What Is an Affinity Group?
An Affinity Group (AG) is a group of people who share common interests, perspectives and feel an emotional bond to each other and choose to come together to achieve a certain goal. AGs can exist as a part of or independent from larger actions. Some affinity groups form and exist only during a particular protest or action; others work together for years and may both participate in larger demonstrations as well as other ongoing autonomous actions.
Why Do We Form Affinity Groups?
We form AGs so that we can accomplish something with a manageable number of people. We come together in order to better understand the problem and strategize a means of changing the situation. But “I mean, why don’t we just all get together and march and chant things and hold signs and then go home?”
Well, let’s take the upcoming action. The January 20th Occupy Wall Street West action is challenging the housing crisis and huge financial institutions and corporate personhood. Forming affinity groups allows us to take on these big ideas in really tangible ways. Having numerous, smaller groups makes it possible for us to take on many different aspects of these huge issues all at the same time. We can also focus on different priorities, strategies and tactics. This way, we don’t all march to the Wells Fargo HQ; some groups take that on while others may go to a different bank or the courts or who knows? It also means that one group may do something that risks arrest while another may act as support like legal or medics.
Working as affinity groups is one of many ways that we don’t just say that this is a leaderless movement but, in our actions and, display the effectiveness of horizontal organizing within and amongst groups.
How Do You Form an Affinity Group?
Ask people to join you. Seriously. If you have ever had conversations with friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, fellow union members or organizing buddies or anyone like that about something that you all wished could change, get together with those folks and make a plan to make it happen.
What Are Examples of Affinity Group Actions?
Affinity Groups are not a new idea. For years, people have been forming them in order to accomplish any number of goals. A recent example is this past fall when, during a large demonstration, a group of people got together to close down the main branch of Wells Fargo in San Francisco. Within this group, were several smaller affinity groups, each of whom took on blockading one entrance/exit to the building. These groups were made up of people whose priorities ranged from immigrant rights, economic inequality and housing rights among others. Some other examples include:
- in the large-scale anti-globalization demonstrations of ten years ago, affinity groups would take on blockading entrances to convention centers or holding intersections or running communication or medic teams or doing a banner drop
- a longer-term AG could take on routine wheat-pasting and poster hanging around their neighborhood, town or city
- sometimes an AG is just a means for a group of folks to be organized to look out for each other at a larger protest
- sometimes it could be a means of folks educating each other; a study or reading group could be or turn into an affinity group
(Thanks to Casey for writing this up!)