The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) held its spring fundraising dinner last Saturday at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. ISPU is a think-tank that provides expert analysis, insight and context to critical issues, with an emphasis on those issues related to Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad.
“Faith is one of the major driving forces for partisan and political change,” said Marshall Ganz, the keynote speaker. Ganz is a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Public Policy at Harvard University.
Ganz approached his presentation from the angle of wanting to focus on the need for leadership and struggle. “If you presume to lead you must ask yourself why,” he said. “If not leading now then when. The challenge to getting into leadership is creating change when we don’t know what changes to make.”
To create a movement requires “looking at a community not as a set of clients or customers but looking at people as a constituency,” said Ganz. He recalled organizing against segregation and said that the real question was not a matter of what was wrong but why was it wrong.
“It was thought something could be done against the segregationist bus system. We discovered that we had resources that the bus companies didn’t have, our feet, and that the bus companies relied more on the people than the people relied on them.” By boycotting busses the bus companies were forced to give in to the masses fighting segregation he explained.
Ganz said that everyone possesses tools of change. “The first thing is relationship building. It’s not just a matter of getting people to work together to build communities, it’s a matter of inviting friends to each other’s homes. It sounds so trivial and yet it is anything but trivial because it is fundamental to the whole thing.”
Second, “story telling is important. You need to tell your own story so that other people can engage with them.” Communities that doesn’t tell their own stories have others filling the void, said Ganz.
Ganz explained that strategy is also key to creating change. “When two sides equally benefit by working together then there is no concern about cooperation, but what happens when there is a deficit of power? We have to see how we can compensate for that lack,” he said. One way to compensate for lack of power or money is through volunteer efforts. “They commit time and energy because they believe that they can win.”
Ganz concluded by stating structure is key to organizing. He said that just as there is a problem with having a lack of structure there is a problem with having too much structure that is rigid.
Following Ganz were Suhail Khan and Rashida Tlaib. Khan, of the Conservative Inclusion Coalition, said that whether Muslims voted Republican, Democrat or Independent the most important thing was to vote. “We have to be at the table and have a voice,” said Tlaib, former Michigan state representative.
The night concluded with a fundraiser which successfully eclipsed its $50,000 goal. Additionally an anonymous donor pledged $225,000 for ISPU.