assignment 2

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Program Evaluation

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It is essential that organizations deliver effective programs that meet the needs of their communities. Program evaluation is a critical component for any community organization. Research a program of a community organization in your area. Please us Helping Hands Web Site :

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Describe the organization and the program. Assume that you have been hired to evaluate this program. Using the text and outside resources, create a program evaluation methodology, including a needs assessment. Support your choice of methodology and analyze how this methodology would best fit the organization and the community. Finally, discuss how the results of your evaluation will affect the organization and propose changes to the program that you think would help benefit the community. Your paper should adhere to APA formatting and be at least 1500 words.

Resources

Required Text

McKnight, J. & McKnight Plummer, J. (2015).

 

Community organizing: Theory and practice

. Retrieved from https://redshelf.com
Chapter 7: Participatory Research
Chapter 8: Planning and Implementation
Chapter 9: Management and Evaluation
Appendix A: Details of Participatory Research Strategies

Required References

Carroll-Scott, A., Toy, P., Wyn, R., Zane, J. I., & Wallace, S.P. (2012). Results from the data & democracy initiative to enhance community-based organization data and research capacity. American Journal of Public Health, 102(7), 1384-1391.

Pasick, R., Oliva, G., Goldstein, E., Nguyen, T. (2010). Community-engaged research with community–based organizations: A resource manual for UCSF researchers. From the Series: UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) resource manuals and guides to community-engaged research (Fleisher, P. ed.). San Francisco, California: Clinical Translational Science Institute Community Engagment Program, University of California San Francisco. Retrieved from http://accelerate.ucsf.edu/files/CE/manual_for_researchers_agencies

Philadelphia Fed. (2014, June 12). Neighborhoods by the numbers: Data-driven tools for neighborhood revitalization [Video file]. Retrieved from

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQiEUg9tJBUube (Links to an external site.)

 

Timberlake, M., Sanderson, M.R., Ma, X., Derudder, B., Winitzky, J., & Witlox, F. (2012). Testing a global city hypothesis: An assessment of polarization across US cities. City & Community, 11(1), 74-93.

Recommended References

Center for Disease Control. (2012). CDC coffee break: Using mixed methods in program evaluation. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/docs/cb_july_2012

SMARTLab Statistics Primer

2

Council for Standards in Human Service Education
(CSHSE) Standards Covered in this Text
The Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) developed ten national standards that guide
Human Services departments and help students understand the knowledge, values, and skills of developing human
service practitioners. These guidelines reflect the interdisciplinary nature of human services.
Standard Chapter
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Historical roots of human services 4
Creation of human services profession
Historical and current legislation affecting services delivery
How public and private attitudes influence legislation and the interpretation of policies related to
human services
Differences between systems of governance and economics 4, 5
Exposure to a spectrum of political ideologies 12, 13
Skills to analyze and interpret historical data application in advocacy and social changes
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Theories of human development
How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills 3, 6, 13
Changing family structures and roles
Organizational structures of communities
1, 2, 4, 11,
12, 15
An understanding of capacities, limitations, and resiliency of human systems 2, 6, 14
Emphasis on context and the role of diversity in determining and meeting human needs 1, 2
Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development, community and
grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
4, 8, 11, 12,
14
Processes to analyze, interpret, and effect policies and laws at local, state, and national levels 2, 12
Human Services Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Range and characteristics of human services delivery systems and organizations 10
Range of populations served and needs addressed by human services
Major models used to conceptualize and integrate prevention, maintenance, intervention,
rehabilitation, and healthy functioning
Economic and social class systems including systemic causes of poverty 13, 15
Political and ideological aspects of human services 12
International and global influences on services delivery 15
Skills to effect and influence social policy 11, 12
Adapted from the October 2010 Revised CSHSE National Standards
Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) Standards Covered in this Text
3

Standard Chapter
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Obtain information through interviewing, active listening, consultation with others, library or other
research, and the observation of clients and systems
7
Recording, organizing, and assessing the relevance, adequacy, accuracy, and validity of information
provided by others
Compiling, synthesizing, and categorizing information 7, 9
Disseminating routine and critical information to clients, colleagues, or other members of the related
services system that is provided in written or oral form and in a timely manner
9
Maintaining client confidentiality and appropriate use of client data
Using technology for word processing, sending e-mail, and locating and evaluating information 7, 9
Performing elementary community needs assessment 1, 7
Conducting basic program evaluation
Utilizing research findings and other information for community education and public relations and
using technology to create and manage spreadsheets and databases
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Analysis and assessment of the needs of clients or client groups 1, 5
Skills to develop goals and design and implement a plan of action 8
Skills to evaluate the outcomes of the plan and the impact on the client or client group
Program design, implementation, and evaluation 5–10
Interventions and Direct Services
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Theory and knowledge bases of prevention, intervention, and maintenance strategies to achieve
maximum autonomy and functioning
Skills to facilitate appropriate direct services and interventions related to specific client or client group
goals
Knowledge and skill development in case management, intake interviewing, individual counseling,
group facilitation and counseling, location and use of appropriate resources and referrals, and use of
consultation
Interpersonal Communication
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Clarifying expectations
Dealing effectively with conflict
Establishing rapport with clients
Developing and sustaining behaviors that are congruent with the values and ethics of the profession 10, 13
Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) Standards Covered in this Text
Standard Chapter
Administration
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Managing organizations through leadership and strategic planning 5, 9
Supervision and human resource management
Planning and evaluating programs, services, and operational functions 8, 9
4

Developing budgets and monitoring expenditures 10
Grant and contract negotiation
Legal and regulatory issues and risk management 10, 12
Managing professional development of staff
Recruiting and managing volunteers 6, 15
Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots movements, and
community development and organizing
4, 6, 14
Client-related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery. . .
The least intrusive intervention in the least restrictive environment
Client self-determination 4
Confidentiality of information
The worth and uniqueness of individuals including ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and
other expressions of diversity
3, 13
Belief that individuals, services systems, and society change
Interdisciplinary team approaches to problem solving 8
Appropriate professional boundaries
Integration of the ethical standards outlined by the National Organization for Human Services and
Council for Standards in Human Service Education
13, 15
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery. . .
Conscious use of self
3, 11,
13
Clarification of personal and professional values 13
Awareness of diversity
Strategies for self-care
Reflection on professional self (e.g., journaling, development of a portfolio, project demonstrating
competency)
3
Standards for Excellence Series
Designed to help students advance their knowledge, values, and skills, the Standards for Excellence Series assists
students in associating the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) National Standards to all
levels of human services practice.
Features Include
Standards for Excellence grid—highlighting chapters where various standards are addressed.
Standards for Excellence critical thinking questions—challenges students to think critically about the
standards in relation to chapter content.
Multimedia links—correlates content to multimedia assets throughout the text, including video, additional
readings, and more.
Self-study quizzes—found throughout the text, self-study quizzes test student knowledge and
comprehension of key chapter topics.
Chapter review—links to a scenario-based chapter review including short-answer discussion questions.
5

6

Community Organizing
Theory and Practice
Joyce S. McKnight
Empire State College, State University of New York
Joanna McKnight Plummer
Boston Columbus Indianapolis New York San Francisco Upper Saddle River Amsterdam Cape Town Dubai
London Madrid Milan Munich Paris Montréal Toronto Delhi Mexico City São Paulo Sydney Hong Kong Seoul
Singapore Taipei Tokyo
7

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Copyright © 2015 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. This
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8

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
McKnight, Joyce S.
Community organizing : theory and practice / Joyce S. McKnight, Empire State College, State University of New
York, Joanna McKnight Plummer.
pages cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-205-51681-0
ISBN-10: 0-205-51681-5
1. Community organization. 2. Community development. I. Title.
HM766.M43 2013
307.1’4—dc23
2013035553
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN 10: 0-205-51681-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-205-51681-0
9

Contents
1. Preface xiv
1. 1. A Look at Communities 1
1. Case Study 1: The Smithville Neighborhood 2
2. Case Study 2: The Town of Middle View 3
3. Variations on the Theme 6
1. Summary 8
2. 2. Systems Thinking and the Kaleidoscopic Community 9
1. Systems Thinking 9
2. Analyzing Community Systems 11
1. Micro-systems 12
2. Cooperation and Conflict among Meta-systems 14
3. The Impact of Mezzo-systems 15
4. Macro-systems: Broad Natural, Economic, Social, and Cultural Environments 16
3. Kaleidoscopic Community Systems 20
1. Individuals to Other Groups and Organizations 25
2. Quasi-groups to Other Individuals, Groups, and Organizations 25
3. Primary Groups to Individuals, Groups, and Organizations 26
4. Associations to Individuals, Quasi-groups, Primary Groups, and Formal Organizations 26
5. Formal Organizations to Individuals, Groups, and Organizations 27
4. Bringing People Together 27
5. Kaleidoscopic, Non-geographic Communities 28
1. Communities of Interest 29
2. Virtual Communities 29
1. Summary 31
3. 3. Living and Working in Communities 32
1. Building Your Internal Picture of the Focal Community 32
2. Getting Acquainted with the Focal System 34
3. Learning the “Rules” 35
10

4. “Fitting In” to Community Life 37
5. Using Symbolic Interaction Theories 39
6. Integration into Community Life 42
1. Overcoming Reticence 44
2. Discerning Expected Behaviors 44
3. Trying New Roles 45
4. Becoming Part of Things 46
1. Summary 46
4. 4. Varieties of Community Organizing 48
1. Place-based Relational Organizing 49
2. Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation 50
3. Economic Mutual Aid 54
4. Self-help Groups 58
5. Community-based Advocacy 59
6. Social Movements 65
7. Collaborations 67
8. Mixing and Matching 71
1. Summary 72
5. 5. The Community Organizing Cycle 73
1. Focus on Leadership 75
2. Focus on Participatory Research 80
3. Focus on Planning 81
4. Focus on Implementation 84
5. Focus on Management 85
6. Focus on Evaluation 88
1. Summary 90
6. 6. Building an Effective Leadership Team 92
1. Recruiting a Leadership Team 94
1. Large-Scale Strategies for Leadership Recruitment 94
2. Leadership Arising from “Organic” Initiatives 96
11

2. The Evolving Leadership Team: The Form, Storm, Norm, Perform, and Adjourn Cycle 97
3. Leadership Teams as Living Systems 100
1. Communication Patterns 101
2. Team-Directed Learning 103
4. Facilitating Effective Community Leadership Teams 104
5. Interactional Processes 108
6. Power in Leadership Teams 109
7. Roles Team Members Play 110
1. Summary 113
7. 7. Participatory Research 114
1. Connected Knowing: The “Engine” of Participatory Research 115
2. Data Gathering and Consolidation of Information 117
3. Analytical Frameworks 122
4. The Asset-based Approach 122
5. The Problem-centered Approach 124
6. Gap Analysis 125
7. Sustainability Analysis 126
1. Summary 129
8. 8. Planning and Implementation 130
1. Four Types of Planning 131
2. The Planning Questions 133
3. Assessing the Situation 136
4. Implementation: Defining the Next Steps 139
1. Relational Implementation 140
2. Locality Development 143
3. Social Action 145
4. Popular Education: Implementation of Participatory Research 149
5. Mixing and Phasing the Implementation Strategies 150
6. Training and Pilot Projects 150
1. Summary 152
12

9. 9. Management and Evaluation 153
1. Five Types of Management 154
2. Evaluation 161
1. Summary 168
10. 10. Organizational Structures, Budgeting, and Funding 169
1. Organizational Structures 169
2. Organizing Internationally: Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) 177
3. Budgeting Basics 178
4. Guiding the Budgeting Process 179
5. Expenditure Budgeting 179
6. Zero-based Budgeting 180
7. Income Budgeting and Funding 181
8. Budget Management throughout the Year 183
9. Accountability and Audits 184
10. Cash Flow Problems 184
11. Ethical Budget Management 185
1. Summary 187
11. 11. Power and Empowerment 188
1. Two Ways of Discerning Power 188
2. Power as an Individual Attribute 188
3. Power as an Attribute of Certain Classes or Categories of People 189
1. Elitism 189
2. Pluralism 191
3. Elitism and Pluralism: A Dynamic Balance 191
4. Power as a Product of Interaction 191
1. Five Types of Interactional Power and Related Behaviors 192
5. Interactive Power Transactions 194
6. Power and Authority 195
7. How Others Perceive Your Power 197
8. Power within the Varieties of Community Organizing 198
13

9. Empowerment: Increasing the Power of Individuals and Communities 199
10. Maximizing Your Own and Others’ Individual Power 200
1. Perceived Knowledge and Skill Development 200
2. Perceived Participatory Competencies 201
3. Expectations for Future Individual Contributions 201
4. Perceptions of Group or Organizational Accomplishments 201
5. Belief in the Value of the Cause 202
6. Cost–Benefit Analysis: Expectations of Success versus Likelihood of Success 203
11. Organizational Empowerment 204
12. Community Empowerment 205
13. Forces against Community Empowerment 206
1. Summary 207
12. 12. Navigating the Political Labyrinth 209
1. Why We Have Governments 209
2. Three Views of the Role of Government 210
3. Political Negotiations 213
4. Six Dimensions of Public Policy 213
1. Level One: Values and Social Policy 214
2. Level Two: Regimes and Regime Policies 215
5. Level Three: Sectorial Policies 218
1. Level Four: Jurisdictional Policies 220
2. Level Five: Organizational Policies 222
3. Level Six: Street Level Policies 223
6. A Real-World Example 225
7. Playing the Political Game 226
8. How to Play the Political Game with Politicians 228
9. Playing the Policy Game with Bureaucrats 230
1. Rule Making Phase 231
2. Rule Application Phase 232
3. Rule Adjudication Phase 232
14

1. Summary 236
13. 13. Value Systems and Ethics 237
1. Quality of Life Values 237
2. Competing Value Systems: Modernism and the Quality of Life 238
3. Ethical Viewpoints 239
1. Post-modernism 239
2. Critical Theory 241
3. Foucault’s Ethics of Power 242
4. The Ethics of Non-violence 244
5. An Ethics of Care 246
6. The Classical Tradition: Ethical Behavior as a Rational Choice 247
7. An Ethics of Joyful Sharing 249
8. Practicing Cultural Humility 249
9. Spirituality, Religious Beliefs, and Practice 251
4. Professional Ethical Standards and Codes of Ethics 252
1. Summary 253
14. 14. Community Organizing with Web-based Tools 255
1. The Impact of the Internet and Social Networking on Community Organizing 255
1. Broad Impact of the Internet on Community Organizing 256
2. Internal Communication Goals and Web-based Tools 257
3. Web Presence 259
4. Social Networking 260
5. Using Digital Storytelling 262
2. Horizontal Community Organizing 263
3. Connectivism and Community Organizing 264
1. Connectivity, Asset-building, and Sustainability 265
4. Strengths of Using the Web for Community Organizing 266
5. Weaknesses, Dangers, and Threats of the Internet or to the Internet 267
1. Summary 268
15. 15. Organizations That Support Community Organizing 269
15

1. The Community Development Model 270
1. The United Nations: International Economic Development 270
2. Local Comprehensive Planning 273
3. Community Development Corporations 274
4. Land Grant Universities: Cooperative Extension 275
2. The Social Action Model 278
3. Supports for Participatory Research and Popular Education 281
1. Facilitating Popular Education: The Highlander Approach 281
2. Literacy for Social Justice: Paulo Freire 283
3. Use of the Theater and Other Arts 284
4. Internet-based Organizations 285
4. Volunteer Efforts and Movements 286
1. The Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light Foundation 286
2. Service Learning 286
5. Faith-based Communities Working For and Modeling Social Change 287
1. Hospitality and Radical Politics: The Catholic Worker Movement 287
2. Institute for Cultural Affairs 288
3. Koinonia Farm 289
4. Shinnyo-en Buddhist Community 290
5. To Heal, Repair, and Transform the World: A Jewish Community 291
6. Service Organizations 291
1. Summary 292
1. Appendix A: Details of Participatory Research Strategies 293
2. Appendix B: Expanded Coverage of Budgeting and Fund-raising
3. Notes 331
4. Index 293
16

Preface
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only
thing that ever has.
—Margaret Mead
This text was designed to be a textbook and “how to” reference guide for thoughtful, dedicated citizens who are
determined to change their world (or at least part of it) through their commitment and loyalty to one another and
their dedication to fostering “common unity.”
This text provides a unique approach to community organizing for the human services and social work profession
by providing practical tips, templates, and in-text and online resources that give future community organizers a
road map to navigate a number of best practices in the field. While the main theories that support community
organizing are illustrated through an urban and rural community case study approach, the book illustrates how
these theories inform and can help direct the type of organizing that will work best for a specific community based
on its personality, needs, and resources.
This text and its accompanying resources were developed with the following premises:
1. People know what they need and can work together to achieve it when given effective intellectual tools and
analytical frameworks.
2. Everyone can and should be included in community building.
3. Local action is often the most effective action.
17

Chapter Themes
Chapter 1 provides detailed cases studies based on urban and rural communities, and compares and
contrasts the complexities of these communities and community organizing.
Chapter 2 introduces community organizing thinking, including systems thinking, focal systems, and
community formation.
Chapter 3 introduces the ever-changing kaleidoscopic community and how disciplines like cognitive
psychology, sociology, and social psychology aid in understanding community life.
Chapter 4 explores varieties of grassroots community organizing including place-based relational organizing,
social entrepreneurship and innovation, mutual economic aid, self-help, community-based advocacy, social
movements, and collaboration among organizations.
Chapter 5 provides an overview of the community organizing cycle by outlining the development and
function of the leadership team, a participatory approach to community research, and participatory
approaches to planning, implementation, management, and evaluation.
Chapter 6 explores how to create and sustain a diverse leadership team to help you understand and thrive
within these interpersonal dynamics and provides you with concrete tools to lead, manage conflict, and
successfully navigate challenges.
Chapter 7 provides guidance on how to address inadequate information and an inadequate understanding of
community assets, weaknesses, and service gaps. (An expanded discussion of research strategies appears in
Appendix A.)
Chapter 8 examines the planning and implementation phases of the community organizing cycle, including
defining the mission, setting measurable outcomes and evaluation criteria, and deciding on the major
processes and action steps to begin work.
Chapter 9 explores ongoing management and evaluation issues such as choosing a management approach or
approaches and creating a management information system.
Chapter 10 addresses practical organizational questions including the best ways to structure your continuing
effort, issues involved with budget development and management, fund-raising concerns, financial
accountability, and ethical standards for financial management and marketing. (An expanded discussion of
budgeting and fund-raising appears in Appendix B.)
Chapter 11 focuses on power and helps you analyze power relationships within your focal community, learn
to identify and use different kinds of power, and focus on ways your organizing team can generate “people
power” to gain and maintain control of your destinies.
Chapter 12 explores policies, politics, laws, and regulations through the analogy of a football game to guide
you through the political maze of multiple levels of policy, the challenges of the legislative process, and the
morass of regulation.
Chapter 13 focuses on the belief that we can create and sustain healthful, attractive geographic communities
and emotionally satisfying non-geographically based communities by working together locally and
networking globally, and it guides you through a wide variety of ethical frameworks that undergird effective
organizing.
Chapter 14 provides many practical suggestions for making optimal use of Web resources for community
organizing and community building and explores the many possibilities of online communities and
18

networks.
Chapter 15 explores organizations that support community organizing.
Online Features
There are many features of this text to enhance your experience; however, they are only as useful as you make
them. By engaging with this text and its resources, you’ll gain a variety of community organizing skills through:
Web resources, including links to important Web resources for community organizers
Online handbooks addressing topics such as place-based and relational organizing, social entrepreneurship
and social innovation, economic mutual aid, self-help, community-based advocacy, social movements, and
interagency collaboration.
Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to achieve a variety of learning outcomes by using this text and its resources, including:
Community Organizing skills—students can develop skills involving leadership, planning, and
implementation.
Oral communication skills—students can develop their oral communication skills by engaging with others
in and out of class to discuss their comprehension of the chapter based on the chapter’s learning objectives.
Research skills—students can develop research skills and techniques, including how to collect the needed
data and assemble the information they will need to create a clear, complete picture of the assets, needs, and
service gaps of the focal community
Assessment and writing skills—students can develop their assessment and writing skills in preparation for
future licensing exams by completing topic-based and chapter review assessments for each chapter.
CSHSE national standards—students can develop their understanding and mastery of CSHSE’s national
standards by discussing the critical thinking questions presented in the Standards boxes.
We hope you enjoy using this book and the resources we have prepared as you work with other thoughtful,
committed people to change the world for the better.
Acknowledgments
This book is dedicated to Hugh F. McKnight for his unflagging support, to all of those students and community
members whose lives and struggles are reflected in the pages, and to all those who will use its insights to improve
the quality of life for us all.
Many thanks to those who made this book possible: Dr. Drew Hyman, professor emeritus at the Pennsylvania
State University, for the initial concepts and inspiration; Hugh McKnight, husband, father, attorney, pastor,
professor, behind-the-scenes editor, and extraordinary human being; Jimmy R. Plummer, husband to Joanna
McKnight Plummer for all of his support and technological knowledge; Dean Thomas Mackey of the Center for
Distance Learning of the SUNY/Empire State College for his patience with the “endless book” ; all of the upper-
level and graduate students who vetted earlier editions; and Barbara Smith-Decker, Doug Bell, and Carly Czech,
the editors who helped turn an academic tome into a comprehensive guide.
19

Joyce S. McKnight
Joanna McKnight Plummer
This text is available in a variety of formats—digital and print. To learn more about our programs, pricing
options, and customization, visit www.pearsonhighered.com.
20

http://www.pearsonhighered.com

Chapter 1 A Look at Communities
Pete Ryan/National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy
Learning Objectives
21

