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Session 6: Conclusion - Action Toward a Sharing Society

Workshop Goals

  • To prioritize and initiate actions toward a more equitable and sharing society.
  • To understand how the selected action or actions align with UU principles and more specific goals and guidelines for a more just and equal society.
  • To identify and build collaborative relationships with groups and individuals allied with the selected actions.

Workshop-at-a-Glance

(90 min total)

5 min Welcome and Chalice Lighting

30 min Discuss Possible Actions. Where’s the Energy?

15 min Grounding Our Actions in UU Principles

5 min: Break

20 min Who Are Our Allies? How Do We Organize with Them?

10 min Develop Leadership and Solidarity Toward a More Sharing Society

5 min Debrief and Closing

 

Prior Readings

Have each participant pick out a selection of these readings so that key areas get covered.

  • The Intertwined Moral and Communal Benefits of Equality, plus Ethics for Advocacy:  Religious and Philosophical Teachings on Equity (2-25), Human Rights and Economic Rights (67-81), Equity Implies Freedom (83-85), Trusteeship (93-94), Equity Implies Fair Share (97, 99-100), Affirmative Action (101-103), Just Compensation (110), Equity Implies Community (113), Individualism vs Community (116-117), Class War (118-119), The Common Good (126-128), Equity Implies Moral Sensitivity (129-132), Conspicuous Consumption (140-141), Canon of Need (151-154), Canon of Limits (155-157), Canon of the Common Good (157-159), Canon of Productivity (159-160), Canon of Effort (161), Canon of Scarcity (161-162), Reform Strategy (192-194), from How Much Do We Deserve – An Inquiry into Distributive Justice by Rev. Richard Gilbert.
  • UU Theology of Justice (5-7), 5 Modes of Social Justice (9-12), Faith & Culture (18), Model of Justice (2), 8 Roles of the Church (22), 6 Step Strategic Planning (25), Prioritization (29), 11 Commandants for Social Action (48),  from "Unitarian Universalists Walking the Talk" workshop manual Justice Workshop by Rev. Richard Gilbert.
  • The 5 minute video - UU State Advocacy Networks

 

Activities

Welcome and Chalice Lighting (5 min).

  “The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues—not faction, but rather distraction—there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil . . . Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth.” – Plato

Discuss Possible Actions. Where’s the Energy? (30 min)  Brainstorm actions or things that the group, or subgroups, might want to do. Make a point to include topics that drew interest in previous sessions. Having available printed notes from those sessions would be helpful. Record the suggested actions on flip chart paper for all to see, but do not discuss them until later. Next go through the suggested actions, starting with those with the strongest response or most support (by an informal poll if necessary), to clarify what might be involved in each action and the level of interest in the group. If the list of possible actions is too long, omit any that have the support of only 1 or 2 people.

     Here are some questions to consider:  How effectively does the action strike at the root of our dysfunctional system? Is the action short term or long term? Would it involve different stages of development?  Is it something primarily within the congregation, the local community, the local region, the state, the country, or international? What kind of allies or collaborations would be needed or helpful? What resources would be needed? What overall level of effort and commitment is involved? Might we have both sufficient leadership and active participants to pull it off? Which mode of Gilbert’s 5 modes social action are involved (social education, social service, public witness, community organizing, advocacy for systemic change)? Record notes on answers to these questions.

     After going through all the suggestions, prioritize the suggested actions. A recommended way to do this is to ask each person to pick their top 3 actions and label them as 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice (use red, white, & blue stars, or the number 1, 2, 3, or some other such scheme). Give each 1st choice ranked action 3 tallies, 2nd choice 2 tallies, and 3rd choice 1 tally. Then add up all the tallies for each action, recording the sum. This will give a ranking of the actions according to these sums, a procedure that is designed to elicit group consensus.

     Use the prioritization of the actions to decide on which action or actions to undertake.  A lower priority action might take precedence if there is stronger leadership. A larger group might want to consider a primary action for the whole group, plus one or more secondary actions for enthusiastic subgroups, etc. Designate the leadership, especially the initial convener, for each chosen action, and circulate a signup sheet with contact information for those willing to participate in it, with copies to the session organizer and the action leadership. At your initial meeting discuss using Gilbert’s 6 step strategic planning process (the problem, assumptions, goals, strategies, tactics, evaluation).

How Do We Ground Our Actions in UU Principles? (15 min)  For each chosen action discuss what UU principles it most embodies. Have a list of the 7 principles available. Next consider Richard Gilbert’s 4 Propositions of Equity: Economic Equality implies (1) freedom or options, (2) fair share, (3) community, and (4) moral sensitivity. Designate someone to write out how your action will support each of these broad goals of moral and religious life. Use these descriptions in your promotional materials to help recruit supporters and allies.

     To further flesh this out, discuss how your action aligns with Gilbert’s 6 guidelines, or “canons”, for achieving distributive justice: (1) meets basic needs, (2) limits excessive consumption, (3) strengthens the common good or common wealth, (4) reasonably rewards productive work in a communal context, (5) rewards effort and sacrifice for others, (6) reasonably rewards scarce skills in a communal context. Where there is good alignment, also use this in your promotional materials.

Break (5 min)

Who Are Our Allies? How Do We Organize with Them? (20 min) First discuss potential allies within your congregation – the minister or other staff, lay leadership, other members or friends of the congregation. Might there be opposition? In other words, figure out your congregational politics and your strategy for building support while attempting to understand and respect any opposition or skepticism. Get conversations going, prepare handouts, organize educational discussions or events as needed. Become aware of your options, getting formal approval if required by church policy.

    Next identify necessary or possible allies in the community, region, etc., depending on the nature of your action. For example, if it is a local minimum or living wage campaign, there may already be other faith or interfaith groups, labor, advocacy, non-profit, or political groups or leaders involved. Brainstorm a list and contact them to find out and to expand your list. Social media might help, in addition to attending meetings of these potential allies. Where a group or person is already involved, offer to become part of a collaborative effort. If not, offer to help bring them into a collaborative effort. How all this develops will depend very much on your local circumstances, so frequent re-evaluation of strategies, tactics, and timelines may be necessary. Unless you are joining a strong and well organized effort, staying power and adaptability will be required.

Develop Leadership and Solidarity Toward a More Sharing Society (10 min)  Consider how you can make some of your events both joyous and collaborative, especially to engage and honor leadership toward a more equitable and sharing society. Think especially about the allies of your action. Strong allies need to bond together in solidarity on the issues at hand. Learn to “accept our differences” on other issues.

Debrief and Closing (5 min)

  “Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

Topical Outline

Discuss Possible Actions. Where’s the Energy?

  • Brainstorm possible actions.
  • Discuss the best actions: Which actions are most important? Have strongest support and allies? Are easier?
  • Prioritize the discussed actions and select an action or actions to initiate based on the prioritization and strength of leadership and enthusiasm.

Grounding Our Actions in UU Principles?

  • Discuss how the selected actions align with the 7 UU principles and Richard Gilbert’s 4 goals of more egalitarian society.
  • Discuss how the selected actions align with Gilbert’s 6 guidelines for distributive justice
  • Use these discussions to help prepare promotional materials for the selected actions.

Who Are Our Allies? How Do We Organize with Them?

  • Identify potential allies for the action within our congregations and how to get them educated and involved.
  • Identify potential allies in the large community, depending on the nature of the action. Plan how to approach them and how to develop collaborations.

Develop Leadership and Solidarity Toward a More Sharing Society

  • Discuss how to develop and celebrate leadership for equal and sharing society both within and outside the congregation, especially among community allies.
  • Have a goal of developing solidarity and bonding on issues of common concern.

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