Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 2)

What It Is

Britannica on community organising: “In community organizing, members of communities are organized to act collectively on their shared interests. Saul Alinsky is commonly recognized as the founder of community organizing. Alinsky emerged as a community organizer in the second half of the 1930s. His thinking about organizing was strongly influenced by the militant labour movement in the United States emerging at the time. Alinsky’s approach emphasized democratic decision making, the development of indigenous leadership, the support of traditional community leaders, addressing people’s self-interest, use of conflict strategies, and fighting for specific and concrete results.”

Dave Beckwith and Cristina Lopez write: “Community organizing is the process of building power through involving a constituency in identifying problems they share and the solutions to those problems that they desire; identifying the people and structures that can make those solutions possible; enlisting those targets in the effort through negotiation and using confrontation and pressure when needed; and building an institution that is democratically controlled by that constituency that can develop the capacity to take on further problems and that embodies the will and the power of that constituency. Heather Booth, founder of the Midwest Academy and legendary community organizer, expressed the fundamentals in this formula: OOO = Organizers Organize Organizations.”

Hahrie Han: “I’ve always thought about the challenge of pulling people off the sidelines into public life in a way that makes them real agents of change, realizing their own interests – as opposed to consumers of something else. And that can happen through elections, or through traditional community organizing, or through unions, or elsewhere.” More: “Democracy is a muscle. Just as babies have to strengthen their leg muscles to walk, we all have to develop the skills we need to act collectively to achieve our common interests. We must invest in the organizations and movements that can equip people in that way. Only then will people become the source of resilience we need to protect democracy.”

Michelle Oyakawa: “[Organising] begins with people building relationships with each other and learning to transform those relationships into power to make the change that they want…People are not only struggling with powerful institutions and social forces, they are also wrestling with themselves to find the courage to take action. Organizations can help leaders navigate this and provide them with support and a vehicle to make their voice heard…When people come together, build connections with one another, take action repeatedly and reflect on it together afterwards, they can create a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities.”

A final quote from Marshall Ganz: “Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty. Organizing is leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want.”

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.