Chapter Outline
1. Case Study 1: The Smithville Neighborhood 2
2. Case Study 2: The Town of Middle View 3
3. Variations on the Theme 6
1. Summary 8
What is a community? The word community can be divided into two parts: “common” and “unity.”
Communities are comprised of people who share common bonds, often feel responsible for the well-being of one
another, and work together for the betterment of life for all. There are several types of communities including
geographic, partial, dispersed, interest, and virtual, but most community organizing is done in geographic
communities.
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Performing elementary community-needs assessment
Critical Thinking Question
Choose a place with which you are already familiar. Drive or walk through it, carefully observing its sights,
sounds, and smells. What are your overall impressions of the community’s assets and needs? What led to
these impressions? What immediately jumps out at you as likely to need attention?
Geographic communities are places where people live in proximity to one another and share the experiences of
daily life. Geographic community organizing involves shared efforts, often over many years, by people committed
to improving the quality of life for everyone living in a particular geographic locale. Places chosen for community
organizing frequently have a sense of history. They have names, recognized boundaries and enough services to
enable residents to live comfortably without having to leave the area. For instance, many places that are suitable
for geographic community organizing have elementary schools, churches and other places of worship, doctors’
offices, service organizations, fire and police protection, municipal governments, grocery stores, and community
parks. Some examples of geographic places that you might choose as the focus of community organizing include:
City neighborhoods consisting of several blocks, often with historical names like “Little Italy,”
“Chinatown,” “the French Quarter,” or “Chelsea.”
Incorporated towns and villages of less than 25,000 people (larger cities seem to work better when organized
as neighborhoods).
Rural school districts encompassing a large geographic area but a relatively small population.
Case Study 1: The Smithville Neighborhood
Imagine that you are walking on a major street in a medium-sized city in the Northeastern United States. You are
in the downtown area around 6 p.m. on a warm June evening and head west on the way to a friend’s house,
passing through a section of city that has been gentrified with many bustling small shops, upscale restaurants, and
sidewalk cafes. A number of well-dressed people chat in front of the gilded entrance of a live theater company.
There are comfortable benches and flower gardens. Street lights start to come on and white lights twinkle from the
22

trees. At the border of the shopping district, renovated brownstones look like upscale single family residences. A
uniformed police officer says “good evening” as you pass.
As you head further west, you enter Smithville, a so-called inner city neighborhood where you note that the
ambience is changing. You notice more ethnic groceries, pawn shops, and second-hand stores. Most are closed for
the evening with steel folding gates covering their doors and windows. The curbs and sidewalks are broken; there
are no trash receptacles, and food wrappers and other small items tumble in the wind. A few nearby houses are
boarded up. You see several social service agencies, including a local homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a drug rehab
center, and a group home for the developmentally disabled. Gang graffiti is painted on the corner of a building
you pass. Although it’s getting dark, many school-aged children are still outside shouting and laughing while small
groups of young men and women hang out on the street corners. An occasional ambulance or police car siren can
be heard, along with the sound of firecrackers or perhaps gunfire a few streets away. Several people sitting on their
front steps loudly play the guitar or radio, and gospel music comes from a storefront church.
As you reach the corner, you see a colorful mural depicting smiling people of all races. On the next block, you pass
a community garden and a small “pick-up” basketball game on a litter-strewn city playground. Several mothers
with their babies chat as they carry clothes into the local laundromat. A family skitters across the street without the
safety of a crosswalk because there are none in the area. At the end of the street, an elderly woman waters a flower
box on her porch.
Turning onto a side street toward your friend’s house, you notice that some of the houses are well cared for with
small, neat front yards while others are boarded up and in dire need of repair. Several empty lots are covered with
sharp gravel. Next to these single-family homes are multi-story apartment complexes in the flat-roofed “modern”
style that now looks outdated. At the first complex, children play in the parking lot next to a swing set with no
swings while gray-haired folks sit in lawn chairs in front of the second complex. Teenage boys and girls walk by
hand in hand. Everyone seems to be enjoying the evening.
Your friend’s house is tucked away on a small lot toward the end of a one-way street. She has invited you over for
a cup of coffee and is an active member of the Smithville Neighborhood Association. She asks you about your
impressions of the neighborhood and shares her own, emphasizing its strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams.
She shares some of the history of Smithville and the Neighborhood Organization. “Smithville” is a portion of the
city named for John Smith who, in the mid-nineteenth century, chose the ten-block-by-fifteen-block area as the
site of the first iron furnace and its company housing because it was close to a navigable river on the east, a railroad
line on the west, the city center on the south, and a coach and carriage route on the north. The land was empty
when Smith chose it, but the Smithville valley was soon identified as a city neighborhood. For decades the
predominately wooden frame houses were filled with Scots-Irish iron and steel workers, later with Eastern
Europeans and then Italians. During World War II, these white Europeans were joined by a few African
Americans from the Deep South who found good jobs for the war effort. The 1950s into the late 1970s were
prosperous for everyone. The steel mills began to fail in the 1980s as production was moved overseas. The
neighborhood declined precipitously after the loss of the steel industry. Many people moved from the
neighborhood, abandoning their properties. Those who stayed were unable to find good jobs and were unable to
maintain their former standard of living. The neighborhood population dropped from 25,000 in the 1960 census
to just 15,000 in the 1980 census, while the real median household income dropped $10,000 in the same period.
In the mid-1990s, a group of concerned residents formed the Smithville Neighborhood Organization. Although
things are far from perfect as you noticed in your walking tour, things improved somewhat after the turn of the
twenty-first century. Air and water quality have improved. New jobs have been created in medicine, the arts, and
clean energy. Recently, immigrants from Guyana and the Caribbean have been added to the diverse mix and are
known for the improvements they have made in once-abandoned properties. The various races and ethnicities get
along reasonably well. While there are still numerous problems in Smithville, those who are involved with the
Neighborhood Organization are feeling hopeful. Your friend invites you to join their efforts by becoming a paid
intern through the AmeriCorps and even offers you a place to live in the neighborhood.
When you get home, you take notes on what you have experienced, emphasizing the positive aspects of the
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neighborhood, noting some of the likely challenges, and finally considering some of the places where there may be
conflict among people or their goals. You have made a good start toward an analysis of an urban neighborhood.
Case Study 2: The Town of Middle View
Some time after your visit to the urban Smithville neighborhood, you decide that you would like to explore a rural
village to compare and contrast urban and rural communities. You choose to visit the Town of Middle View
because you have an older friend who has recently retired there. Middle View is located in upstate New York. It
has 4,500 full-time residents with a weekend summer population approaching 20,000. It is comprised of the
central Village of Middle View and several smaller hamlets. It shares a single consolidated school district with three
other rural towns. You arrive by car at the town limits on a crisp clear autumn morning, driving along a two-lane
state highway that follows a sparkling river. As you drive along, you pass different kinds of rural housing including
a few prosperous farms with large barns, well-cared-for farm houses and large herds of dairy cattle, suburban-style
houses set on moderate-size lots, and two mobile home parks. The first such park is attractive with mature trees
and landscaped flower beds. Its mobile homes are set on permanent foundations with large lots. There are outdoor
and indoor play areas for the children and a small grocery store for staples. The second is far more rundown and
fits the stereotype of a “trailer park.” The lots are small, the lanes are muddy and narrow, and the trailers are set on
cement blocks without permanent foundations. There has been at least one recent house fire, and some of the
remains still stand. As you drive near the river, there are advertisements for campgrounds and rental cabins. These
signs of human habitation are interspersed with long stretches of a colorful mixed hardwood forest and dark green
pines. You pass through a hamlet with a convenience store/gasoline station, a community church, a small
restaurant, and a cluster of wooden houses.
At last you arrive in the Village of Middle View, an incorporated settlement surrounded by the Town of Middle
View. There are about 900 full-time village residents. From mid-June to Labor Day, the number of Middle View
Village residents swells to about 4,000 on weekends and 2,500 during the week. The full-time village residents are
divided into three major groups: “native” families, some of whom have lived in area since before the American
Revolution; a group of solid citizens; and business people who originally moved to the area from Major City and
its suburbs twenty-five to thirty years ago—although most still speak of themselves as being “from the city.” In
addition, there is a growing group of upper middle class people who are recent retirees and have chosen to live in
their now winterized “summer” homes. Members of the latter two groups see themselves as community leaders
and often serve on the town board, the village board, and/or the school board, while the “natives” often live back
in the mountains and live by doing odd jobs. They rarely, if ever, participate directly in civic concerns but are
often at the heart of informal community caring: holding fund-raising spaghetti dinners to raise money to pay for
others’ medical bills, participating as volunteer firemen and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), swapping
services such as car repairs, checking on the elderly, and dozens of other acts of kindness.
The village boasts five Protestant churches, a Roman Catholic church, a bank, two or three small manufacturing
plants, the consolidated school, a modest-sized supermarket, several small town parks, a library, a consolidated fire
district, the Town Hall, a senior citizens’ center, an outreach medical center, two professional offices, two motels,
and three restaurants. All are strung along the main street that has one traffic light.
Most houses are on side streets. Many are small and rather close together with tidy lawns. They are mostly of
wood-frame construction and are about one hundred years old. Well-cared-for homes are interspersed with
dilapidated ones. One subdivision with ranch style homes on the outskirts of the village resembles a suburb. At
one end of Main Street are a few large, restored Victorian homes; two have been converted into bed and
breakfasts. There is a medium-sized lake connected to a scenic river. Both are suitable for fishing and small boats
and are surrounded with summer homes and a growing number of winterized year-round residences. The village
provides two public beaches, tennis and basketball courts, and two medium-sized parks with picnic pavilions.
There are community-wide celebrations scattered throughout the year.
When you reach your friend’s house, she takes you to the local diner for a mid-afternoon slice of pie and tells you
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that, although the area seems pristine and beautiful, problems lurk literally under the surface. Although there is a
village water system, the water mains are nearly a century old and periodically break during the harsh winters. The
whole area depends on antiquated individual septic systems which were not much of a problem when the
permanent population was small, but greater numbers of year-round residents have put increasing stress on the
rocky soil which cannot absorb the increased sewage. The water table as well as the lake and river system are
threatened. Water and sewer needs are aggravated by the bedrock that is located very close to the surface and by
antiquated state laws and regulations that preclude new approaches to processing human waste, such as self-
composting toilets.
For many years, lumbering in the forests and paper production in nearby mills provided a decent income for
working class area residents. Most of the paper mills have now closed, and much of the lumbering has gone to the
Scandinavian countries. Locals now make a hand-to-mouth living doing a variety of odd jobs for the summer
residents and retired people. Businesses have been slowly closing. Most of the campgrounds, motels, and rental
cottages are owned by older couples who are struggling to make a living as fewer city families can afford long
vacations. Winters with little or no snow have ruined businesses that depend on snowmobiling and other winter
sports, so seasonal businesses that thrive in the summer and early fall struggle to remain open during the winter.
There are a few economic bright spots, such as an active, informal coalition that has been working to increase
tourism. Recent reactivation of passenger train and freight service after a seventy-year hiatus has increased both
summer and winter visitors. On balance, the local economy seems to be bobbing up and down as businesses open
and close without apparent reason.
On the school front, shrinking class sizes and budget limitations make it difficult to maintain high quality
educational services. Two years ago, because of a proposed 12% property tax hike, the school district budget failed
in the largest voter turnout in school district history! As a result, heightening tension now exists between the
residents and school district, which has trouble getting budgetary support because incomes of young families are
low and most older homeowners are on fixed incomes with no grandchildren in the schools. The gap between the
property owners and the schools is exacerbated by the fact that most of the public school teachers live outside of
the district and are seen as burdens on the shrinking tax base.
There is also a split along economic lines regarding the present and future prospects facing teens and young adults
of the school district. For many years, a relatively small number of talented young adults have participated in
school events, have gotten good grades, have gone to college, and later have obtained good jobs outside of the area.
In contrast, students from economically poorer homes have “faded” from school in ninth grade, have dropped out
as sophomores or juniors, and soon have had children outside of committed relationships—thus creating a
subgroup of rootless “twenty-somethings” and their young children without much hope for the future. Some of
these teens and young adults have turned to delinquent behaviors. There is a surprising amount of alcohol abuse,
depression, and vandalism among teens and young adults throughout the Town and Village. On a positive note,
however, the Middle School has recently initiated an after-school program targeted toward at-risk youngsters.
Participants in this grant-based program have shown improvement in their school work.
Unlike Smithville, Middle View does not have a formal community organization. A relatively small group of
committed citizens are active in local politics, the local churches, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local service
club. These people know one another and are often responsible for new positive initiatives aimed at improving the
area.
You stay with your friend for a few days. You tell her that you are tiring of your life in Industrial City and are
thinking of moving to Middle View. During your visit, the two of you attend a Town Council meeting, eat in
several of the local restaurants, chat with her neighbors, and kayak on the river. You drive back to your home two
hours away in Industrial City and think about life in Middle View. Once home, you write notes on the strengths
and weaknesses of the Town and Village of Middle View, pose additional questions, and think about some
possible changes that could improve the lives of its people.
Variations on the Theme
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The urban and rural geographic case studies described above provide rich descriptive illustrations of the many
concepts covered in this book. However, many of the same principles and practices can be applied to partial
communities, dispersed communities, communities of interest, and virtual communities. A brief description of
each of these communities follows.
Although community organizing frequently focuses on “complete communities” (places like neighborhoods and
villages that offer most of the goods and services residents need), partial communities (i.e., smaller residential areas
and social institutions) may also benefit from organizing efforts. Occasionally their residents may want to use
community organizing techniques to address concerns such as poor maintenance, noise, drug abuse, pets, pest
control, rent increases, unfair enforcement of rules and regulations, or interpersonal and intergroup conflict. On a
more positive note, they may want to increase neighborliness, improve the appearance of the facility, support one
another in time of need, or share celebrative events. Suitable locations for this kind of partial or limited
geographically based organizing include:
Apartment complexes
Mobile home parks
Rural hamlets
Subdivisions
City blocks
“Complete institutions” (e.g., prisons, college campuses, schools, nursing homes, military installations)
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Analysis and assessment of the needs of clients or client groups
Critical Thinking Question
Observe a place where people live and/or work together in close proximity over an extended period of
time and consider the following questions: How does the physical environment impact the sense of
mutuality or “common-unity”? Who participates, what do they do, and why do they do it? What are
some written rules and regulations that govern interactions? What “unwritten rules” seem to apply?
Would you like to live or work there? What specific factors led you to your conclusion?
Dispersed communities (or diasporas) are groups of people who share a common sense of purpose, history, and a
sense of duty to one another, although they may be scattered across the world. Many ethnic and religious groups
—such as Mennonites, Jews, Muslims, North American First Peoples, Roma, Africans, Haitians, and Chinese—
primarily identify themselves by their shared heritage, commitment to one another, and sometimes their
homeland rather than their current geographic locations. Immigrant communities have always been characterized
by a sense of common culture, continuing allegiance to a homeland, and caring networks. Today improved
communication tools and transportation have made it easier for people to retain close ties with their homelands
and have made travel between countries much easier than formerly.
Explore more about the importance of migrant hometown associations. Consider how immigrant hometown
associations might be helpful to people in the home countries as well as migrants dispersed throughout the world.
The possibility of continuing close ties has, in turn, led to new ways of solidifying the sense of community.
Foremost among these are hometown associations, membership organizations that enable people to connect their
new homes (i.e., their “communities of residence”) with their old homes (i.e., their “communities of origin”).
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Hometown associations have sprung up all over the world. They connect migrants with one another, provide
them with mutual support in their new homes, and provide a vehicle to send monetary support back to their
hometowns. Members quite often think of themselves as belonging to a single community that exists in several
places: a hometown in their country of origin, an ethnic neighborhood in their country of residence, and a
community of others from their hometown that are living in similar ethnic neighborhoods. Hometown
associations are examples of ways migrants organize themselves to maintain their culture identity across the miles.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Emphasis on context and the role of diversity in determining and meeting human needs.
Critical Thinking Question
Explore the experiences of a migrant population that interests you. What are the strengths for immigrants of
maintaining strong ties among people from the same hometown? What are the advantages for the
hometowns? What problems, if any, might arise from maintaining strong ties to one’s country of origin
rather than focusing on one’s new community?
Communities of interest are primarily organized around people with shared concerns or interests that are
important components of their individual identities but are not geographically or culturally bound. Common
interests range from recreation and the arts to medical problems and social ills. These communities often begin as
quasi-groups of people who do not know one another but share common characteristics, interests, or concerns.
For example, the Harley Davidson motorcycle community has “members” all over the world. As individuals, these
people simply share a common interest, but they become a true community when they begin to communicate on
a regular basis and develop social ties based on their shared interest in Harley Davidson motorcycles. Communities
of interest may become formal organizations or remain loosely tied. Members of communities of interest often
find ways to meet face to face through conventions, conferences, and other means—although face-to-face
interaction is not absolutely necessary.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
What differentiates a community of interest from an aggregation of people who just happen to purchase the
same product or attend the same sporting event? What specific processes turn a loosely structured group of
strangers into a cohesive whole with a sense of their common-unity?
Explore a community of interest by choosing a personal interest or passion and using a combination of personal
inquiries and Web-based research to identify any organizations that are related to it. Pay special attention to the
factors that led people to develop this community of interest, ways the community is structured locally and
beyond, activities that create a sense of “common-unity” among members, the processes and methods that are
used to promote communication and community building, and how well (or poorly) the various levels and
elements of the community of interest seem to work with one another. Consider what this exploration has taught
you about the nature of communities of interest.
Engage in social networking communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Second Life or a specialized network
devoted to an area of interest. Consider ways in which social networks are similar to face-to-face communities as
well as ways they may differ.
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Virtual communities are a new and constantly evolving phenomenon that exists online and shares some
characteristics of all communities, such as formal and informal rules of interaction, role expectations, primary
relationships, subsystems to handle various issues, thematic boundaries, and stability across time. Virtual
communities do not require face-to-face interaction but can fill many of the functions once reserved for these
personal interactions. For instance, you may find that Facebook and other social utilities can fulfill part of your
individual need for emotional support and friendship.
As virtual communities bring together people with shared interests who may live miles apart, participants don’t
always have to play their day-to-day social roles but may rather reinvent themselves or create an avatar (visual
representation of themselves) that participates with other avatars in a virtual world. However, virtual communities
are relatively new, and so insights into how they operate are still emerging.
Assess your comprehension of Community Types by completing this quiz.
Summary
In this introductory chapter, you were first introduced to the concept of community and then took a virtual tour
of two very different fictitious geographic communities: Smithville, a city neighborhood, and the rural Town and
Village of Middle View. This virtual tour is intended to help you imagine what it might feel like to live in these
very different kinds of communities and begin to think about the kinds of organizing efforts that might be needed
to improve their quality of life. They will be used as examples and illustrations throughout this book. (Please note
Smithville and Middle View are based on many real geographic communities, but they are fictitious so do not
attempt to connect them to specific communities, organizations, or people.) The chapter emphasized complete
geographic communities because they are the most common targets of community organizing, although some time
was spent on other kinds of communities that can also benefit from the ideas and skills you will learn here,
including partial geographic communities (e.g., blocks, apartment complexes, schools, and institutions), dispersed
communities (comprised of people who may be scattered throughout the world but who identify with a common
“home”), communities of interest (such as hobbyists, co-religionists, scholars, and others who experience a sense of
common-unity and belonging through shared commitments and experiences), and virtual communities that have
emerged with the advent of social networking. In the chapters that follow, you will journey through analytical
frameworks and practical ideas that will enable you to be an active participant in community organizing activities
wherever you find yourself.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
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Chapter 2 Systems Thinking and the Kaleidoscopic
Community
Mathias Rosenthal/Shutterstock
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Systems Thinking 9
2. Analyzing Community Systems 11
3. Kaleidoscopic Community Systems 20
4. Bringing People Together 27
5. Kaleidoscopic, Non-geographic Communities 28
1. Summary 31
In Chapter 1, you read two comprehensive community case studies, one urban and one rural, and experienced a
bit of what it feels like to live in each. This chapter introduces systems thinking and the kaleidoscope metaphor as
useful analytical tools for community organizing. Smithville and Middle View will be used as case examples here
and throughout this text.
Systems Thinking
Systems thinking is an analytical approach that allows us to perceive relationships and processes among the parts
of a whole. It can be and has been used as a tool for understanding everything from the interrelationships among
the subatomic particles within an atom to the motion of galaxies. Here, systems thinking will be introduced as an
approach you can employ to understand relationships and processes within and beyond the focal community
system (the community you have identified as in need of an organizing effort). You will learn to discern the
micro-systems (smaller systems) that make up the focal community as well as the mezzo-systems (systems just
beyond the focal community), the macro-systems (the systems that encompass the other two layers), and the meta
or overlapping systems, (the “neighbors” of your focal community system). We begin by using a microscope as a
metaphor for the analytical skills (mental activities) you will need to master systems thinking.
In some ways, your mind can work a little like a standard microscope—such as the one in Figure 2.1—by the way
it focuses in and zooms
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Figure 2.1 Microscope Metaphor for
Relationships among Systems
Like using a microscope, your mind can zoom in and out to look at something in more or less detail.
out. Picture yourself examining a slide of pond water under a standard microscope. The microscope has several
levels (or powers) of magnification. As you look at your slide of pond water through the microscope, the low-
power ocular lens gives you a blurry image of the whole drop of water. This is comparable to the macro-system in
systems thinking. In community organizing, the macro-system is the big picture surrounding your focal
community. In both the Smithville and Middle View examples, the macro-system level includes the natural,
social, cultural, and economic environments of the United States in the early twenty-first century. These factors
impact both communities, but their exact impact is ever-changing and vague.
If you want to know a bit more about the pond water, you would click the revolving nosepiece until you reached a
second level of magnification, which clarifies a portion of the sample a bit more. You then could begin to discern
animals, plants, air bubbles, and specks of dirt that had been invisible before. In community organizing, this is the
mezzo-system (or middle level). Like the change in the microscope, the change from thinking about the focal
community’s macro-system to thinking about its mezzo-system feels like a mental “click” that brings a deeper level
of detail into focus. For Smithville and Middle View, the mezzo-system contains many policies, organizations, and
authorities that differ for each of them and, therefore, impact them differently. The mezzo-system includes, laws,
governmental structures, non-profit organizations, religious denominations, and businesses, all of which are largely
designed outside of either focal community but nonetheless impact them.
If you wanted to know still more about the pond water, you would increase the magnification to the third level by
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“clicking” again. The larger bits of matter would fade into the background and you would see a whole
“community” of very small organisms going about their short lives interacting with one another. You might watch
in fascination as a group of cells clumps together in one corner or as a paramecium swims along with its multiple
“oars.” If you were a biologist, you would have some idea of each kind or colony of creature and their
interrelationships with one another. You have reached the focal system: life in a focal area of the sample.
Community organizers do the same: they study human organisms in relationship to one another. For example, the
Smithville neighborhood and the Town of Middle View are each likely choices for geographically based
community organizing efforts with the goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in a delimited geographic
area. Throughout the text, this level will be referred to as the focal community system or sometimes just the focal
system. Most of your efforts will be concentrated at this level.
If you were actually a biologist looking at the pond water slide, it is likely you would “click” again to an even
sharper but smaller section of the slide. There you would reach the micro-system level where even more little
“creepy crawlies” could be seen in detail. The clump of cells would differentiate into its individual components.
The paramecium would become a complex organism with recognizable body parts. In community organizing, the
micro-system level includes a closer view of the separate people, organizations, and associations that make up your
focal community system as they interact with one another. In both Smithville and Middle View, the micro-
systems include: various ages, genders, socio-economic groups, clubs, educational institutions, local churches,
sports clubs, and many other small groupings common to all geographic communities in the United States. In
Smithville, these generic micro-systems are joined by diverse ethnic groups and races. In Middle View, they
include the “old-timers” who have lived there for generations, the newcomers who live there all year, and the
summer residents and the tourists who come occasionally.
The microscope metaphor is useful because you and your organizing team—the group of community members
that shares responsibility for the organizing venture—can learn to literally focus and refocus your attention on the
various levels to determine their impact on one another and, especially, on your goals for the focal system. Just as
the microscope helps a biologist understand the ecological complexities in a smear of pond water, periodically
moving mentally up and down through the focal, micro-, mezzo-, meta-, and macro- systems of a community will
help you understand its ever-changing dynamics.
Explore systems thinking by accessing the SlideShare video Introduction to Systems Thinking by educational
consultant Patrick Woessner. What are some of the ways systems thinking might be used to analyze complex
processes?
Analyzing Community Systems
Focal community systems are composed of smaller micro-systems, cooperate and compete with meta-systems, and
relate to various larger mezzo-systems, and all of these system levels exist within macro-systems.
Your key task in community organizing is the identification of a focal community system that will be the main
place you intend to work and the starting point for your analysis. Systems thinking enables you to thoroughly
understand your focal community system and its interrelationships with other systems.
The best choice for a focal community system is a complete community that should have most of the following
characteristics:
Exist over a reasonable period of time (i.e., longer than a few hours).
Have established roles through which people interact in predictable, ongoing patterns.
Show evidence of established customs (behaviors) and laws (policies).
Be comprised of micro-systems (i.e., smaller divisions) that meet specific needs or represent specific
populations and interests.
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Have an equilibrium (or balance of power) that is relatively stable over time.
Have discernible boundaries that may be geographic, ideological—limited to adherents of a particular belief
system, based on social issues (e.g., the rights of particular minority groups, instances of injustice, etc.),
and/or legally defined (such as a political district).
Focal community system boundaries may be well defined or somewhat fuzzy. Usually, some functions—that is,
activities necessary for community life—are performed within its boundaries, some are performed outside its
boundaries, and some are performed both inside and outside. For example, the Smithville neighborhood has a few
small stores, an elementary school, a health clinic, and multiple religious groups. But residents must go outside of
the neighborhood’s boundaries to buy large quantities of groceries, make substantial purchases such as cars or
furniture, see a movie, have major medical tests, or attend high school or college. Most jobs require commuting,
and all of the major services, such as street repairs, are the responsibility of the city. The Town of Middle View, on
the other hand, is more self-contained. It has a branch of Walmart, a small hospital, a consolidated school system
serving pre-K to grade 12, various recreation venues, two banks, several churches, and effective municipal services.
As a basis for further investigation and application of systems thinking, choose a complete community that you
know well and begin to mentally (or physically) explore it. Jot down some of your observations.
Assess your comprehension of Complete Community Systems by completing this quiz.
Micro-systems
Micro-systems are the major internal components or parts of a focal system. Micro-systems are the first “click” of
the organizer’s mental microscope below the focal community system. The micro-systems are where community
life is lived.
Micro-systems of geographic focal systems such as Smithville and Middle View can be broken down into smaller
bits, each of which has a life of its own. Many of the microsystems in Smithville are defined by physical proximity,
so we will look first at some of its geographic micro-systems (e.g., blocks and block clusters). Smithville is a
neighborhood of Industrial City and is divided by streets, avenues, and alleys. Streets run north/south, avenues
run east/west, and both have two-way traffic. Alleys are smaller passageways that were once used for coal delivery
and are now often used for garbage collection. A city block includes all the buildings located between two streets
and two intersecting avenues; Smithville encompasses approximately 150 city blocks. Some blocks have their own
unique characteristics and can be considered separate micro-systems. Other blocks share many characteristics with
nearby blocks and are best viewed together as “block clusters.”
Remember as you walked through Smithville, you noticed that some blocks and block clusters had multi-story
apartment buildings only a few feet away from large older homes with multiple apartments. Some buildings were
commercial with only a few small apartments over the businesses, but most were single-family homes and duplexes
with small front yards and back patios. The buildings on some blocks were well kept; other blocks were a mixture
of well-maintained homes and dilapidated ones; and still other blocks were mostly empty, gravel-filled lots with a
few run-down buildings.
On some blocks and block clusters, you saw people of different skin colors speaking many languages and seeming
to get along well. Other blocks felt tense, and you saw gang symbols, swastikas, and Klan markings on the walls. A
few other blocks appeared to be culturally homogenous.
A resident with whom you stopped to talk said that Smithville’s blocks and block clusters also vary by the general
age of the people living there. He noted that a block that once rang with children’s laughter may have become
quiet and sedate as its residents grew older and then once again filled with baby strollers as homes were sold or
rented to younger people.
While many of the micro-systems in Smithville are based on geographic proximity, some are related to other
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shared characteristics such as stage of life. For instance, families with children may have concerns regarding the
quality of their children’s education, street safety, safe play spaces, and access to affordable, family-pleasing food in
family-size packaging. Older children and teens may want recreational areas—such as: basketball courts,
swimming pools, and indoor gyms—within a safe walking distance. Working people may desire reliable public
transportation and high-quality, flexible child care. Older folks may want a senior activities center, nearby
shopping and physicians’ offices, convenience stores that sell small portions of food and beverages, and shady
places to sit and talk. Members of various ethnic and religious groups may want to have places for worship and
celebrations.
Sometimes, a community’s micro-systems may have similar purposes but differ in organizational membership and
location. For instance, some but not all blocks and block clusters in Smithville have “block clubs” that periodically
hold block parties and gatherings, represent the interests of their blocks or block clusters to the Smithville
Neighborhood Organization, or have their own Crime Watch organizations to guard one another’s properties.
Each block club has connections to all of the others and to the Smithville Neighborhood Organization but also
maintains its independent identity.
Micro-systems are often strengthened by networking, so they may cooperate with one another to benefit the whole
neighborhood. For instance, the Smithville Neighborhood Organization—composed of block clubs, businesses,
non-profit organizations, and individuals—in order to stabilize rents recently petitioned the city to stop
neighborhood gentrification. The Neighborhood Organization holds yearly meetings that generate petitions from
the neighborhood to the municipal government, city schools, and organizations beyond the neighborhood level.
In another example of networking across micro-systems, a group of Middle View parents created a town-wide
Youth Baseball League that enables young people from the village, hamlets, and incorporated parts to the
countryside to compete with one another during the summer months.
While Smithville’s geographic micro-systems usually cooperate with one another in helpful ways, they sometimes
compete for limited resources. For instance, two block clusters may compete with one another for city funding for
a new playground, or block clubs may even compete with one another over who can give the best block party! In
the Town of Middle View, the village and hamlets may compete for state-level funding for water and sewage
projects or for which area of town receives the first high-speed Internet service.
A geographic community’s micro-systems also include specific sectors of community life so that it is possible to
focus on any local organization as a separate micro-system. For example, the parents of Smithville elementary
school children recently focused on the elementary school micro-system and advocated for afterschool programs
that would be located on both sides of a busy street.
Now that you have considered the Smithville and Middle View examples, continue to apply what you are learning
by once again focusing on a complete community you know well. Focus your attention on its component parts
(i.e., micro-systems). Identify the smaller systems that comprise your focal system. Look for things like differences
among residential areas and components of the built environment. Identify sub-communities by looking for
variations in age, socio-economic class, ethnicity, length of residency, home ownership, employment patterns,
religion, extended family relationships, and any other characteristics that seem to differentiate among groups. Pay
special attention to potential conflicts as well as places where most people are likely to be in agreement. Draw a
picture or chart of these micro-systems and their relationships with one another. You should find that a mental
picture is emerging that is leading you to a clearer understanding of your focal community system.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Emphasis on context and the role of diversity in determining and meeting human needs
Critical Thinking Question
34

