On March 30, 2023, the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) held their first quarterly Action Council meeting of the year. The focus was on SWOP’s legislative agenda for this year, along with a staple of SWOPs brand, relational meetings. With over 130 leaders in attendance, SWOPs Executive Director, Jeff Bartow, kicked things off with an overview of the work that goes into building relationships, expressing the importance of what it means when SWOP says they want to work with the community as opposed to working for the community. This dialogue led to a deeper conversation about being able to work with and recognize each other, recognizing who holds power in the community, and why it is important to have community input when addressing any changes or actions that are meant for the community.
The community leaders in attendance were allotted time to have their own one-to-ones, sharing meaningfully amongst one another to get a taste of what a relational meeting is meant to be. Following those conversations, the chairs, Calvin Brown and Reyna Castelan led everyone through the agenda, which took a look at the different initiatives that SWOP is working on. Small groups met for each topic, those being: the Parent Mentor Program, Healthy Illinois, Debt Reform, Access to Justice, Drivers Licenses & IDs for all, and Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P). In these groups, participants discussed each action, the steps they have taken thus far and the steps that would need to be taken next to advance the issue. Participants came up with plans of action and then one person from each group reported back to the Action Council to share the steps that would follow.
With their relationships bolstered and ideas for action put together, SWOP extended an invitation to action to all who were present to continue to work toward the betterment of their communities.