Shifting the balance of power
April 27, 2012
Steve Dubb talks to Caroline Murray about her work with the Alliance to Develop Power. The charity works at the grassroots in deprived communities in Springfield, Massachusetts, creating co-operatively owned and community-led housing and developing worker-owned enterprises
How did you get involved with community organising?
I grew up in the 1970s. My family experienced an interesting dynamic where our class identity shifted a number of times, due to marriage, divorce, foreclosure and bankruptcy. I went from hanging out at the country club pool to relying on food stamps and living with extended family. So I grew up knowing that something was very, very wrong with how our economy worked. I understood from a very young age how fragile the middle class was.
I went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst when an education at a state university was still relatively affordable and grants were readily available for low-income students like me. I became involved in student organising, the anti-apartheid movement, and was elected to student government. And there I learned there was a career called ‘community organising’. For me, working in organising and community economic development – people power and economic power – is the continuation of my life and my life’s work and has become my calling.
How did you get involved in ADP and how it has developed as an organisation over time?
I went to work as the executive director of ADP in 1993. At that time it was a very small nonprofit advocacy organisation, but I had a vision of creating a new kind of membership-based organisation that was rooted in building power. At that time, ADP was a single-issue organisation and was part of an incredibly important national fight to save hundreds of thousands of families from displacement because of laws allowing private developers to convert their publicly financed affordable apartment complexes to market rate apartments or tear them down and put up a strip mall and make windfall profits.