Barriers and Solutions to Anti-Oppression Practice in Community Groups

Even with the best intentions of creating open and accessible organizations, it can happen that the power dynamics of our structurally unequal society are unintentionally reproduced within our organizations. This month’s COCo Note is dedicated to sharing some of the quotes and highlights from COCo’s recent “Portes Ouvertes” project on Anti-Oppression practices in community organizations. Keep reading for some powerful quotes from project participants and make sure to check out the full reports – in English, en Français.

 “Anti-Oppression needs to be build at every level of the organization. One good analogy is thinking of Anti-Oppression work not as an appendix added on at the end of the book, but as rewriting the introduction to reframe the book’s argument.”

“I often hear from other organizations that they do not have gay or lesbian people who use their services. I tell them ‘if you have twenty people who come to your organization, there is a good chance that you are already dealing with gay or lesbian people- your organization needs to ask itself why those people are perhaps not comfortable coming out within your space.”

“Oppression reinforces itself and is therefore often ‘invisible’. It is sometimes not easy to see how power imbalances are playing out in our workplaces because they are structural to society. Dominant groups are often not aware of being dominant (in the space they take up, in how often they are speaking, assuming their point of view is ‘normal’).”

“Our staff realized we have much less experience and comfort dealing with racial diversity- so we are in the process of working through this as an organization- a process that might involve training, taking time to openly talk about our staff experiences as white or as people of colour and reworking our hiring policies.”

These are just a few of the quotes from the Portes Ouvertes report which covers internal and external barriers to Anti-Oppression practice in community groups as well as strategies and solutions for overcoming those barriers. Sometimes a policy issue, sometimes a communications issue, sometimes a training issue, and sometimes an issue of finding ways to create an open workplace culture, it is clear that a commitment to Anti-Oppression should be built in at every level of our organizations, and understood as an ongoing learning process.