Building Corporate Structures Vs. Grassroots Power

After I told a smart friend about the work I’m doing around Makers All, she asked me if I’d spent any time thinking about what kind of corporate/organizational structures we’d want to create. When I first started Makers All, I assumed I’d be spending a lot of time on it. Now I’m more focused on how to build grassroots power. There are three reasons why I’ve made the switch.

First, it doesn’t make sense to me to spend a lot of time sweating the details on policy when you don’t have the community power to fight and win them. DC and academia are filled with lots of great ideas that go nowhere; I don’t want to add to the collection.

Second, if by some miracle your policy ideas you start to gain traction but there isn’t a movement or other political power that has the muscle and commitment to make them happen, there’s a decent chance they’ll be used to do the opposite of what you wanted. Powerful political players often twist ideas to suit their parochial interests or to provide cover for their real interests — e.g., promoting “family farms” to subsidize Big Ag and further undermine family farms.

Third, I think some of the best ideas for rethinking corporate structure will come out of the day-to-day struggles to make things happen — and that will include trying to get folks to sign up to fight to change things. For example, good corporate structures need to be both economically and politically sustainable. There’s nothing like being in political street fights to make you acutely aware of how structures make those fights easier or harder.

I don’t mean to denigrate the work that other folks may be doing around rethinking corporate structures. I certainly think it could be useful. But our side tends to spend too much time thinking about building ideas and not enough time on thinking about how to build the grassroots power needed to make those ideas a reality. It’s time to change the equation.

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