Tuesday, 19 January 2010

working with the system

"One of the scariest manifestations of modern capitalism is the system's ability to co-opt experiences, practices, even culture, and to then re-create and repackage them within a careerist, profit-driven (even in "non-profits" [voluntary sector]), and competitive logic. The non-profit system... supports the professionalization of activism rather than a model of everyday activism. For many of us, activism has become something you do as a career. When organisers from other countries see that activists are paid to do work in the United States, it makes them wonder. It took my father (who is very familiar with grassroots struggles) a few years to understand the work that I was doing. "Your job as a community organiser; what does that mean, it's your employment? Who is paying you to do this work? And why?" And since many of us are being paid by foundations allied with corporate interests, my father also said, "Clearly, they are paying you to keep you from really challenging the system, to make sure that you are accounted for."
When we focus on organizing as a part of everyday life, the process becomes as important as the final product. In many cases, foundation funders and the non-profit culture expect groups to achieve a campaign goal in a relatively short period of time. They are not interested in funding the much slower work of base building which takes years and years to do. Consequently, non-profits become short-term goal orientated, even if they did not begin that way. Many also become focused on "smoke and mirrors" organising, in which you do something that looks good for a photo op but has no real people power behind it."
Paula X. Rojas, from Are the Cops in our Heads and Hearts? in The Revolution will not be Funded, edited by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence.

This is so relevant to the three-year periods of funding that have been the status quo under New Labour. they just won't fund an existing project (in the name of 'encouraging innovation,' yeah right) - everything just lasts for three years. it's insane. or calculated. especially in the domestic violence field where everyone knows it takes women on average seven years to leave, three years is pointless and leaves women hanging, distraught, i've spoken to them when their services grind to a halt...

i would be so interested in hearing/reading critiques of the UK domestic violence voluntary sector and the ways in which its funding is messed up, if anyone can articulate this or point me in the right direction... i heard an amazing speech from Amrit Wilson, the chair of Imkaan, an umbrella body for Asian women's refuges, at the Transnational Feminisms Conference in Manchester. she had so much to say, but i haven't found anything written down, or anyone to talk to yet (i wish Amrit would be my friend, but i think she's busy).

i mean, it's becoming increasingly painfully obvious to me that we need to restart at a grassroots level according to the needs of our own local areas rather than wait for ever-more coercive state funding. Rape Crisis centres' funding is being cut with heartbreaking regularity so as to make them almost non-existent now, (far too feminist, and overtly challenging and sceptical of the state; gotta go) and they are slowly being replaced with one-stop type centres (Sexual Assault Referral Centres/SARCs ; check out the difference between RC's website talking to "you, if you need support" and the Home Office SARC page: "victims receive an integrated service," gross.) which have streamlined the whole process, supposedly to make it easier for survivors (true, you can be examined medically, interviewed and counselled in one place), but this also has the effect of meaning the police are always in the building. and although survivors do have the right to use these centres without reporting to the police, i'd be interested to know how many 'monitoring details' they have to hand over. Supporting People, the central government body that funds accommodation and housing-related support for vulnerable people, including many/most refuges for women fleeing domestic violence, has moved from just needing age/ethnic origin/blah blah a few years ago to now requiring national insurance numbers for all people passing through those services. so everyone is tracked! amazing isn't it.

and yeah. why are we doing this work as a job? why am i? why am i getting paid to be a sticking plaster on a wound, and working far more with than against forces that cause violence in the first place? i'm really not sure. but i will figure out what else to do.


  1. as someone who also works in the charity sector (not DV) i have a lot of similar questions... i still have not got my mits on this book but really need to read it and this reminded me why!

    i hate it when SARCs are talked about as if they are the replacement for Rape Crisis centres and other support services. they are too associated with the police/government to ever reach the majority of people who have been assaulted. and i know for a fact that people have been discouraged from coming in when they said (over the phone) they they had no intention of reporting.

  2. hey you! didn't know you had a blog :) will enjoy having a read..

    "i know for a fact that people have been discouraged from coming in when they said (over the phone) they they had no intention of reporting" argh. i had no idea. jeez.

    'TRWNBF' book is so good, do read it. i really want to have some equivalent conversations about the UK!