Allowing Time for Intergroup Work
Organizers and planners also can face a struggle over when and how to balance the need to focus on relationship building versus the desire to tackle issues of concern within their organization or community. The organizing community is constantly encountering and addressing urgent issues and needs, and since those issues rarely recede fully from an organization’s focus, it can be difficult to stop and engage in (the seemingly less urgent) work of intergroup relationship building. One project participant reflected on this challenge:
It can be a struggle to grant space and time to intergroup work due to pressing issues. How do we balance this work in the midst of everything else? It takes intentionality to find where the overlaps exist, and this doesn’t always fit nicely within the picture of the urgent campaign plan that we all have.
Others discussed how initiatives that focus primarily on relationship building and dialogue with the aim of eventually pursuing policy goals may struggle with the timing of moving people from dialogues into collective action. The urgency of issues can cause organizers to want to move into a more action-oriented stage of collaboration, but this decision must account for where participants are at in terms of the bridge-building process. Some caution that moving toward addressing issues without a solid foundation of relationships can cause intergroup efforts to crumble; others believe that having a common issue to tackle is key to moving toward a healthy collaboration. Knowing when to make this transition can be a challenging choice.
Dushaw Hockett of SPACES created a framework he calls DEAR (dialogue, education, action, and reflection) that speaks to this healthy tension within the broader organizing field of how much of intergroup work should be focused on dialogue vs. education vs. action. He believes that all aspects of the DEAR framework are important, including reflection, and local context should be a key influence on where to begin within DEAR and what sequence to follow thereafter.