Monday, December 1, was Worlds AIDS Day and I wrote quite a long post about my 15 years as an HIV/AIDS activist.Â This odd little image is sometimes what it was like to be so engrossed in the world of HIV/AIDS – all encompassing and disorienting. Â I told you I wanted to share one more part about the organizing we did during those years …Â So I will.
Floating, Digital Â© Diane Clancy
I am very tired because we just prepared everything for the fair on Saturday and Sunday …. but I promised you I would tell you about this piece … so I am going to dive in … we’ll see how far we get today.
We called our group the AIDS Community Group of Franklin County (Mass).Â This shows the focus we had on empowering the community – both people with HIV/AIDS, those affected by HIV/AIDS, and the rest of the community too.Â We felt (and still do) that it is in everyone’s best interest that all people get treated with respect and also have their needs met.Â We wanted to live in a community where everyone was seen as having something to contribute … and gaining from being part of a larger community.
We had no idea that this was a novel or unusual way of thinking about things … it just seemed the correct way to go about approaching solutions to this issue.Â We ran into some issues with social service agencies that thought we were naive and ignorant. Now there is a fairly large industry around HIV/AIDS … and that it a very different orientation.
One day several of us were at a meeting and someone gave a keynote speech about the difference between social service models and empowerment models. (I can’t remember the name that the speaker used for the model that was different from social services).Â Those of us there picked up our ears … ah, there was a name for what we were doing and other people were thinking about it too.
Often a social service model treats people like the problem .. thus something to be fixed … the people are the problem.Â The solutions are also seen to lie outside the individuals involved – the system treated or fixed or served them.Â (Sort of like the old model of medicine where the doctor was God and the patient was not part of the equation or team).
In the community empowerment model the people and the community are seen as integral to the solutions … they are not the problem, but rather the answer. Ah, yes, I am remembering a little more as I am writing.Â It is the difference between seeing the assets of people rather than their deficits.Â The social service model tends to see the problems and the lack, and the community organizing model tends to see the assets of community and individuals – what they have to offer, not just what they need.
We were intuitively organizing this way … it sure made sense to me!! (And actually I was the creator and coordinator – surprise!) It is how I mostly see the world – it is mostly part of my personality and world view.Â The group attracted lots of people who had never done any organizing before and who felt incredibly empowered by contributing to the community like that.Â It was great and as individuals we were also empowered!!
Several of us were articulate about our model and we took the show on the road (we were asked to).Â We did some trainings around New England at different HIV/AIDS meetings and conferences.Â It was a very exciting and empowering time!!
It was also very validating that a model that we had created from our own life experiences received such notice and acceptance.Â It was thrilling that there already were theories backing up our ways and thinking.Â Very wonderful – and exhausting – time. Thanks for listening to my story!
This is long enough that I a going to continue it one more day … probably to Friday or Saturday.Â I want to share something that I read about once that is wondrous to me … about organizing some welfare recipients had done.Â To me, it is an extension of this – and I tell my memory of the story as often as I can because it is so exciting.
Thank you for coming by!
~ Diane Clancy