How can community members embrace and celebrate the community’s diverse micro-systems rather than
allow differences to become a cause of conflict?
Cooperation and Conflict among Meta-systems
Meta-systems are other communities that are similar to the focal community, with which it must both cooperate
and compete as shown in Figure 2.2.
Figure 2.2 Meta-systems
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Figure 2.2 represents three systems that are similar to one another and that sometimes cooperate (shown by their
overlapping areas) and sometimes compete (shown by the areas with no overlap). Let’s use Smithville as an
example to demonstrate how this works. Smithville borders two other similar urban neighborhoods: Fair Hills and
Riverview. All three neighborhoods have similar populations, problems, and strengths. Sometimes all three
neighborhoods cooperate. For instance, leaders of their community organizations all participate on the city-wide
Association of Neighborhoods and cooperatively advocate with city government officials and politicians for the
needs of all inner-city neighborhoods for better city services, adequate policing, and improved neighborhood
schools. On the other hand, these same neighborhoods often compete for limited resources, such as special
funding initiatives for improved housing, a new business such as a grocery store, or rehabilitated playgrounds.
While community leaders (organizers) are often expected to take part in such cooperative ventures, they are also
expected to make focal community interests a priority.
Now consider the community system you have been exploring. Identify other systems that are similar to your focal
community system. Look for the ways these communities are similar to your focal system and the ways they differ,
especially in terms of history, economics, socio-economic and cultural patterns, housing stock, environmental
quality, and relative power. Identify ways your focal community system might cooperate with these meta-systems
as well as ways they compete with you for limited resources. Pay special attention to potential conflicts as well as
places where most people are likely to be in agreement. Draw a picture or chart of these meta-systems and their
relationships. Save all of your material as it will prove useful later.
The Impact of Mezzo-systems
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Mezzo-systems are the political, economic, and cultural systems that surround and support your focal community
system and have a direct or indirect impact on the success of your community organizing efforts. Representatives
of focal community systems often must reach beyond the focal system to broader mezzo- systems, especially to
various levels of government. Because Smithville is a neighborhood in Industrial City, the Neighborhood
Organization leaders must go to the city government and its offices for intervention in such areas as street cleaning
and maintenance, housing code enforcement, garbage collection, policing, parks, and transportation. Smithville is
also part of county government so it had to petition county decision makers to prevent the County Department of
Social Services from locating too many group homes in the neighborhood. On the other hand, the Town of
Middle View has a town supervisor and four elected council members called the Town Board. Representatives of
the village and local hamlets recently petitioned the Town Board for an ordinance preventing hydro-fracking for
natural gas within the bounds of the town. Like Smithville, Middle View is also impacted by the county
government so its citizens recently formed an ad hoc committee to ensure that the town is included in the
county’s comprehensive recreation plan. Both focal communities have school districts that handle public
education issues. Thus, community organizing efforts often address issues in the school district mezzo-system. For
instance, the Smithville Neighborhood Organization recently petitioned the city-wide school board to require
students to wear uniforms because organization members believe that this would cut down on bullying over
clothing and lessen opportunities to display gang symbols.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to analyze, interpret, and effect policies and laws at local, state, and national
levels
Critical Thinking Question
Under what circumstances is it appropriate for similar communities to be allies in the political process?
When, if ever, is competition among similar communities appropriate? What practical and ethical
considerations would you use in making such decisions?
Beyond these local governments, both Smithville and Middle View are affected at the mezzo-system level by state
and national laws, policies, and policy makers. For example, the Community Block Grant Program historically has
been the way for the national government to redistribute tax dollars to cities and, eventually, to distressed areas. A
reduction of these resources at the national level had profound effects on Smithville as the city’s promised repairs
to sidewalks, curbs, and storm drains were deferred when expected Community Block Grant money became
unavailable. Meanwhile, Middle View’s proposal for a new sewer system—based on the latest in environmentally
sustainable technology—was refused by the State Department of Environmental Conservation because the new
technology was not yet covered under old agency regulations. On a more positive side, Smithville received some
infrastructure improvements through the President’s job plan which was implemented after the 2008 economic
crisis. Middle View has benefited from state financing of a comprehensive planning effort that will eventually lead
to state funding for a new water system.
In addition to including different levels of government, mezzo systems can sometimes incorporate networks of
government, not-for-profit, and private institutions that focus on particular aspects of life and are frequently
spoken of as systems. Your organizing team may find yourselves encountering such mezzo-systems as the
education system, the health care system, the transportation system, and the disaster relief system. For example,
when Middle View was struck by a “300-year” flood, the focal community system leaders rallied town
government, local churches, public schools, the fire department, and willing individuals while simultaneously
seeking help from the disaster relief mezzo-system, which was comprised of a network of organizations that
included local, county, and state emergency management resources; the American Red Cross; the utility
companies; and a variety of denominational and service organizations. Each partner in the mezzo-system did its
part to restore order and link everyone in town to needed services. The process was frustrating because each
36

outside organization had its own jurisdiction (i.e., policies, procedures, and personnel that affected the emergency
response), but in the end everyone managed to work together to ensure recovery.
Now that you have some idea of how mezzo systems impacted Smithville and Middle View, identify the various
levels of government that most directly affect life in your focal community system. Pay special attention to the
roles of government officials, regulatory agencies, enforcement, the judiciary, and the media. Explore government
websites, and read documents such as comprehensive plans and zoning maps. Attend a local government meeting
and observe the political process in action. Talk with at least one elected official (or staff member) who represents
your focal community system. Begin to compare the goals and objectives of government officials and agencies with
those expressed by community members. Continually ask yourself what you are learning about the way things
“really” work in your focal community.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to analyze, interpret, and effect policies and laws at local, state, and national
levels
Critical Thinking Question
What are the major challenges facing local governments today? How might these challenges impact the
likely success or failure of your community organizing efforts?
Macro-systems: Broad Natural, Economic, Social, and
Cultural Environments
So far, we have moved from the micro-systems that make up a focal system to the meta-systems that parallel it,
and outward to the mezzo-systems, such as municipal government, local economics, and service networks, that
most directly affect its quality of life. We will now focus on macro-systems—the natural, social, and cultural
environments which surround the focal system and its micro- and mezzo-systems.
The natural environment includes: the air, surface water (rivers, lakes, and streams), ground water, forests, soils,
minerals, and geologic stability of the focal system, the region, the nation, and the world. The natural
environment of Smithville and its surrounding region is somewhat degraded because of its history as an industrial
and commercial neighborhood and its location in a medium-sized “rust belt” city, surrounded by other rust belt
cities and former mining operations. This environmental degradation has serious implications for neighborhood
goals. For instance, the Smithville Neighborhood Organization found that its goal of turning an empty corner lot
into a mini-playground for toddlers and preschoolers was impossible because the lot is polluted with used motor
oil from its previous use as a car-repair center. Other currently vacant lots are polluted with heavy metals that
precipitated from the air over years of heavy manufacturing. These so-called brown fields are useless for new
development without extensive restoration. The local rivers are polluted with mine acid, and although the fish
population is returning, it has been deemed unfit for human consumption. A combination of toxins—including
lead paint in the pre-1950s housing stock, heavy metals, and continuing air and water pollution—has been
implicated in a higher-than-expected incidence of childhood cancers, miscarriages, and developmental disabilities
in Smithville and throughout the region.
Middle View, on the other hand, has a rather pristine natural environment that is being threatened by recreational
development and increased year-round residences that have taxed the carrying capacity of the soil and have
depleted the ground water. Global climate change has adversely affected Middle View. As recent winters have
clearly become warmer, winter sports such as skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing—sources of tourist income
second only to summer activities—have decreased. Even summer activities have been adversely affected by climate
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change as changing weather patterns have caused a shift toward more dramatic weather patterns, including high
straight-line winds and extended periods of dry weather, interspersed with devastating flooding.
The economic environment (e.g., the meta-system through which the goods and services needed for life are
obtained) is mostly managed on a global scale. This globalization has led to the centralization of economic power,
as well as the globalization of distribution and supply, which has sometimes resulted in the loss of local
neighborhoods’ economic strength, especially in rural areas and inner cities. Both Smithville and Middle View
have been adversely affected by these trends. For instance, in the 1960s, Smithville was a bustling working class
neighborhood. Most men worked as laborers in the major industry which, in its heyday, employed over 10,000
workers. Those who did not work for this major employer worked for the manufacturers and services that
supported it. Most women were stay-at-home moms who kept immaculate homes and voluntarily coordinated
most community events. Even then the neighborhood was somewhat diverse and supported many local businesses
and organizations, from ethnic clubs, such as the Polish-American Club, to ethnic churches, such as various
Orthodox denominations. There were many small stores that provided everything from fresh produce to shoes,
furniture, and jewelry. Few people owned cars, and those who ventured outside of the neighborhood used either
trolleys or trains. In the prosperous 1950s and 1960s, the city’s major industry valued its skilled workforce and
wanted to keep peace with the strong labor unions and so provided some luxuries, such as community swimming
pools and lavish annual picnics and Christmas parties. Because the major employer provided everything from
parks to medical facilities, there was no need for major community projects. This employer also provided many
opportunities for specialization beyond high school, so there was no need for people to seek higher education. The
neighborhood and the surrounding city were economically self-sustaining and even a little smug: World War II
was over and the United States was on a roll! This continued until the early 1980s when the major industry
decided that U.S. labor was too expensive and moved production overseas. In the decade between the 1980 and
1990 census, the median household income in the city dropped $10,000. In Smithville, it dropped $15,000.
Many longtime residents left Smithville, and its population dropped 20% in those ten years. Homeowners could
no longer afford to pay their property taxes. Homes were sold at a loss or were simply boarded up and left to the
city government for tax sale. City government officials attempted to recruit new residents primarily from the
Caribbean and the newly opened Eastern European countries and Russia. These new arrivals added to the cultural
diversity of Smithville, but their recruitment and (especially) the financial incentives given them by the city
government bred resentment among the “natives.” These economic earthquakes deeply affected the Smithville
focal system. Where once the neighborhood had been lively and economically self-sustaining with many small but
prosperous businesses and well-maintained properties, it became a peripheral community filled mostly with
hopelessness. Community organizing efforts like the Smithville Neighborhood Organization are struggling now to
bring new life, but it often seems like a “two steps forward, one step back” proposition. The future is unclear. On
the one hand, if the conservative agenda of globalization and the centralization of the world’s wealth in a relatively
few individuals and institutions continues unchecked, it is likely that Smithville will continue to decline or barely
“bob along” in its current patterns. On the other hand, the liberal agenda may encourage too much dependence
on government programs with miles of bureaucratic red tape—which may likely result in strangling local
creativity. A third way which emphasizes (1) sustainability, (2) local or regionalized economics, (3) alternatives for
mutual economic support, and (4) citizen engagement will be difficult, but it may return power to the community
and result in a higher quality of life. Community organizers are bound to be in the thick of the debate over these
alternatives.
Globalization and the centralization of economic power have adversely affected Middle View as well. In the 1950s
and 1960s, Middle View was very different from what it is today. It had four primary economic bases: farming,
lumbering, tourism (especially that of summer residents), and “main street” businesses. The family farms of
yesterday— along with farm-based economic efforts such as feed mills, cheese factories, and local dairies—are
largely in the past. Because Middle View is located in rolling wooded terrain with many wet patches between the
hills, it is not suitable for large industrial farms or even large herds of dairy cattle. Farms are few and far between,
although new trends emphasizing localized food purchasing along with “right to farm” legislation have begun to
help increase their numbers. Although the forests surrounding Middle View are verdant, very little lumbering
takes place, especially because the once-thriving paper-making industries are now nearly non-existent. Paper
making has almost entirely been moved first to Norway, Sweden, and Finland—and more recently to northern
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Russia and even China and South America—as multi-national companies have searched for inexpensive labor and,
in some cases, fewer environmental regulations. The loss of paper and lumbering has had an impact on Middle
View comparable to the loss of Smithville’s manufacturing capacity. Reasonably well-paid workers have either
moved from the area or have been forced to replace their full-time, year-round jobs with odd jobs and seasonal
labor. The loss of stable jobs, in turn, has affected local retail businesses, professional practices such as dentistry
and law, restaurants and bars, churches, and the local school district. The local food pantry has experienced more
visits and fewer donations.
Historically, Middle View has depended on an influx of summer families. Women and children stayed the whole
summer while men commuted to the city and returned to “the cottage” on weekends. This reliable summer
population is now almost non-existent. Macro-economic changes—especially the decrease in real earned income,
increased demands for constant productivity at all levels, and the need for women to enter the workforce not by
choice but by necessity—have changed the pattern of summer residence so that now summer home owners
consider themselves fortunate to spend a few stolen weekends at camp and, even then, bring their computers.
Tourists who once spent two weeks or more renting rooms and cottages in the many private motels that dot the
countryside now usually spend two or three days there at most. These changes have further reduced the viability of
local stores and services. The central village now lacks a reasonably sized grocery store, a hardware outlet, or a
jewelry store. More and more family-owned motels and rental cottages close each summer.
Where Middle View was once economically semi-autonomous and most money earned in the community stayed
in the community, globalization has impacted the retail business. Now the proliferation of so-called Big Box
stores, such as Walmart and Home Depot, with relatively low prices, has added more nails to the coffin of Main
Street (locally owned) businesses. In spite of a growing counter-trend toward supporting local businesses and
increasing numbers of small niche retailers such as Dollar General, locally owned Main Street retailers continue to
struggle. The loss of community-minded businesses and professional people, in turn, has adversely affected the
voluntary sector—such as service clubs that have traditionally supported many charitable, educational, and
recreational activities.
The social environment refers to the overall patterns of community life shared by everyone in the nation and is
formally defined by laws, regulations, courts, and foundational documents, such as the U.S. Constitution.
Informally it is defined by patterns of settlement among different ethnic groups and economic classes. In the
United States, for example, everyone shares a federal form of government that includes: municipal, county, state,
and national components. We participate in a representative democracy where individuals are elected to speak on
our behalf and represent our interests. We have freedoms of the press, assembly, and religion and a two-party
political system. Despite regional differences, most of us can move freely from neighborhood to neighborhood, or
from state to state, without having to declare our whereabouts to the police. We can worship freely or choose not
to worship at all. But with these rights come responsibilities. We have the responsibility to pay taxes, obey the law,
and vote. Young men must register for the draft. Parents have responsibility for assuring that their children are
educated until at least age 16, and so forth.
The cultural environment, though similar to the social environment, usually refers to ways of thinking, acting,
believing, and behaving that are transmitted through families and religious affiliations over broad geographic areas.
In many ways culture and cultural change are contradictory. On the one hand, many cultures change very slowly
and are tenacious across time and space as we observed in Chapter 1 in our discussion of diasporic communities
and can be seen in ancient conflicts in regions of the world like the Middle East. On the other hand, at least the
superficial aspects of culture such as fashions, music, art forms, religious practices, and memes (ideas, behaviors,
styles, and images that spread rapidly from person to person) change quickly, especially since the advent of the
Internet.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: An understanding of capacities, limitations, and resiliency of human systems
39

