THEORY OF SOCIAL CHANGE
Community Voices Heard (CVH) believes that we must build the power of low-income people and people of color, particularly women, by developing an organization that they control and lead.
We also believe we have a successful model that has and can continue to mobilize large numbers of low-income people and people of color to DEVELOP into community leaders, PARTICIPATE in the policy making process, WIN concrete policies that improve our members’ lives, and CREATE a more fair and equitable community for everyone.
We believe we win on our issues and contribute to a broader movement for social change by acting on the following theories:
BUILDING A PEOPLES ORGANIZATION
Social change comes through building and maintaining strong, powerful, independent people’s organizations, not solely relying on mobilizing numbers of people at isolated times. At CVH, low-income people, particularly women and people of color, develop their skills, engage in political education and strategic development, and directly negotiate and deal with power. This process is the key for sustaining and keeping people involved over the long-term. At the same time, it ensures that we retain a place at the negotiating table.
SHIFTING THE PARAMETERS OF THE DEBATE
We actively and strategically embrace and represent political positions that might not be popular and in the mainstream. We aim for policies that will truly improve our members’ lives and change the balance of social, economic and political power, while negotiating for concrete wins along the way. We seek a position that will move the debate away from the center where economic justice issues affecting the working class are better represented.
RUNNING STRATEGIC CAMPAIGNS
We orient our work around particular campaigns to achieve concrete budgetary, policy, and programmatic victories that will benefit our members now. However, we view our short-term strategic campaigns within a context of the longer-term structural and systemic change that we ultimately seek to address root inequities in society.
USING A COMBINATION OF STRATEGIES
The combined strategies of organization building, leadership development and mass mobilization are necessary to achieve victories. We derive our power through the effective combination of these strategies and more. Other key strategies utilized in our work include: base-building, direct action, public education, grassroots-driven research, strategic communications, coalition building, and civic engagement.
CREATING SPACES FOR PARTICPATORY DEMOCRACY
In order to evolve the type of relationship between the people and government that we desire, we believe that new spaces for and models of civic engagement must be created. If ordinary people are given the power to determine their own destiny, rather than having it dictated to them by the rich and corporations, they will choose equity and collectivity over inequity and isolationism.
SEEKING AND BUILDING CONSTITUTENT-LED COALITIONS
Coalition and ally work is critical to certain campaigns and goals, but we seek to participate in coalitions that are led and directed by base-building organizations that are directly accountable to their constituencies. For us, this creates opportunities to nurture and develop community leaders, which build our organizational strength and power. In coalitions where base-building groups are not in the lead, people directly affected by the issues of focus still ought to be deferred to for critical decisions that affect their lives.
ALIGNING WITH BROADER FORCES
While we value working with groups with similar constituencies and ideologies, we recognize the need for a broader array of forces to work together to truly shift the balance of power in our direction. We believe that all poor and working class people, and the wide array of organizations and unions within which we all organize, must together build alignment across our distinct bases and philosophies.
ENGAGING IN AND PREPARING FOR A BROADER MOVEMENT
While we believe that building our own organizational power is critical to social change, we support activities within and outside of our organization that help to build the greater social change, economic, and racial justice movements. We believe that our base-building, leadership development, and political education work is energizing a new pool of activists that are now more prepared to take on broader movement roles when the moment arises and calls them to action.
CONNECTING IN GLOBAL SOLIDARITY
We see the problems faced by poor and low-income families in the United States as being part of a broader attack against poor and low-income families all over the world. We see the policies impacting us at home as being connected to the policies that impact our brothers and sisters abroad. The issues we are up against go beyond our borders and we, therefore, see the necessity to couch our work in a context of global attacks and in solidarity with a global movement.