Organizing won the fight for women’s suffrage and the eight-hour workday. Organizing advanced civil rights in the 1960s. In fact, most successful social movements have used organizing, drawing on the passion of concerned people to create change.
At a time when powerful corporate interests have more and more influence over our decision makers and therefore our own lives, involving large numbers of people in holding their elected leaders accountable is more essential than ever. We can’t outspend our opponents, but when people stand together, we can – and do – win. Organizing is the powerful tool at the core of Food & Water Watch’s work. It has made many of our greatest victories possible.
What Is Organizing?
Government officials have the power to make decisions that affect all our lives, and their main concern should be what’s best for their constituents – but unfortunately, the public good usually takes a backseat to moneyed interests. They’re under pressure from their largest contributors to vote against the interests of their constituents and the environment.
Organizing requires developing a plan to meet a policy goal and then developing the tactics to hold the decision maker accountable. One of the most powerful tactics is having large numbers of people—especially the elected leader’s constituents—get involved in the decision making process.
When one person tells their representative, governor or mayor that they want change, that elected official may not notice. If ten people tell them, they might hear them, but not act. But when hundreds or thousands of people email them, call them, show up to meetings, and publicly demand that they do the right thing, elected officials have to take notice. Organizing is how we bring all those people together to raise their voices and demand change.
When people say that “voting with our dollars” is the only real solution, they usually forget that the corporate control dictates choice in the marketplace, and that consumers actually have little power to make more than minor changes. While individual purchase choices are a first step, we can’t shop our way to systemic change. For that, we must organize large numbers of people to hold our elected officials accountable.
What Do Organizers Do?
Organizers recruit volunteers, focus pressure on elected officials, educate the community, and help concerned people speak up for safe food and clean water.
Change never happens overnight. Organizers keep people motivated and keep them involved, because sometimes it takes months or years to achieve victory, during which we have to keep the pressure on.
How Food & Water Watch Uses Organizing
Food & Water Watch has over thirty field organizers working in offices across the country, giving us the ability to work locally as well as the state and federal levels. Our organizing campaigns run the gamut from local wins (like passing a local measures against fracking) to coordinated national campaigns (like passing a bill through Congress to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms). This local presence across the country, and our focus on organizing, sets Food & Water Watch apart from many other national organizations that focus on lobbying instead of mobilizing people.
None of our achievements – from banning fracking in New York to upholding strong food safety standards – would have been possible without committed supporters who are willing to do what’s needed to make change. Our organizing staff gives our supporters the tools and support they need to make change in their communities and in the world. As we have grown in size we have invested in the capacity to work directly with more and more people – and achieved more and more success.