because no, the revolution will not be grant-funded

Since it’s break and I’m finally done with all the stress of the season, I’ve found time to do a little reading, a little crafting, and a little writing.

Right now I’m reading The Revolution Will Not be Funded, a book put together by INCITE!. The book is about movements moving beyond the nonprofit industry complex [a system of foundations, grants, and non-profit organizations]. Although I’m probably still only in the first 30 pages or so, words keep popping out at me.

Words like:

“…Allen documents how the Ford Foundation’s support of certain Black civil rights and Black Power organizations such as CORE actually helped shift the movement’s emphasis—through the recruitment of key movement leaders—from liberation to Black capitalism. Similarly, Madonna Thunder Hawk describes how the offer of well-paying jobs in the non-profit sector seduced many Native activists into diverting their energy from organizing to social service delivery and program development. As Joan Roefels notes in Foundations and Public Policy (2003), large private foundations tend to fund racial justice organizations that focus on policy and legal reform, a strategy that effectively redirected activist efforts from radical change to social reform. It also helped to professionalize these movements, since only those with advanced degrees could do this kind of work, thus minimizing the importance of mass-based grassroots organizing.” (page 7).

This is the truth delivered to us in print.

Another line on the next page jumped out at me as well, particularly since Leadership Development is the sole answer for including—dare I say, allowing— young people to be a part of the Disability Rights Movement:

“Another strategy developed to sublimate [transform] revolutionary movements into reformist ones was “leadership training” both domestically and internationally, whereby potential organizers were recruited to develop skills to become policy makers and bureaucrats [government officials] instead of organizers.”

After reading that, I had to put the book down because thoughts about my own community were distracting me from the text. INCITE! describes this topic as the “elephant in the room” [something that is really obvious but no one wants to talk about.] For our community, this is the elephant in our bed. Between the sheets. Sleeping next to us. We’re THAT connected to the non-profit industry and no one really wants to talk or think about it.

It seems like we as the disability community as a whole, have not even begun to think about a movement outside of the non-profit complex. Of course, it’s true, we are a new movement— if you consider the movement to have started in the 60s, then it is no more than 50 years old or so. I recently heard someone refer our current state of the movement as the “first wave”, an analogy to the early part of the feminist movement (I thought that was brillant and if so, consider myself a second-waver).

Still, we can not let our young age as a movement be an excuse. If we do so, we are preventing ourselves from our true revolutionary potential. We HAVE to envision a world for us that is not dependent on the non-profit industry complex; afterall, our relationship with the non-profit industry will determine the heart, the temper, and the beat of our movement. This will determine our future and our direction.

What does power mean to us as a community?

Can you envision a large community meeting that isn’t sponsored by WAL-MART? (yes, WAL-freaking-MART)

How can we create systemic change instead of focusing on individual advocacy and social service delivery?

How can we make it even broader than systemic program change and envision a world where disability is interpreted by our own people and by society differently than it does now? What are some strategies to incorporate a model of pride and identity into this definition?

Can we actively and militantly include young people and as Naomi has said before, create an expectation of community instead of individual gain?

What can a movement that is not dependent on the non-profit industry/social service delivery/individual-based philosophy even look like?

Have we even allowed ourselves to imagine this yet?



Filed under community, internal change

14 responses to “because no, the revolution will not be grant-funded

  1. I need to buy this book. I think about paid versus unpaid c/s/x advocates a lot, we don’t get sponsored by Walmart, but some of us do get salaries through government grants or contracts. And some are pushing for more government paying of c/s/x and it always makes me uncomfortable. But raising that issue is also a great way to become extremely unpopular which doesn’t exactly lead to more sense of a community…

  2. This is an amazing book. I read it a few months ago, and I’m still trying to process everything and figure out what it means for me personally and my chosen career. If you want to talk about it when you’re done, let me know!

  3. I haven’t read that book but i’ve been saying the same sort of thing with regard to the UK situation for ages. Don’t even start me on the idea of “professionalism”, i think it’s about the single most poisonous idea in Western capitalist culture.

    I don’t think things are *quite* as bad in the UK (i don’t think any part of the UK disability movement is sponsored by a corporation on the same sort of level as Wal-Mart – it’s pretty much ignored by the corporate world altogether, which suits me fine really), but co-optation goes on everywhere – the “Equality 2025” conference that i blogged about recently-ish is a blatant example of the government trying to co-opt the achievements of the disability movement as its own (which is kind of like co-opting the independence of India as something achieved by the British empire).

    The worst thing of all, for me on a personal level anyway, is when people get paying jobs in organisations motivated by a genuine desire for change, then find themselves not allowed to speak their true views because of the compromising stance of the organisation, or being forced to have different views when in a “personal” or “professional capacity” (just typing those words made me shudder) – and even accepting this as right and proper because it would be “unprofessional” to do otherwise…

    IMO these problems run as deep as the entire concepts of money, employment, government and exchange value. But it’s one thing to have overarching, utopian anarcho-communist principles, and it’s another to try to translate them into some form of effective action among the maze of compromises and ambiguities at ground level…

  4. I need to read this as well…

    And I can tell you, that the one *rotten* thing about *having a job* is that the energy needed to put into that distracts you and moves you away from expending time or energy fighting for the things that matter most…..

