Let Us Go Forward Together
by Rose Viviano

Neither snow nor sun kept us from our appointed task. We shoveled out and sacrificed warm days with friends. We exuberantly cooked and ate together, laughed, argued and ultimately made decisions we could all agree to. Why? To try and re-shape our future.

Members of both the Steering Committee and other active committees of the Syracuse Peace Council met six times from January through April of 2005. We met to create a plan which would affirm SPC's primary goals, guide general program direction and identify the organizational changes needed to achieve those goals. To accomplish this we evaluated our past work, challenged political assumptions and prioritized our direction.

Our first meeting centered on brainstorming. Just how did we see social change happening? What would we do if we had unlimited resources? That was fun. More realistically, we outlined what we could do with just a little more time and money, while acknowledging that we could make changes with what we currently had. Those changes involved evaluating our program work, both the issues we work on and our approach to them, and taking a hard look at our organizational structure.

We developed a list of questions to generally address both program and organizational issues. The resulting ideas became the focus of this series of meetings:
addressing our need to bring a local focus to global issues;
developing a more creative approach to educational work while balancing it with agitating and organizing;
increasing funding without compromising our work or our ideals, or becoming dependent on institutional funding sources;
moving our office from 924 Burnet Ave. and understanding what relocating would mean to our outreach into the community;
outlining how to make SPC a more inclusive, diverse organization;
figuring out how to use staff/"non-staff" time and energy more effectively.

The discussions surrounding these issues were often lively, sometimes confusing but always informative. We discovered differences of opinion and a variety of political experiences among us and strove diligently to reach consensus. No idea was dismissed, although some became "loose ends" passed on to the Steering Committee to resolve, such as revising the Statement of Purpose.

Discussing organizational issues led us to develop a number of goals to meet within the next few years. Of course, we spent time trying to decide how to stabilize (and increase) our funding base but were clear in our commitment to remain a basically grassroots funded organization. In addition, changes are needed to help the office run more smoothly and boost staff morale. But ultimately, we focused on the need to create a more participatory and inclusive organization. To do this our goal is to increase the diversity of SPC activists, look at how we label people (replacing words like "volunteer" and "staff") look at how leadership is selected, consider open meetings to encourage contact with leadership, and decide just what it means to be a "member" of SPC.

As a result of our meetings on program work, we identified which issues we wanted to address and how to prioritize them. Lo and behold, a set of guidelines was born, guidelines for determining what issues/actions/programs SPC will work on (the infamous moniker of "IAP Guidelines"). The IAP's are both statements and questions. The statements address our overall goals for program direction.

We want to:
create a political, economic and social system based on principles of equality, nonviolence and social justice and to increase the number of people who will act collectively to change the larger system while also acting to improve their own lives.
increase our work on local issues, connecting them to an understanding of national/global political and economic issues.
use our resources in a productive way.

The statements in the form of questions are to be asked of each program idea. They address intent, potential and approach, providing a helpful way to assess our work plans.

TALK TO US! The guidelines will be put to the test this fall. The SPC Program Committee wants your ideas on how to work for change. Information about how to submit your proposal to SPC is at
www.peacecouncil.net/proposals. We hope many will respond by the September 26 deadline and will attend the open meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 5 (location TBA).

As a Program Committee member, I feel I could not have spent my winter and spring in a more productive way, claiming my stake in this organization and with it my responsibility for helping to make it grow and create a new way of living in a chaotic world.

Rose is a member of SPC's Program Committee and a stained glass artist.