Relational Security and the Process of Security

The reason why we call this topic “relational security” is because we want to emphasize that tackling issues of security should be a thoughtful and careful conversation in which we weigh the options,  think about how different options will play out and then make a choice based on our values and experience. Consider security as a way of thinking to assess political work that maintains a supportive and effective group culture in which power is shared amongst members of the group. Security often involves trade-offs and making the most strategic decision for a particular organization and situation.  There are a set of fundamental questions we can ask as we work through security issues: 1) What are the risks and rewards of different courses of action? 2) How do systems of oppression relate to the situation? 3) How can we best care for the relationships and people involved? We need to expand and deepen these conversations in order to have a more holistic understanding of the situation. 

Even if we build the strongest, most resilient organizations, disruptive events are still going to occur that we need to respond to strategically. For that purpose, we are going to talk about one way that we can address security issues and identify ways to improve our organizations.  We’re asking you to take this scenario as a challenge: it’s based on real organizing contexts where the answer isn’t as simple as getting the “bad people” out.  With your comrades or organization, read through the scenario below and discuss the questions. For the next several posts, we will look at different sets of questions that are part of the security process for this same scenario. 


A member of your organization maintains the primary relationship with a key funding source. They have demonstrated their ability to support cis and trans women and non-binary folks in the organziation. They are going through a personal stressor that’s impacting their behavior. This person has been using up a disproportionate amount of time talking in meetings. They have started relying heavily on women and non-binary comrades to do emotional labor in spaces that should be work-oriented. They are also trying to spearhead a project that would take a lot of organizational resources without getting consent from the rest of the group. There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of cis and trans women and non-binary folks showing up to meetings and engaging in the organizing work of the group.

Although these prompts are numbered and addressed chronologically for the purpose of this activity, they do not need to be addressed chronologically when working with your comrades on a specific situation:

1) Identify and describe any current threats presented both internally and externally by the current situation.  (Internal threat examples: problematic behavior, conflict in relationships / external threat examples: the state, fascist right).

2) Discuss the negative impacts that may result due to these threats. (Example: decrease in membership of women and/or nonbinary people).

3) Brainstorm all possible options for responding to each threat. (Example: Ask this person to take a break from organizing).

4) Discuss how the negative risks associated with each option relates to the possible positive results. (Example: a risk may be losing a relationship with the funding source, while a benefit could be building new relationships with the funding source).

5) Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your organization that come up in dealing with a scenario like this.  Specifically, discuss any relevant organizational structures and strong/weak forms of communication or relationships. Are there outside resources you can draw upon?

6) Consider how these solutions might interact with systems of oppression (systems of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, et al), and unexpected events (natural disaster, office burns down, etc.). 

7) Determine the best way forward to resolving this situation based on the evaluations made from questions 1 through 6.

8) What can your organization learn from this? What could have been done to prevent this situation? What strengths and structures did you draw on to address this? What strengths and structures can you draw on or create to address this? What could be done or put in place to prevent this in the future