This past Thursday, Seth Bush came into the office to talk to the Baltimore Orchard Project and The Baltimore Energy Challenge, both projects of Civic Works, about effective community organizing. Seth has been an organizer for the Sierra Club for several years, has campaigned for a Democratic Party candidate in Pennsylvania, and organized students in opposition to fracking while in school in Pittsburgh.
Our two hour conversation took an unexpected turn as we began to talk about systemic problems in Baltimore, and we all struggled together to think about possible solutions. While we were not talking specifically about organizing methods, the conversation served as a model for rapport building.
When starting to work in a new community, it’s important to understand the concerns and problems community members have. Having an open conversation is a great way to listen and find out how your organization can be a partner.
Building rapport is one of the most important beginning steps in organizing. In Baltimore and cities across the country, nonprofits have a history of doing work in communities without setting up a method for continued engagement and support. Building initial rapport and maintaining relationships can support the longevity of your project.
Consistent engagement is especially important for fruit trees, as they’ll be around for a long time and require care to produce quality fruit. As we continue our work in Baltimore, we hope to learn more about the challenges specific communities face and learn more about how we can be supportive partners moving forward.
-Kevin Antoszewski, AmeriCorps Community Organizer