It's simple: It's relationship building.
Relational Organizing centers on training volunteers to reach out to friends, neighbors and family and share personal stories around the issues that matter to them most; as well as authentically listen to the views and/or concerns of the other person and know how to respond. This demonstrated approach helps an organization activate, build, and expand their activist base and organizational reach.
Build your network.
Sit down with a piece of paper and write down the names of all of your friends, family, neighbors and/or co-workers who you could call up (or text, message, etc.) and talk about any political issue, whether that person agrees with you or not; you can have an open conversation about most anything.
Next, write down the names of friends, family, neighbors and/or co-workers who you would feel comfortable talking about one or two issues with. Maybe you feel comfortable chatting with your neighbor about growing hemp and the state of your farming community, but not taxes.
Next, write down the names of friends, family, neighbors and/or co-workers who you don't really know much about their political beliefs but you share some common interests and you are interested in getting to know them better.
These are the people in your relational organizing network.
Expand your network. Listen, Without an Agenda.
Ask a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker who you want to get to know better out for a cup of coffee to chat about the state of your community. Ask open-ended questions, without an agenda, and then listen carefully to what they have to say. Here are some suggestions to start and guide the conversation (more available here):
What are you most thankful for about living in Southwest Wisconsin?
What are some things you take for granted as a Wisconsinite that other parts of the country do not have? Have your views of what you like about Wisconsin changed through the years or remained the same?
How do you feel about our community – do we seem more or less divided than other parts of the country or the state?
What are the main ways that you think people in our community are uncivil and disrespectful to each other when it comes to political discussions? In what ways do you think liberals and conservatives stereotype each other? Do you ever feel stereotyped by those you disagree with on issues?
What can we do to revive civility and find more effective ways to work together?
What are your hopes and concerns for our community/and state? Who in our community needs to be involved in efforts to revive civility and respect?
Close the conversation by taking a couple of minutes to reflect briefly together. Explore some of the following: In one sentence share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in this conversation? Is there a next step you’d like to take based on the conversation you just had? Should we have another conversation together? Would you invite another person to have a one-to-one conversation and/or encourage this to be done within a group you know (e.g. civic, faith based, school, at work)?
Look local to build common ground with others.
What community efforts do you care most about? Who is engaged with improving your community and how can you support them? What does your community need to amplify more voices? What voices are not at the table? Are there community organizations or community leaders in your area who are not plugged into a broader organizing network that you can connect with?