Profiles of Organizations

Write a summary of an organization that is working on the issue you are researching, or an organization that is taking an approach to another issue that you think would be a good model for the issue you are working on. What is the organization’s mission? What populations or communities does it serve? Who is involved in the work? What strategies does the organization use? Discuss what  you think is most interesting or compelling about the work this organization is doing. Be sure to include a link to the organization’s website.

Your post is due by Wednesday, April 1, at 1pm, and your replies are due by the following week.

12 thoughts on “Profiles of Organizations”

  1. Right to the City (RTTC) was established in 2007 as an organization, which educated and fought against gentrification of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from historic urban neighborhoods. RTTC is now also working on movements for racial justice, urban justice, human rights, and democracy. As their mission statement explains, “RTTC seeks to create regional and national impacts in the fields of housing, human rights, urban land, community development, civic engagement, criminal justice, environmental justice, and more…born out of power of an idea of a new kind of urban politics that asserts that everyone, particularly the disenfranchised, not only has a right to the city, but as inhabitants, have a right to shape it, design it, and operationalize and urban human rights agenda.”
    RTTC national campaigns includes the “Homes for All Campaign-Housing and Land” project which promotes protecting and expanding housing for low-income communities that is affordable and dignified. They do this with their involvement in Civic Engagement, which helps mobilize voters so that policies change to benefit them and their communities. RTTC also holds HFA workgroups and works closely with researchers to gain a better understanding of local and national policy on housing. Additionally, RTTC promotes Ecojustice through their work group that focuses on developing policies and practices for healthy lifestyles.
    I think that it is interesting that this organization doesn’t just focus on gentrification, but also on the spread of Democracy by running campaigns that help people understand their rights and that their votes do matter. By teaching people and communities that they can help change/establish policies to help them RTTC is helping those affected by gentrification have a voice and end unjust displacements. Additionally, I think that it is great that this organization is focused on the rights of many different groups of people such as low- income people and LGBTQ communities, and that they are teaching people that they are aloud to be in these cities and to have a voice and opinion about what goes on there. Just because someone is a different race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, etc. does not mean that they should feel like outcasts and be silenced. Cities are built around so many different people and cultures, that is what makes them interesting and alive.

    1. Wow – the mission statement of Right to the City is very expansive and bold, particularly the emphasis on having an “urban human rights agenda.” Like you stated, Right to the City does not focus solely on gentrification, but also advocates for other injustices that low-income communities experience. I feel like this has both its pros and cons; sometimes, having too broad of a mission statement can deter from solving the main issue (gentrification). However, I do believe it’s important to address the many other underlying causes and impacts of gentrification, since there is no single solution. I particularly like the organization’s emphasis on empowering citizens to engage in policy-making.

    2. Not to totally echo Tabatha, but I think she and I are on the same page. Although I agree with all of Right to the City’s goals and priorities, I do think that they are trying to do way too much. Regardless of whether they are the single most effective organizing structure out there, they appear to have legitimate people on their staff and enough organization on the local level to be effective as an umbrella organization that helps the movement spread and ally with other cities. Really interesting organization and a solid choice but personally I just see some effectiveness issues.

      What I do really like about your choice is that RTTC seems to play a similar role in your research question as Tabatha’s Free West Papua Movement does. Both are umbrella organizations that seem to put a lot of stock into raising awareness and building alliances within and outside of the community to achieve nonviolent change. I will definitely keep this in mind as something we could use to kinda tie all our projects together.

