By Sheilah Powell 

A robust recovery-oriented system of care is essential to help those affected by Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Historically, people with a history of addiction challenges have been marginalized from society, and many individuals have been systematically excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational, and/or cultural life. As a result, so many folks do not have access to resources that would improve their situation. That’s where community organizing comes in. 

By definition, community organizing is the process of bringing together members of a particular community to work towards common interests. In the recovery support world, community organizing can take on many forms. It can look like harm reductionists supporting the expansion of a syringe service program (SSP) at a city council meeting, a grassroots nonprofit organizing a letter-writing campaign, or a group of individuals hosting a town hall meeting to discuss recovery-related issues with local politicians. Community organizing is one way to challenge the system that helped create the issues at hand, and also one highly effective way to get things done.  

Community organizing is one basic tool that a disenfranchised group of people uses to effectively create social change. So often, people of certain groups or communities find that the system as it is was not built with them in mind. What should a person do when they find themselves forced to exist in a system that does not meet their basic needs and wants? The answer for so many disempowered people is to organize together to be the change they want to see in the world.

Simply put, community organizing is a strategy used by under-represented communities and non-power groups to gain rights and create meaningful change. Some say the main job of an organizer is to create unity and solidarity, which is the fuel that propels united individuals forward to then help their community and create positive change. 

If done well, community organizing is a very powerful strategy for social change. And further, some of the most effective organizers are not those with advanced degrees, C-level positions at the company, or professional public speakers. The most passionate organizers are those who genuinely care about the community they’re serving. And there are so many of you Mobilizers who have that passion! 

Overall, if a person wanted to organize to make a change in their community, they would need to listen to and understand a vulnerable population, decide what change is wanted, create some sort of plan to reach that goal, bring folks together through relationship building and connection, and then continually mobilize the people so the desired change happens.  

Organizing a community to make a change can start with one person, one committed individual who believes that those affected by SUD deserve respect, acceptance and systemic support and connection. In your community, that person maybe you.  

If you want to learn more about creating community change and mobilizing your community, join us this year for Mobilize Recovery Across America 2022! The mission of Mobilize Recovery is, in part, to engage affected individuals in meaningful community action. An attendee of the Mobilize Recovery experience can take part in specifically curated workshops and training on community organizing, changing the narrative, advocacy and leadership. The initiative convenes advocates with lived experience to build capacity for organized civic engagement with new leadership across the country. For more information, visit www.mobilizerecovery.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!