I first met Nathan Henderson-James in his role as an advisor to some of NationBuilder's early advocacy customers. Over the past year, I've met and talked to organizers across the U.S. who trust Nathan for his level head and deep historical knowledge of labor and community organizing. In today's "Leaders and Creators," Nathan talks about his inspirations - a grandfather rooted in radical union movements, activists parents who participated in Students for a Democratic Society, and an awe for the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. He also shares about his career with ACORN, the controversial organizing behemoth that imploded in 2010.
Nathan's experience with the growth and crash of ACORN offers lessons for advocacy groups seeking to expand their influence - deal quickly and openly with any employee malfeasance, and acknowledge that expansion requires more structure. Anything less leaves you extremely vulnerable to external pressures.
He also describes the basis for organizing from the ground up and teaching people to directly confront those with the power to improve their living conditions.
I also talked with Nathan about my direct experiences with Occupy protesters. How do protestors and politicians fit into the "99%" framework? "We have to have a conversation about elections and government; if you're categorically against having anything to do with (politicians) you have to have some other way of influencing the public policy realm."
Nathan closed by offering his personal thoughts on what can be changed in the U.S. by the Occupy movement. His basic message: keep Wall Street in the bullseye. "We can't have an honest conversation about dealing with wealth inequality - which means dealing with the economy, fundamentally - without first dealing with the problem of what to do with Wall Street and Wall Street banks."
Finally, my apologies for the choppy quality of the recording. It's been quite busy at NationBuilder, and my conversation with Nathan was recorded in a hallway at Pace University during Netroots NY. Hang in there - we've got some great plans for Leaders and Creators, and we look forward to being back with you in the new year.