Critical Thinking Question
How will the massive changes occurring in natural, economic, social, and cultural macro-systems in our
time be likely to affect our daily lives and local communities?
The United States as a whole is culturally diverse and is becoming more so, but cultural diversity varies widely
across geographic regions, as well as among different community types. Some cultural environments are
monocultures, where almost everyone shares similar belief systems and practices, while other cultures are very
diverse. Middle View is located in a mostly rural region of the United States that historically has been
monocultural. Most residents, not only in Middle View itself but across the region, are white, and many have lived
in or near their “home territories” for generations. They share the same cultural Christianity and have many of the
same expectations for themselves and their children. Smithville, on the other hand, is like many city
neighborhoods: it is culturally diverse and becoming more so. It is a mixture of long-term working class white
residents, equally long-term African Americans, and newer Hispanics, Caribbean peoples, and Russians. While
there is some tension among the various ethnic groups and generations, most everyone gets along well and seems
to enjoy sharing one another’s cuisines, recreation, and viewpoints. These diverse people are likely to organize
around common concerns such as garbage pick-up, policing, and shared pleasures like block parties where
everyone brings samples of ethnic foods, dancing, and music.
Now that you have explored ways macro-systems impact Smithville and Middle View, turn your thoughts to your
focal community. Identify key strengths and weaknesses of the natural environment that impact or may impact
your focal community system in the future. Consider geographic features, weather patterns, and air and water
quality. What effects is climate change likely to have? Identify global economic factors that affect the well-being of
members of your focal community. How do factors such as globalization affect people on a day-to-day basis?
Identify key political policies at the national and international level that affect the quality of life in your target
community. What opportunities and threats do they represent? Culture in the broadest sense refers to values and
the practices, policies, objects, and materials that support them. Identify major national and global values, beliefs,
practices, and communication patterns that impact your focal community or its major micro-systems. How do
these macro-level cultural changes affect values and behaviors at the local level? Continue thinking about these
issues, and be sure to share your concerns with others in your focal community.
Assess your comprehension of Micro-, Mezzo-, Meta-, and Macro Systems by completing this quiz.
Kaleidoscopic Community Systems
Although the art and science of community systems analysis including the ability to mentally move among the
various levels is extremely important, you will spend most of your time working to perfect your understanding of
the focal community system. The image of a kaleidoscope—which creates new colored patterns whenever the tube
is moved or shaken—captures the continual shifts in the roles and relationships of community members that
characterize community decision making and action.1
Just as the beauty and fascination of a kaleidoscope depends on its varied pieces, their relation to one another, and
the light shown on the whole process, a focal community system can best be understood through (1) identifying
its various people, groups, associations, and formal organizations; (2) observing their interactions at different times
and in various circumstances; and (3) shining the light of both analytical reason and creativity on the whole
process. Let’s turn first to the human components of this metaphor.
Individuals are the building blocks of community. They vary in age, socioeconomic status, gender, occupation,
level of education, ethnicity, personal preferences, and hundreds of other ways that make each person different
from another. Individuals are very often focused on the challenges and joys of daily life, including their personal
physical and mental health, care for family members, work obligations, varying schedules, and many other
distractions that isolate them from others and from full engagement in community life. Additionally, the
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individualistic nature of U.S. society makes it easy for individuals to feel lonely, isolated, and despairing of the
efficacy of collective efforts, or, conversely, leads them to competition and conflict in the struggle to “make it.”
Although sometimes they seem buried in the everydayness of life, everyone in every focal community system has
unique talents, perspectives, and traits that add richness, variety, and beauty to the quality of community life.
Some have amazing talents. For example, Smithville is home to several renowned jazz musicians, a legendary
movie star, an expert on African-American history, a visual artist known for her murals, and the inventor of several
patented electrical products. Middle View is home to an expert on wildflowers and edible plants, a celebrated
sculptor, the author of several classic books for children, and a once notorious bank robber turned bar owner.
These individuals, as well as the hundreds of people with more ordinary talents, make each community a
fascinating place to live—and many of them want to contribute to the place they call home.
Quasi-groups (or “almost” groups) are composed of members who share common characteristics, have an
emerging awareness of shared interests, and may eventually decide to act together—especially if brought together
by a community organizer. In Smithville, for instance, parents of small children are a quasi-group because they
share common interests and challenges. But until they recognize common interests and concerns, they will remain
a very loosely connected collection of individuals. However, when common concerns emerge—such as the need
for an easily accessible, clean mini-park—and the need for the mini-park begins to be addressed, then group
formation will begin. As group formation continues, other shared needs and possible solutions may emerge and
multi-faceted friendships (primary group relationships) may develop. Additional projects may be initiated and,
eventually, a formal organization may emerge. A similar movement from quasi-group to formal organization took
place in Middle View among individuals who enjoyed snowmobiling. At first, these intrepid winter sports
enthusiasts met casually on the trails and in their favorite local hang-outs. As they became better acquainted, they
realized that they shared many concerns such as maintaining positive relationships with private property owners,
keeping bridges and trails in reasonable repair, and ensuring everyone’s safety. As these shared goals became
apparent and their friendships grew, their quasi-group became a formal club that has now existed for many years.
Primary groups (e.g., extended families and friendship circles) are characterized by close emotional ties. They give
meaning to life and define our sense of personal worth. Primary groups are durable and dedicated, but they can be
closed, which makes it difficult for newcomers to gain entrance or influence the group. Primary groups are
extremely important in all community organizing efforts because loving relationships provide the motivation and
stamina to continue even difficult or threatening ventures, as well as the trust which is at the heart of all successful
ventures. The importance of primary groups and relationships can be seen by comparing two attempts at
developing a community center in Middle View. In the first attempt, the town supervisor formed a high-level
collaboration with the County Human Services administrator, the director of the County Community Action
Agency, and the superintendent of the school department to obtain state and federal funding to develop a school-
based community center. The County Community Action Agency took the lead in the project and hired an
outside director to manage it. Even though the initial effort had significant grant funding from the county, state,
and local levels—and the director had a masters’ degree in human services management—the center’s first year
was a disaster and its first director left. The center was about to close but, in a last, almost half-hearted attempt,
Community Action hired a new director whose position was supplemented by two local Americorps workers. The
two Americorps workers already had primary connections in Middle View. The older of the two was a 52-year-old
mother (and now a grandmother) who had lived in Middle View all of her life. The younger worker was a recent
graduate of Middle View High. Both women had dozens of long-term friends and family members in both the
Town and Village of Middle View. They knew the focal community (and most of its micro-systems), respected
one another, and had the trust of the new director. Within a few short months, the community center blossomed
with activities for all ages and economic levels. These activities greatly enhanced the quality of life for everyone in
Middle View. Residents of Middle View have since embraced the center and have formed the Friends of Middle
View Community Center to ensure its continuation even after the grant funding runs out. As an added bonus, the
center’s success has so impressed the original funders and other outside resources that it is likely that the center
will have a long, healthy, and useful life.
In Smithville, primary groups are often women-centered and are held together by a network of blood-related
extended family members (aunts, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, nieces, etc.), as well as “honorary” extended
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family members who are usually given family-like titles of aunt, grandmother, or sister and slightly more formal
relationships such as the women that African-American churches often identify as “mothers of the church.”
Although such women are often identified with African-American culture, they also exist among working class
white families, the Hispanic and Caribbean communities, and other ethnic groups. Often the matriarchs of
different ethnicities know one another and work together well for community betterment. (In fact, the only place
they do not exist is among the upper middle class of mostly white people who have been buying condominiums
and gentrifying the neighborhood.) These community-based women’s networks have done amazing things in
Smithville. They have cleaned up a neighborhood park once given over to the drug trade, prostitution, and gang
connections and have stormed City Hall and forced the city to repair curbs and storm drains and add crosswalks at
dangerous intersections. Although they feel great compassion for people, they also have joined together to prevent
the neighborhood from becoming the city’s only location for various group homes and halfway houses.
Individually and together, they have linked hundreds of young families to needed food, clothing, medical care,
and educational opportunities. Their relationships with one another—as well as their connections throughout the
community—make them a force to be reckoned with. Gang leaders, police officers, and mayors have been known
to tremble when these women confront them. The women have backbone, courage, and hope. Working with and
through them is absolutely vital to successful inner-city organizing.
Associations have relatively informal organizational structures and are focused on specific and rather limited
shared interests. Focal communities are alive with such associations—just listen to cancellations on a snowy day
anywhere in the northern or mid-western United States! Smithville brims with associations, including the
Thursday Night Cooking Club, the Community Gardening Group, the Wednesday Night Prayer Circle at the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, the salsa group at the Polish Club, the Guyanese Cricket Club, the “Bar-b-
quers” who meet monthly at one another’s homes for ribs and beer, and the Teen Hip-Hop Ensemble. More
threatening associations include three local gangs and at least one petty theft ring. The list could go on and on.
Middle View has a local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) chapter, the Middle View Community Choir, an
Alzheimer’s Support Group, a boating club, a Lakefront Homeowners Association, two bowling leagues, a
mountain bikers association, the Middle View Blue Bells (a women’s singing group), a local garden club, and is
rumored to have a loose association of drug dealers, a clique of spouse swappers, and an ongoing network of teens
and young adults who meet weekly on a deserted beach for beer, bonfires, and sex. Associations are somewhat hard
for outsiders or newcomers to find because they usually lack formal listings in the telephone book or on the
Internet. The lists above are a sample of associations that are fairly typical of focal communities. If you want to
locate one, ask a local person whom you trust (and who trusts you) to find leads to it.
Formal organizations have clear legal structures and exist for limited purposes. Generally, participants only
interact with each other within the context of the group or organization. They are formally organized, usually
hierarchically structured, and focused on a particular mission, goal, or function. A formal organization is usually
characterized by an organizational charter, a proprietor or a board of directors, an executive director, and, often,
paid staff members. Formal organizations are often the most visible part of a focal community system. Smithville
and Middle View are a study in contrasts. Smithville’s organizations include, but are not limited to, education-
related organizations from preschools and child-care programs to a branch office of the community college and
medical care offered in places as varied as a free clinic housed in the local YMCA to private offices where
practitioners offer everything from traditional medicine and conventional medical care to holistic alternatives.
Places of worship include Christian churches that vary in size, theology, and architecture—from small storefronts
to imposing old edifices, a small synagogue, a mosque, and a Hindu temple. Human service needs are met
through branches and central offices of a wide variety of non-profit, for benefit, and public human services
organizations. Shopping opportunities and financial service needs are addressed by individual entrepreneurs, thrift
shops, pawn shops, branches of downtown banks, local credit unions, several currency exchanges, and ATM
machines that are everywhere. In short, these formal organizations and more make it possible to live a full life
without ever leaving the neighborhood.
While Smithville sometimes feels overcrowded with formal organizations, life in Middle View sometimes feels as if
formal organizations are few and far between and that many are missing. Primary medical care is offered at a small
local clinic in Middle View village, but most medical services require at least a thirty-minute trip to the local
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regional hospital or to its surrounding specialists. There are few child-care programs or preschools. Most child care
is provided by family members and friends. The consolidated school district covers many miles of forested land. It
is not unusual for children to have two-hour bus rides each way. The nearest vocational school and community
college is thirty minutes away, just like the regional hospital. While Department of Social Service representatives
come to Middle View Village once a month, most human services must be accessed in the same larger town that’s
thirty minutes (and three to five gallons of gas) away. There is only limited public transportation. Only Christian
worship is formally available. There are four mainline Protestant churches, three independent congregations (two
of which are located on back roads), and a small Roman Catholic Church. There is a local funeral home, one
general store, two convenience stores, six restaurants, and five bars. The local post office has been threatened with
closure but so far has avoided that fate.
Assess your comprehension of the Components of Kaleidoscopic Community Systems by completing this quiz.
Now that you have taken a look at the different people and groups who interact in the kaleidoscopic focal
community, you can begin to trace some typical interactions among them. Table 2.1 provides a brief view of these
interactions.
Each of these individuals and groups can potentially impact the quality of life in your focal community as they live
their daily lives and communicate with one another.
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Table 2.1 Interactions among Community
44

Members
Alternate View
Let’s use Smithville and Middle View to show how various community members and groups can connect with
specific neighborhood efforts which fit their interests and talents, thus adding to the individual’s sense of
engagement, self-worth, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Linking individuals with neighborhood needs provides
an inexpensive solution and creates a win–win situation for both the community and individual. Here’s a helpful
tip: once an individual volunteer is drafted, engage that person right away because no one likes to offer his or her
services and then be ignored.
Now let’s look at some examples of engagement in the Smithville neighborhood and the Town of Middle View,
based on the categories in Table 2.1.
Individuals to Other Groups and Organizations
Mary Smith is a middle-aged woman who lives in a neatly kept apartment in the heart of Smithville. She has lived
there for many years and has raised five children as a single parent after her husband died of a stroke at age forty.
Three of her adult children still live in the neighborhood. She is considered one of the mothers of her church.
People often seek out her assistance because of her innate wisdom and inspirational faith. Mary owns a small
second-hand store where she sells her own baked goods and handcrafts. Mary has contacts at all of the various
levels shown in Table 2.1. She has befriended many people—from the children who drop by her store for a cookie
and a hug to her senior citizen neighbor to whom she daily takes supper. Even local gang members know that they
can count on “Mother Mary” for a smile, a meal, and good advice. Mary is especially friendly with other women
who share her concerns about the quality of life for neighborhood children. Recently, the women have been
talking about how dangerous the local park has become and what action they might take on this issue. They are a
quasi-group that is about to become a more formal organization composed of Mary’s women friends and her
family members. She has been elected president of the new organization. The quasi-group has identified various
organizations in the focal community and its mezzo-systems with decision-making power, so Mary visits their
leaders and makes her case.
Quasi-groups to Other Individuals, Groups, and
Organizations
In Middle View, a quasi-group of local parents is concerned that there are few, if any, safe and inexpensive after-
school activities for their teens. Several mothers who have been talking for some time about their younger teens
have formed an organization that they tentatively call the Teen Connection. They have recruited members of their
immediate and extended families, including some of the teens, and have taken steps toward becoming a not-for-
profit organization. They have recently identified a group of parents and grandparents of older teens and young
adults who are interested in some of the same issues. The two quasi-groups have decided to remain separate but to
work together on issues of common interest. The Teen Connection has identified several formal organizations in
Middle View and has spoken with the YMCA, the community youth group, and the local schools about creating
and posting a common calendar of teen events on Facebook. Members also have been exploring financial and
planning resources available from the county, state, and national governments and international service clubs.
Progress is slow but members of the original quasi-organization are pleased with the results thus far.
Primary Groups to Individuals, Groups, and
Organizations
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On a cold December evening, a Smithville mother and her seven children, ages thirteen months to thirteen years,
were attempting to cross a major street dividing the neighborhood, which had no traffic light and no crosswalk for
six blocks in either direction. A speeding pick-up truck came screeching around the corner and hit the mother and
four of the children, permanently disabling a ten-year-old girl. Immediately, a quasi-group formed to collect
money for the family (who had no health insurance) and to provide Christmas presents and holiday food.
Members of a local church visited the family, regularly drove the mother to the regional medical center, and
provided child care for the younger children. Formal organizations, such as the Salvation Army, provided other
assistance, and the local Neighborhood Watch built a ramp so the little girl could return home in her wheelchair.
Once the immediate emergency had passed, the family petitioned the Neighborhood Organization to confront the
city government with the dangers of the crosswalk situation. The Neighborhood Organization discovered several
similar incidents had occurred over the years and contacted members of these extended families who were willing
to tell their own stories to the press and city government. The efforts of these multiple families (aided by the
Neighborhood Organization) resulted in the creation of at least one new crosswalk.
Associations to Individuals, Quasi-groups, Primary
Groups, and Formal Organizations
In Smithville, the Wednesday Night Prayer Group at the African Methodist Episcopal Church began to share
their concerns about their adult children and their adult children’s friends. Several ladies asked for prayer for
young women who were single parents with limited incomes who seemed to be alternating between moderate
stability and homelessness and desperation. Several of these young women were involved in abusive relationships;
they often struggled to put nutritious food on the table or clothing on their children’s backs. Several prayer group
members decided to put their prayers into action. Each prayer group member agreed to contact several of these
young women (who were a quasi-group because they shared many characteristics in common, but they were not
yet particularly bonded together) to join them at a potluck dinner that would include home-style cooking and
child care. Periodically, the prayer group women would invite these young ladies (many of whom were directly or
indirectly related to prayer group members who considered all of them “family”) to join with the older women
periodically for such potluck dinners. The members thought that these initial potlucks might lead to an ongoing
informal association which could link young women with older ones. It was hoped that the older women would
help with child care, listen to relationship concerns, and mentor the young women in practical skills, such as
homemaking. The younger women would, in turn, provide the older women with friendship, respect, and at times
assistance with the struggles of growing older. Everyone would be encouraged to support one another physically,
practically, emotionally, and spiritually. The idea was a success, and the informal association went on for some
time. Friendships deepened among all the women. They toyed with the idea of continuing as an informal
association under the church’s charter but decided to become a formal non-profit organization that would provide
mentoring and various kinds of support services to Smithville women of all ages. They formed a steering
committee, recruited a preliminary Board of Directors, created by-laws, found a skilled attorney willing to offer
probono (free) services, and incorporated as a non-profit corporation under state and national law. They still meet
weekly for prayer and have very close personal ties with one another, but now their formal organization annually
serves hundreds of Smithville women, as well as many who live elsewhere in Industrial City.
Formal Organizations to Individuals, Groups, and
Organizations
At the time of the May 2011 “Three-Hundred-Year flood” in the Town of Middle View, employees and
volunteers from several formal organizations saw the need to contact and help affected residents. Various
organizations jointly prepared a flyer that described available services, contact information, and face-to-face
meeting sites. Members mailed the flyers to all residents; dropped them off at local convenience stores,
laundromats, bars and restaurants; and distributed them through the local service clubs, schools, and churches.
46

