Madhuri Krishnaswamy, JADS, and organising on health in western India

September 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Quote from an OpenDemocracy interview with Madhuri:

oS: Can you tell us about your own experience of arrest whilst campaigning for maternity health rights for adivasi and dalit women?

MK: As I mentioned earlier, most actions and campaigns of JADS are met with false criminal charges. The maternal health campaign is no exception. It is not what we have to say on the issue of maternal rights that annoys the system, but that we strongly articulate any rights at all. Importantly also, such campaigns show up as false the tall claims made by the government on funding- sensitive issues like maternal health.

In late 2008, a young, pregnant adivasi woman named Banya bai was thrown out of a primary health centre while in labour by the centre’s staff because she had no money, and they didn’t want to be bothered. She delivered on the road, with the help of a village midwife who just happened to be close by.

I passed by soon after, and learnt from the angry crowd that had gathered what had happened. I informed the nearest police station, asked them to arrange for an ambulance, and also informed the press, which carried the story prominently. JADS petitioned for action against the culprits. But instead of action against the staff of the health centre, a criminal case was registered against me, and 5 others who had been nowhere near the scene of the crime. The main reason for the criminal charges against us – besides the usual knee jerk reaction of the administration – was that a local politician felt that we would work against him in the forthcoming elections, and the local police station was losing a lot of “under- the-table business” because of the spread of the JADS.

There was huge outrage in the area because of what Banya bai as a woman and as an adivasi had gone through, and the police case only added fuel to the fire. Thousands of adivasis, especially women, repeatedly protested, till the state government agreed to drop charges.

A JADS protest against repeated maternal deaths and denial of emergency careProceedings were initiated for dropping charges but, typically, four years later, various “technical reasons” were found for them not being dropped. When I was summoned to the court, our organisation decided that I should refuse bail in protest against such absurd proceedings. I quoted Gandhi – whose photograph hangs behind the judge in every courtroom – that when a nation is enslaved, the right place for every free citizen is in jail, and since cases like this show exactly how enslaved we are, I should be sent to jail. My arrest and the protests that followed did turn a spotlight on what people like Banya bai have to go through.

Community organization-action-development-work in the UK

September 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

What follows is highlights from a very useful essay I just discovered by accident on infed.org (full text here):

In the late 1950s and early 1960s accounts of practice and theoretical explorations began to appear that viewed community workers as a distinct occupation […] The Younghusband Report (1959) on social work was a significant turning point. It specifically drew on the North American division of social work into casework, group work and community organization, describing the latter as “primarily aimed at helping people within a local community to identify social needs, to consider the most effective ways of meeting these and to set about doing so, in so far as their available resources permit.” The first major collection of material (Kuenstler 1961) took up the notion of ‘community organization’, but it was the terms ‘community development’ and ‘community work’ that became popular – and tended to merge.

During the 1960s and early 1970s there was a growing recognition of the extent to which poverty remained a major feature of UK society (see, for example, Coates and Silburn 1970). There had also been a fairly substantial series of debates around the significance and importance of people’s participation in various aspects of government activity – perhaps the best known being the Skeffington Report on planning (MHLG 1969). Following the efforts of the Democratic administration in the United States of America to wage a ‘War on Poverty’, the UK government sought a similar, but cheaper, initiative. Self-help and resident participation were seen to be possibilities for the improvement of inner city situations. […] The result, in 1969, was the launch of the Community Development Projects programme. It was the largest action-research project ever funded by government. The avowed intention was to gather information about the impact of existing social policies and services and to encourage innovation and co-ordination. […] Workers in many of the projects came to reject the analysis and strategies of the original project proposals. They sought to organise and research around larger questions of inequality and deindustrialisation rather than more localized concerns around community organization. There was often a desire to bring about a much stronger link between the struggles of the workplace and those of the neighbourhood and community; and to develop means by which groups can join together in things like federations to better influence decision making on a city-wide, regional and national basis.

In some respects, the optimism and enthusiasm with which community work and ‘participation’ were greeted in the early 1970s and late 1960s waned with the realisation that many of the issues the work sought to confront were not resolvable at the local level – a realisation that was underlined by the widespread public expenditure cuts after the oil crisis of 1974. There was a considerable growth in the political awareness of community workers in the mid to late 1970s and this has been reflected in the adoption by workers of very different ideological stances. This is sometimes represented by the contrasting of so called social work or community development traditions of practice, with political action traditions.

[By the early 1980s] The nature of community work had shifted. While some workers still had the freedom, and were disposed, to encourage opposition to the social and economic policies of the Conservative government in Britain – and their impact on local communities (especially with regard to the closure of heavy industries, engineering works and mines upon local communities); the context in which many were employed had changed. The language of managerialism had spread through many local authorities recasting much of the work in terms of meeting organizational objectives rather than local community needs. Most particularly, the focus was upon the more effective use of resources and the efficiency of services – especially with regard to housing and care. There was a significant shift away from locating workers in local neighbourhoods in order to sustain and develop local groups and associational life.

