Reservation about Neighborhood Networks
Organizers of the Neighborhood Networks Conference declared the first conference a success because of the big turnout. There is also optimism about the potential of NN to make a difference in philly politics. I agree on both counts, and the organizers deserve huge thanks for their work in pulling it all together.
Here's my reservation: NN has decided to focus on local micro-politics. Ok fine, you have to start somewhere, might as well start locally. But how will NN help in organizing progressives for action at the state and national level? I would like NN to be a facilitator organization that brings together like-minded progressives in the same neighborhood. Then, these people meet, share ideas, and do stuff. Issues would be whatever the people in the neigborhoods bring up--local, state, or national. NN would be like Move-On in that it would be organizing an opposition party by facilitating people getting together in their neighborhoods. My fear is that NN will remain an organization about local politics, when our most pressing need is organizing to win at the state and national levels. Patience, you may say, patience. But there's a difference between organizing locally to win locally and organizing locally to build the base to win nationally. NN is for now focused on strategy 1. Why not pursue 1 and 2 simultaneously?
Also, I don't get the focus on the minimum wage issue. Supposedly most of the people who showed up for the conference were from center city and mount airy. Are you telling me the minimum wage is going to energize and sustain these people as an issue? We considered this in our break-out and rejected it. I think the issue to start with is ethics/corruption. It's important locally and you can take the same issue to a national level. There was much hand-wringing about how NN needed to "reach-out" to diverse groups. Yeah this is true and important, but difficult. You have to start from where you are and who shows up.
A Smoke-Filled Room: Neighborhood Networks conference wrap-up