Thursday, August 23, 2007

One more reason to stay off the government dole

The Bush administration plans to screen thousands of people who work with charities and nonprofit organizations that receive U.S. Agency for International Development funds to ensure they are not connected with individuals or groups associated with terrorism, according to a recent Federal Register notice.

The plan would require the organizations to give the government detailed information about key personnel, including phone numbers, birth dates and e-mail addresses. But the government plans to shroud its use of that information in secrecy and does not intend to tell groups deemed unacceptable why they are rejected.

Washington Post,
August 23, 2007

This summer we had the privilege of having a young activist stay in our house while she did an internship with a local housing rights outfit. Listening to her impressions, it was quite clear that she was learning that government funding and the non-profit structure itself were barriers to organizing members to assert their rights.

This is a very welcome development. In the 1990s, organizers were far less questioning of foundation- or government-funded 501c3 structures as vehicles for their organizing. That conventional wisdom seems to be changing.

Eric Tang has taken a shot at reexamining the form in "The Non-Profit & The Autonomous Grassroots" originally published in Left Turn. He observes that one promising effort to move beyond the constraints of the non-profit form is:

The NGO [non-governmental organization, the non-profit] is not the subject of the social movement, but rather the political and technical support for the struggle. The NGO leverages funds to the autonomous grassroots groups, helps the movement build connection to those beyond the borders of the nation-state, provides training, education, and infrastructural support (the development of health clinics, schools, alternative media centers, etc.), and serves as a liaison between government officials and autonomous movements.

Yet, before we take heart that the new paradigm ... provide[s] a solution for our generation, it is worth noting that, here too, contradictions abound.

Tang's essay, along with others wrestling with this difficult topic, is anthologized in The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, by INCITE! - Women of Color Against Violence.

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

The worst part about the system is that it's not designed to get one out. It's designed to keep one there!

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