Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 3)

Mobilising vs Organising

Marshall Ganz explains the difference between mobilising and organising: “Leadership in organizing is based on relationships. This is a key difference between mobilizing and organizing. When we mobilize we access and deploy a person’s resources, for example, their time to show up at a rally, their ability to “click” to sign a petition (or their signature), of their money. But when we organize we are actually building new relationships which, in turn, can become a source not only of a particular resource, but of leadership, commitment, imagination, and, of course, more relationships. In mobilizing, the “moment of truth” is when we ask, can I count on you to be there, give me $5.00, and sign the petition. In organizing the “moment of truth” is when two people have learned enough about each other’s interests, resources, and values not only to make an “exchange” but also to commit to working together on behalf of a common purpose. Those commitments, in turn, can generate new teams, new networks, and new organizations that, in turn, can mobilize resources over and over and over again.”

Here is more from Hahrie Han in her book, “How Organizations Develop Activists”:

Mobilizing [is] transactional activism. A transactional approach to activism focuses on the quantifiable indicators of the numbers of people who take action—how many people clicked on a link, looked at a page, attended a meeting, made phone calls, or contacted an elected official?… Because it focuses on achieving transactional goals, mobilizing conceptualizes the relationship between the activist and the civic association as an exchange relationship. Exchange theory says that the relationship between activists and associations is based on exchanging resources that each has to offer the other… In this framework, the job of an association leader is to maximize transactional outcomes by creating volunteer work that is as costless as possible. Because time and effort are the most valuable resources activists have, the goal is to make the work quick and easy so that more people will do it… When associations are focused on making activism as cost-free as possible for the volunteers, they tend to provide only the technical and material needs activists have.

Organizing [is] transformational activism. In contrast to transactional outcomes, transformational outcomes focus on the ways that collective action changes the affects, outlooks, and other orientations of individuals and groups. Examples include the increasing ability of people to see beyond their own self-interest, shifts in beliefs about their own agency, or changes in public opinion. Organizers focus on transformational outcomes because these changes make it more likely that people will become leaders within the association, working not only to achieve associational outcomes, but also to recruit others to do so.  In transformational organizing, the goal is not only to get work out of the activist in   the short term but also to invest in developing the activist’s capacity to act… A key assumption in transformational organizing is that the interpersonal relationships activists have are the locus of leadership development and transformation… Transformational approaches to organizing, in contrast, conceptualize participation as the product of dynamic social interactions and seek to create participatory opportunities that maximize the quantity and quality of those interactions.

Here is a nice comparison from Advocacy Iceberg:

Jason Mogus connects organising and mobilising: “Organizing is building your power. Mobilizing is spending your power.”

In other words, mobilising is about transactions and organising is about relationships. Central to the idea of organising is the idea of self-us-now.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.