OKOPOur Knowledge, Our Power (Popular Technology Workshops; Troy, NY)
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The goal from the beginning of WYMSM and OKOP was to create spaces in which people struggling to meet their basic needs can discuss their "personal" problems, compare their experiences with others, analyze their position within social structure, and develop solutions to collective problems.
Though this lesson was learned too late to be of help in my work at the YWCA, in Our Knowledge, Our Power, we deal with the tension between our subject position as individuals, our unequal social locations in unjust power relations, and our common goal of reforming the social service system in upstate New York by using the organizing concept of "vulnerability." In our first OKOP workshop in July 2005, we broke into affinity groups based on how vulnerable each of us was in relationship to the social service system, and brainstormed ways each group could best contribute to our shared undertakings.
OKOP, for example, meets the second Saturday of the month, every month.
One key insight offered by scholars in what is beginning to be termed "citizenship studies" (44) is that the hidden framings and meanings of institutions (those that frame scientific and technological research, development, and policy making, for example) must be "rendered explicit and accountable to democratic debate and negotiations with those whose subjectivity they represent and shape." (45) It is my hope that WYMSM and OKOP make the resources and imaginaries necessary for political articulation available to their members.
As a research assistant who managed organizational details during the WYMSM period, and now as the recipient of the grants and donations that make our continuing work in OKOP possible, I often took responsibility for managing and distributing money.
We now have a treasurer, who has full access to the OKOP bank account, and makes a short report at the beginning of each meeting on how much money we have spent, on what, and how much we have left.
In OKOP, we have tried to follow Myles Horton's "percolator model" of decision-making.
(48) In OKOP, ideas come from community meetings and activities that gather together large groups of community members with a strong desire to rid the welfare system of its injustices.
In comparison, technology is never mentioned explicitly in the mission statement of OKOP, which has lasted from 2005 to the present.