Resilience-Based Organizing

At MG, we are learning about and supporting inspiring stories of direct action resilience in many places across the country and the globe. We have been particularly interested in organizing work that has in common a shared recipe for change – one that draws deeply from our diverse ancestral and experiential wisdom of how to live well together (buen vivir) and combines it with the strategies needed to upend the power-structure of the dominant political-economy and usher in the next economy based on a new, single bottom line: balanced, life-affirming relationships in the places we call home.

This recipe for resilience combines the right ingredients to cook up effective change. In traditional campaign-based organizing, communities identify a problem/issue and then target a political figure with decision-making power to change rules or implement regulations in order to alleviate that problem. This is still absolutely valuable and needed work – the work of winning the incremental changes that improve conditions. However, a different strategic approach (new for many today) is emerging among organizers across the country and the world. Resilience-Based Organizing (RBO) is emerging among communities that are steeped in an ecological consciousness.

Using Resilience-Based Organizing, or RBO, we use our collective labor to meet our collective needs, in such a way as to publicly expose illegitimate laws/power, and instead assert our right to self-govern. Rather than asking a corporation or government official to act, we use our own labor to do whatever we need to do to survive and thrive as a people and a planet, knowing that our actions conflict with legal and political structures set up to serve the interests of the powerful. This forces the question of whether we have permission to take right action in our collective interests. We call this creating a crisis of governance.

There are three core ingredients that make Resilience-Based Organizing effective:

Building a Transformative Narrative: People will not go someplace we have not first traveled to in our minds. “Here at the Center for Story-based Strategy we always remind organizers of that,” asserted Christine Cordero, of CSS. And so we must first craft together and paint for others an irresistible vision of the future. A vision that is not built on a fear of the worst, but of knowing that everything can be better. A vision that recognizes that social inequity is a form of ecological imbalance, and the solution to millions just “getting by,” is not in “getting ahead,” but in “getting together.” What has anchored so much transformative organizing is a willingness to articulate a bold vision worth working for.

Restoring our labor: What the hands do, the heart learns. While there is no way forward without vision, vision is not enough. We must apply our own labor to build that vision now, regardless of how “un-realistic” or “impractical” we are told it is. If we put our work only into opposing what we don’t want, we build not love for our vision, but only longing. The first rule of ecological restoration is the restoration of our own labor. Human labor is the precious natural resource, concentrated, controlled and exploited, that has been wielded like a chainsaw against the rest of the natural world. Because of this, we must take it back from the chains of the market and restore it to the web of life. This should be the basis of our organizing at every scale, from the school to the workplace; from grassroots organizing to trans-local movement building. Through models of Transformative Justice, for example, in which people self-organize to directly address harm in their community without relying on policing and prisons, organizations such as Creative Interventions based in Oakland, Ca are working with victims of violence to create their own solutions.

Contesting for Power: If it’s the right thing to do, we have every right to do it. Ultimately, the struggle at the heart of Resilience-Based Organizing is one of democracy. In order to remake the very shape of governance, from one that centers power in the illegitimate authority of corporations, military states and global financial elites to one that centers power in the hands of the people, we must organize in our communities to take the visionary right action that directly asserts our right to self-govern. If it is the right thing to do, we have every right to do it. This is how we expose and depose the corporate oligarchy that is the barrier to the collective liberation or our communities and ecosystems.

In 2012, Movement Generation began documenting, building upon and catalyzing this form of power building with our collaborative partners here in the Bay Area (Urban Tilth in Richmond and People Organized to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights – PODER in San Francisco) as well as with our broader set of allies.


Left: RBO training and strategic planning with AYPAL
Right: MG, Urban Tilth, and PODER on an RBO learning exchange trip in Detroit, MI

To learn more about RBO, contact Carla Perez at Find our 2013 article here, which builds on the information on this page. “The Work of Love and the Love of Work: Resilience-Based Organizing as a Path Forward”