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Types of Partners

A simplified guide to working with groups in your community

Working with other organizations and community groups is inevitably going to be complicated and there’s no single right way to act in solidarity with others in the movement. That being said, we have some general guidelines to help you to get to know and collaborate with the other awesome activists in your community. It’s not that different than forming a new friendship!

At Sunrise, we see an emerging People’s Alignment based on dignity, justice, and equality for all people, that believes in strong government action to protect the common good. We need to work with other groups and organizations that fall into this People’s Alignment in order to build the power we need to win a Green New Deal that transforms our society and leaves no one behind.

Every group and organization has a different theory of change and a different focus. We don’t have to be in complete agreement on everything to work together effectively. That being said, we can’t work with everyone, and it makes sense to…

Sunrise works at the intersection of people and political power. That means that it will be easiest for us to work with other people who share our belief in the need to change the institutions governing our society through building people and political power. In other words, we want to connect with groups who are building a grassroots base and/or engaging around elections to support politicians who stand with people and not corporations.

We value the leadership of rooted, long-standing community leaders of color, which means we usually defer to them on local policy and organizing issues and look for opportunities to show up for this work or otherwise support their organizing efforts. We inherit a history of the majority-white environmental movement not respecting “groups with roots”, which means that we have work to do to build trust and should take these relationships seriously. Similarly, we work to build relationships and solidarity with politically-aligned union leaders and rank-and-file workers, including teachers, service workers, and transit workers in our communities.

The work of fighting climate change and building a more just and equitable world is a HUGE one and, most likely, there are already people in your area doing this work who are not part of Sunrise. Because every organization and community is different, it’s impossible to provide a complete or completely accurate roadmap to the types of groups you may encounter. With that caveat, we offer some tips for working with types of groups that may exist where you live.

Indigenous peoples have been living on so-called “North America” for millennia, and have been fighting to protect their ancestral territories from dirty development since settlers arrived in the Americas in 1492. In recent years, Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of struggles to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground, with the organizing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being the most well-known example. Coming out of this fight, many Indigenous peoples and allies have turned their organizing toward divestment campaigns, which call on financial institutions to pull their money out of projects and companies profiting from dirty energy extraction and the climate crisis.

Wherever we are organizing, we are organizing on Indigenous land. In some cases, Indigenous peoples in the area are part of a federally-recognized tribe, or multiple tribes. In other cases, the indigenous peoples that call the region home do not have federal recognition and/or have few remaining people who have survived the centuries of colonization and genocide. Often, communities of Indigenous leaders are organized as part of the American Indian Movement or another intertribal group and organize around a wide variety of issues important to their communities.

DO

  • If you are not indigenous to the region where you are organizing, learn about the Indigenous peoples in your region and acknowledge that you are organizing on stolen land
  • Get to know Indigenous leaders, particularly elders
  • Ask if and how you can support and show up when asked
  • Look for opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration

DON’T

  • Only interact with Indigenous leaders to ask them to do a land acknowledgment
  • Ask indigenous organizers to campaign for a GND at the federal level if they are focused on local issues

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: schedule a listening session or attend an indigenous-led educational event or action

The environmental justice (EJ) movement organizes to protect the communities where people live, work, and play, and to build a world where everyone, regardless of their race or class, has access to clean water, air, and healthy food. It is a movement led by people of color, Indigenous peoples, the poor, and others who are hurt first and worst by environmental pollution and climate change. Today, EJ leaders lead fights against toxic facilities being built in their backyard, fight against fossil fuel infrastructure, and organize for policies that support environmental justice. The movement for climate justice grew out of these local, place-based struggles and is informed by EJ organizing principles.

DO

  • Get to know leaders and their work;
  • Ask if and how we can support them, and show up when asked
  • Look for opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration

DON’T

  • Ask place-based EJ groups to campaign for a GND at the federal level
  • Try to recruit their members to join Sunrise

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: schedule a listening session or attend an indigenous-led educational event or action

Unions are a large portion of a broader organized labor movement that fights to protect and improve the rights and conditions of working people. Broadly speaking, workers build their power by collectively demanding adequate compensation and better working conditions. Unions provide organizing muscle, education, tools, legal power, and representation for their members and are organized by specific skill set (i.e. carpentry) or a specific industry (ie. education).

