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 System Meetings

“Systems don’t solve problems because they have different social, political, or economic interests or some combination of these. … Prior to the meeting, the organizer has likely led the group through a consideration of options available to it if it doesn’t get satisfaction in the meeting. Among the options are direct action of some kind, or perhaps alternative courses of direct action. When these options were first presented, those who thought the system didn’t know or was incompetent may have looked upon them with disdain. By the end of the meeting, they will look upon them very differently. …


After some point in a typical meeting with an adversary, if it becomes clear that a positive response is not forthcoming, the group is going to have to end the meeting. They are going to have to turn the ‘maybe,’ or mush, into a ‘no.’ Something important happens in the thirty minutes between when the meeting starts and when the group’s spokesperson or someone on the negotiating team assigned to this specific task says something like, ‘Mr. X, we are going to assume by your lack of a clear response to us that you are saying “no.” Thank you for your time, we are leaving.’” (103-5)

At the Table

Blame the System

Frederick Douglass

A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER'S TALE by Mike Miller, Berkeley:Heyday Books, 2009. CSCO believes this is the best book on organizing. Miller has been with CSCO for many years.

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