Three years ago, The True North Organizing Network began a journey.  From Smith River to the Eel River valley, Eureka to Orleans, “leaders” of True North set out to unearth the deep and systemic pain that is rooted in the most marginalized communities of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.  This journey sparked thousands of conversations in coffee houses, congregations, and schools asking people to answer the questions, “Where is the pain in your community? What keeps you awake at night? What is your prophetic vision for the future of our region?” In the fall and winter of 2014-5, the leaders of True North participated in a “season of listening,” facilitating over 1000 conversations.

 At the end of the True North listening season in February 2014, 220 people from Tribes, community organizations, and faith groups came together in Orick for a Regional Assembly. After months of conversations and localized preparation, the leaders of True North collectively identified the most urgent sources of struggle in our communities to set the course of the organization.  People from across Humboldt, Del Norte and Tribal lands shared gut-wrenching stories of injustice. Leaders from Fortuna shared the pain of being targeted and harassed by police as undocumented immigrants. Karuk, Hoopa, and Yurok Tribal members called out for the ability to practice traditional land management and protect the rivers that are so crucial to survival as Native people.  Youth from Del Norte cried out for support as students of one of the lowest preforming school districts in the state.  United through shared values, youth, elders, tribal members, immigrants, and faith leaders identified four campaign platforms for the season of research: Water, Immigration, Housing, and Police Abuse.

 Over the summer and the next few months, leaders of True North are digging deep into these themes. To truly inform solutions for these root causes of pain, communities must have a comprehensive knowledge of how decisions are made to create them. Across the region, leaders are meeting with public officials and decision makers to find inroads for positive change.  True North begins with the experiences of people to create an analysis of the political and social structures that define their lives. As they develop a deep understanding of these structures, they begin to strategize for the future.

 True North’s organizing process is guided by a relational model developed by PICO (people improving communities through organizing).  At True North, we believe that power is in the relationship. Unlike many organizing models, PICO organizing does not rally communities around a single issue, launch a campaign, and walk away at the end of a loss or victory. We believe that to truly change the issues that plague our communities, we must first commit to knowing each other, finding shared values, treating all people with dignity, and respecting cultural differences. There is inherent knowledge present in communities facing hardship, and we must respect and engage that knowledge as we seek change. The work undertaken by True North is discovered through 1-1 conversations, researched thoroughly and determined by leaders, not by staff or board members.

 In a place with a rich history of finger-pointing and tense political division, a place plagued by the politics of “no”, True North is carving out a space in the political process for those that have historically not been heard or included.  For a true and honest democracy to thrive, every person should have the opportunity to be heard. True North is rolling out the red carpet for the communities most affected by injustice to take the stage and engage in the conversations and political processes that determine their destinies. Are you ready to listen?