Individuals told their families and close friends. Quasi-groups of volunteers and associations—such as the
volunteer fire company and snowmobile club—spread the word about available services. When the crisis was over,
the county emergency management authority held an open meeting for individuals, extended families and friends,
quasi-groups, and formal organizations to provide feedback on the emergency response to help improve services.
This information was added to a national and international emergency response database to use for planning and
training purposes worldwide.
Although Table 2.1 depicts a somewhat linear world with logical connections among the various parts, the
kaleidoscope metaphor and vignettes above remind us that these interactions are non-linear, occur simultaneously,
and may impact other constituencies in surprising ways.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
What tools and techniques might be needed to enable community organizing teams to keep track of the
important components of their kaleidoscopic community and facilitate networking among them?
As you have seen in these examples, the “kaleidoscopic community” is comprised of interactions among
individuals, quasi-groups, primary groups, associations, and formal organizations. Reflect on your exploration of
your focal community system. Create a table listing key components of each category, the strengths or threats each
brings to the overall quality of community life, and questions you would like to ask about each of them. (Note:
This list will grow constantly as you continue your exploration and will become an important resource for further
research.)
Assess your comprehension of the Interactions Among Community Components by completing this quiz.
Bringing People Together
One of a community organizer’s most important roles is to weave various participants of the community into
interactional patterns that result in concrete improvements in the quality of life and create a sense of contentment
and belonging. Weaving is a non-linear process that eventually becomes part of your thinking and behavior as a
community organizer. Although difficult, this process involves keeping a “mental filing system” of the participants
you encounter and making connections between people who help one another or share common interests, as well
as among associations and institutions. This process is more art than science because you can’t predict the
outcome of the links you’ll make or where such important links will be made. Therefore, you may need to
introduce people through formal and informal meetings, make individual and conference telephone calls, host
social or educational events, and use listservs (computerized mailing services) and various social networking sites.
Ultimately, your mental filing system will provide opportunities for linking participants and promoting listening
and summative reflections. After that, step back and see what happens. These interactions may lead to wonderful
connections or go nowhere. In the long run, a focus on positives rather than negatives—and on ways people can
work together rather than on conflicts—can make a major difference in their quality of life.
Kaleidoscopic, Non-geographic Communities
While most of this chapter has focused on geographic communities—which are the most frequent targets of
community organization efforts—many of the organizing principles can be applied to the dispersed communities,
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communities of interest, and virtual communities that were mentioned in Chapter 1.
Many immigrant groups and refugees are spread across the world in dispersed communities. These diasporas
occur for a variety of economic and social reasons, but all are characterized by geographic dispersion coupled with
cultural unity. Not too many years ago, dispersion meant that clusters of displaced people would settle in ethnic
neighborhoods where they would keep the “old” ways and traditions but would be forever isolated from their
original homelands. Rapid communication and global travel have changed this reality so that clusters of people
who share a similar culture now live in diverse communities all over the world.
Many individuals and families in Smithville participate in ethnic-based micro-, focal-, mezzo-, and macro-systems
simultaneously. For example, Freya Jones (not a real name) is twenty-four years old and the daughter of Jamaican
immigrants who moved to New York City when Freya was two years old. Her family settled in a Jamaican area of
the Borough of Queens. Her parents found it hard to buy a home in New York City, so when some of their
friends and extended family members found that inexpensive homes were available in Smithville, they took a
chance and moved there when Freya was ten. At first Freya’s family stayed with her aunt until they were able to
obtain first-time homeowners’ loans from the city. Freya and her parents have lived in Smithville for fourteen
years. While they mostly socialize with other Jamaicans in Smithville and other city neighborhoods, they also
actively participate with their diverse Smithville neighbors and feel at home there. In spite of their feeling of
comfort in Smithville, they miss Jamaica, Jamaican culture, and widespread friends and family. As a result, they
frequently visit other Jamaicans in New York City, Toronto, London, and Jamaica itself and are in constant touch
on Facebook and via telephone. For several summers, Freya was sent to her grandparents in Jamaica and even
today she says that she feels she has a Jamaican self and a U.S. self. Freya’s parents, Freya, and indeed almost every
Jamaican in Smithville is concerned about the way Caribbean immigrants are treated in the United States,
Canada, and Europe and about ongoing struggles in Jamaica itself. Many send money to relatives when they can
and support projects there. Freya, especially, feels strongly that all of the Caribbean peoples suffer from historical
trauma that originated in slavery, and she has been working for social justice for the people of the region whether
they live in Jamaica or are scattered across the world. She celebrates her unity with cultural Jamaicans everywhere
by wearing her hair in dreadlocks, listening to Jamaican music, and practicing Rastafarianism. She dreams of going
to Ethiopia one day because she believes her real roots are in Africa. Members of every ethnic group in Smithville
have similar stories and connections.
Communities of Interest
Communities of interest share many of the characteristics of geographic and dispersed communities but are
bound together by shared concerns, beliefs, and values rather than geographic proximity or cultural origin.
Communities of interest often develop over many years through writing, discussion, and connected knowledge
that provides a broad consensus about what it means to be part of that community, especially in relationship to
other communities with differing values. For some, membership in a community of interest is an important part
of how they define themselves personally and socially. It can even become their master status, meaning that
almost everything they say or do is done in association with their community-of-interest identity. Other members
may participate in several different communities of interest and may not be very attached to any of them. Despite
individual variations in the centrality of their commitment, all members within a community of interest are
characterized by their acknowledgement of participation and their investment in their community through time,
money, energy, and care for other members.
Communities of interest depend on “safe spaces” where people with common interests meet comfortably, become
acquainted, and develop strong ties that are characteristic of true communities. Such a community of interest was
developed in Middle View several years ago when two lesbians moved into the area and found that they were
lonely and ostracized for their life-style. Quietly, they learned of other lesbians in the area and, in informal
conversations, learned that these women were also very lonely and felt a need for a place to gather in safety. They
decided to turn a few rooms of their rambling farmhouse into a bookstore and tea room. They furnished it with
comfortable sofas and chairs, made both tea and coffee available for nominal sums, and stocked their shelves with
48

lesbian-related books and other items. They did not advertise publicly, but the word soon spread that their
home/bookstore was a safe place to gather. Newcomers to the area and women exploring their sexual preferences
often came to the bookstore—nervously at first—but most made it their “second home,” a place to be comfortably
themselves. As the years have gone by, some women no longer frequent the store as much as they did earlier in
their lives, but when interviewed by an outside researcher, all expressed their appreciation for the role of the
bookstore at crucial times in their lives.2
Virtual Communities
Virtual communities are an emerging phenomenon, and there has been much debate over whether communities
can really exist without face-to-face contact. Although many people associate virtual communities with social
networks such as Facebook, MySpace,
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Table 2.2 Comparison of Virtual and Real
Communities
Alternate View
Twitter, and LinkedIn; dating sites such as eHarmony and Match.com; and forums or blogs, these only begin to
50

http://Match.com

scratch the surface of virtual communities. In fact, all of the systems and kaleidoscopic attributes that affect
geographic focal communities can and do affect virtual communities. Table 2.2 compares virtual and real
communities on several dimensions.
Much to many people’s surprise, there are very few important differences between real communities and virtual
ones—and a few distinct advantages that include low impact on the environment and increased diversity of
participation.
Assess your comprehension of the Similarities and Differences between Real and Virtual Communities by
completing this quiz.
Summary
Over the course of your professional and personal life, you will participate in many geographic communities and
communities of interest. Communities are ever-changing, which makes community organizing both challenging
and engaging.
In this chapter, we explored the individual and interrelationships within communities. The focus on systems
thinking and the microscope metaphor laid the groundwork for community analysis. By identifying a focal system
and understanding its related micro-, mezzo-, and macro-systems, we were able to take a closer look at the
Smithville and Middle View focal community systems and begin to discern how their interrelationships are
kaleidoscopic (or constantly changing). As we carried the kaleidoscope metaphor forward, we defined several levels
of social reality which include individuals, quasi-groups, primary groups, associations, and formal organizations.
We then explored the interrelationships among these groups through illustrations from the Smithville and Middle
View cases.
We examined dispersed communities and communities of interest and compared real and virtual communities.
This chapter focused on the question “What is a community?” and responded by providing a systemic view and
frameworks to aid in your understanding of community and community organizing, as well as to lay the
groundwork for the chapters to follow.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 3 Living and Working in Communities
Frances M. Roberts/Alamy
Learning Objectives
52

Chapter Outline
1. Building Your Internal Picture of the Focal Community 32
2. Getting Acquainted with the Focal System 34
3. Learning the “Rules” 35
4. “Fitting In” to Community Life 37
5. Using Symbolic Interaction Theories 39
6. Integration into Community Life 42
1. Summary 46
There is nothing quite as practical as a good theory. This chapter, “Living and Working in Communities,”
continues this focal system approach and the kaleidoscope metaphor, while briefly introducing useful theoretical
frameworks—drawn from cognitive psychology, community psychology, symbolic interactionism, and role theory
—to use as analytical tools for community organizing.
Building Your Internal Picture of the Focal
Community
In this chapter, you will see that we human beings have many ways of defining—and in some ways creating—our
own social reality in a process that’s both internal and external, both psychological and sociological. Everyone
inside and outside of a focal community system creates cognitive-emotional constructs or schemas (more or less
clear ideas, mental images, and emotions) about it. Everyone involved—including you as the community
organizer—is continually building and rebuilding these personal schemas of the focal community system* that are
based on experiences, perceptions, and judgments about communities in general. These judgments may be about
specific kinds of communities (i.e., rural, suburban, poor, working class, ethnic, affluent) and about the focal
community system in particular. One of your key tasks is to help participants articulate these various viewpoints
and meld them into a common understanding of the focal community system, its assets, and what is needed to
make life better for everyone.
* Focal community system, focal community, and focal system are used interchangeably to keep your focus on both
the “community” and “system” aspects of this level of community life.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Conscious use of self
Critical Thinking Question
Our views of community life are largely based on cognitive–emotional schemas that have often developed
over many years. Consider your impressions of your chosen focal community system, then think back over
ways past life experiences might have influenced your current views. In what ways might these experiences
and impressions influence your view of the focal community? What can you do to make sure that they do
not adversely affect your organizing efforts?
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For example, in your imaginary journey through the Town of Middle View, you probably arrived with certain
stereotypes about rural community life. While visiting, you met many different people and observed them at work
and play. You found that each had opinions about everything from the local economy and the needs of teens and
young adults to environmental concerns and the basic honesty of town government. As a newcomer, you listened
carefully and tried to create your own picture of life in Middle View. If you were attentive to your own thinking
processes, you realized that your initial perceptions and judgments changed as your impressions of Middle View
shifted from its being a typical rural place to being a specific place with unique people, assets, and problems. You
realized subconsciously that Middle View has characteristics that are shared by all communities, that are common
to some communities, and that are uniquely its own. If you had stayed longer, you would have noticed an
increased understanding and a change in your mental picture as new encounters and observations provided more
pieces to your perceptual puzzle.
To understand how internal constructions of community develop, we must explore some concepts from
developmental and cognitive psychology. In The Equilibration of Cognitive Structures, the famous developmental
psychologist Jean Piaget used the terms assimilation (fitting an experience into your established mental pathways),
accommodation (creating new or altered pathways for accepting dramatically new information and experiences
into your thinking), and equilibration (putting things back in balance).1 He believed that learning is iterative—
that new information is shaped to fit with existing knowledge and existing knowledge is modified to accommodate
new information. You will use all these mental processes as you examine new community systems or explore
familiar ones.
For most community organizers, assimilation and accommodation of new ideas and experiences is ongoing as you
compare current experiences with prior constructions of community reality. Sometimes your current experiences
will fit well with your previous ideas; at other times, new information or experiences will cause you to change your
views in significant ways. This is natural, normal, and an important part of truly focusing on a community
system.2
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: The worth and uniqueness of individuals including: ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual
orientation, and other expressions of diversity
Critical Thinking Question
Use your human service skills to learn how people sharing similar life experiences can have different
viewpoints. Identify three approachable, yet different people in your focal community. Where did they
agree? In what ways did their perceptions of community life differ from one another and from your own
perceptions? How was your own schema (i.e., impression) of your focal community changed as a result of
these conversations? How might understanding individual cognitive schemas help you in your organizing
effort?
Basic thinking processes have several implications for community organizers because the same community can
seem very different depending on the perspective you choose. Think back to your imagined tour of the Smithville
neighborhood in Chapter 1. If you have been taught a deficit vision of such neighborhoods and, therefore, defined
them as “cultures of poverty,” you probably went to Smithville expecting gun shots and evidence of drug deals on
every corner—and you could find it. On the other hand, if you expected to find people doing their best to live
peaceful, satisfying lives under difficult circumstances, you would have noticed the laughter, people doing favors
for one another, and flower boxes on almost every porch. The best community organizers are realistic about
deficits, but they are able to see and harness community assets as well.3
The nature and tenacity of mental schemas help explain why it can be so hard to change people’s minds and their
54

negative perceptions of a community, neighborhood, situation, group, or individual because everyone you meet
will have a different cognitive–emotional schema of the focal community. Often community organizers are
frustrated when old images of community realities linger after statistics show that significant improvements have
been made. Cognitive–emotional theory assures us that such distorted perceptions are not surprising: they are
based on established schemata, which, by definition, are hard to change.
Explore Social Cognition and Cognitive Schema. Consider how differing cognitive schemas might impact
individuals’ views of their community.
Cognitive psychology provides analytical tools to help you understand how people often develop opposing views
about the same set of circumstances and also gives clues about how change takes place over time. If you point out
positive steps that have been taken, share success stories, and celebrate the good things, people become more
hopeful. Over time, hope builds internal peace that drives individuals to bring about lasting change.4
Assess your comprehension of the Cognitive Schemas in Understanding Communities by completing this quiz.
Getting Acquainted with the Focal System
In addition to understanding yourself and coping with your own emotions and values, it’s necessary to understand
the sociological and cultural context of the focal community. Use what you know as a social scientist to explore
the community. Extract quantitative data from such sources as the census and planning agencies to get a
numerical picture of the area. Then, compare this data to systematic observations of the community, informal
discussions with the people you meet, and examination of such artifacts as local newspapers, community bulletin
boards, and public places. Walk or drive around to get the feel of the place. Check websites that focus on your
focal community. Continually triangulate (compare) your data so that you get a clear picture of social and
cultural reality:
Be aware of making premature judgments or closure based on personal experiences or stereotypes.
Remember: there are ways in which every community is unique, every community is like a number of other
communities, and every community is like all other communities.
Use a systems approach to analyze the community; choose a focal system and then identify its micro-, meta-,
mezzo-, and macro-systems.
Determine the strength (permeability) of the boundaries between and among the various systems and how
they affect one another.
Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate power relationships among individuals and groups.
Discern the history of the community through printed information and by listening to stories of days gone
by.
Keep a journal or ongoing research diary of your observations, changing perceptions, and organizational,
associational, and personal links, as well as reflections on your experiences.
Identify the local norms (unwritten rules), including appropriate dress and expected public behaviors, and, if
possible, conform without compromising your own sense of identity.
Spend the majority of your time observing and listen more than you speak.
Learning the “Rules”
While you are learning all that you can about your focal community system, you will also be learning how to fit in
55