  2. In 1998, the struggle for sovereignty in West Papua experienced a great transformation, shifting from a decentralized network of guerilla groups to a nonviolent civilian-based movement. Since then, various sovereignty groups have emerged and made significant contributions on the local and national level. Recently, the Free West Papua Campaign was established in 2004 to focus on making strides on the international level, while supporting local efforts. Their mission is to “alert the world to the ongoing genocide of West Papua, which is under brutal Indonesian military occupation and to lay the road to full freedom and independence for the West Papuan people.” They describe themselves as a “peaceful, public campaign” and work alongside politicians of all parties, as well as other NGOs and campaign groups – both national and international – towards the aim of West Papuan self-determination.
    Most of the political leadership and direction of the Free West Papua Campaign stems from West Papuan independence leader Benny Wanda, who was forced to flee West Papua after being arrested, tortured, and threatened with death by Indonesian police. He is also the head of DeMMak, a pan-tribal assembly in West Papua which works peacefully for independence. The Free West Papua Campaign is a global movement, having permanent offices in UK, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Although it started as a volunteer organization, it has grown substantially through donations and consists non-paid workers from human rights, political, and environmental backgrounds. Most impressive (and hence, effective) is how this movement is led by West Papuan activists, who are either still in West Papua, or exiled like Wanda. They focus on reaching out to the international community in order to change international law regarding West Papua, with the ultimate goal of serving and bringing justice to the West Papuan people.
    With their mission being to alert the world of the plight of West Papuans, this movement’s “Take Action” tab provides a variety of ways for the individual to take action, most of which are political. There are petitions calling for journalists to be allowed into West Papua, supporting media freedom, supporting West Papuan prisoners, and calling the UN to recognize West Papua’s right to independence. Additionally, Free West Papua Campaign utilizes social media (Twitter and Facebook) by providing updates on the movement, as well as sharing relevant news articles, videos, photos, and publications regarding independence. This allows anyone with Internet access to read and see the latest updates, as well as to network with fellow activists.
    Most compelling about Free West Papua Campaign is their focus on peace, and emphasis on solidarity. Their website has a section dedicated to all the other campaign groups which are advocating for West Papuan sovereignty, highlighting that this struggle cannot be conquered without support from all realms of the world. On their Facebook, there are a myriad of photos, videos, and articles about international solidarity to remind supporters of how crucial it is to continue to support and learn from one another during this movement for independence.

    1. This was a really interesting site to tool around on and really helped me understand more of what you were talking about in our group meeting. I see what you mean about their re-branding, because their site definitely stresses the neutral, nationalistic, non-violent aspect of their political agitation.

      I know in studying other conflicts there have been aspects of people in exile losing their credibility with the populations that remain in the homeland, though that doesn’t seem to have happened with Benny Wenda. I think when reading through his life story it is pretty obvious how he is able to maintain credibility, given the massive Indonesian oppression he has personally lived through.

      All in all, really interesting site.

    2. Reading the history, aims, and tactics of the Free West Papua Campaign on their website had me drawing parallels between their plight and the plight of Palestinians in Israel. Palestinians face a similar situation in a number of ways including a lack of self-determination, a brutal military occupation on land that traditionally has been theirs, and a reliance on the international community for much of their political capital. It would be interesting to look into how such groups might interact with one another within the context of globalization, and whether they might be able to swap tactics or resources for mutual gains in achieving their separate goals.

    3. Tabatha,
      This was very interesting to read about, as I really hadn’t had mush knowledge of the situation in West Papua. I think that the organization is great and I agree with you that their emphasis on peace building is important. Without a stable peace between the people conflict will just continue to cycle itself. Their mission is not an easy one, but I think that their approach is the right one.

  3. Map Kibera is an organization that began to do just that: map Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. Their mission has since expanded to include other aspects of representing the marginalized communities of the slums of Nairobi. This organization uses inexpensive GPS equipment and OpenStreetMap (a free software) to physically map the slums and mark the resources available within it: clinics, places to get water, sources of firewood. By using a combination of paid community residents as well as volunteers, these maps are updated frequently so that their information stays current. In addition to their mapping projects, Map Kibera has also created an online platform “Ushahidi” that functions as a local news service and blog for the issues facing the communities within Kibera (although the program has been so successful they have now expanded to Mathare and Mukuru). Not only is this data hugely important for the residents of these communities, but it also is a treasure trove of data for the Kenyan government, NGOs, and researchers. Map Kibera’s motto is “Making the Invisible Visible” and that is something that I think their work as really accomplished. By providing the hard data, this organization has forced Kibera to become part of the conversation whereas in the past, an infrastructure project or aid effort would be done elsewhere because it was just too complicated, there wasn’t enough information, nobody knew exactly what was needed, etc.

    What I find most incredible about Map Kibera is that they take a simple, practical approach to solve the lofty goal of making people feel that they have ownership in their communities. By using almost exclusively paid local residents (who are trained in current GIS and GGS technologies by the organization) this organization provides jobs, a strengthened sense of community and most importantly gets the communities’ wants, desires and needs to the front of the conversation. I feel like most NGOs have the best of intentions but deciding who needs what infrastructure or aid in a boardroom in DC does not allow for local participation. That is part of the simple brilliance of this project is that they are working with communities who do not have land rights or see any infrastructure from the government (who doesn’t want to encourage illegal settlements) and giving them the opportunity to be heard, seen and accounted for. Before this project, census numbers didn’t even exist for Kibera, let alone a map of its informal economy.

