Principles of Partnership, Collaboration, and the Struggle for Justice

Bill Quigley
Date Published: 
September 25, 2007

Principles of Partnership, Collaboration, and the Struggle for Justice


An aboriginal activist said it best:  "If you have come to help me, you are

wasting your time.  If you have come because your liberation is bound up

with mine, then let us struggle together."


Our community needs the solidarity, action and support of people and

institutions from local, regional, national and international areas and all

walks of life in our struggle for justice.  New people and organizations can

bring our community much needed new ideas, new resources, and new ways of

looking at issues.  Our justice struggles bind us together and we must

proceed in ways that respect all of the participants.


Solidarity, action and support must be based on respect of the dignity and

ongoing history of the people and work that has already occurred in our

community.  It is an unfortunate fact that there are numerous examples of

people and organizations from outside the community who come to local

justice efforts and, despite their very best intentions, make mistakes that

actually harm the ongoing local justice work.  Those who made the mistakes

then leave the community and return to their own communities.  The difficult

work left behind, the work of reconstruction and reconciliation and dealing

with unmet promises or unachievable expectations, adds to the ongoing work

which must be done by local justice workers.


In order to minimize mistakes and mis-steps by volunteers, short-term

workers, or newly arrived or newly engaged people and organizations, we ask

each partner to respect the work that has already gone on and the history

that has occurred.

In order to respect this work and history, people must first learn it.

Practically, this respect means that for newcomers to the community,

listening is more important than speaking, learning must be prized over

teaching, and

reflection with the community must precede action.   Most importantly, 


should not take actions or make verbal commitments or raise expectations in

the community that are not achievable.  Unmet promises and unfilled

expectations seriously undermine and discourage local organizing and justice



We ask our partners to agree to struggle with us in a principled way.  The

principles that should guide our partnership include that every person and

organization starts out with a presumption of respect.  New people or

organizations joining this work agree to learn the local people, the local

history of our justice struggles, and the local community justice situation

before taking independent action.  People or organizations who join this

work agree to engage in real dialogue on all issues before taking

independent action.

Once new people and organizations have spent the time and energy to begin to

learn about local issues and our community, real partnership then means

mutual accountability with the other partners and mutual supervision and

mutual discussion about plans, resources, people, and work before, during

and after steps are taken.


We expect to learn from our new volunteers and partners.  We expect our

partners will learn from us.  We hope these principles will guide us in

creating mutual and meaningful partnerships which can help all of us join in

advancing the struggles for justice in our community.