query: accountability sessions

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Jul 19 16:17:05 CDT 2002

[ed:  thanks to Steve, Paul,  and Sarah for responding to Matthew's 
query.  Sarah includes a further query in her response.]

From: "Steve Taylor" <steve at miltoxproj.org>

Hi Matt and COMM-ORG listies:

Such things happen quite often.  They're just not public 
accountability sessions, which are used for a very specific purpose.  

I've seen the kind of thing you're talking about happen in other 
venues, including:  

1) interviews with candidates before elections, generally during 
some endorsement process, but also at times just as a means to 
have the candidates get to know the organization and learn about 
its issues;  

2) various kinds of lobbying meetings;  

3) smaller strategy sessions or meetings;  

4) public "legislative forums" where the organization presents its 
legislative agenda for an upcoming session to legislators, members, 
the media, and the general public;  

5) public discussion forums on specific issues.  

I think it's important to note that for many if not most organizations, 
elected officials who are willing to dialogue don't end up as the 
targets for accountability sessions.  Often the reason there is no 
attempt at dialogue at such times is that the target(s) have 
demonstrated a complete unwillingness to dialogue and work with 
the organization.  

Steve Taylor
Military Toxics Project


From: Paul Gowder <pgowder at yahoo.com>

I think the whole point of the "yes or no, that's it"
accountability session is that if the target is given
a chance to speak otherwise, they end up wasting the
group's time, and basically dispensing a stone cold
dis.  "Dialog" for persons in power means "here's the
55 reasons why I can't give you what you want."  

Saw that very recently, actually -- a group managed to
coerce rep for org they wanted to support them into
meeting with them.  It started out like an
accountability session, but he wriggled out of it, and
started filling the space with nonsense arguments why
they wouldn't get what they wanted.  They went away

Accountability sessions, in my opinion, aren't for
"dialog," they're for "we have a demand, are you going
to give it to us or are we going to make you?"  I
can't really concieve of any other way to run them
that can fairly be called an accountability session,
as opposed to a simple meeting.


Paul Gowder (pgowder at yahoo.com)
Staff Attorney
Oregon Law Center
2449 SW 4th Ave., Ste. 208
Ontario, OR 97914
vox: 541-889-3121, fax: 541-889-5562


From: "Sarah Diehl" <skd1976 at hotmail.com>

Dear list subscribers,

I have been eagerly following the list's dialogue about Alinsky-style 
confrontational tactics versus more consensus-oriented tactics in 
community organizing.  Unfortunately, I write with a question rather 
than with answers.   

I am a sociology student in the Master's program at Virginia 
Commonwealth University.  I am currently working on a thesis that 
attempts to contrast these two organizing models by focusing on 
participants' experiences.  Both kinds of community organizing 
claim to empower residents.  However, Alinsky-style organizing 
argues that residents are empowered when they get demands 
satisfied, while consensus-style models argue that it is empowering 
for residents to give substantial time and talent for the cause of the 
community.  I plan to interview participants in two different kinds of 
community organizing initiatives to ask about their experiences and, 
to some degree, evaluate these claims.  

I have not found any sources which concentrate specifically on 
participants' experiences in community organizations.  Is anyone 
aware of work like this?  Additionally, I would be very appreciative 
of comments and suggestions on this project.  Thanks.  


Sarah Diehl  

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