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Community Organizing in San Luis Obispo – Adapting to a Pandemic and Recognizing Privilege

Prevention story

White text overlays a magenta and gold gradient background, reading: "Hollie West, RISE San Luis Obispo.". A quote reads: “Community members who previously didn’t think it was an issue here were more willing to believe fellow community members than a local non-profit specializing in IPV. Community is so important, and sustainable change can only come from within.” A photo of Hollie is positioned to the left of this quote.

Author’s Information:

  • Hollie West, Sexual Violence Prevention and Community Mobilization Specialist
  • RISE San Luis Obispo
  • hwest@riseslo.org
  • (714) 743-9786

After looking at the results of a local survey, we learned that the vast majority of our community was in agreement that IPV is negative and shouldn’t happen, but didn’t believe that it was a problem here. Close to Home was a great solution to this problem because it is community based. Community members who previously didn’t think it was an issue here were more willing to believe fellow community members than a local non-profit specializing in IPV. Community is so important, and sustainable change can only come from within. 

The Close to Home adult community organizing team made this approach successful by hosting a trivia night at a popular local brewery. One of the categories was sexual and intimate partner violence. At the end, trivia teams won extra points if they took the Close to Home community survey. It was a huge success because it brought a lot of interest to our team and many community members wanted to learn more about prevention and what we do. It was also a success because my adult team coordinated it all by themselves – I just was there to attend and I was incredibly proud of their ability to organize events without help. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had to switch all of our programming to virtual formats. For a community organizing team focused in community togetherness, this was incredibly difficult! Finding and reaching community virtually has proved to be much more difficult than in person, but our teams are still working hard to better our city. 

One of they ways we’re doing that is by having honest conversations about race. Our community is prominently a white, middle class town. People of color and queer folx often don’t feel safe or that they fit in here. Our community organizing team members are very diverse in terms of gender and sexual orientation, and range from from ages 20 to age 55—but almost every team member is white. This is definitely something that we are working on changing, AND it has also spurred some beautiful conversations surrounding privilege and how our team has to lift up voices of color in our community. We are always making sure we take a step back to recognize that we see the world through a white, privileged lens and discussing how that could potentially impact the decisions we make.

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