  5. i think you folks have all made amazing points. it’s so uncomfortable to talk about because our community relies on the work that nonprofits do and a lot of us are people who work and volunteer for non-profit agencies (where there is more potential for change then let’s say, a gov job). perhaps this is why i find it scary, because it is hard to even imagine a world outside this complex. sometimes i think when we see something as “really good” because A.) we’ve worked really hard to create that or B.) we know what “really bad is”, it’s hard to picture anything beyond or different than that “really good”. communities that fight oppression (or at least older generations) seem to have a hard time with change in general but that could be a sweeping generalization i’m making. anyways.

    hillary, DEFINITELY would love to talk to you after i finish the book. oh and also about a potential community zine project : )

  6. Recently, my husband and I dropped out of the local healthcare justice committee. Why? Because the sponsoring organization dropped their commitment to universal single-payer and adopted the Governor’s incremental plan that will leave millions in Illinois without coverage. I am sure it will help their funding to do so.

    It’s the old dilemma of how badly do you want “a seat at the table?” Sitting at the table often means you get access to the people to whom you want to speak; but immediately after sitting down, you have to work to keep the seat… so you give up a little here and then a little more there. Pretty soon, you’ve lost your revolutionary spirit and become part of what you hated. The “table” is a very seductive place.

    I definitely think it’s better for our movement to be agitating on the outside, then too comfortable on the inside.

  7. Very interesting post- I may have to go check out the book or buy it if the library is lacking.

    It makes me curious- is there any way for a grassroots, citizen funded and organized movement to be viable without BECOMING part of the non profit complex you refer to? For example, a friend of mine was a canvasser for a true citizen funded grassroots organization; despite not being grant funded and being entirely run off small donations gathered by the canvassers, the group was a registered nonprofit, did its government paperwork, and had official stances. She and I both liked the organization, but in acquiring enough funding to make a grassroots movement effective, it was forced to become part of that nonprofit complex.

    Disability is a cause that requires a lot of funding- for example, money for curb cuts and ramps and elevators to make buildings and streets accessible. Is it viable to say, as a community, we want this and we will pay for it, $5 at a time, without becoming incorporated into the non-profit world the book examines?

    I am not a wheelchair user, so my perspective is from the outside, but I have to wonder… is it possible to have a revolution that isn’t funded by corporations or by non-profits, and if so where does the money come from and who makes sure it goes where it is supposed to?

    Haven’t read the book, so just drooling words on your comment page that may or may not look like valid points after reading it.


  8. It’s a sad commentary but even the few progressive Non-Profs are changing and becoming more coporate in nature.

  9. Sounds like a good read. I just picked up “Calling All Radicals” by Gabriel Thompson, which seems more like a kind of 101 primer (which is more where I’m at when it comes to activism). also the Mattilda bernstein Sycamore anthology, “Nobody Passes,” which looks -amazing.- Now if only I can make myself finish one of those funny little square things with the paper inside, which seem somehow so much more challenging since I got used to pointnclick and surf and…

  10. but I guess…yeah, I can understand the dilemma here, sort of, I think.

    On the other hand…well, one, I guess I think there’s a place for reform, even if it may not be sufficient.

    The bureaucratization as well as the whole subtle funneling toward elitism and for-profit, those I get as bigger problems.

    but…as for policy making: I mean, at some point someone does have to make policy, no? Even if it were in a radically different form from the ones we have now: at some point one needs legislation…maybe I’m misunderstanding.

  11. also, while I definitely get the problem of money=strings, I think there are also traps in the other direction: or, just, well, 1) one has to eat, and I think sometimes people get paralyzed by the idea that no matter what they do, they’re “selling out;” and go into this rather reactionary and anti-materialist/even ascetic mindset which, well, admittedly I’m biased for a bunch of reasons, but I’m always suspicious of 2) there are -always- strings, and ulterior motives. If it’s not money, then it’s often something else. But then money’s rarely just about money anyway…

    eh, sorry, part of a longer spiel which i’m currently too lightheaded to be coherent about, more later.

  12. anyway, yeah, I’m more aware of the limitations of the nonprofit model from the theatre world, where, yep, pretty much often ends up being like a for-profit theatre in everything except, well, profit.

  13. diane, awesome to see you here and hear your thoughts. the book (which again i read only about 20 pages at a time so i’m still in the beginning) says that moving beyond the non-profit industry complex is more about shifting the power back to the people. i don’t think non-profits have to disappear or stop doing work, i think it’s more about making them accountable to the movement instead of considering themselves to be the movement. when i think of things like the 504 sit-ins or ADAPT’s right to ride actions, they came from people power not nonprofit power.

    what i’ve really enjoyed locally here in my state is organizing without a big budget, although i don’t know that it’d work on a national level. without having to sell our soul to various organization, we’ve been able to sustain ourselves by having meetings at campuses across the state where we can get a free room, sleeping at people houses, carpooling, trying creative ways to provide accommodations, etc. i think there are ways to be sustainable, our community just need to be creative in thinking of them—for example, do we HAVE to have all our conferences at $300+ hotels when there are places we could meet for free or cheap?

    belledame, very thrilled to see your comments here. *grins*

    i’ve been thinking a lot about public policy since it’s something i had been planning to go into. you’re right, someone has to make the policy i suppose but i don’t believe policy is the most effective tool for change. then again, i come from a community where policy and advocacy are the only thing that are really promoted.

  14. i dunno, i tend to shy away from the idea that eventually “policy” must be made. I think the more important starting place it ask why is policy even necessary to begin with. Could the same thing be done without policy in place? If yes, why isn’t it being done? If not, why not? is there something behind our dependency on ‘policy’ that we need to unravel and discuss?

    I think that when we ask ourselves these questions, the we don’t need to ask with any expectation of what to finally *do* about the issue we are questioning ourselves on. Maybe, in the end, we do nothing. maybe, in the end, we decide that policy is necessary. Maybe, we decide that it’s harmful and must be changed. Whatever. But we can’t limit our discussion before it even gets started. We can’t say, well, I’d like to change things, but somethings are unchangeable, so i’m not even going to allow myself to grapple with the effects of the unchangeable.

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