    1. Very impressive NGO! I love Map Kibera’s motto of “Making the Invisible Visible” and wholeheartedly agree with you that allowing the community to have ownership is crucial to an effective, sustainable solution. Land rights definitely appear as a daunting issue to tackle due to the complex systemic barriers, but it seems as if Map Kibera is taking a creative approach that is already proving effective. Lastly, I like your comment, “deciding who needs what infrastructure or aid in a boardroom in DC does not allow for local participation” – I strongly concur with that statement!

    2. I am a big advocate for NGOs like this one, their role in connecting local communities to larger development processes is something I view as crucial for successful outcomes. A major theoretical assertion in economics concerns the “Problem of knowledge in society” which claims that local agents have the most complete knowledge within their respective contexts, making them the most qualified in deciding how scarce means will be directed towards ends. (for more on this look up the works of Friedrich Hayek, especially “The Use of Knowledge in Society”). Unfortunately, most attempts at development are centrally guided, often leading to misallocations. It is clear that Map Kibera is attempting to bring these locally defined needs to the attention of development firms, hopefully leading to better central planning. While this situation is not ideal, it is preferable to no voice at all. During my time as a researcher with an NGO in Afghanistan, I saw this dynamic first hand and I can attest to the positive effects it has for both aid firms and locals.

  4. The U.S. DoD (United States Department of Defense) has consistently been on the front line (literally) concerning the issue of insurgency. They have not only engaged in combat operations with a variety of insurgencies across the world, but have also done extensive research into the causes for, behaviors of, and possible solutions to insurgent groups in different contexts. Thus it is a great organization to reference in any research concerning insurgency, particularly a project that seeks to look at the potential effect of global commodity demands on the emergence and development of insurgent groups.
    The DoD, in its present form, was officially established in 1949 through an amendment to the National Security Act. It marked the end of a process that had slowly consolidated the armed forces of the U.S. and the wider national defense structure into one overarching federal entity headed by the Secretary of Defense, a member of the president’s cabinet. The mission of the DoD is stated as “To provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of the United States.” This mission has manifested itself in a variety of ways based on the policies, challenges, and aspirations of people in different periods in U.S. history, and this continues to be the case in present times. Thus the specific actions of the DoD are fluid and hard to categorize, but they all should work towards an aggregate goal of ensuring U.S. security amidst present realities.
    The DoD, as part of the U.S. government, aims to serve U.S. citizens while being answerable to the president and Congress. However, in the course of serving the American people it often engages with and assists a broad range of actors in the global community. Whether it be a partner military in NATO (Northern Alliance Treaty Organization), Ebola victims in Western Africa, or a associated NGO (non-governmental organization) involved in a development project in Afghanistan, the DoD can assist almost anyone so long as they prove useful to the DoD’s primary mission.
    A broad set of people are involved in the work of the DoD. Amongst its employees are soldiers, strategists, academics, scientists, clerks, and almost any other profession imaginable. If other entities that engage in labor with the DoD such as contractors or international allies are included, the number of people comprised numbers in the millions and is highly diverse.
    The DoD employs numerous strategies in its work. It attempts to maintain a global sphere of operations, allowing it to be active anywhere at any time. It seeks to employ highly competent people and instill a variety of ethics and values in them in working towards its security mission. It has highly compartmentalized departments within it that work towards separate, but often complementary goals. It maintains a hierarchy within these departments, ensuring a top-down chain of command. It works to acquire the best equipment, infrastructure, and knowledge possible to increase its scope and effectiveness. Ultimately its specific strategy depends on the issue it faces at the time, however there are these consistent patterns that prepare it for a broad range of tasks.
    The most interesting work being done by the DoD at the moment is its mission to expand understandings of the “Human terrain” of the areas that it operates in. By attempting to discover the tacit nuances and dynamics of such areas, the DoD is discovering ways to make war “smarter”, meaning that there will be more cases where means other than violence are used in accomplishing missions. This could promote better outcomes for people caught in conflict situations involving the DoD, reduce the footprint of war, and improve the U.S.’s standing in the world, as oftentimes our soldiers serve as our ambassadors. The work to become a smarter military will mean a better military.

    1. Mason,
      I think that choosing the DoD was a great choice. We all know about it, but getting to read more in-depth was interesting and gave me knew information that I hadn’t yet know, such as it history and the current project “Human Terrain”. I think that the Department of Defense would be a very interesting place to work and what they are working for is so important.

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