Saturday, 24 February 2018 08:10 GMT

Lecture explores relationship between leadership, organising and movement in society

(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN — A lecture on the relevance of popular leaders and people-led institutions saw the attendance of hundreds of people eager to learn about the requirements needed for building grassroots power networks.

Titled "People Power in Struggling Democracies: Leadership, Organising and Movement", the lecture was organised on Monday by Ahel Association for Community Organising and conducted by American lecturer Marshall Ganz.

The lecture was attended by representatives from local NGOs and civil society organisations, members of the health, education and tourism sectors and academics, among others, according to the organisers.

After being introduced by Nisreen Haj Ahmed, director of Ahel, Ganz started off by offering a sociological exploration of the term "leader".

"As a leader, you have to ask yourself three questions: Who are the people in need of a leader [aka my people]?; what are the changes these people need [and want]?; and how can I work with them to turn our shared skills into the change they want?," he questioned.

Ganz drew on his personal lifelong experience researching the US Civil Rights Movement, the California farm workers' movement, and the first Obama campaign, among others, to assess the intricate links between leadership, organising and social movements.

"Organising is a way of identifying, recruiting and developing leadership by building a community around leadership and building power out of a community," the senior lecturer said, adding "organisers bring people together, challenging them to act on behalf of their shared values and interests".

He stressed the difficulties of exercising and retaining leadership, saying "leadership is about accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose under uncertainty; leadership not so much of a position of power or a theory and more of a practice'.

Noting that organising is not only about "changing the self but about changing the world", he stressed that "it means translating insights, energy and understanding into something that actually reorganises the environment out there".

"It was truly inspiring to listen to Ganz's lecture, and to see the attendance of so many representatives of successful community based institutions and initiatives in Jordan", said Saddam Sayyaleh, a participant in the lecture and founder of social NGO ILearn.

"As someone working in a grassroot level organisation, the lecture completely changed my perspective about community organising and the role of a leader to help accomplish justice hand in hand with community members," he added.

Highlighting the many remaining authoritarian regimes across the globe, Ganz discussed the successes and challenges in building people power, as democracy becomes more and more threatened everyday.

"You may have noticed that world peace has not broken out yet, prosperity is not yet shared by all," he commented, adding in response to an attendee's question "every target resists change until it materialises; organisers need to cultivate not only a safe space but also a courageous environment for dialogue and expression in order to grow as organisers … on the basis of responsibility and accountability.'

For Sally Shalabi, a Jordanian storyteller who attended the lecture, some of Ganz's remarks resonated deeply. The lecturer indeed referred to her field of work by saying 'storytelling is the language of the heart. It safeguards leaders in moments of hesitation and fuels their energy in the face of uncertainty'.

"Ganz's remarks were an awakening. Sometimes, learning is an articulation of what you know but are unaware of knowing," she commented.

Ganz's organising approach has been adapted in Canada, Japan, the Balkans, China, the Middle East, according to online sources.

Ahel, a non-profit organisation that seeks to "build people power and organise their resources towards achieving justice, freedom and dignity", has supported 16 campaigns over the past five years, according to an organisation statement.


Lecture explores relationship between leadership, organising and movement in society

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