MAPA Discussion 2022: Organizational issues

MAPA Discussion 2022

MAPA’s board and working groups have been discussing several questions arising from our work.   This working paper presents our thinking so far on one of them. It will be discussed at Part 2 of our Annual Meeting on May 3, 2022.   We invite members to comment.

Making Room for Everyone

Our branch of the peace movement remains largely represented by white, educated members whose passions were sparked during the civil rights era and Vietnam.

Drawing on our successful collaborative experiences with youth, BIPOC communities and the working class overall, how do we recreate and build upon them so MAPA can evolve and carry forward its legacy? 

We acknowledge those differences that continue to separate us from other progressive movements as well as from much of the general public:  reserved language/style, tending to tailor our events to academic audiences.

We need to create more welcoming spaces to connect and develop deeper relationships with movements led by other constituencies.

Developing activists

Our working groups are foundational to much of MAPA’s success.  They involve our most dedicated activists.  Yet they are sustained by a small number of core leaders, often older white males from the upper middle class.  New members, perhaps even some long-standing ones, can feel intimidated or overwhelmed by information and find it hard to break in. Our goal is to create more welcoming spaces so that the creativity, leadership and talents of all can blossom.

Upper middle class people are educated to talk and analyze.  They are comfortable in jargon-laden meetings that go on endlessly, and may not reach any conclusion. In contrast, working class people are more inclined to act, and may see little worth in endless discussion.  

Participating in MAPA should not be hard.  We shouldn’t assume we need major commitments from everyone all the time.  We need to be mindful of other communities, and the challenges and barriers to participation like time and capacity constraints and make it clear that participation is welcome regardless of the degree of people’s engagement.  More active members with class, gender, and racial privileges and can dominate the group must own that, step back, and make space collectively for others to set the tone.

Groups can follow the example of Peace and Climate that has launched a subcommittee that functions more informally as drop-in discussion and that does not require major commitment. Working groups can also hold informal/social gatherings outside of working meetings that cultivate solidarity and a sense of community.   Let’s connect working groups with community groups and youth organizations especially beyond greater Boston to attain new ideas, youth organizers and to strengthen our network throughout the Commonwealth.  Working groups can also use social media platforms to attract new activists.  

Developing Youth Leadership

In 2021, MAPA sponsored 15 interns, all college age or near, providing us with remarkable engagement with youth, and we have 9 interns in spring 2022.  Several other young people have also stepped forward to volunteer.

Among these young people are co-chairs of two working groups and of MAPA’s Legislative/Political committee, and a Congressional district captain.  One led us through a redesign of our logo, website and newsletter; others planned, organized, and/or moderated multiple webinars; wrote for and edited our newsletter, been published in external outlets, like Common Dreams, and spoke powerfully at events and Congressional lobby visits.

To continue this momentum and continue to foster a more inclusive, collaborative space for young people, we should use more of a “bottom up” collaborative approach, rather than “top-down”.   Additionally, given their especially tight schedules and increased demands on the time of young people interested in peace activism, working groups should welcome their participation at any level of engagement even if these participants can’t attend every meeting, initiate campaigns, or regularly contribute to them.

MAPA will continue to provide the support for young people to develop leadership skills in their roles as our spokespeople at lobby visits, speakers at our events, writers for our newsletter and website, and moderators for our webinars.

Internal education of MAPA youth would be helpful.  Reading groups, film series, and presentations by experienced members would help bring young members in quickly. 

In 2022, we’re still at the stage of increasing youth involvement one person at a time, testing what works best and building towards critical mass.

Register for the annual meeting here and submit your comments on this working paper here.