Hesperian Health Guides

Organizing is a process

As the experience of the women in Vilcas shows, community organizing is an ongoing process that takes courage, time, and patience. Each step along the way brings new lessons learned and new challenges to be resolved. It can take a long time for people to accept ideas and to get used to change after it happens. As more people are involved in a process of change, conflicts are more likely to arise. But involving more people also creates more opportunities for new ideas to emerge, new alliances to form, and new skills to be learned and shared.

Vilcas Women’s Voices went through many steps and stages in their organizing process. They took action and then carefully reflected on that action before taking the next step. They repeated this process many times, and with each step they deepened their understanding of the problems they wanted to solve, the barriers they faced, possible solutions, and other people they needed to involve.

These are the steps they followed:

Start from experience

2 women speaking.
We started from our own life experiences with pregnancy and birth. We knew what happened to Sonia and Luz. We asked other women in the community to share their experiences.
We knew that by herself, one woman would probably not make any difference, but that together as a group we might be powerful enough to make things change.

Build on and analyze experience

2 women speaking.
We knew many women, especially poor indigenous women, had similar difficulties getting health care. Looking at our similarities helped us understand how the different types of problems are also related.
Then we gathered more information. We found allies who helped us learn more about our right to health care.

Plan for action

2 women speaking.
We decided what we wanted to focus on in our organizing work. We thought about the short-term and long-term goals we wanted to achieve, and discussed strategies to use.
Take action
We took our first action — we met with the clinic staff.

Evaluate action and reflect on experience

2 women speaking.
We evaluated our experience with the first meeting and used the evaluation to revise our strategy and goals. We learn, grow, and improve with each action!
Each action we take is a new experience, and each time we evaluate and reflect on an action, the spiral continues.
illustration of the 5 steps as a spiral, with a growing number of people involved.
1. Start from experience
2. Build on and analyze experience
3. Plan for action
4. Take action
5. Evaluate action and reflect on experience

Many people organizing in their communities go through stages like these. Because these steps are repeated over and over, some community organizers refer to this as a spiral.