The Social Justice Table

History

The Social Justice Table was formed in 2014 to build collective power in Miami-Dade County. We have organized and facilitated several efforts, including study circles, the Power Structure Analysis (PSA), a Sustainability Committee, community gatherings, workshops, and panel discussions. We aim to shift Miami-Dade County’s social justice organizing culture towards a more collaborative and collective model in order to increase our impact.

Mission

The Social Justice Table is a network of organizations dedicated to building collective power in order to create equity in Miami-Dade County, with an emphasis on low-income and working minority communities. We are made up of a broad range of multi-sector organizations whose areas of work and constituencies represent the many issues impacting our community, as well as the many initiatives to address such issues and increase our collective capacity.

Vision

We envision a Miami-Dade County in which all residents are given a fair opportunity to live and prosper without fear of discrimination, persecution, or disenfranchisement of any kind, and where everyone has a say in the decisions that affect them.

Core Principles*

The SJT’s core principles rest on the assumption that increasing the democratic process of institutions will improve citizens’ quality of life. These improvements may be in the form of the protection of civil liberties, the establishment of social welfare protections, increased public security, and a more just and equitable community. We believe these principles—Voice, Vote, Social Justice and Oversight—should be at the core of all participatory, collective organizing.

VOICE: Active Civic Participation

  • Active participation and deliberation that permits citizens to deliberate amongst themselves and with government officials over the allocation of public resources
  • Access to citizens who have not traditionally had access to political power. Bring new voices into political and policy arenas.
  • Participants have the opportunity to listen to the issues and demands of other actors.
  • Citizens are placed in a position of needing to make decisions that do not only affect their lives, but also affect the lives of others and learn to employ a “social justice” discourse.
  • Create “waves” of influences: citizens carry new information and newly learned deliberative skills into other policymaking venues. helps to build a public sphere, moving public debate beyond political parties, lobbies, and local media outputs.

 

VOTE: Citizen Authority and Power

  • Beyond consultation to place authority in the hands of citizens rather than professional politicians.
  • Citizens make specific decisions regarding public policies. This moves them beyond consultative deliberation and into the realm of city/county sanctioned decision-makers.
  • Having real decision-making authority acts a powerful “school of democracy” because citizens are forced to make difficult choices regarding where resources were allocated.
  • Empowerment: not only involved a change in individuals’ attitudes and behaviors (psychological empowerment), but in directing government authority and allocating public resources (power).
  • When citizens are able to make binding decisions that affect public resources and city/county authority, there is heightened interest in participation. Conversely, when citizens participate but don’t directly contribute to policy outcomes, there is a lower level of empowerment generated.

 

SOCIAL JUSTICE: Equitable Allocation of Resources

  • High levels of inequality in Miami undermines broad-based democratic participation.
  • “Material deprivation and disempowerment create a vicious circle: the greater the inequality, the less the participation; the less the participation, the greater the inequality” (Council of Europe, 2013, p. 99).
  • By expanding voice and vote to traditionally excluded sectors of the population, community participation has a redistributive component.
  • An increase in participation allows the government the necessary political support to allocate resources in new ways.
  • The expansion of voice and vote to traditionally excluded sectors of the population allows citizens to promote social justice because the participants are steering public resources to issues most important to them.
  • The government begins to invest in neighborhoods that were previously neglected.
  • Programs and capital investments correspond to the needs of underserved, marginalized, and poor constituencies.

 

OVERSIGHT: Transparency

  • Citizens seek to reform how the government functions by increasing citizen oversight.
  • Local governments alter internal processes so that the voice and vote of citizens become tangible, real public policies.
  • Local administrative processes need to be altered so the government needs to adapt how the local government is geared toward receiving inputs. The bureaucracy needs to be transformed to enable bureaucrats and policy experts to more directly engage citizens.
  • An ongoing conversation among government officials and citizens regarding project implementation. This involves direct oversight by citizens over the allocation of public resources.
(*) Adapted from: Wampler, B. (2012). Participatory Budgeting: Core principles and Key Impacts. Journal of Public Deliberation, 8(2).