[Today,] State-sponsored community work remains largely locked into the mix of care, economic development and service delivery improvement work that developed during the 1980s and 1990s. However, three particular areas of state-sponsored work did, to some limited extent, bring a stronger emphasis upon community-based organization and group-functioning in England. First, the emergence and growth of tenant management organizations has led to some attention being given to the cultivation of local groups and the deepening of their capacity to develop and run their own organizations. However, this has not been without tensions (ODPM 2002). In particular local authorities have tended to see tenant management organizations as extensions of their management activity whilst those involved are more likely to see themselves as community activists. They have also tended to see them as rivals. The result was that those employed to facilitate the development of tenant’s management organizations and cooperatives often slipped into either representing the view or policies of the local authority to the group or advising them on the technicalities of housing finance funding. The enhancement of local group life was commonly sidelined into a series of courses on ‘how to chair a committee’ and such like.

Second, the New Deal for Communities Programme in England – part of the government’s strategy to ‘tackle multiple disadvantage in the most deprived neighbourhoods’  – has involved an emphasis upon local community involvement. (New Deal for Communities was established in 1998 and expanded in 1999 to include some 39 partnerships and involving a spend of some £2bn). However, results from the interim evaluation of the initiative indicate that there is only patchy evidence of increased participation in local networks, neighbourliness and involvement in local groups. In contrast, there does appear to have been a significant increase in the trust invested by local residents in local institutions. As the evaluators stressed, community involvement and engagement takes time (Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research 2005: 67).

Third, the Sure Start programme, originally announced in 1998 and aimed at increasing the quality and availability of child care in selected areas in England, improving the health and well-being of children, and providing support for parents initially involved a significant emphasis upon community development and involvement. Some interesting and apparently successful locally-based work emerged.

BLM

September 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

Framing a Transformative Vision for Black Lives

niandraladesandmostly

September 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

Ten years after The Sweet Nothing

September 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/katiehassell/entry/battle_of_the/

http://www.ukspa.org.uk/blog/14/12/rubix-consulting-moves-new-base-university-warwick-science-park’s-business-innovation

Crisp hack

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

http-mashable-com-wp-content-uploads-2012-10-before-after-diy

a crisper sound

lol

http://mashable.com/2012/10/22/diy-pringles-can-speaker/#MWyXTY_PEkqa

Now to get some work done

Hackers, the Left, and possibilities for radical democracy

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

This post is just a way of pointing to a couple of provocative chunks of text from two sources: an abstract for a presentation by Toni Prug at the 6th Historical Materialism annual conference (2009), that suggests that

Dismissing the dysfunctionalism of the parliamentary capitalist-democratic framework is easy, what do we replace it with? This presentation argues that the objects of future egalitarian societies are all around us. From Free Software, Linux, Google and Facebook, to rough consensus, electronic books and financial and organizational openness – it is our task to rethink and re-purpose whatever possible. We need to become generic hackers, turning anything to our advantage, learning from capitalists who for centuries used whatever we opposed them with as a source of their own strength. […] Hacking is a political possibility that is here, in front of us. Its possibilities are open and yet to be determined. The State-forms of all kinds (local councils, courts, parliaments, political parties, unions, childcare, health, educational and social care institutions) await to be hacked.

(http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/conferences/sixth-london-conference/sessions-and-paper-abstracts/0015.txt)

and a nicely-written article on the IETF from 1995 by Paulina Forsook for Wired titled “How Anarchy Works”:

The Internet, perhaps the greatest instantiation of self-organization the planet has ever seen, evolves in its fractious decentralized way through the Internet Engineering Task Force, the IETF.

In the IETF, there’s a kind of direct, populist democracy that most of us have never experienced: Not in democratically elected government, where too many layers of pols and polls and image and handling intervene. Not in radical politics, where too often, the same old alpha-male/top-dog politics prevail despite the countercultural objectives pursued. And not in the feminist collective world, where so much time is spent establishing total consensus and dealing with the concerns of process queens that little gets done. The IETF provides a counter-example of true grass-roots political process that few of us have ever had the privilege to participate in, outside of the backstories about member planets of the Star Trek Federation. IETF group process succeeds because of a profound connection with, and understanding of, the real world of networking.

MIT professor Dave Clark, one of the grand old men of the Internet, may have unintentionally written the IETF anthem in his A Cloudy Crystal Ball/Apocalypse Now presentation at the 24th annual July 1992 IETF conference. Today, it’s immortalized on T-shirts: “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.” Which might translate to, “In the IETF, we don’t allow caucusing, lobbying, and charismatic leaders to chart our path, but when something out on the Net really seems to work and makes sense to most of us, that’s the path we’ll adopt.”

Most IETF work is done over e-mail between meetings, using Net dist-list servers. But its pioneers, ever smart and sensible, knew that people must occasionally meet face to face, that the bandwidth of real-time conversation can make issues-resolution a hell of a lot more efficient, and that sometimes the most important work that humans do happens in that most fertile, inadvertent, and self-organizing fashion: over dinner, in the hallways, late at night over drinks. (https://www.wired.com/1995/10/ietf/)

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