by Phil Bartle, PhD
What we often call step three in the mobilizing cycle, "unity organizing," can begin even during step one (awareness raising) and continue throughout the whole mobilizing cycle
Communities are Seldom Unified:
The word "community" has the word "unity" in it, but it is a common mistake to assume that any community is united.
Every community has factions and disputes, what we call social schisms, within it. These may be based on religion, clan, class, language, ethnic differences, and other factors.
Note: A "schism" is a divide or chasm between different sides. A "social schism" is a divide between two or more factions in a larger social grouping.
A Community Decision Needs Unity:
Yet when we want the community to make a consensus decision to agree on its priority problem to be solved, that is not possible when the different factions support different goals.
To bring these factions together, then, to promote and encourage unity, is a necessary task for you, the mobilizer. How do you do that?
Techniques to Unify a Community:
When you call a community meeting, insist and ensure that all the different factions attend. Also make sure the meeting includes the disabled, the elderly, the commonly overlooked people.
If you have done your work well in sociology, observing and analysing the community, you will know where the sensitivities lie.
It is useful to be a bit of an actor or "show person" when mobilizing. You can use the match sticks demonstration, for example, but take your time with it. Call for a volunteer or two to help you; repeat yourself in various ways; make a drama out of this. Hold up a single match stick and ask the group to say if it will be easy to break it.
Get their responses. Then ask your volunteer to break it. Congratulate your volunteer and make a big fuss with the group about how easy it is to break the match stick. Then take a hand full of match sticks and tie them together with an elastic band; show the bunched match sticks to the group. Ask the volunteer to break the group of matches as a single item. The volunteer will have difficulty or (we hope) will not be able to break the grouped match sticks.
Thus you say that each match stick is a different faction, but all of them together is the whole community. Poverty and weakness will easily break the community if the different factions continue pulling in different directions.
Show the group the matches again as you explain the analogy (metaphor, parable) again, breaking one match as you identify it as a faction, struggling to break the bound matches as you identify it as a unified community. Do this in several meetings at different times. (Never be afraid to repeat your principles). Continue it with other demonstrations and stories that you may think up yourself or borrow from other mobilizers.
Your goal is not to make the community homogeneous (everybody the same); it is to encourage people to be more understanding and tolerant of differences among other community members, and to be loyal and supportive of the community as a whole.
Combine this with other unity organizing, efforts, such as ensuring representatives of every faction get on the executive committee, of the CBO that you organize to plan and implement the community project.
The need for unity organizing continues, and you should not stop it before going on to the next steps. Share with other mobilizers, and learn new methods.
© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle