Transforming justice strategies

Is working for justice important to you? Are you satisfied with your justice work?

Working for justice has been a lifelong focus of mine. Being a Quaker, I have many examples of how people and organizations have worked for justice. But, no, I am not satisfied with my justice work. I don’t believe we can be as long as there is injustice.

Over the past decade, I have connected with many great activists and organizations. In addition, I’ve been fortunate to have received several types of training for community organizing.

Much of what I’ve learned relates to working with different communities and cultures, which I summarize here:

Significant changes are occurring that add impetus to re-evaluating how we (Quakers) do justice work.

  • Accelerating environmental chaos is increasingly disrupting communities and lives
  • There is rising resistance to political systems based upon White superiority and evolving authoritarianism
  • Economic, food, transportation, energy, education, political, and healthcare systems are failing
  • Indigenous peoples are reclaiming their leadership and ways of protecting and healing Mother Earth

Change is hard

I plan to discuss these things this weekend with my Quaker meeting (Bear Creek Friends). I’ll share my recent experiences with Mutual Aid, Indigenous friends, and the Buffalo Rebellion. Change is hard, and this might involve some challenging discussions. And may involve changes in how we do justice work together.

Mutual Aid

First, there are many ways my Quaker meeting is already working regarding the concepts of mutual aid. Such as connections in the nearby town of Earlham, working to deliver meals, staffing the museum, and the Sunshine sewing circle. Years of work supporting the annual Prairie Awakening/Prairie Awoke ceremony. And connections with the nearby Grade A Gardens.

I believe Friends can add to the spirituality of Mutual Aid.

Needed Changes

From my experiences over the past five years, I have been led to see Mutual Aid as the model for justice work now. (See: )

  • We must replace the current structure of using committees to do justice work. Because Mutual Aid is fundamentally about not having hierarchies.
  • What would a Quaker Mutual Aid community look like?
    • Spirituality?
    • Who would be involved?
    • When and how would the community meet or communicate?
    • How would decisions be made?
    • How do we center the voices of the oppressed? Of Indigenous peoples?
    • How would we interact with Quaker organizations?
    • How would we physically build community structures?


  1. I will continue my involvement with Des Moines Mutual Aid. And would continue to share what I’m learning with my Quaker meeting
  2. Bear Creek could decide to replace the Peace and Social Concerns committee with a Mutual Aid community, OR
  3. Bear Creek could continue its Peace and Social Concerns Committee structure and create a Mutual Aid community for justice work.


Creating a Mutual Aid community at Bear Creek would require:

  • Ways for community members to communicate in real time
    • Des Moines Mutual Aid uses the Signal app, an encrypted real-time messaging system
  • Permission for Bear Creek Mutual Aid to make decisions in real time

As the graphic below shows, Mutual Aid is one of the methods the Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) uses as an engagement mechanism.

GPAS supports Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) by funding the work of Ronnie James. Ronnie has been my Mutual Aid mentor.

GPAS is part of the Buffalo Rebellion, a coalition of environmental justice organizations in Iowa. Continued connections with GPAS and the Buffalo Rebellion are how to center the voices of Indigenous and other oppressed peoples.

The Buffalo Rebellion is a coalition consisting of

  • Des Moines Black Liberation
  • Great Plain Action Society
  • Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
  • Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice
  • Sierra Club Beyond Coal
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 199, and
  • Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement

Also below are the Des Moines Points of Unity, which explain what DMMA is about.

Finally, other justice organizations are re-evaluating their strategies. The Climate Mobilization Network describes why they decided to pause and transform their strategy. Mutual Aid is a focus of their new strategy. I’ve been in touch with Climate Mobilization Network about working with them.

Des Moines Mutual Aid
Des Moines Mutual Aid

Why We Decide to Pause and Transform our Strategy

  • Congressional failure to take meaningful action on climate
  • The slow pace of local climate programs where policy change is severely limited by what’s considered politically possible
  • Rising inequality amid continued neoliberalism
  • Escalating climate disasters that are hitting global and US-based frontline communities the hardest and will continue accelerating rapidly!
  • And widespread cultural and generational concern about climate change has not yet been tapped into effectively by a mass movement.

This collective visioning, movement incubation and learning gathering will equip you with space for reflection, new ideas, inspiration, and next steps to participate in this new campaign.

Together we will build relationships and explore:

  • How survival and mutual aid programs can grow the movement
  • New, creative approaches to taking action against fossil fuels
  • Ways to integrate healing into our work
  • And how to create space for reflection, intentionality and strategic clarity

Climate Mobilization Network

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