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From The Bottom Up: Strategies and Practices for Membership‐Based Organizations

Sarah Rodriguez, Ezra Berkley Nepon, Elana Redfield, Dean Spade, Colby Lenz

Ezra Berkley Nepon, Elana Redfield, Dean Spade

Ezra Berkley Nepon, Elana Redfield, Dean Spade, Alex West

Organizational Collaborators:
California Coalition of Women Prisoners and Justice Now

Calvin Burnap
Microsoft Word 2010

with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Download the From The Bottom Up: Strategies and Practices for Membership‐Based Organizations  (PDF) or view on screen.

In 2007, the members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) formed a committee to investigate how to add new dimensions to SRLP’s membership structure. We aimed to intentionally create more points of entry for community members whose ongoing experiences of state violence, poverty, ableism, racism, and transphobia produced obstacles for them to consistently participate in community organizations. We set out to learn the following:

  • What are other organizations doing to build and sustain their membership models?
  • How can we create organizational models that build skills and leadership within community members?
  • What organizational models support grassroots fundraising of organizations?
  • How might we best utilize ally energy?
  • How can we address the common obstacles that come up in doing radical work to fight oppression while also facing oppression?

In 2007, SRLP had been operating for five years. During SRLP’s early days, we had determined that a collective governance model matched our commitments to racial, economic and gender justice. We had developed our model by studying the structures of existing collective organizations and asking questions of their members. After five years of innovating and experimenting with what we had learned, we realized it was time for a new round of research into these new questions that our work had brought up.

As we began to formulate a list of organizations to contact and questions to ask, we found that many of the organizations we reached out to were asking similar questions and desiring similar information as they continued to develop their own membership structures. Some of these organizations joined our research team: California Coalition for Women Prisoners and Justice Now; and others requested that we make this information available after completing our research. This report is our attempt to boil down the key insights we gained about organizational models during the many hours of interviews and conversations we had during our research period. Needless to say, because of the wealth of innovative projects that exist, our research just scratches the surface. Nonetheless, we found helpful information that has already been of great use to several organizations and that we believe may support work to develop accountable, effective organizations. We hope you will use and share these ideas and build new models that further expand the transformative imaginations of freedom all of our communities are working to build and practice.

Download the From The Bottom Up: Strategies and Practices for Membership‐Based Organizations  (PDF) or view on screen.


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