"Things on the Ground" and Coalition-Building

Village, Kaghan, Pakistan. (Umair Mohsin/Flickr)

Here are a few thoughts on the importance of sharing knowledge from grassroots efforts. Somsook Boonyabancha has been the Secretary General for the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights since it was formed in 1988.

All of us are involved in different struggles in different places, trying things out, going through our ups and downs. When we first came together to form a regional coalition almost ten years ago, the idea was to find a process, open to as many groups as possible, of learning from each other’s experiences and strengthening each other’s efforts through a loose web of links and collaborations, rather than through another heavy, centralized structure. This is a case of the total being much greater than the sum of parts: the spirit of this regional process means we can pool our efforts and work together as a combined force.

It’s not always easy to maintain a fluid structure and fair decision-making process within a regional reality that sometimes seems like a great soup pot, boiling over with divergent approaches, mismatched political cultures and conflicting theories. Problems come up, but that’s part of the process, and we keep going.

This means keeping a light touch, letting many regional activities and the work of communities themselves be the binding element. The emphasis of all ACHR’s involvements continues to be on things which effect a change process by people.

We’ve been putting out Housing by People in Asia, in different forms, since 1990, to share news from the ACHR network with friends in Asia and around the world. We want the newsletter to transmit the freshness, the vitality and the particularity of things happening on the ground - not just because they make a good story, but because experiences from the ground are our most dynamic teachers, and yield the most answers, if we can listen carefully enough.

We’d like to use the process of assembling this newsletter to bring more and more of the richness and variety of what all of you are doing into a forum that is broad, well-lit and welcoming. Send in more news, but please, fewer “words in the air” and more people, more projects, more concrete stuff about what poor communities are doing to bring about change in their own lives.

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