idealist.org: How Do Organizers Do Their Work?

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idealist.org: How Do Organizers Do Their Work?

Postby wes » May 7th, 2010, 6:57 pm

@ http://www.idealist.org/resource_guides ... ing_2.html wrote:
How Do Organizers Do Their Work?

Dr. Otis Johnson, of the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority , describes three different models that are used in this field:

Collaborative model "where you bring all the different stakeholders together under the assumption that they all have some common interest at heart."

Professional planners model "where you bring experts and planners together to analyze the problem and come up with solutions."

Conflict model "where the assumption is that the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' possess diametrically opposed interests, and that if the 'have-nots' are ever going to get anything from the 'haves,' it will only be through conflict and struggle."

The collaborative and conflict models are the most common. Organizers following a conflict model confront government agencies, corporations, politicians, and others, trying to help the 'have-nots' achieve victories over the 'haves.' In contrast, organizers who follow a collaborative (consensus) model see the 'haves' as potential partners and collaborators and help the community to create joint ventures. Many organizers incorporate elements of several models in their work.

Common Approaches

There are several steps that are quite common to the approach organizers take. These steps don't always occur in this order.
  • Finding a local institutional partner. This could be a religious organization, parents' group, charitable foundation, business group, government agency, or others. The partners often provide funding and can help open doors to other organizations, especially those similar to their own.
  • Gathering information. Community organizers visit the community and meet with residents on an individual basis. Conversations often start with members of the partner organization and extend to other people and groups in the community.
  • Identifying leaders and issues. As a result of many conversations and plenty of listening, organizers learn who is respected in the community; who seem to be the leaders. They also learn about community concerns, goals, and ideas and they determine which issues unite the community and which divide it.
  • Forming a plan. Organizers assist the leaders to define the project's goals and action steps and to determine who among the community members will accept responsibility for specific tasks. Contacting people and groups who might support or collaborate on the project is part of this step.
  • Taking action. Actions may be small at first, providing the chance to make small gains that can provide learning and be used as a base for larger gains. Organizers' roles as teachers and coaches are especially important at this point, especially for helping community members who may be experiencing a leadership role for the first time and may need to develop their confidence. A campaign or project often proceeds in phases, with the group assessing one phase before proceeding to the next.
  • Building for the future. A key goal of professional organizing is to create an organizational structure that will continue and grow. This may mean helping to build a new organization or assisting in making changes in an existing one. The work involves such activities as fundraising, grant writing, providing training programs for leaders, and forming alliances with other groups, sometimes at a state, regional, or national level. It would be typical for organizers to identify and plan for such activities but in many cases the actual work will be carried out by volunteers.

Quotes from People in The Field

"Very few people realize you need all three models to make change."
- Dr. Otis Johnson, Savannah Youth Futures Authority

"When you try to compare different action strategies to direct action, there is no comparison. If an individual wants justice, s/he has to attain power by organizing people."
- Karim Todd, Organizer, CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together)

"There's been a very positive change in the organizing profession in the last few years. The field has opened considerably to accept and develop young people who have a variety of political beliefs."
- Michael Eichler, Director, Consensus Organizing Center
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