to Community Organizing," Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 42 no 3 (Fall 2007).