UPAS: Building Power for Our Families

Our Theory of Change

As sure as power tends to corrupt, so too does powerlessness. When you view power as a community instrumentality (as opposed to solely an individual one), then powerlessness precedes poverty. The fundamental reason that our communities lack the services and infrastructure we need and deserve is because we lack the power successfully to demand them. Indeed, according to the late philosopher Hannah Arendt, a collective public voice is THE source of political power. Such a collective voice is necessary in the communities UPAS serves. 

UPAS was founded to help families address the factors outside school boundaries that not only pose barriers to learning, but also inhibit local quality of life as a whole. It works to build organizations that assemble a powerful collective voice by and for the residents of underserved communities to demand positive social change. It defines organizing as developing a collective of people to learn the skills of public life in order to make demands of people with power to affect positive social change in our communities

Broad-based organizing is an approach to effecting social change through community organizing, which generates long-term power for community members and develops permanent structures and systems for organizing. Unlike other forms of organizing and social action, broad-based organizers serve and engage diverse groups of community members who want to work in solidarity for mutual self-interest and support them in building power to act effectively in public.

Broad-based organizing works to attain social justice by improving local quality of life. The goal is to ensure communities have the conditions needed to flourish, defined as living wage job opportunities, great schools, clean streets, safe streets, healthy food options, access to healthcare, and quality affordable housing. Building power through organizing puts communities in a position to demand social change and equity.

Broad-based organizations are organizations of organizations. The mediating institutions that comprise UPAS thus far are local public schools; others in the mix could include churches, synagogues, mosques, membership-based community organizations, etc. – in other words, places where people already gather. 

As a broad-based organization, by definition, UPAS tackles multiple issues, including but not limited to issues of educational equity and school choice. UPAS understands that lower income Americans experience the many facets of poverty simultaneously: substandard and yet unaffordable housing, lack of access to healthcare, long working hours, and low wages.

Since its inception, UPAS has supported students, parents and community members in amplifying their collective voice and advocating for the issues and changes that matter to them.

As of 2019, UPAS now does this broad-based organizing work in the greater Los Angeles area, Memphis, Tennessee and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington.

Types of Organizing

 Broad-BasedMovementCivic/CBO
PurposePowerCauseIssue
LeadershipCollectiveCharismaticLocal
MembershipInstitutions"Anybody"Area Residents
MoneyDues + ContractsOthers' MoneySmall Donations
IssuesMultiSingleLocal
Tools1-1's, House Meetings, Disciplined ActionsCalls to Action/RalliesLeaflets

Protest v. Mobilizing v. Organizing

 ProtestMobilizingOrganizing
Why?Generally "against"EitherGenerally "for"
ImpetusReaction to somethingSupport or opposeInflation change
Time/frequencyAd hoc, one-offEpisodic, sporadicPermanent, ongoing
PurposeVent/create awarenessYes or no voteLong Term Change
AdvantageFast/satisfies emotionsFastGenerational, long-lasting, consistent
Connections"Hang out"/ TemporaryNone/in and outKinship
FeelingsInstant gratification/emotion"We won"Slow, but satisfying
How?SpontaneousTop-downHorizontal
ToolsWord of mouth/social mediaRoundup/command and control1-on-1s/ House meetings
Results"Feel Better"Single VictoryLong Term Change/Power