as an accepted and respected part of community life. Communities vary in their response to newcomers: some are
completely closed, others have a cultural history of “welcoming the stranger,” and still others are composed of
individuals who have no sense of community. The process of getting acquainted varies among each and helps you
to discern group boundaries within your focal community system.
A group boundary is the more or less demarcated line between focal community members and the outside world.
There are two types of boundaries: symbolic and social. Symbolic boundaries generally reflect members’ internal
cognitive–emotional schemas about the characteristics of community members and non-members. These symbolic
boundaries then translate into social boundaries that are defined in more visible ways through choice of housing,
religious practices, dress, and patterns of interaction.5 1 Figure 3.1 shows several types of community boundaries.
Closed communities have no port of entry for newcomers, often because they treasure their exclusive status or
want to protect their safety and privacy. In practice, members of closed community systems pay attention only to
each other, ignore or actively exclude newcomers, and are generally difficult for newcomers to influence. The
Town of Middle View is an example of a rather closed community. Newcomers often complain that they would
have to live there thirty years or more to become accepted participants in community decisions.
Communities with permeable boundaries have implicit or explicit membership criteria but have many open
doors. They typically have a core group who relate well to one another and may ignore newcomers, others who act
as gatekeepers so that only those people who seem similar to the core group are made welcome, and still others
who are boundary spanners who go out of their way to welcome diverse new members. As time has gone on,
Middle View has become more and more permeable as people from the cities have retired there and old-timers
realize that more openness is needed for survival. Open communities may run the gamut from those whose
members have
Figure 3.1 Community Boundaries
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
at least some common characteristics, values, and shared relationships to those that are so open that they may not
be true communities at all. For instance, some geographic communities—such as new developments, mobile
home parks, and apartment houses—may lack any sense of “we-ness” and function as collectives or quasi-groups
rather than true communities.
Smithville has some characteristics of an open community. It has become known as “the place people settle when
they first come to town,” “the place people come when they lose almost everything,” and the “place people leave as
soon as they can.” Completely closed and wide-open communities can each pose difficulties. Closed communities
may be impossible to join whereas extremely open communities have few ways for people to connect. Open
communities with bad reputations, such as Smithville, may have a high turnover of engaged residents, which
means that community organizations have to continually rebuild.
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Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills
Critical Thinking Question
Identify three or four organizations or communities with which you are familiar. Think about each in turn.
Were the same group of people involved over a long period of time, did the membership change rapidly, or
was it somewhere in between? Did the group welcome new members, or was it hard to become part of
things? Were some people more welcome than others? How would a potential member know whether she or
he was welcome? Questions such as these will help you determine whether your focal community system is
closed, permeable, or completely open. In what ways was the degree of openness helpful for the
organization? In what ways was it negative?
Focal communities consciously or unconsciously develop a shared consensus about what it means to belong. This
collective identity is largely unconscious and incorporates individual members’ understanding of the place the
community holds in the broader world, the values and emotional significance individuals attach to membership,
and the socially meaningful categories that outsiders apply to the community.6 Norms (cultural repertoires),
traditions, and narratives (stories) are all important parts of collective identity or sense of we-ness.7 For example,
most citizens of Middle View see the town as a prime example of rural America, with the small-town values of
mutual support and kindness and the positive characteristics of fresh air, sunshine, and safety. Many Smithville
folks see the neighborhood as “tough but lively” and sadly neglected by those with power in the city. They enjoy
many connections among friends, family, local establishments, and places of worship. These residents see
themselves as hard-working people struggling to get along. However, there are two other major competing
identities within Smithville itself. A few people have adopted deviant roles as prostitutes, drug dealers, or gang
members while a few see themselves as upwardly mobile professionals who are privileged to live in what is
becoming the “cool” part of the city. All of these perspectives are part of the collective identity of Smithville.
Members of the overall community focal system and its micro-systems often take these folkways and mores
(unwritten rules) for granted, but they are often opaque to the newcomer. You can discern the components of
collective identity by careful listening, observing, asking questions of those who actively welcome you, and inviting
a wide variety of group members to tell their stories and those of the group, an activity most people enjoy.
Assess your comprehension of Group Boundaries and Collective Identities by completing this quiz.
“Fitting In” to Community Life
As you strive to become an accepted part of your focal community system, it’s likely that you will move from
being an outsider to being accepted as part of the “scene.” Like so many elements in community organizing,
developing this collective identity is a reciprocal process in which you begin to add “community member” to the
unconscious list of your statuses and roles—and those you encounter begin to treat you as “one of us.” Table 3.1
gives you a list of questions to periodically ask yourself about the relationship between your membership in the
community and your self-identity (how you experience yourself as a person).
Similarly, Figure 3.2 illustrates fitting into community life as a process of identifying with the community, having
the community accept you, and having those outside of the community identify you as a community member.
Your integration into an existing focal community will require accommodation on the part of everyone. You must
move toward adopting important aspects of the collective
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Figure 3.2 Fitting into Community Life
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Table 3.1 Relationship between Community
Membership and Self-Identity
Element of Self-Identity Reflective Question
Identification with the
community
Do I identify myself as a member of this community?
“Fit”
In what ways do I perceive myself as being like other members of the
community? In what ways am I different from them?
Accuracy of perception
How certain am I of the accuracy of my perceptions? What has led to
this evaluation?
Evaluation
In general is it a good thing for someone to be identified with this
community? Why?
Self-evaluation
Do I feel good about being identified with this group? Why or why
not?
Outsiders’ evaluation
How do I feel about how outsiders view my membership in the focal
community? How important are their feelings to me?
Subjective importance to How important is membership in this community compared to my
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
me involvement with other people and communities in my life?
Investment of time and
energy
What does the amount of time and energy I spend on this say about its
relative importance?
Attachment
How emotionally involved am I with the fate of the community and
with relationships with other members?
Mutual fate
How much of my own fate seems to be tied to that of the community
and its mission?
Interconnection between
self and community
How much of my identity and self-esteem is merged with being a
community member?
Social engagement How much time do I spend with people from this community?
Behavioral involvement
How much of what I do on a daily basis is done in my community
member role?
Congruence of personal
and community ideology
How many of my own core beliefs agree with those espoused by
community members?
Narrative (story)
What would I say to someone who asked me to tell the story of the
group and my involvement in it?
identity into your individual identity. Conversely, the collective identity must change a bit to include you.8 This
may not be easy. Many poor and minority communities have had negative experiences with community organizers
who claimed to want to help them but who were really furthering their own agendas. Members of such
communities suspect that every new organizer is an imposter or a voyeur. Minority communities, poor
neighborhoods, and isolated rural villages often rightly feel that such imposters damage their group cohesiveness,
their ability to act in solidarity, and their credibility in the larger world—which has implications for you as the
community organizer and for the prospects of your organizing effort.9 As a community organizer, you must
carefully examine your motives and make necessary adjustments, if needed. Although it may be tempting to use
community organizing and other volunteer work to further your own career, this should be avoided.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Reflection on professional self (e.g., journaling, development of a portfolio, project
demonstrating competency)
Critical Thinking Question
Think about a time you moved to a new home, began a new job, or joined a new organization and
eventually felt that you were an accepted part of the community. What did you do to become acquainted?
What early experiences told you whether you were likely to be accepted or have trouble fitting in? Was there
anyone who “broke the ice” for you? What specifically did he or she do to help you feel comfortable? What
did you do to increase your level of acceptance? What specific events occurred that let you know that you
finally “fit in”?
Such temptations can be subtle. For instance, it is unethical to use community organizing to further a personal
research or teaching agenda unless you have received permission from your institution’s Institutional Review
Board for the Protection of Human Subjects and the participants are informed of your intent and have given you
permission to use what you have learned in publications beyond the community. (That’s why the Town of Middle
View and Smithville are fictitious: they were created to protect human subjects.) It can also be tempting to
consciously or unconsciously use your organizing efforts as a sign of superiority, which almost always
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communicates itself to other members of the organizing task force as condescension. No one wants to be anyone’s
“pet project.” If you cannot respectfully involve everyone you meet in the organizing process, you probably should
withdraw from the effort.
Assess your comprehension of Social Integration by completing this quiz.
Using Symbolic Interaction Theories
As you move through the community organizing process, not only will you begin to internally define your identity
within the focal community system, but other community members will begin to define their expectations of you
as well. In turn, these evolving expectations will determine your behavior and the behavior of those you meet. In
sociology this reciprocal process of developing expectations is called symbolic a interactionism. There were two
main bodies of symbolic interactional thought.
Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer the major theorists of the Chicago School
combined psychological and sociological concepts and developed a micro theory of social psychology which
asserted that we create the social world through the decisions we make in our encounters with one another. The
results of these encounters are defined by how you interpret and respond to me and how I interpret and respond
to you. Negative results can be changed if our interpretations are changed. Thus, people of good will can learn to
get along together if they listen carefully and are willing to look for areas of common understanding. The Chicago
School provides hope that people with vastly different views can nevertheless learn to work together for the
common good. The sociologists of the Iowa School had a slightly different approach. They insisted that
interactions are not only based on individual decisions about how to act in social settings but also on unwritten
(yet nevertheless real) “rules for behavior” that have solidified over time. In their view, we begin each encounter
with an individual or a group with predetermined expectations of one another rather than starting from a
completely clean slate. Let’s look at the implications of each of these viewpoints for community organizing.10
Iowa School theorists emphasize that social positions or social statuses are the building blocks of a community.
Everyone is a bundle of identities or social statuses, each of which has greater or lesser salience depending on the
social context, and each of which has social expectations attached. As you enter a focal community system, you
bring an established set of identities—including ascribed statuses such as age, gender, physical characteristics, and
ethnicity—together with achieved statuses such as education, profession, and membership in organizations,
groups, and other communities. It is quite natural to define yourself in terms of positions that form the heart of
your self-identity because your definitions usually help you fit into new situations. Situations in which your self-
definition and community expectations are congruent are the easiest in which to fit in. To be blunt: if you are a
white, middle-class Methodist with a mid-western accent, you’ll probably fit fairly well into Middle View but may
seem out of place in Smithville.
From the Iowa School perspective the process of “fitting in” first involves understanding how members of the
focal community are likely to view your unique set of social characteristics (i.e., statuses) and conversely how you
view the social characteristics of community members. Secondly, “fitting in” involves a process of bringing these
perspectives into congruence so that you become a part of the focal community system’s collective identity. In
other words you reach a point where you feel that you belong and other members of the community agree. A
collective identity has several components, including an internal component consisting of a sense of belonging and
emotional bonding with one another, coupled with indifference or even antipathy to outsiders,11 and an external
component composed of outsiders’ views. Collective or communal identity involves the interplay of processes of
internal definition (how members experience themselves) and external definition (how others perceive them).12
Through their behaviors, opinions, language, and appearance, group members define expectations and
characteristics that differentiate them from others. In fact, members often rate the social attractiveness of other
group members not by their personalities but by whether they act and think like good group members.13
The Iowa School sociologists also assert that communities consciously or unconsciously define the statuses
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(positions) that people need to play for the community to remain cohesive. Sometimes these statuses are defined
by law and sometimes by custom. For instance, the Town of Middle View is a legal entity. By law, it is led by a
town supervisor and four members of the Town Council who are elected by residents. It has a town clerk who
manages the daily routine and several legally required offices such as tax collector, dog enforcement officer, and
road supervisor. Over the years, many different individuals have filled these offices, but their duties and expected
behaviors have remained essentially the same, and life in Middle View has remained stable. The Town of Middle
View also has customs (unwritten laws) that help define who will do what. For instance, for many years there was
an unwritten rule that the town supervisor would be a prosperous, white, male, late middle-aged, Republican
member of an “old” family, so when a white woman who had “only” lived in Middle View for twenty years was
elected supervisor on an independent party ticket that had resulted from community organizing activities, many
feared that things would fall part within the community but they did not. The structural school teaches you to be
aware of ways your ascribed statuses (age, sex, skin color, family connections, etc.) and your achieved statuses
(education, employment, memberships, etc.) are likely to fit into community life.14 It will also help you identify
laws and customs that define various positions as well as the kinds of people who are likely to hold them.
Explore structure-functionalism as a sociological perspective at The Iowa School. What are the strengths and
weaknesses of the Iowa School version of symbolic interactionism as a way of understanding communities?
Assess your comprehension of The Iowa School of Symbolic Interactionism by completing this quiz.
While the Iowa School shows us how communities define relationships and act cohesively in spite of changes in
who holds particular positions, the “Chicago School” of symbolic interactionism focuses on the process of
interaction and how our social identities are built through day-to-day encounters. Charles Horton Cooley, one of
the founders of the Chicago School of social psychology, asserted that you create your sense of self (how you
judge your position in life and your worth) through the “looking glass self” (the judgments you see mirrored in
the eyes of others). If you see approval and love, you experience pride and self-confidence. If you see disapproval
and animosity, you experience embarrassment and shame.15 George Herbert Mead,16 a student of Cooley, and
Mead’s follower Herbert Blumer17 further elaborated on Cooley’s ideas by adding the concepts of role making
and role taking to the process of identity development.
The role-taking and role-making process can best be illustrated by an example. Imagine that you are a member of
the leadership team of the Smithville Neighborhood Organization (SNO). A significant number of your neighbors
want the SNO leaders to speak with Industrial City’s director of public works about the terrible condition of the
neighborhood storm drains. The leadership team selects you to be their spokesperson with the director. You
prepare carefully for the meeting, choosing just the right clothes and the right information to take and rehearsing
what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You are engaging in role making. The meeting day
arrives, and you are ushered into the director’s office. You present your case to him. At this point you are role
taking. Meanwhile, before and during the meeting, the director has been doing his own role making. He has a
large corner office with an administrative assistant outside and a large mahogany desk that is facing the door. He
has a large, comfortable desk chair with a much harder, smaller chair for visitors like you. He is dressed formally in
a business suit and has prepared maps and charts that show his areas of responsibility.
You feel intimidated. His role taking begins when you enter the room. He offers you a seat across the desk from
him. He offers to have his assistant bring coffee. He seems to listen carefully to your request and carefully frames
his reply, which emphasizes how many projects he is responsible for, how little money is available, and how all of
them are more important than your request, but that he will try to do what he can. As you listen to him, a part of
you is deciding what to do next (role making). Once it is your turn, you decide what to say (role taking), and so
forth. Role making and role taking will continue even after you both leave the meeting. You will continue to think
about what he has said and what to do next—and so will the director. Mead and Blumer asserted that what we call
society is created by such daily encounters. As you talked with the director, you were helping to create the role of
community organizer—not only for yourself but for other community organizers. As the director responded, he
also was creating what it means to be a public official in a small U.S. city.
Assess your comprehension of Symbolic Interactionism Theories by completing this quiz.
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Symbolic interactional processes in community organizing can be easily demonstrated in your own life. Think
about times when you have entered a new group, organization, or place. Chances are that you watched how others
acted. Implicitly or explicitly you asked:
“What is going on here?”
“What does it mean?”
“How does this experience link to other experiences in my life?”
“Who are these other people?”
“What is expected of them?”
“Are some of them more important than others?”
“What does each of them expect of me?”
“Are there existing conflicts among them that I should avoid?”
“Who can I trust to guide me?”
“How shall I behave?”
If you are wise when you enter a new situation, you probably spend the first few days, weeks, or months orienting
yourself to the situation. You do a lot of listening. You watch people talk with one another and go about their
daily lives while comparing your observations to other experiences in your life and to probable interpretations you
have encountered through self-directed learning or formal schooling. You note how some things are similar to past
experiences and how some others are different. Sometimes you cautiously venture an opinion or asked a direct
question. If your opinions or questions are well received, you venture further. If they meet with laughter, a stony
silence, or angry glares, you probably retreat to discover what went wrong. You mentally consider different
approaches and try to anticipate their results. After mentally “trying on” different possible scenarios, you probably
participate in real life situations.
When you imagined what others expected of you, you were role taking. Each time you actually said or did
something, you were role making. This involved the words you chose, your tone of voice, your facial expressions,
your body language, and even your dress. As you participated in the life of the group, you paid attention to the
reactions of others. In other words, you received feedback. You may have chosen someone you trusted to give you
explicit feedback, or you may have simply mulled over your experiences. You probably found that your
perceptions changed as you became more and more acclimated to the new social situation. You learned what to
say and what not to say. You learned about formal and informal communications and power differences, and how
to dress appropriately. You developed a sense of belonging, made friends, and may have even made some enemies,
but you felt at home. As you look back, you may smile at assumptions you brought to the new situation and may
be a bit embarrassed by things you said or did before you knew how to behave. You may even be able to point to
specific instances when you stopped being a stranger and became part of things.
If you relive your entry experiences in several life situations, you find that some approaches worked well while
others did not. Those that worked well in a variety of situations can be thought of as your social learning style. As
a community organizer, awareness of your own social learning style helps you to effectively enter into community
processes. Knowing how to enter a community and gain acceptance is especially important when gaining access to
new communities.
Explore the history of symbolic interactionism and its major theorists at “Symbolic Interactionism: Mead”.
Where would you probably find the symbolic-interactionist approach useful in community organizing?
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Integration into Community Life
Integration into community life is like Chinese checkers or other games where each player starts from a different
position. You must understand your position in relation to the target community or group. There are three major
positions: “insider,” “outsider,” and “insider-outsider.” Most community organizers find themselves in all three
positions at points during their lifetime.
Insiders have an established place by reason of longevity and reputation. Sometimes you become an insider
through your own efforts or by your family heritage. Insider status varies by location and tradition. In some
communities such as Middle View and tightly knit neighborhoods like parts of Smithville, it’s impossible to be
considered an insider until your family has lived in the area for three generations. In other communities, especially
more recently developed ones, you become an insider simply by living or participating in the area for a few weeks
or months. All communities, even the poorest, have insiders and outsiders. The advantage of being an insider is
that people feel they know and can trust you. If you come from a “good, local family” or have “made good for
yourself,” you’ll probably have automatic credibility and feel “at home.” Because you grew up in the community,
you’ll probably find that you have a priceless advantage: a tacit (unconscious, “gut-level”) understanding of the
community’s history and how to get things done.
However, insider status can have disadvantages as well. Because people feel that they know you, they may hardly
believe that you would have anything to offer! You may also be handicapped by your ascribed status. If you are
young, for example, you may have to struggle with being thought of as a child by those who have known you all
your life. If you have been a quiet homemaker, people may be surprised when you loudly speak up at a
community organizing event. If you are a member of an unpopular ethnic group or if your extended family has a
bad reputation, you may have little chance of being heard by those traditionally in power. If you have made
mistakes in the past, you may be shunned. You may experience internal struggles as well, such as reluctance to
hurt other people’s feelings even when obvious mistakes have been made. In spite of these pitfalls, insider status
will often give you an advantage over newcomers.
Outsiders are organizers who do not belong or who don’t intend to belong to the community. If you come into a
focal community as an outsider, you may come with an agenda or may have been invited to help, but neither you
nor group members regard you as a permanent part of the focal community system. As an outsider, you are most
effective when you’re aware of your status as a stranger and willingly provide information and guidance without
imposing an agenda. Likewise, the community groups who best use the wisdom of outsiders are those who take
information and structural suggestions and then use their own wisdom to adapt this input to their unique
situation. It is flattering to be thought of a person with all of the answers, but the wise outside community
organizer turns the decision-making process over to members of the target community, making sure that the
process itself is inclusive and fair.
Insider-outsider is a term for those who live or work in the focal community, have expertise in community
organizing, and want to contribute but are recognized neither as outside experts nor as “real” leaders of the
community. Insider-outsiders may be newcomers, returning wanderers who grew up in the community, or long-
time residents who are stepping out of their expected roles and bringing new ideas. All face the problem of
permeating the boundaries of the community to offer their knowledge and skill—without being rejected as know-
it-alls or discounted because “someone who has chosen to live among us couldn’t possibly know anything.”
Often an insider-outsider is initially known only by visible activities: the heavy lady in line at the grocery store, the
Little League coach, or the “Smith boy” who grew up across the street. Because they are not quite insiders, no one
really knows their areas of expertise or quite trusts their motivations. The insider-outsider must engage in a
journey from stranger to respected community member—a process that takes time and patience.
Overcoming Reticence
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Whether you are an insider, outsider, or insider-outsider, there are times when you may experience internal or
psychological barriers to effective organizing. Overcoming what ordinary people call reticence or shyness—or
what symbolic interactionists call embarrassment or shame—can be one such psychological barrier.18 Reticence
describes the anxiety and tension you feel when engaging in a new situation, which is related to the need for
belonging and the fear of rejection. While everyone needs to belong to someone or something, fitting in or feeling
comfortable comes more easily to some people than others. If you need suggestions for overcoming shyness or fear,
here are a few tips:
Remember that different groups and communities take different amounts of time to accept a newcomer, so
give them and yourself plenty of time.
People vary in their interest in others, their attention to people outside of their immediate circle, and in
their basic friendliness. Some people will welcome you, some will ignore you, and a few may be hostile, but
these reactions reflect their state of mind rather than anything about you.
There will be days when you feel lonely and isolated, so keep in touch with old friends and keep some
material reminders around you of who you have been and are.
Pay attention to your physical health by eating properly, exercising, and getting enough rest.
Remember that acceptance or rejection does not have anything to do with your intrinsic worth as a human
being.
Listen carefully to those you encounter and find ways of reaching out to them in practical ways. Nothing
eases shyness and self-doubt like turning your attention to the needs of others.
The journey of creating yourself in a new situation begins with what sociologist Erving Goffman called the
presentation of self.19 In practical terms, this means dressing the way most people your age and gender dress,
keeping your home and office neat and not extravagantly decorated, buying locally, receiving your mail locally,
participating in community organizations and associations, and sharing the challenges and joys of living in a
particular location.
Discerning Expected Behaviors
Once you overcome your reticence, the second stage of entering or re-entering a community involves quiet
observation, noting how insiders relate to one another, and learning the unwritten rules of community life. The
best way to do this is to “hang out” unobtrusively and observe people going about their daily lives. Most
neighborhoods or communities have “common places” (or “nodes”) where people naturally gather and informally
socialize. These can include convenience stores, playgrounds and parks, cafés, local post offices, beauty parlors or
barbershops, and neighborhood bars, as well as recognized community events such as youth sports, parades, and
festivals. All are good places to observe patterns of interaction. It may seem simplistic, but communities have
personalities. Some seem grim and cold, where residents attend to their tasks without speaking or smiling, store
clerks do their jobs perfunctorily or resentfully, drivers are aggressive, and children are surly. Other places feel
warm and welcoming, where people have pleasant smiles and ask about each other’s families and pets. In some
places, people of various classes, races, and ethnic groups seem to share their common space warmly or at least
cordially. In other places, there are frequent shouts of anger, name calling, and animosity among neighbors and
between different blocks. Some places change personalities with the seasons. In Middle View, for example,
behavior varies between the “high season” and the “rest of the year.” During the majority of the year, everyone
knows one another by sight, if not by name. Interactions are warm and friendly; the pace is slow. In the summer,
the pace quickens and Middle View becomes a “little piece of the city.” The “summer people” and tourists seem to
bring their “city ways” with them. Their driving is a bit more aggressive and they become frustrated when grocery
store clerks chat with “regulars,” but their presence seems to “wake up” the sleepy village. There are concerts on
the green, the beaches are immaculate and crowded, and the local arts community thrives. When Labor Day
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arrives, the village goes back to sleep.
Community ambience seems to have little to do with prosperity, lack of prosperity, or with the individuals who
make up the community system. It is important to observe typical interactions and adjust behavior to fit
unobtrusively.
Trying New Roles
The third stage of fitting in is practicing interactions with people and trying on new roles (behaviors). Engaging
people in initial conversations can be scary, but it is often these small gestures that pay the biggest dividends. The
process involves action and reflection. It often works best to introduce yourself to a single approachable person
and make a neutral remark about the shared context. If he or she responds in a friendly way, the next step may be
to ask them about themselves, listen carefully to what they say, and mention points of commonality while keeping
the spotlight on them. As you converse, it is important to learn things about that person and his or her position in
the focal community. People enjoy meeting someone who takes the time to learn about them, including their
names, their interests, and a little bit about their past history. They usually like to learn about points of common
interest. Topics vary with the social context, but common ones are children, careers, geographic connections (i.e.,
“Where are you from?”), and shared acquaintances. Such conversations begin the process of discerning weak ties
(people, places, and affiliations you may have in common, no matter how tenuous) and identifying shared and
overlapping social networks (webs of interrelated people).20
After each encounter, think about your new acquaintance, mentally rehearse his or her name and relationship to
the rest of the community, reflect upon how he or she responded to your overture, and think about what all of
this means to your evolving picture of the community and your place in it. Make sure you talk with all kinds of
people, including children (with the consent of their parents), teens, the elderly, and others who are likely to be on
the margins. The more you engage people with different perspectives the clearer the picture you get of the
community or group and the more acceptance you gain for yourself. This getting-acquainted stage may occur
quickly, especially in the case of such time-limited encounters as conferences or other short-term events, or it may
take decades in the case of extremely closed communities. It is generally wise not to move too quickly.
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Becoming Part of Things
The next stage is becoming assimilated (becoming an accepted part of community life). If the community has
permeable boundaries, chances are that it will have members who self-consciously see themselves as “bringers,”
folks who welcome newcomers. It is very important to allow yourself to be “brought.” Accept invitations to public
and private events and reciprocate by inviting others to your home. Show up for group events, take part, and
volunteer for basic tasks such as set up and clean up. Contribute financially to community events if you can. Keep
meeting people and reflecting on what you learn from each of them. Even though it is natural to give more
credence to first encounters than later ones, be careful not to just get acquainted with a few people and assume
that their perspective is the only perspective. Reciprocity is very important in the assimilation phase. You should
be ready to receive help and encouragement as well as to give them.
Sometimes it may take months or even years of just “showing up,” and proving yourself reliable and caring—but
eventually you will become respected and will be thought of as trustworthy and wise. The length of this process
depends on your initial position in the community, your strategies for entry, the nature of the community itself,
and your personal characteristics, such as kindness, approachability, and humility. Some newcomers—such as
pastors, teachers, and social workers—have the advantage of an already established social position waiting for
them. If their predecessors have gained credibility and respect, it is likely that they will already be granted a
modicum of credibility and respect. However, initial respect can be strengthened or quickly undermined by your
own actions. Some stumbling blocks to acceptance include coming off as an expert without learning what is
already being done, appearing to brag about your knowledge and skills, and being obtuse about the impact that
your social positions—such as gender, age, appearance, ethnicity, or profession—may have on others’ perceptions
and responses. The process of gaining and retaining acceptance is difficult, but given time you will create a
recognized personal trajectory (recognizable direction for your involvement). You begin creating your personal
trajectories the moment you enter a community or decide to engage in an issue. Therefore, it is important to
understand how you fit into ongoing patterns and learn to adapt your behavior appropriately.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Reflection on professional self (e.g., journaling, development of a portfolio, project
demonstrating competency)
Critical Thinking Question
Reflect on your focal community system. Are you an insider who has lived there for years and has an
established place in the community, an outsider who is completely new and has either chosen to become
involved or been asked to come in as an advisor or consultant, or an insider-outsider who has been around
awhile but is not yet recognized for your organizing abilities? How is your position likely to affect the ways
your approach the organizing task? How will you gain trust and credibility?
Assess your comprehension of How to Fit into Community Life by completing this quiz.
Summary
In this chapter, you were first introduced to the idea that your understanding of a focal community system is
dependent on an evolving cognitive-emotional process that involves both mind and heart and that is based on
your past experiences, information you have gleaned about similar communities, and your ongoing reflection on
your perceptions and feelings.
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You then learned that the social world is not something static that has always been here and always will be here,
but rather that it is created and re-created by human actions. There is no written rule book “out there” waiting to
be found, nor is there one and only one way of doing things. We human beings create the social order by the
cumulative effect of our specific behaviors. Here a few examples: If you attend a council meeting in your home
town, the participants and you create what it means to have a local government. As I write this textbook and you
read it, we are creating what it means to be “author” and “reader,” even though we are separated by both time and
distance. As you go through life, and if you listen carefully, you will hear people say things like, “They won’t let
that happen. The system just isn’t set up that way,”—forgetting that “they” are “we,” real people who can make
new decisions and, thus, change the world for better or worse. The final sections focus on you as a participant in
the community organizing process and provide tools for analyzing your own position in community life and
appropriate strategies for your participation in community organizing efforts. After reading Chapter 1 (which
introduced the concept of community), Chapter 2 (which gave you practice in systems thinking), and this chapter
(which has focused on the psycho-social aspects of life in community), you are ready to learn about different kinds
of community and to focus on the community organizing cycle itself.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of the chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
67

