Marcy Westerling – Catalyzing Human Dignity Groups

From 0 to 20 in 9 months. Marcy explains the process by which she helped support and catalyze the formation of 20 rural and small town Human Dignity Groups in the lead up to the 1992 elections which, in Oregon, asked voters to decide whether “homosexuality” should be declared “abnormal and perverse” – and unconstitutional.

1992 Statewide Travel Chronicle

1992 Living Room Conversations

In 1992 Marcy Westerling crisscrossed Oregon, logging thousands of miles, visiting hundreds of local human dignity activists, and catalyzing nearly 20 new Human Dignity Groups in rural and small towns across the state. Eventually, these groups would come together to form the Rural Organizing Project.

The Anne Frank exhibit

How does a group keep momentum after a crisis moment has passed? In the aftermath of intense campaigns to defeat the anti-gay Ballot Measure #9 (1992) and a subsequent rash of similar, county and city-wide initiatives (1993-94), a touring holocaust exhibit not only mobilizes and strengthens local human dignity groups–it helps prepare them for the next crisis.

Focusing on the numbers

A critical first task of new Human Dignity Groups is to build a broad base of supporters. Here, ROP Founder Marcy Westerling shares the small town-tailored approach that she and other local leaders used to build lists of supporters in their rural communities.

Marcy Westerling on Developing Leader-Organizers

  1. Kissing frogs – The importance of strong local leaders – and how to find them.
  2. Supporting local leaders – Sometimes supporting local leaders means taking on unconventional tasks.
  3. Narrating back – Sometimes the most important thing an ROP organizer can do to support local leaders is to hold up the mirror.
  4. ROP organizer as soulmate – Why going deep, fast, is so critical to ROP’s model for statewide organizing and developing local leaders.
  5. It’s the quality of the interaction that counts – Organizers face a lot of competing demands on their time. Marcy offers her advice to a younger organizer on how to support local leaders in a way that’s authentic – but quick!