Sat 17 Oct 2020

Inviting people as individuals vs. organisation representatives & using microsolidarity for political organising

RK Romy Krämer Public Seen by 90

I'm hoping to get some input from you microsolidarity cracks out there @Richard D. Bartlett @Jordan Lyon @Alex Rodriguez @Drew Hornbein (please tag others you know who might be able to help) about a challenge I'm dealing with at the moment:

Departing from a core group of people, some of who are municipal-level politicians, we're planning to use microsolidarity as an organising tool to build trust and better relationships among people who're politically active in that municipality. Our target group for the congregation are other activists in social movements and city-based social change initiatives (anything from right to the city/housing, mobility, climate, anti-racism,...).

The issue right now is that there are hesitations from social movement activists to be in a process together with politicians who're currently in government. We're trying to frame it mainly as a primarily private engagement ('you come as you and not as a representative of your organisation') but that doesn't seem to fly as soon as you enter a space of people involved in (extraparliamentary) politics. People seem to have major objections of being used for some shady pseudo-engagement process.

Anyone ever experience sth similar? Any thoughts? Thanks!

In solidarity,



Richard D. Bartlett Sat 17 Oct 2020

Cool question! I don't really understand the concerns very well. Could you unpack that some more?


Romy Krämer Tue 3 Nov 2020

Sorry late reply ;) Not less important to find answers though! The issue many ppl have is that they don't want to be in a pseudo-organising effort that is run/controlled by politicians (because there are a couple of ppl involved who currently are in office). In their view, having politicians on board seems to go counter the idea of horizontally self-organising and meeting each other at eye level to build stronger networks among civil society actors which is what we'd like to see happen.

Also there is the issue that ppl feel that they can't join just as individuals because they're associated w a collective/group working on some issue e.g. right to housing or better transport in the municipality. So, we're getting all kinds of responses like 'I need to check back with my group about joining you guys' and then it becomes a big thing that's discussed in plenum and needs more explanation (which we don't really have/want because we want to build that together w ppl). it's a bit of a chicken-egg problem but seems to be a real issue that prevents ppl from participating.

Any thoughts welcome!


Toni Blanco Sat 7 Nov 2020

I think that you are fighting against a ghost. I do not see likely that this new organization could be run/controlled by politicians unless it is effectively funded and run by politicians by design. In any case, this is not the main risk of having politicians involved at all. What they are looking for is credit they do not deserve. They want you do the work and then they get the credit. They ALWAYS want to steal the work and SOCIAL CAPITAL of grassroots organizations. This is what they are looking for and you should pay attention to it. (And maybe sometimes, and strategically, let them do it, according to your cost-benefit calculation).


Romy Krämer Tue 10 Nov 2020

I hear you and generally agree. It's a bit more tricky than that in the specific case but I guess we solved it for now, focusing on a narrative that makes clear that these politicians are only in power because of the support they have gotten in the past from movements. i.e. having them involved is our way of making and keeping them accountable. That seems to be sth that ppl could settle on for now.


Pienaar Wed 4 Nov 2020

Hi Romy

This is a very interesting question/situation. It sound like there is a lack of trust in the group, which is understandable considering that you don't know each other, and the traditional tensions between activists and politicians. I would suggest that building trust should be the first step. Perhaps structure the invitation in such a way that allows for commitment on a trial bases, that you have maybe three or four discussions, then allow for the group to evaluate.

A question I have is to what extent is this being driven by politicians? Maybe a more neutral facilitator needs to drive the project, or at least clear up the misconception if that is already the case. I think engaging on a personal basis is a good idea in the long run, even if some people might not understand this concept. And perhaps those that are already willing and able to engage in this way will show up. Those that are unsure might need some time, or will join once those first pioneers can show that it works.

I look forward to seeing how this discussion develops!


Romy Krämer Tue 10 Nov 2020

Thanks! And yes, the agreement now is that no prominent moderator/speaker role would be taken by politicians but they can be involved and will be held accountable via the process (see my comment above). And yes we're working on a more regular meeting rhythm atm and will loop in a couple of new people and break out in smaller groups. I would hope that this will help.