Unions can take a position on an issue at the local, state, or national level. In cases when a national union has not taken a stance for-or-against an issue like the Green New Deal, its locals may still take a vote to support or oppose it. Often, media highlight the positions of unions in fossil fuel-intensive industries (e.g. pipefitters, coal miners) to tell a story of 'unions vs. environmentalists.' When you hear these stories, remember that the labor movement is in fact quite diverse and represents many different types of workers, including many who are in support or could be in support of a Green New Deal. These include but aren’t limited to teachers, service workers, and transit workers.

DO

  • Learn about the union fights in your area by following your state AFL-CIO, central labor council, or any union in your state or region on social media. Search “#1u” and your location on social media
  • Show up to support a strike and introduce yourself
  • Join a union if you are able or connect with your local regional body such as a central labor council or state labor council to get resources on organizing your workplace

DON’T

  • Assume labor is monolithic
  • Patronize businesses that are being actively protested by workers (“cross picket lines”)
  • Pit fossil fuel workers against environmental protection
  • Discount or dismiss the concerns of labor leaders
  • Immediately approach a union member/staff person and ask them to endorse the Green New Deal; instead, get to know them better and let the partnership develop more organically!

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: attend a strike and introduce yourself; get coffee with a union member to learn more about their work and how you can support it; identify union members in your hub and discuss labor engagement with them

Fossil fuel extraction and combustion is the largest single cause of climate change and many groups focus their time and energy on organizing to Keep It In The Ground (KITG). This work ranges from direct action led by Indigenous peoples to stop fossil fuel infrastructure (i.e. NoDAPL) to federal policy work led by large environmental organizations. These groups view a plan to keep fossil fuels in the ground as a necessary prerequisite to an effective GND and are generally aligned with the big-picture goals of the GND resolution. Many of these groups are also actively campaigning for a GND.

DO

  • Turn out to support key anti-fossil fuel infrastructure fights
  • Be clear that Sunrise opposes expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and understands the need for a just transition off fossil fuels

DON’T

  • Abandon campaigning for a GND in pursuit of KITG organizing

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: Schedule a meeting with a local KITG organizer

“Big Greens” refers to national environmental organizations who traditionally control the vast majority of financial resources in the environmental and climate movement. They range from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund that are quite conservative and opposed to Sunrise’s efforts, to relatively aligned organizations like the Sierra Club or 350.org. There is ongoing tension between many Big Greens and Environmental Justice groups due to resource imbalances and some Big Greens ignoring the racial justice or immigration implications of their policy proposals. In recent years, some Big Greens have done a better job of incorporating justice into their efforts and some have come out in favor of a GND. In many cases, these groups have local chapters that are excited to support young leaders in Sunrise and are also organizing for a GND or similar local efforts.

DO

  • Give them a presentation and figure out whether you are politically aligned
  • Take them up on offers of support, where strategies align

DON’T

  • Allow their organizational representatives to steer your hub’s strategy, especially pivoting organizing away from a GND, including allowing
  • Become ensnared in local policy fights that don’t build Sunrise’s base or create systemic political and economic change

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: Give a presentation about Sunrise and the Green New Deal at a chapter meeting

Some organizations believe that the best way to create political change is through building relationships with politicians in office and these groups focus most of their efforts on lobbying for their political priorities. While some of these groups may support the tenets of the Green New Deal, they operate with a very different theory of change than ours. In general, Sunrise does not focus its efforts on “inside-game” lobbying, but it can occasionally be helpful to talk with people who spend their time in this space.

When working with inside-game groups:

DO

  • Encourage these groups to support the federal Green New Deal and aligned state and local initiatives
  • Ask them questions about the political process in your area

DON’T

  • Adopt their political priorities
  • Get sucked into the weeds of policy development

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: Meet up for coffee with someone from the group to talk politics and what you each are working on

There are many groups across the country that organize locally to resist Trump’s agenda, both through protest and get out the vote work. In some cases, their members may be interested in turning out in support of a GND, and in the cases of groups like Indivisible working for political change, there are opportunities for collaboration during election season.

