What is community organizing? We think Kevin Williams, Director of Organizing for our network the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), states it well when he says,
“Community organizing is people with shared values and common self-interests working together at the grassroots to build and exercise their power to make change.”
What is an organizer’s role?
… Build organizations that maximize the power and participation of their members. Their role is to see that the people and structures are in place to create coherence and integrity within an organization.
… Are responsible for expanding the membership base, maintaining a focus on action and preserving democratic, participatory structures and processes.
… Listen to their members, who know the community, and let people go at their own pace while also helping them develop the self-confidence to try new things.
… Are responsible for sharing information and raising questions, options, alternatives and problems that affect the collective power the group can wield.
… Work with, not for, their members. They do their fair share of work while also striving never to do for others what they can do for themselves.
… Identify and develop a diverse group of members who agree to serve as the organization’s public voice on a variety of issues. Organizers are attuned to the power relationships and political agendas surrounding an issue, and analyze the social, political and economic forces that shape our communities, states, nation and world.
… Develop sound organizing strategies based on this power analysis.
… Recruit and develop leaders, seek to discover the skills, talents and interests of current and potential leaders, and encourage shared leadership. They believe that everyone has the potential to lead if given the opportunity.
… Build public relationships based on the general needs of civic and community life, primarily through one-on-ones. The purposes of these one-on-ones are to build relationships and trust, discover interests, identify skills and talents, and move people to involvement.
… Work with people to define problems and issues, and help them to think through the strategies and tactics necessary to act with confidence and win.
… Recruit members, assist with fundraising, and integrate fundraising into every aspect of their organizing work.
… Ensure that their members receive a consistently high standard of appropriate and effective training.
… Enable the members to hold meetings that are productive and focused. Organizers facilitate training and strategy sessions when needed to help their members and leaders learn the skills they need to speak for the group, make good decisions and take the out-front roles. Organizers don’t run meetings where members are making decisions.