Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies
Collaborations: MFA CD Blog
Text and photos by Danielle Olson MFA ’13
Photo via Crystal Beasley
Pre-eviction: November 11th
I attended my first General Assembly the night before Occupy Portland was to be evicted. There was a discussion about how to prepare for being arrested as an act of civil disobedience. Small groups discussed what the next steps for Occupy Portland would be after the eviction.
Marching, celebrating and engaging: November 20th
After the eviction, I decided to participate in a march in order to continue my observation and involvement in the Occupy movement, as there was no longer a camp to visit. I first walked by the empty parks where the Occupy camp had been housed only one week prior. I found the scene to be a beautiful but strange juxtaposition of golden Autumn trees, chain link fence, and towering corporate buildings, surrounding the park. Before the march started, the organizer read a very touching letter telling the story of a man with mental illness who had found his way to the Occupy Portland camp. Previously, the man had been travelling the country, keeping very little contact with his family, who were naturally worried sick about him. Eventually, he showed up at his parents’ house, speaking more coherently than he ever had before, and told them of the help and inspiration he found in Portland. The people at the Occupy camp had taken him in, listened to his conspiracy theories, given him advice, and gotten him healthy and on a bus ride going home. To him and his family, Occupy had saved his life.
After the march, particpants ended at Salmon Springs where representatives of committees and working groups introduced themselves to the crowd and made themselves available for questions. I took the opportunity to conduct an interview that I would use for my case study. I wanted to focus on Occupy Portland, but interviewing a single person about an intervention proved to be tricky in a leaderless movement. I eventually managed to track down Cameron Whitten, the primary organizer of the Jamison Square sit-in. The event gave a first opportunity for those who wanted to practice civil disobedience; it created a greater awareness about the Occupy movement in another area of town, and it was an emotionally moving experience for all of those involved. I wrote my case study about what leverage points this event utilized to intervene in the systems of government and corporate structures, and how effective it was.
After participating in and observing the Occupy movement over the last month and a half, I was very excited to be able to participate in the Visual Thinking School interactive session at XPlane, taking on OWS as a client. The agenda was to clarify the goals of the movement, i.d. core audience/support constituents, generate priority messages, suggest strategy changes. Through a group facilitation process involving a large supply of post-its, we established that the primary themes driving the Occupy movement: Big Bad Corporations, Inequality, Money in Politics, and what Occupy represents as a community.
After that, we broke into groups according to the different audiences (Protestors, government, corporations, general public, and media) and came up with a profile of what their sense of the world might be. We then came up with a list of what actions OWS might like to see come out of that audience. Lastly, we took into account the world view of that audience and outlined our approach for impressing upon them the benefits in taking those actions. My group, discussing corporations, settled on a message that operating a business with good will is good business, creating a feedback loop of upstanding reputation to draw more market in this sensitive environment. Also that a business which is run with integrity is proven to be trustworthy, therefore gains more freedom from regulations and constraints.