DO

  • Work together to get out the vote if mutually beneficial
  • Show up for these groups in key mobilization moments

DON’T

  • Defer to these groups on policy and local organizing issues

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: Give a presentation about Sunrise and the Green New Deal at a chapter meeting

Powerbuilding groups utilize community organizing to build people power. These grassroots groups are part of networks like the Center for Popular Democracy, which provide support for local organizing efforts and coordinate campaigns across the country. In many cases, these organizations are very clearly part of the peoples alignment: they share Sunrise’s values while focusing on other issues, like immigrant justice, healthcare reform, and housing justice.

DO

  • Show up for these groups in key mobilization moments
  • Explore opportunities for joint actions
  • Consider collaborating on local electoral work, if that’s a shared priority

DON’T

  • Try to get groups focused on other justice issues to shift focus to climate change/ a Green New Deal

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: listening session to learn about their work and theory of change

Many of the people leading Sunrise chapters across the country are college and high school students. If this is not already the case for your group, it’s a great idea for your hub to reach out to students in your area about Sunrise and the Green New Deal. Sometimes, these young people might want to join Sunrise. Other times, they may want to continue organizing with their campus groups, and collaborate on campaigns.

DO

Educate other young people about the GND Reach out to give presentations

DON’T

  • Solely focus your efforts on students already organizing on their campuses; we want to focus on bringing new people into the movement and politicizing people who are part of green groups but aren’t thinking about systemic social change

SUGGESTED FIRST STEP: Reach out to teachers in pertinent fields (like Political Science, public policy, Race studies, economics, sociology, anthropology, environmental studies and more!)about giving a talk to students on Sunrise and the GND

Groups in your area will have varying levels of comfort with the ideas in the Green New Deal and that’s ok! Approach groups differently depending on the issues they focus on and their current relationships with sunrise and the GND.

HOW TO IDENTIFY:

they reach out and tell you this! They are often local green groups or resistance groups.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Give them a presentation!
  • Ask them for money when appropriate!
  • Ask them to hold support roles around events and, if they are organizing younger folks, promote it to their email list

(These are groups building power in marginalized communities such as poor communities or communities of color. Examples include economic-, education-, food-, racial-, immigrant-justice groups and more)

HOW TO IDENTIFY:

you hear about them in 1-on-1 conversations with other groups or you find them listed as part of coalitions you are seeking to engage. They are often engaged in electoral and protest work.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Ask to meet with them, learn about their work (e.g. listening session)
  • Show up to support them in key campaign moments

(These are established groups in your community, often primarily people of color, who are focused on the health and safety impacts of pollution or are looking to stop new and existing fossil fuel infrastructure)

HOW TO IDENTIFY:

you hear about a campaign around a dirty energy facility or other sources of pollution; you are invited to a community event about environmental injustice.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Show up to key campaign moments
  • If it looks like there’s an opportunity for direct collaboration reach out for a listening session

Sunrise is a new movement organizing for transformative change and this means we will sometimes encounter conflict with other individuals and groups in the movement ecosystem. Sometimes, this will look like a snarky post on social media and other times this will look like someone offering a thoughtful critique of Sunrise during a conversation.

Here are some steps to move forward:

  1. Identify the type of critique:
    1. Too radical: Don’t worry too much about it! A lot of groups are attached to the status quo and aren’t ready for a transformative Green New Deal.
      1. If the group seems like it shares our values, might be worth having a conversation to understand their criticism more fully.
    2. Not radical enough: Sunrise and the GND is not radical enough and will leave communities behind
      1. Ask them for feedback and figure out whether there are ways you could take steps to shift this dynamic at the local level
  2. Offer to hear feedback and listen
    1. Often people say mean things when they don’t feel heard. It’s human! Listening to someone’s feedback without judgment can de-escalate conflict and strengthen trust
  3. Show up for events and actions to listen and support, when asked
    1. This is another simple way to build trust and get to know the group more deeply
  4. Ask for help
    1. Reach out for support from members of your hub or the movement support team if the conflict is getting worse or you don’t know how to move forward