Chapter 4 Varieties of Community Organizing
Jeff Greenberg/Alamy
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Chapter Outline
1. Place-based Relational Organizing 49
2. Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation 50
3. Economic Mutual Aid 54
4. Self-help Groups 58
5. Community-based Advocacy 59
6. Social Movements 65
7. Collaborations 67
8. Mixing and Matching 71
1. Summary 72
Learning Objectives
At this point, you have become familiar with the dynamics of Middle View and Smithville, the geographically
based communities that are the primary examples for this text. You have learned to use systems theory in
community organizing and have explored the psychological and social–psychological aspects of communities. In
this chapter, you will explore seven different varieties of community organizing that can be applied in various focal
communities. Each is somewhat different from the others, although two or more can be mixed and matched as
needed.
This chapter gives an overview of these approaches so that you can choose those best suited to your circumstances,
explore them more deeply, and apply them. While there are several ways community organizing efforts can be
categorized, the following relate well to terms used in the field:
1. Place-based relational organizing
2. Social entrepreneurship or social innovation
3. Economic mutual aid
4. Self-help
5. Community advocacy
6. Democratic social movements
7. Collaboration
Note that Table 4.1 briefly lists each strategy and when it is usually used:
Table 4.1 Varieties of Community Organizing
Approach Purpose Key Participants
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Place-based/relational
initiatives
To improve the overall quality
of life in a relatively small
geographic area over many
years.
Dedicated citizens who feel called to care
for their immediate neighbors through a
variety of activities.
Social
entrepreneurship/social
Innovation
To meet a specific targeted
need.
Individual founders or small groups
concerned about innocent suffering.
Mutual economic aid
To improve the economic status
of participants through
cooperative efforts.
Individuals, families, micro-business
owners, farmers, and others who share
their time and resources to ensure that
everyone has enough.
Self-help
To cope with emotionally or
physically draining issues.
Those who have experience or who are
experiencing the target issue.
Community advocacy
To assure fair treatment and
justice for those living in a
geographic focal community.
Those whose lives or livelihoods are
affected by injustice.
Social movements
To demand fair treatment and
justice primarily for those who
are comparatively powerless.
Those whose lives are affected and those
who support the justice of their cause.
Collaboration
To enable established social
institutions and organizations to
work together toward the
common good.
Representatives of various agencies and
organizations.
Place-based Relational Organizing
Place-based organizing improves the quality of life for all of the people residing in a relatively small geographic
area and generally consists of a variety of shared events, projects, programs, and celebrations, each of which may
seem unimportant but when taken together make the focal community an enjoyable place to live. When you think
of place-based relational organizing, picture the people you have met who always seem to be doing something
formally or informally to make life better for everybody. Many seem to be everywhere at once—working with the
parent–teacher association (PTA) to raise money for a new playground, organizing book sales so that the library
can purchase new computers, planting bulbs in the local park, providing leadership in various groups, and—not
incidentally—welcoming those in need into their homes. Most do not think of themselves as community
organizers. If you ask, they’ll tell you that they just want to be good citizens and make life better for their friends,
family, and neighbors. They want a community where everyone is safe, productive, and happy, and they are
willing to work toward that goal in many different ways. Perhaps because such people are everywhere, it is
relatively easy to overlook their work or take it for granted.1 Although some writers in the community organizing
field refer to this as “women centered” or “feminist” organizing, here it is referred to as place-based relational
organizing because it is not really gender specific but rather comes from an ethic of care.2 Place-based relational
organizing is based on the tendencies of caring people to value interpersonal relationships, initiate organizing
efforts based on the needs of those they love, elicit the help of those they already know well, and share ideas freely
and creatively. This type of organizing is often somewhat informal and builds on existing personal, family, and
neighborhood networking. Place-based relational organizing was first described by feminist scholars as they
explored the ways women make a difference in their communities.3 Although it is not exclusive to women, place-
based relational organizing does often depend on women’s wisdom and engagement and works best in
communities where women are taken seriously within their homes, extended families, and immediate
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neighborhood.4
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
Place-based organizers are often at the heart of community events. Think of a place you call home or you
once called home and the events that happen regularly year after year that make life more fun for your
friends and family (e.g., Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July fireworks, summer festivals, Halloween parades,
and breakfasts with Santa). Identify the people that regularly volunteer at these events, determine the
number of times the same names or organizations have been associated with these events over the years, and
make a list of names that seem to reoccur time after time. These people will often be the core of place-based,
relational organizing.
Place-based relational initiatives are often a partnership between catalysts, caring professionals who live or work in
the focal community system, and natural leaders, who have local credibility because of their long-term family,
relational ties, and reputation for giving good advice and practical aid in time of trouble. Together, catalysts and
natural leaders provide a bridge between resources outside the community and assets within the community.
Place-based organizing is an organic process that evolves, sometimes over decades, and is frequently comprised of
many small projects and events which improve the overall quality of life for everyone. While particular projects
may involve a changing cast of characters, over the years place-based relational organizing often depends on a few
dedicated people who deeply identify themselves with the community and the well-being of all residents. Place-
based relational organizing works best in neighborhoods and small rural communities, such as Middle View,
where there is a solid core of dedicated people who have generational ties to the locality, are open to caring
newcomers, and understand that creating and maintaining a high quality of life—for those in that particular place
—is a lifetime task. This type of organizing is more difficult in places like Smithville, where few people have long-
term roots or where everyone is focused on individual concerns so that no one feels responsible for shared well-
being.
To improve the quality of life in well-defined, relatively small places such as neighborhoods, villages, rural towns,
housing developments, and mobile home parks, explore place-based/relational strategies and tactics. Under what
circumstances would you be likely to use a place-based or relational approach to community organizing?
Assess your comprehension of Place-based Relational Community Organizing by completing this quiz.
Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation
Social entrepreneurship and social innovation organizing initiatives are generally focused on helping those who are
unable to help themselves including needy people, marginalized groups, or even animals, plants, and natural
environments.5 The main difference between social entrepreneurship and social innovation is that social
entrepreneurship projects are principally the brainchild of a single individual while social innovation efforts are
most often team based. Do you have a burning desire to serve a particular target group, have some ideas about
how you would like to accomplish your goals, and want to lead a new organization to provide this needed service?
If yes, then you’re probably a social entrepreneur. On the other hand, if you and several others have been talking
about an unmet need and have been exploring possible alternatives together, you’re all social innovators.
Social entrepreneurship, as used here, refers to altruistic efforts that are begun by a founder (a highly committed
individual) and that depend almost entirely on his or her vision, energy, and commitment. Social innovation, as
71

used here, refers to efforts that are begun and maintained by a core group of committed people who share the
work. Some efforts are almost completely founder centered, others have a strong founder with hand-picked
supporters, and still others have various levels of shared power.
Social entrepreneurship is generally triggered by a life-changing encounter with others’ suffering through a single
event or an evolving process that founders characterize as “hearing a call” or “discovering my passion,” which
ignites a fiery desire to make a difference for those in need. Successful social entrepreneurs are charismatic, driven,
and single-minded. They have a vision of what needs to be accomplished and the ability to communicate their
vision to others. Successful social entrepreneurs have keen organizational skills, an ability to clearly define project
needs, determination, and a willingness to endure personal sacrifices for their cause. Some have well-established
connections and a solid personal resource base. Others have only their strong wills and winning ways. Many are
willing to begin with few resources, except for the strength of their vision and, often, their faith in a higher
power.6
Founders tend to fall on a continuum between those who are primarily activists and those who are more business
oriented.7 Similar to entrepreneurs in the private sector, founders often have trouble transitioning from visionary
to manager, and then have trouble letting go when it is time to retire.8 Many of the world’s oldest and most
dynamic organizations were founded by social entrepreneurs (think Clara Barton and the American Red Cross).
Social entrepreneurs often capture the public’s imagination because they embody the American belief that success
is based on individual initiative and personal drive. However, long-term efforts that survive and thrive de-
emphasize this cult of personality and spotlight the work of the organization.9
Let’s now look at an example of social entrepreneurship in Smithville, where its youth have all of the stereotypical
problems associated with inner-city young people, not limited to drugs, petty crime, vandalism, gangs and quasi-
gangs, early pregnancy, high drop-out rates, and prevailing hopelessness. About fifteen years ago, Mary, a
dedicated artist and musician from a prosperous nearby community, felt compelled to go to Smithville to create an
innovative arts center—a safe zone where young people could interact, learn arts-based skills, and eat an evening
meal during the school year and both lunch and dinner during the summer. This philanthropic musician and
artist used her own money and donations from friends to begin her outreach project. She located free space for her
project, recruited a hand-picked volunteer Board of Directors as well as adult artisans, and began “doing business.”
Young people loved her, and her project quickly became known among them as a safe, enjoyable place to be.
However, she became known as an unorthodox rebel among the established youth-serving agency providers and
was ultimately seen as a threat to their funding because this 60-year-old whirlwind was surprisingly successful. The
local United Fund provided her with a small grant and insisted that she keep records of outcomes. Almost
everyone was astounded at the significant reduction in teen pregnancy and increase in high school graduation rates
that could be directly attributed to her program. Moreover, she was able to show a significant decline in drug use
and vandalism in the project’s focal neighborhood when compared to other neighborhoods served by the more
traditional agencies with much larger staffs, more impressive facilities, and much larger budgets. Her young
participants told United Fund evaluators that her program had helped them change their attitudes about life and
their decisions about their behaviors. All of those interviewed praised her personally for the intensity of her care
and willingness to go more than the extra mile for them. Many of them not only turned their own lives around
but became mentors for younger people. Now age seventy-five, Mary’s energy is flagging, and board members are
aging, too. The transition from her leadership promises to be difficult.
Social innovation, on the other hand, is characterized by the work of a small, dedicated group using democratic
processes to meet a well-defined need. These efforts may take place within a geographic focal community system,
or they may represent a community of interest that exists across geographical systems. Many social innovation
efforts begin with an encounter with a particular individual, family, or small group. The call to action often begins
with a simple statement, “Somebody ought to do something about. . . .” until the realization strikes that there is no
one “out there” to do it except themselves! Social innovation efforts typically move slowly, with false starts and
setbacks, but are highly effective because they rely on shared insights, complementary abilities, mutual support,
and multiple bonds. They are likely to be stronger and more resilient than efforts that depend on a single
individual, and their use of democratic principles—and inclusion of a variety of people, including potential
72

beneficiaries—strengthens the participants’ abilities to engage in other democratic processes.10 Participation in
social innovation efforts requires consensus building, which can be time consuming and frustrating. Even efforts
that seem simple and straightforward usually take much more time and energy than expected and often meet
opposition. Social innovation requires significant dedication from core members or a steering committee, and
many efforts fail because the individuals are unwilling or unable to invest the time and energy needed for success.
Social innovation may not work if time is critical or if only one or two people believe in the project while others
are lukewarm.11
Now let’s flash back to Middle View in the mid-1970s when the high school guidance counselor found that a
significant number of her students were running away from home to join the “hippies” and street people in San
Francisco and New York City, where their rural innocence put them in danger. She mentioned her concerns to
the pastor of a local church known for both international and local missions. The pastor, in turn, brought it before
the congregation at their annual mission conference, and seed money was raised. The initial concept was to
provide a temporary group home where young adults could live and continue to go to school while working things
out with their families. The pastor and counselor recruited a small group of interested people who became an
association and then a non-profit organization with a formal board of directors. These social innovators persevered
for four years of missteps and frustration but eventually created a social agency that
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery: Historical roots of human service
Critical Thinking Question
Choose a historical person who was known for his or her commitment to those in need. Briefly describe
their characteristics and the skills they used in making the dream a reality. How did they gain support for
their efforts? What challenges did they face? What was their legacy?
still provides temporary shelter, family mediation, counseling, and long-term shelter to teenage runaways,
potential runaways, and “throw-aways” (teens unwanted by their parents). It is now an integral part of Middle
View’s service system.
Table 4.2 provides a comparison of social entrepreneurship and social innovation to use when deciding which
strategy is best for your own personality and for project goals.
Table 4.2 Comparison of Social
Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation
Social Entrepreneurship Social Innovation
Your personal
characteristics
Imagination, drive, intrinsic motivation
(self-starting), charisma, and stamina.
Enjoy both positive and negative
attention. Like to get credit for your
efforts, but willing to take blame.
Shy, uncertain, and have to be
extrinsically motivated (pushed into
action). Think and work best when
bouncing ideas off others.
Your
convictions
about
direction
Deeply convinced of the rightness of your
cause and methods.
Willing to work with others to discern
appropriate directions. Willing to listen
and adapt others’ ideas to your own and
vice versa.
Focus on getting the job done. Pay little or
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Your desired
outcomes
no attention to the process of getting there
or inclusion of others, except as a means to
an end.
Focus on the process with an emphasis on
involving others, including intended
recipients, as an end in itself.
Your time
commitment
Willing to do whatever it takes to get the
job done.
Dedicated, but project is one of many
personal, work, and community
commitments.
Your patience
Anxious to accomplish as much as
possible, as quickly as possible.
Willing to take the time necessary to
build consensus and agreement.
Level of
group
commitment
You are excited about the project.
Everyone else is involved because you
asked them to be.
Several people are equally committed.
Each is willing to invest a reasonable
amount of time to make the project
happen and to contribute ideas for
planning and implementation.
Strengths of
the strategy
Founder’s skills and business sense
includes a solid business plan.
Synergy, stability, and mutual support of
core group.
Weaknesses
of the strategy
Over-dependence on founder; “founder
syndrome” where effort fails when founder
leaves (or fails to leave).
Depends greatly on seriousness of core
group. Often fails if few devote necessary
time, energy, and decision-making skills.
Supportive
resources
Social entrepreneurship is new business
category with many available resources.
Collaborative tools for groups and
participatory research techniques available
to help groups work together smoothly.
Social entrepreneurship and social innovation each have strengths and weaknesses. Most founders are willing to
devote free labor, their own financial resources, and the determination to keep going through good times and bad,
which is invaluable to the start-up phase of any enterprise.
Explore social entrepreneurship or social innovation approaches for community organizing efforts. Compare and
contrast social entrepreneurship with social innovation. Under what circumstances would each be appropriate?
The main strength of the social innovation model is its synergy and stability. Small groups have more networking
resources than do single founders, as each group member brings his or her own connections, links to outside
resources, and potential to recruit new participants.
Assess your comprehension of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation by completing this quiz.
Economic Mutual Aid
Economic mutual aid (sometimes called the informal economy) parallels the formal economic system and
enables people to have a reasonable level of prosperity through sharing what they have in more or less systematic
ways. Most economic mutual aid is taken for granted as is illustrated by the following story from Middle View.
Since the demise of the lumbering, mining, and paper industries, many people in Middle View are sustained
through an informal economy that is primarily self-supporting. The following story illustrates Middle View’s
informal economy.
Jenny Jones is a single parent with two school-aged children and a baby. Jenny has some hairstyling skills, owns an
old but adequate car, and loves children. She works part-time in the local convenience store and receives some
child support from the children’s fathers. She has many friends her own age who have children of various ages.
Jenny’s neighbor, Susan Scott, is a widow in her late seventies who has become an honorary grandmother to
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Jenny’s children. Jenny checks on her every day, helps her with her housework, and shares an occasional meal.
Mrs. Scott bakes cookies for the children and occasionally watches them while Jenny runs errands. Bob Baker,
who lives a mile down the road, is a fifty-year-old retired veteran who hasn’t found steady work since the local
paper mill closed ten years ago. Bob has carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills. Many people from all walks of
life call on him for minor repairs and occasional major projects. He drives a truck that is more rust than metal.
Although everyone knows they are “supposed” to pay Bob by check, for income tax purposes, no one refuses when
he asks for payment in cash. Bob charges well below the commercial rate for his services, is always available on the
spur of the moment, and has a large network of friends who also provide snow removal and leaf-raking services
“under the table.” Mrs. Scott often says that she could not stay in her home without the help of good neighbors
like Bob and Jenny. Harriet Huffman, a retired school teacher, a multi-generational summer resident who now
lives full-time in Middle View with her retired banker husband, is another player in this mini-drama. Harriet
volunteers weekly in the local food pantry and thrift shop. Let’s follow these folks on their journeys through the
informal economy.
It is a fine Saturday morning in late August. Because it is nearly time for school to start, Jenny has been sorting
through her children’s clothes from last year. She has discovered many wearable clothes that they’ve outgrown, but
they’ll still need many things for the new school year. She wants to get them each two or three completely new
outfits and to fill in the rest of their wardrobes as inexpensively but nicely as possible. She looks at her pile of
usable but outgrown children’s clothing and sets some aside for her friends’ children. She then boxes up the other
usable clothing to donate to the local thrift shop. She grabs some canned goods that she wants to donate to the
food pantry, which is adjacent to the thrift shop, asks Mrs. Scott to keep an eye on the kids, and heads out for her
errands. At the thrift shop, Jenny gives Mrs. Huffman her items to sort. Coincidentally, Mrs. Huffman herself has
just donated several boxes of her grandchildren’s slightly worn, brand-name clothes and has just finished putting
them on the display shelves in the “back-to-school” section. Some are still in their packages, and all have been
marked far below their original prices. Jenny is able to find several nice outfits for her children. Mrs. Huffman
herself is not above shopping at the Thrift Store. In fact, she notices some very cute baby things in Jenny’s
donation box and buys them for her newest grandchild. Both Jenny and Mrs. Huffman know that all of the thrift
store proceeds are put into an account that helps people pay for emergency heating fuel, gasoline, car and home
repairs, and household necessities.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Scott has discovered that one of her electric light fixtures is sparking and sizzling. She’s afraid of
fire and immediately calls Bob Baker. Bob’s truck won’t start so he walks the mile to her house. When Bob
inspects the light, he realizes that he will need some parts. Mrs. Scott does not own a car, but, by this time, Jenny
has returned from her errands and can take Bob to the local hardware store. Bob buys the parts, returns to Mrs.
Scott’s house, and fixes the electrical problem. Mrs. Scott pays him $30 in cash (well below what she would have
paid for an electrician). Jenny drives him home, where he discovers that his truck needs a new engine. So, the next
morning (Sunday), he walks to what is known in Middle View as the thrift shop church and talks to the pastor
about his plight. Because the thrift shop is a ministry of the church, the pastor calls an emergency meeting of its
board. Bob is known and respected throughout the community for his hard work and kindness; many church
members want to help him. A mechanic who is a member of the congregation volunteers to put in the engine if
one can be found. The thrift shop board members agree that the shop will pay for a rebuilt engine for the truck if
Bob can locate one. The next morning, Bob and the mechanic locate a suitable rebuilt engine and the thrift shop
board president and treasurer co-sign a check payable to the junkyard dealer. The mechanic tows Bob’s truck to
his repair shop and installs the engine in between serving his paying customers. Within a few days, Bob can
resume his handyman business, including helping the mechanic put in a new deck. And Middle View’s informal
economy spins on.
Economic mutual aid has been going on in tightly knit communities like Middle View for millennia. Recently,
attempts have been made to systematize mutual economic aid and define principles and practices that can support
it.12 Economic mutual aid strategies turn usual ways of thinking about economic development upside down
because they are focused locally and regionally, rather than globally; often offer micro-credit loans to poor women
who traditionally are considered to be poor credit risks; use such strategies as Local Economic Exchange Systems
(LETSs)13, time banks14, and local currency systems that are outside of national and international monetary
75

