How to build community networks and collective power

The other day I posted a couple videos from Beau of the Fifth Column about small-scale action that can build power for large-scale action. As with other forms of organizing, it seems to me that there are more people who think it’s a good idea than people who actually know how to go about it. I count myself among that number. That’s why I keep posting videos from Beau on this topic.

One of the challenges that has often concerned me is that any community – any group of people at all, really – is going to be made up of people who don’t necessarily like each other, and don’t necessarily agree with each other on everything. We need to be able to co-exist with the folks we dislike. We need to be able to co-exist with people who think we’re wrong about fairly important stuff.

Climate change has been my primary concern for some time now, and a collective response to that is going to require the participation of the people who currently insist that there shouldn’t be a deliberate response. Organizing a community network to deal with climate change is going to be a challenge, when portions of the community will reject you outright as soon as you say that’s your goal.

Beau has a response to that – don’t have specific goals for the network.

The point of the network is to improve the community, not to address a particular problem. For someone like me, while I don’t have to pretend not to care about climate change, it would be counter-productive to my own goals to insist that the network be oriented around that. Repairing or building infrastructure, building the ability to grow and store food, sharing knowledge and skills about things like first aid or construction – all of these are things that communities benefit from, regardless of the motivation behind them.

All of these things would make any community more resilient to climate change, and to things like political turmoil.

None of them need someone like me harping on about doing them “because of climate change”, or “to work towards socialism” for people to want to do them. That doesn’t mean I need to stop writing about climate change. It doesn’t mean I need to avoid campaigning about it, or even talking about it when it’s relevant.

It means that I have to actually follow my principles, and trust that a group of people whose common purpose is to improve the whole community through collective effort, will do just that. Not everybody is going to see the value in participating in a group like this. Not everybody is going to think that this kind of collective effort is a good thing. By forming a group like this, without a demand for ideological unity, you’re pre-selecting people who are more likely to do the things that you want done at a local level, and you’re creating an avenue for communication between people who might otherwise avoid each other, and for better common understanding.

And you’re also creating a means to change how the government works at a local level, which seems to be a very important part of achieving state-level and national-level change.

This seems like a very practical approach that should get pretty reliable results. It’s a way to take some power for the people that would be pretty hard to stop.

This blog, and its associated podcast, are made possible by my wonderful patrons. Their funding has made a huge difference in my life, but I’m still short of what I need to make ends meet, and it’s still very difficult to find conventional wage labor, what with the pandemic and all. If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, fund my work, and feed my household, you can head over to to help pay for this content. As with so many other good things, crowdfunding takes a collective effort, and every little bit helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *