Transforming Lives, Transforming Movement Building: Lessons from the National Domestic Workers Alliance Strategy - Organizing - Leadership (SOL) Initiative

by Manuel Pastor; Rachel Rosner; Jennifer Ito; Vanessa Carter

Dec 18, 2014

Today's millions of domestic workers in the U.S. play a critical role in our society, whether caring for our children, providing home health care for our elderly, or keeping our homes clean for our families. With the demographic growth of the elderly and disabled, domestic workers will only become more essential to our society. Yet, despite the importance and intimacy of their work to those who hire them, domestic workers have been largely invisible to society, undervalued in the labor market, and excluded from basic workplace standards and protections. We begin the report by describing the National Domestic Workers Alliance Strategy -- Organizing -- Leadership (SOL) Initiative program -- its design and the participants -- and the key questions posed for this assessment. We then define the core concepts and framework that underlie the curriculum. The second half of the report is devoted to lifting up a new set of metrics for capturing indicators of transformational leadership. Based on the findings, we discuss valuable lessons for the program and conclude with implications for movement building. This analysis is based on a review of the literature on domestic worker organizing and on intersectionality; on quantitative and qualitative data we collected through surveys, small group discussions, interviews, and observations; and on documents related to SOL provided by National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). Using a mixed-method approach, we coded all the data and culled the results for common themes. Perhaps more important to note, the analysis in this report is the result of an iterative, co-creative process between USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), NDWA, Social Justice Leadership (SJL), and generative somatics (gs) -- the sort of process we have called for when recommending a new model of assessment. We thus offer this report as a collective effort in a learning process about a dynamic and evolving model of transformative leadership development, transformative organizing, and transformative movement building.

  • Fund Transformative Organizing. We cannot emphasize enough that in order to sustain domestic worker organizations and programs, funding is needed for organizing, in general, and for transformative organizing, in particular.
  • When working in coalition, identifying and using a "common language" actually helps build greater cohesion and reduce confusion.
  • Refresh Theories of Change. Theories of change (TOC) are frameworks that make sense of and show the desired results of the work (of an organization, network, movement) if they are successful. SOL was a place for testing and sharpening National Domestic Workers Alliance's (NDWA's) theory of change -- and actually shifting it into a theory of transformation that made the connection between personal change and sustainability and building strong organizations, alliances, and movements.
  • Strengthen the Scaffolding. An area that will require some thought and resources is how to train leaders in programs like SOL to take the content back to their local organizations.
  • Appealing to and educating other funders is necessary to mobilize the resources needed to sustain this work. Already a small group of funders has been near to the SOL experience, drawn by a shared interest in transformative approaches to change. As with other innovative models, funders who "get it" may be the best messengers for getting other funders on board.
  • Fund Evaluation as Learning. Key to showing that programs like SOL are uniquely important to the field of movement building is tracking impact.
  • Co-create Metrics of Accountability. We urge funders to engage in a dialogue about transformative metrics as they work with grantees in defining desired outcomes.
  • Movements are fundamentally about people.
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