Thank You, Yes, and Thank You

This post has two parts.

First, prayers answered.

Back in 2012, something I wondered every other day or so, was, how on earth is POCA Tech going to come up with the fees we need to get through the accreditation process? In 2014 we applied for our first grant from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Since then, they have given us 3 grants, including another one this year, for a total of $26,000 over 3 years. Last week, when we received the news of their latest generosity, Carmen ran a query in Quickbooks to see exactly how much POCA Tech has paid in fees directly to ACAOM for accreditation expenses. (Note: this number does not include expenses like travel for workshops and site visits, or the cost of the annual audits we’re required to do — this is just checks we’ve written to ACAOM itself .) The total over 3 years? $25,360.

Second, I said I would blog about questions I got related to the new book. Here are a couple that came my way this week: what’s with calling community acupuncture a movement? Is it really a movement?

My first answer was: 1) honestly, I have conflicting feelings about the term — somebody else used it first and it stuck; and, 2) huh, I don’t know if it’s really a movement. But regardless of the answers, those questions are super interesting. And they led me to this blog post by Grace Lee Boggs about movements which I think is very applicable to us. I recommend reading the whole thing — it’s short — but here are some particularly useful quotes.

1) A Movement begins when large numbers of people, having reached the point where they feel they can’t take the way things are any more, see some hope of improving their daily lives and begin to move on their own to bring about change.

So are we a movement? I guess it depends on how you define “large numbers”, right? As far as I know there’s no precise numerical cut off. In our case, we’re talking about some hundreds of acupuncturists and some thousands of patients who have been involved with POCA over the years. If you consider the numbers outside of POCA, and particularly if you count patients who are using community acupuncture clinics in any way, shape or form, the numbers are a lot bigger. Whatever the numbers, people are most definitely taking action on their own to improve their daily lives, and those actions are converging to create a stable supply of affordable acupuncture, in the form of community clinics; all that didn’t exist 15 years ago, before people started moving in this way.

2) If you want to know what the Movement is about, you need to keep your ear close to the grassroots to hear the “Why” questions which people are asking.

Why is acupuncture so expensive? Why can’t my family, my friends, my neighbors afford it? For that matter, as an acupuncturist, why can’t I afford my own services? Is there really, as we’ve all been told, a right way and a wrong way to do acupuncture?

3) A Movement begins to assume momentum when people begin exploring visionary answers to the questions being asked at the grassroots and engage in practical activities which can be replicated without huge bureaucracies. In the early stages of a Movement, the visionary answers being explored usually strike most people as too radical or too impractical. If they don’t, they are probably not profound enough to build a Movement.

For visionary answers, see: multistakeholder cooperative; transformational, not transactional, economic relationships; Liberation Acupuncture and the preferential option for the poor. Around here, we’re really good at practical activities which can be replicated without huge bureaucracies. We definitely created some bureaucracy of our own but believe me, on a scale relative to the rest of the profession, it’s definitely not huge.

4) To create a Movement, people of widely differing views and backgrounds need to come together, surmounting their ideological differences. But you must also be prepared for these differences to surface and create splits after the Movement succeeds or declines.


5) The struggle does not end with victory or defeat because new contradictions emerge, requiring new ideas and new paradigms which are usually resisted by those who were deeply involved in the past struggle or who have benefited from its success.

I love this. First, the idea that there’s no end because there’s no binary of success/failure — that rings true. Also, I think it’s where we are now. At the beginning, the struggle was about, would we be allowed to exist at all or would we get squashed by all the people who felt we were devaluing the profession? We won that round. Later on, the struggle was about, can we stop the FPD? We lost that one. But not long after we lost, it became clear that the FPD wasn’t the point. The Masters degree itself was an unaffordable barrier; if people were going to be employers or employees in community clinics after graduation, the math simply didn’t work. ( I just looked at the website of one of the less expensive schools; their acupuncture-only program costs just about $50K but the median amount of loans people took out to get through that program was $90K.)

In terms of the viability of the movement, we had to do something about that math. But plenty of people who benefited from the success of the first phase of the struggle, the “is community acupuncture allowed to show its face in public?” part, simply couldn’t care less about whether or not there’s a next generation of community acupuncturists.  What matters to them is that they as individuals can run their practices the way they want, or access community acupuncture if it meets their needs at the time. They resist the idea that there’s any larger organism, like a co-op, that has any demands on our attention. Even though they wouldn’t be running their own practices or receiving acupuncture this way were it not for cooperative actions taken by people who did believe in something larger. But if Grace Lee Boggs says that’s just how it is, then that’s just how it is.

And that gets us back to FSPA.

I think community acupuncture is a movement to the degree that it’s addressing structural problems around access to acupuncture. That includes building and maintaining a co-op, because organizations can do things that individuals simply can’t; it includes supporting NADA by working to get new state laws passed (looking at you, Rhode Island and New Hampshire! Go you!); and it includes creating and implementing a new model for acupuncture education, one where the math does work.

FSPA, a community with a very different background from POCA’s, stepped forward to make a major contribution to addressing the structural aspect of acupuncture education. Without the support of donors like FSPA, we’d be back at square one, pleading with or yelling at existing acupuncture schools to make changes they had no interest in making. We’d have no platform for teaching Liberation Acupuncture. So in that sense, FSPA’s latest gift is the answer to the question, is community acupuncture really a movement?

And this blog post could be summed up as thank you, yes, and thank you.

Author: lisafer

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. Since I have been seriously contemplating starting a community clinic, I ordered all 4 of the books & as synchronicity goes, I received the newest book first. Wow, that book pretty much describes alot of my life as well as my life in acu school & even after. Thank you so much for this book and the truth that you tell. Boy, you are so right on!! At $65,000 a yr for 3 yrs, plus the interest I have incurred because there are NOT any jobs out there, I was thinking that there should be a class-action suit against the schools! Really, I truly believe in acupuncture & what it can give to the public. The community acupuncture movement that you started gives me hope!!

  2. Thanks for the kind words! There’s a lot of overlap amongst the books — they all pretty much represent me thinking out loud, I wrote each of them when I realized something and couldn’t shut up about it. Fractal is really just an update of The Remedy because after a few years I was annoyed by all the things I’d changed my mind about. So I hope you’re not disappointed. For more up to date and probably practical information, may I recommend the wiki: and the Punk Skills channel on POCA Tv. All the blueprints are on this site somewhere.