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Activism That Works

Activism That Works

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Published by Fernwood Publishing
Activism that Works shares stories from 86 activists involved with nine groups and organizations across Canada. The beads and the necklace on the cover of this book can be seen as representing the interconnected ideas, thoughts and people coming together to create a story, reflecting the richness and complexity of our conversations about the meanings of success in activist work.

How can we understand “success” in relation to social justice and environmental activism? In separate chapters from groups as diverse as Oxfam Canada, the Calgary Raging Grannies and the Youth Project of Halifax, activists contemplate their successes and how they were achieved. What becomes apparent is that success is not only indicated through large-scale social changes but is also found in moments of connection — in building relationships and raising awareness. Success and what contributes to it are sometimes interchangeable so that the “doing” of activism becomes a part of its effectiveness. Building on activists’ stories, additional chapters contextualize and analyze success within social justice activism in Canada. Understanding their work as a contribution to the movements challenging the domination of free market ideology, the editors hope this book will offer a space for reflecting on the contributions and impacts of activist groups — and provide meaningful insights into what success means in the struggle against neoliberal capitalism.
Activism that Works shares stories from 86 activists involved with nine groups and organizations across Canada. The beads and the necklace on the cover of this book can be seen as representing the interconnected ideas, thoughts and people coming together to create a story, reflecting the richness and complexity of our conversations about the meanings of success in activist work.

How can we understand “success” in relation to social justice and environmental activism? In separate chapters from groups as diverse as Oxfam Canada, the Calgary Raging Grannies and the Youth Project of Halifax, activists contemplate their successes and how they were achieved. What becomes apparent is that success is not only indicated through large-scale social changes but is also found in moments of connection — in building relationships and raising awareness. Success and what contributes to it are sometimes interchangeable so that the “doing” of activism becomes a part of its effectiveness. Building on activists’ stories, additional chapters contextualize and analyze success within social justice activism in Canada. Understanding their work as a contribution to the movements challenging the domination of free market ideology, the editors hope this book will offer a space for reflecting on the contributions and impacts of activist groups — and provide meaningful insights into what success means in the struggle against neoliberal capitalism.

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Published by: Fernwood Publishing on Apr 28, 2011
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AkG A DFFEEcE
Elizabeth Whitmore, aureen G. Wilon and Aery calhoun
ow do we know when we’re making a difference? Stories about successfrom social justice activists demonstrate the complexities that emerge inefforts to answer this question. In the rst of the following two stories, anOxfam Canada staff member describes perceptions of progress on their “FairTrade in Coffee” campaign. In the second, a member of the Youth Project,a Halifax-based group advocating for the young 
glbt
community conveyshow multi-dimensioned the concept of success can become.
We were trying to draw attention to the exploitation of poor offee farmer and theneed for the offee ompanie to tae ation. eally there wan’t a lot of aware-ne —  thin probably none — about Fair rade offee when we rt deided thatwe would tart ampaigning on the iue. t mut be ten year ago. We told people,“We’re doing a publi ampaign to draw attention to how ome of canada’ biggeroffee produer are beneting from the urrent ituation and are baially runningweat hop without wall.” here were different ation that helped promote Fairrade produt aro the ountry, drawing attention to the offee buine and howunaoury it i. And we would hae diplay, we did media interiew, we taled tobaially whateer group about the whole notion of offee and the fat that therewa thi alternatie, thi Fair rade offee. And we tarted getting people to go intothe offee hop and retaurant and a for Fair rade offee. f oure, we newfull well there wan’t any, but we would ay to them, “Well, if you don’t hae any, youhould onider getting it. Why don’t you tal to…?” hrough thi ind of ontinued,low-leel ampaigning, now it i almot impoible to go into a tore and not ndit. And by no mean an we tae redit for the fat that Loblaw or Dominion nowha all thee Fair rade produt. But  would lie to thin that we played a fairlyigniant role in getting it on the publi agenda.he youth reated thi play where there wa an alternate world and there were twoteenager, who were traight, who had to go home to their lebian mom and gay dadand tell them that they were traight. so it wa fun and it wa funny and it really puta pin on that. And between the at of that play, [the youth] did monologue about
 
8 Acvs AWks
their own oming out torie, whih were really peronal for them. hey aomplihedthi in a ery topial, intereting way and it wa fun and ery peronal — thi playthat ha o many meage in it, whih mean a lot more when it’ ombined withtheir own experiene. so  thin the meage i tronger. he intereting thing aboutthe play wa that it effeted hange quily. Wherea my other experiene to dothing were long term that don’t really produe tangible reult right away… andthen people were taling, and it didn’t tae poliie or manual to get people talingand going through the red tape and all thi other tuff that we hae to do. We jutdid a play and reahed out to people diretly and it wa good.
This book is about successful activism, as described by activists themselvesreecting on their own work. The activists are from nine diverse groups andorganizations across Canada devoted to making a difference in the worldby furthering social or environmental justice. We asked eighty-six individualactivists from these groups with whom we partnered to talk about what suc-cess or effectiveness means to them and what they thought were factors orconditions that contributed to success. The incredible richness and varietyof stories they told us constitute the heart of the book. These stories areshared in chapters written by the activists themselves. In the other chapters,we describe the philosophical background, the context, and the methodol-ogy of the project and attempt to weave its various parts together in orderto make sense of the whole. Our challenge has been to convey the emotions,excitement, and profound commitment the activists express as they reecton their work.
We approached this project with two primary purposes. First, we wantedto support, in very practical ways, the valuable work of activists. We did thisby offering them opportunities to step back and reect on what they are doing and the effect or impact of their efforts on whether and how they were making a difference. In the often frantic world of activists, such reection can seemlike a luxury. Our second purpose was to explore questions of activist successmore broadly in the current political, social and economic context. We hopewe’ve succeeded, in some small way, in accomplishing both our goals.
Words such as “activism” and “advocacy” can evoke different meanings.For our purposes, activism is dened as acting to bring about social, political,economic or environmental change for a more just, sustainable and peacefulworld. Activism takes many forms. “Not only resistance and protest shouldcount as activism, but also building relationships between people that fosterchange in the community” (Hodgson and Brooks 2007: 20). Klugman (2010:2) denes social justice advocacy asworking forstructural and enduring changes that increase the power of thosewho are most disadvantaged politically, economically, and socially.It tackles the root and avoidable causes of inequities for those whoare systematically and institutionally disadvantaged by their race,

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