(LETSs)13, time banks14, and local currency systems that are outside of national and international monetary
systems15; and encourage Membership-Based Organizations of the Poor (MBOP) that are managed by poor
people themselves16. All of these strategies formalizing mutual economic aid are based on broadly democratic
principles and practices, and many are based loosely on Gandhian economic principles.17
Explore information on implementation of economic mutual aid strategies. Consider economic mutual aid
strategies that might be useful in your focal community system.
Characteristics of successful groups include an emphasis on saving as well as lending money, involvement of
people who already know and trust one another, slow and steady effort, and organizational structures and policies
that encourage equal participation among everyone involved. Mutual economic aid approaches enable even very
poor people to aspire to economic self-sufficiency. By allowing poor families to increase their income, they
increase access to basic material goods, such as healthy food, clean water, adequate clothing, and shelter. They help
improve the overall health and strength of whole populations while retaining the economic strength of isolated
(peripheral) communities, such as inner cities and rural villages. Many celebrate the often unacknowledged
economic contributions of women and enable them to gain some economic independence.18 This results in a
better balance of power between the genders within families and communities, the release of women’s creative
energy, better education and nutrition for children, and reduction in domestic abuse and sexual trafficking.
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery: Differences between systems of governance and economics
Critical Thinking Question
What changes in national and international social policies are needed to support locally based mutual
economic aid efforts? What could be done to encourage these policy changes?
Although many of these formal and semi-formal mutual economic aid efforts are generated from the top down by
development agencies, they are also organized at the grassroots level. Recently in Smithville, there has been a
groundswell by a loosely networked group of place-based, relational community activists to intentionally introduce
some mutual economic aid strategies. Figure 4.1 shows some of the emerging economic mutual aid activities in
Smithville.
While many mutual economic aid efforts depend on outside seed money, the Smithville effort began among its
place-based, relational network, whose members frequently lamented how Smithville had become something of a
“food desert.” There was no reasonably priced food market, and fresh local fruits and vegetables were impossible to
find, even in season. One “catalyst” learned that farmers a few hours away were frustrated because they were forced
to throw away produce that could not be easily picked mechanically and was not worth hauling to the closest
really major city. She asked a few farmers if she could buy these leftovers at a bit above cost and haul them to
Smithville. The farmers agreed because some money was better than none. Others in the relational network
borrowed pickup trucks, and volunteer drivers went to get the excess vegetables, which were taken to Smithville
and sold inexpensively at a weekly ad hoc farmers market in a church parking lot. Soon, members of the
Smithville community garden associations asked if they could sell their vegetables at the weekly markets and were
welcomed. During the summer and early fall, there was too much fresh produce to use, so it was informally
decided to preserve the bounty. After each market day, the leftover vegetables were taken into the church’s fully
appointed kitchen, where a group of women and a few men met every week to share recipes and learn to preserve
food, with the older women teaching the younger chefs. Eventually, this Thursday Night Cooking Club filled its
own winter larders and those of everyone they knew, but there were still leftovers. So, they added
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Figure 4.1 Emerging Economic Mutual Aid
Activities in Smithville
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
their preserves and other canned goods to the farmers market offerings, with proceeds going to the cooks
themselves. As they earned money from the food products, several purchased craft supplies to turn hobbies into
small cottage industries. At first, these products were added to the outdoor market, but soon it became clear that
indoor space was needed. Participants pooled their own money (along with some small grants from private
foundations and interested individual donors) and leased space in an abandoned local store. They created a kind of
bazaar or micro-business incubator. As their micro-businesses grew, they sought help from experts and learned
how to develop micro-credit groups to loan one another money at no or very low interest, and backed members’
micro-loan applications. The loan payback rate was close to 100%. Several of the micro-businesses expanded until
they each employed a few people at well above minimum wage. The prosperity of families has increased with very
little outside financial input, there is greater food security, and a spirit of mutual reliance and support has
blossomed.
Review Yes! Magazine for ideas that would encourage development of sustainable economic structures for your
community. Consider how and where sustainability concerns fit into your organizing efforts.
Economic mutual aid strategies offer a sound alternative to the forces of globalization that have nearly destroyed
77

rural and inner-city economies, widened the worldwide gap between the rich and poor, and threatened
environmental sustainability. Economic mutual aid strategies are useful alone or as part of an overall place-based
relational strategy for community economic development.
Assess your comprehension of Economic Mutual Aid by completing this quiz.
Self-help Groups
Self-help groups are associations that enable people to share experiences and coping strategies to meet specific
physical and emotional needs.19 Self-help groups vary in content, such as those that enable participants to control
self-destructive behavior such as alcoholism and other addictive behaviors. Some assist people in coping with a
wide variety of physical and emotional challenges; others focus on relationship issues. Still others enable people to
cope with the struggles of loved ones, such as groups for parents of autistic children or for families of the addicted.
There are hundreds of self-help groups throughout the United States, and more are created daily in both face-to-
face and online venues.
Explore available mental health self-help groups or other self-help groups. Why are self-help groups so popular
particularly in the United States?
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, self-help groups can be differentiated from support
groups, which are sponsored and led by professionals. Support groups may further an institutional agenda or give
power and control to professionals rather than participants. In contrast, self-help groups cost little or nothing to
organize and are not dependent on outside funding or approval. They provide participants with positive role
models, supply emotional and practical support, ease loneliness, facilitate sharing, enable individuals to cope with
changes in status, and offer a way to serve others.20 Their collaborative nature builds democracy and often
provides emotional support and advocacy. In fact, major social movements, such as those focused on the rights of
the disabled, began as self-help efforts.21
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: Client self-determination
Critical Thinking Question
In what ways would client-initiated self-help groups be more likely to support client self-determination than
support groups organized and led by human service professions or members of other helping professions?
Like anything managed by humans, self-help groups can fall prey to such weaknesses as over-dependence on a few
leaders who are not open to change or who gripe about perceived injustice, wallow in self-pity, and fail to
stimulate hope and positive coping. Others are overwhelmed by a few strong personalities or split by interpersonal
conflicts and rivalries.22 Most issues, however, can be avoided by applying basic communication rules; making
participants aware of dangers and possible pitfalls; setting clear, mutually agreed upon rules for communication,
including inclusivity; and regularly spending group time evaluating the group’s effectiveness.
The choice of in-person or online settings depends on the needs of participants, as both venues share more
commonalities than differences.23 Each offers a safe space surrounded by people who understand the participants’
struggles, have useful suggestions to offer, and pledge to help them. Everyone receives and gives. Each depends on
the willingness of participants to honestly and compassionately share intimate personal experiences with those who
are initially strangers. Each depends on group members to learn about the situation and mutually evaluate
approaches to managing it. Each venue has millions of participants. However, there are some differences. Table
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4.3 compares face-to-face self-help with online groups.
Read the self-help handbook for24 ideas for development of self-help groups. Consider the advantages and
disadvantages of a face-to-face self-help group versus an online self-help group.
Table 4.3 Comparison of Face-to-Face and
Online Groups
Face-to-Face Groups Online Groups
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Appeal to women Appeal to men
Appeal to those who are lonely and desire
opportunities to meet outside of the group
context
Appeal to those who prefer to remain anonymous
and separate their need for support from their
daily lives
Appeal to those who share socially acceptable
struggles
Appeal to those who feel that their situation is
shameful or embarrassing (such as one that
involves a stigma)
Work best for those who have time and logistical
support to attend meetings
Work best for those with little time or who keep
odd hours, are homebound, or must keep their
activities secret
Work best for conditions shared by many people
in a geographic area
Work best for rare conditions
Work well in populous areas with good
transportation
Work well for people in isolated areas with poor
or expensive transportation
Often link newcomers with sponsors who are
available for crises and day-to-day support
Are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a
week, especially late at night when a sponsor may
be unavailable
Work well for people who lack technological
savvy, have poor computer access, or are
uncomfortable with computers
Work well for those who are comfortable with
computers and have good access
Provide immediate emergency help Difficult to manage emergency help
Logistics such as meeting place, meeting times,
recruitment, transportation, and so on may be
difficult
Are easy to set up using social networking tools
Provide personal and emotional safety, as most
sessions are closed to those who do not share the
focal concern
Cannot guarantee personal and emotional safety,
as it is difficult to ban participants who might be
abusive or scornful
Self-help groups should be undertaken only by those who share the challenge being faced and can devote the time
and energy needed to maintain momentum.
Assess your comprehension of Self-help Groups by completing this quiz.
Community-based Advocacy
The Smithville Neighborhood Organization you have heard about in other examples was formed because a group
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of Smithville neighbors was fed up. Industrial City had spent millions of dollars renovating the downtown, but the
Smithville neighborhood lacked sidewalks, safe street crossings, adequate storm drains, and regular garbage pick-
up. A large local park was inaccessible and dangerous. The group became a leadership team, formed a community
organization, developed resolutions to take to the mayor and city council, and applied pressure until their
demands were met. Later on, tenants in a large housing complex in Smithville were frustrated by their landlord
who would not fix leaking toilets or broken playground equipment. Although quiet hours were posted, some
tenants partied all hours, and drug dealers haunted the public areas. One brave woman held a meeting at her
apartment to address these concerns. Six or seven people showed up and decided to form a tenants’ association
which confronted the building owners with their demands. Both of these Smithville groups were engaged in
community-based advocacy.
All community advocacy efforts are social processes that involve interaction among those who are suffering
injustice, governments or powerful interests that are directly or indirectly responsible for the injustice, media
representatives who are largely responsible for interpreting the situation, and the general public who can be
influenced to support or reject the cause.25 Advocates use a variety of tactics to gain broad public support for their
cause and pressure their adversaries into making desirable changes.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
What factors do you think community organizing teams should consider when choosing a community
advocacy strategy? What ethical considerations, if any, are important?
There are three major approaches to community-based advocacy: Alinsky-style organizations, radical membership-
based organizations, and unaffiliated groups of individuals and organizations that arise spontaneously in response
to community issues. Table 4.4 compares and contrasts these three types.
Alinsky-style organizing is named after Saul Alinsky, who was one of the first people to be identified
professionally as a community organizer. Alinsky began his work in the 1940s in the sprawling Chicago slum
called the Back of the Yards, a neighborhood comprised mostly of poor European immigrants from diverse
cultural backgrounds who shared their poverty and lack of voice in city affairs. Alinsky’s breakthrough insight was
that the Back-of-the-Yards residents needed to be rationally organized—with clear demands and an effective
structure that demonstrated their power in numbers, clarity of goals, and determination to force the all-pervasive
Chicago political regime to listen to them. He chose to work through existing neighborhood organizations—
especially churches, unions, and ethnically based social clubs—and used community meetings to develop a list of
specific, agreed-upon demands to present to city decision makers. Alinsky chose churches as primary sites for
organizing not because he was religious but because churches were practically the only institutions in the Back of
the Yards that could easily reach the numbers of committed people.27
Alinsky-style advocacy emphasizes organizing organizations rather than individuals and is based on the mutual self-
interest of its participants. Common strategies include the identification of community issues, creation of
resolutions through a general community assembly, presentation of these resolutions to appropriate policy makers,
and follow-through to sure that the resolutions result in action, which may be accomplished by neighbors working
together or may require outside intervention (usually from local government).
At this writing Alinsky-style organizing is perhaps best represented by faith-based organizations including the
Gamaliel Foundation, People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) and the Industrial Areas
Foundation (IAF), the inheritors of Alinsky’s original efforts. Local Alinsky-style efforts are primarily managed by
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volunteers chosen by member organizations, which include churches, synagogues, and mosques; neighborhood
associations; and interdenominational organizations. Although a few chapters employ professional organizers
supplied by their network, many are locally led. Support for the work comes from dues paid by participating
organizations, foundation funding, fund-raising, and thousands of volunteer hours. While the
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Table 4.4 Comparison of Types of Community
Advocacy Groups26
Alternate View
original Alinsky model emphasized the development of a unified local voice to confront political authorities, most
affiliates today use a combination of mildly confrontational political strategies blended with asset-based
community building at the street or block level.28 For example, a local chapter may simultaneously urge city
government to pave a street, provide community policing, and organize neighborhood clean-ups, informal block
parties, and community kitchens. The Alinsky model may sound somewhat familiar to you because the Smithville
Neighborhood Organization has relied heavily on its affiliation with one of the faith-based organizing networks
for many years.
Alinsky-style organizing works best when the target place has strong neighborhood congregations, an existing
neighborhood improvement association supported by organized street or block clubs, and established businesses—
the building blocks for an “organization of organizations.” It does not work very well where congregations are
regional rather than locally based, small and inwardly focused, or believe that social justice efforts are unnecessary
or where religious faith has no relevance to the vast majority of people. In addition, Alinsky-style organizing does
not work well where there are few local businesses or organizations or where the population is mostly comprised of
transient renters without neighborhood roots.
Secular–radical community advocacy was born in the social movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, often
spurred by young, white students and graduates of elite private colleges and universities. The Association of
Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and its surviving affiliates are the prototype of secular–
radical organizing.29 While Alinsky-style initiatives are primarily organizations of organizations, secular–radical
advocacy is membership-based. Professional organizers enter a focal community system at the invitation of
residents or because their national office has identified the neighborhood as ready for organizing. These
professionals mount door-to-door campaigns to recruit dues-paying members by promising that the new
organization will do something about community concerns and by giving examples of successful campaigns in
other focal communities. The dues are usually reasonable and are intended to symbolize members’ personal
commitment to the organizing effort rather than its major source of income. A membership meeting is called
when the organizer and his or her regional or national superiors determine that there are enough local members
for dramatic social actions, such as protests and sit-ins. Generally these meetings are tightly controlled by the
professional organizers who define the action campaigns and assign members to specific tasks. There is usually
little place for local leadership or for non-confrontational actions, such as mutual economic aid efforts, local clean-
ups, community gardens, and the like.30
The major weakness of secular–radical movements is that too much power rests in a small elite group of liberal
intellectuals from outside of the focal community rather than with neighborhood leaders. Most secular–radical
organizers are young, idealistic, and incredibly naïve. Few are people of color or members of oppressed minorities,
and almost none have lived in poverty. Many have a “know-it-all” attitude that leads to ill-considered social action
tactics, alienates allies and enemies alike, leads to rapid burn-out among the young organizers, fails to bring about
real change, and causes deep disappointment for the dues-paying membership.31 The major strength of the
secular–radical organizing is the individual membership model, especially when coupled with local leadership.
Unlike Alinsky-style organizations that are dependent on ongoing institutional support and only indirectly
represent neighborhood residents, membership-based organizations are largely independent of outside funding,
develop pride of ownership within their members, and encourage the development of indigenous leaders.32
Spontaneous Community-based Advocacy arises when focal system residents feel threatened by outsiders from
mezzo- or macro-systems or by powerful forces within the community focal system itself. Middle View has been
experiencing such a battle between a relatively powerless community-based advocacy group and powerful
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economic interests for the hearts, minds, and votes of ordinary people and political decision makers. Here is the
story of the hydrofracking battle of 2012. Hydrofracking is a process in which thousands of gallons of chemically
treated water are forced at high pressure into the shale rock hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface. The high-
pressure water–chemical combination fractures the shale to release natural gas, which can then be brought to the
surface. Throughout the world, the natural gas industry and some politicians have celebrated hydrofracking as a
quick solution to the world’s energy woes and assumed that it would be immediately and readily embraced
everywhere. But some people, including numerous Middle View residents, fear that hydrofracking may
permanently ruin the water table, pollute lakes and streams, and even destabilize the geological base—thus causing
earthquakes.33
Because the Town of Middle View sits on one of the richest gas shale deposits in the United States, it’s a prime
target for hydrofracking, which has become a very controversial local issue. Some owners of fallow farms look
forward to promised leased agreements, some unemployed construction workers look forward to at least
temporary jobs, and powerful organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the County Farm Bureau
have embraced the economic development potential of hydrofracking. Middle View residents oppose it because
they depend on wells for their water and fear permanent pollution of the water table and the lake, which supports
the local economy as a major source of recreation and tourism. These opponents organized a local advocacy group
that was loosely connected to similar groups at the regional, state, and national levels and began to use social
action tactics to engage the powerful economic interests that support hydrofracking. These anti-fracking advocates
won the first round of what has become an escalating local controversy with state and national implications.
Through a variety of social action tactics, the community advocacy group convinced the Middle View Town
Council to put in place a local ordinance banning hydrofracking in the town. The powerful energy companies, in
turn, filed a lawsuit against the town—asserting that hydrofracking is under the jurisdiction of the State
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and local zoning laws have no authority to regulate it. They
also recruited local allies in the economic development community, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the
County Farm Bureau, with financial support from the energy companies. These groups created a coalition in
support of hydrofracking, which spent thousands of dollars in media campaigns that extolled its economic benefits
and reassured the public of its safety. The community advocacy group responded with rallies, marathon telephone
and e-mail campaigns, and one-on-one discussions with their neighbors and politicians to spread their views. The
battle raged on several fronts.
In social systems terms, anti-fracking advocacy groups are fighting the hydrofracking battle at (1) the macro-level
through worldwide anti-fracking movements; (2) the mezzo-level through actions to delay implementation of
permissive DEC guidelines and counter-lawsuits to the one filed against the Town of Middle View; and (3) the
focal system level, through efforts geared at educating Middle View citizens and decision makers about the dangers
of hydrofracking by raising money to fight the lawsuit, placing yard signs around town, encouraging people to call
the governor’s office, busing residents to protests at the state capital, and conducting their own media campaigns
mostly through Facebook and other social media. So far, these tactics have delayed DEC implementation of
hydrofracking in the state. But as soon as the community advocates gain some ground, the powerful counter-
forces invest more money and effort into touting hydrofracking’s economic benefits and providing reassurance
about its ecological impact. The battle struggles on and is likely to continue for years. (4) The impact of
differences of opinion over hydrofracking at the micro-level among neighbors, friends, and family members has led
to at least one divorce.34
While the hydrofracking controversy in Middle View is an example of spontaneous community advocacy linked
intimately with worldwide protests, spontaneous community advocacy can take place in micro-systems as well. For
instance, Smithville has a high-rise housing project that dates back to the early 1960s that fits the public stereotype
of life in “the projects.” It’s filled with gangs, drug sales, prostitution, and senseless violence. Police refuse to
answer calls there, claiming that it’s too dangerous due to several officers having been hurt there over the years.
Although the buildings are owned by the city housing authority, everything seems broken—from the elevators to
the drains. Finally, a group of long-term residents became angry. They formed a tenants’ association that used a
combination of confrontation and negotiation to bring about needed changes, especially in the housing authority
and police–tenant relationships. They created a “mini-neighborhood watch” to maintain order and insisted on a
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reasonable level of discipline from children, teens, and young adults. The association is run by street-wise,
compassionate community matriarchs who support one another and to whom, when they speak, everyone
listens.35 From the outside, spontaneous community advocacy sometimes seems make-shift, but it is often the
difference between a livable community and chaos.
Community advocacy is needed where a local community has been ignored by those in power and allowed to
disintegrate or when those in power threaten to reduce the quality of community life. Effective community
advocacy groups are democratic, provide opportunities for residents to set agendas, decide on strategies, provide
both symbolic and actual leadership, follow through with tactics, and maintain momentum. Your role is to be the
servant-leader who makes sure that logistics are handled. Try your hand at these skills: (1) identify a multi-faceted
issue that has a potentially negative effect on your focal community system; (2) read and listen to everything you
can find out about it in your local media; (3) talk with members of your target community representing both sides
of the issue; (4) make mental note of the arguments, strategies, and tactics each side is using; (5) analyze how well
these approaches are working in terms of building public support and in bringing about the change their
constituents desire; and (6) determine what you would recommend if you were leading this advocacy effort.
Review more information on theories related to community advocacy. Consider the forms of community
advocacy that are needed in your focal community and the strategies you will use to actualize them.
Assess your comprehension of Community-based Advocacy by completing this quiz.
Social Movements
While community advocacy efforts are geographically based, social movements are broader and can be more
accurately defined as communities of interest whose members are committed to social change across wide
geographic areas. In fact, the word movement itself implies a wave of change that “moves” quickly across land and
sea in a multitude of directions and often seems to arise spontaneously in many different places. Just reflect for a
minute and you can probably think of several contemporary and historic social movements: the various “Occupy”
efforts of 2011–2012, disability rights, gay rights, various historical waves toward women’s rights, environmental
conservation, demands for civil rights from many different minority groups, the pre–Civil War abolition
movement, the labor movement, and more. Probably few of the great leaders of social movements past and present
set out to be spokespeople at the forefront of profound social change. Instead, they found themselves at the right
place, at the right time in history, and chose to accept the challenge.36
The late political theorist and historian Charles Tilly asserted that social movements of the disenfranchised first
emerged around 1768. In Tilly’s model, social movements have several important components: political
objectives; a repertoire of actions and symbols for making political decision makers and the public aware of these
objectives and the necessity of favorable action; and WUNC, which is an ability to demonstrate worthiness, unity,
numbers, and commitment that convinces decision makers that the movement will not go away. The goal of
movement organizing is to constantly increase its WUNC.37
In 1966, anthropologist David Aberle conceived a four-part model of social movements based on their focus and
intent that is still used today (Figure 4.2).38
You can use the four-quadrant Aberle model to determine whether (1) a social movement is primarily focused on
individual or societal change; (2) its goals involve minor shifts in behavior, viewpoints, and ideologies; or (3)
major (radical) shifts are envisioned.
Alternative social movements are individually focused and require limited change. Recycling would be an
example.
Redemptive social movements, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are individually focused and require radical
changes in individual beliefs and behaviors.
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Figure 4.2 The Aberle Model
Source: Aberle, David. “A Classification of Social Movements” in The Peyote Religion among
the Navajo. Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1966.
Reformative social movements, such as the disabilities awareness movement, focus on all of society but
have limited objectives.
Revolutionary social movements, such as the sustainability movement, seek to fundamentally change social
structures and the premises upon which societies are based.
In addition to the Aberle model, there are other classifications of social movements based on the source of their
core values. Religiously or culturally based movements are exemplified by the Indian freedom movement under
Gandhi, the American Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-apartheid movement in
South Africa under Nelson Mandela and Episcopal Bishop Desmond Tutu.39 “New social movements” based in
rationality and self-interest focus on (1) identity politics, such as gender, physical conditions, race, and ethnicity;
or (2) global issues, such as climate change or animal rights that have little to do with class conflict, religion and
values, or economic issues.40 Radical–secular social movements insist that the world is divided between a few
powerful oppressors and the majority of us who comprise an exploited oppressed. For them, life is a zero-sum
game with definite winners and losers. The community organizer’s or community educator’s role is to awaken the
oppressed, alert them to their mistreatment (a process called conscientization), partner with them, and together
use a repertoire of social action tactics to cause revolutionary social change.41 The various Occupy movements of
2011–2012 are a fairly recent example of such radical–secular movements.
There is an implicit assumption in the social movement literature that social movements always bring desirable
change, but that is not always the case. Counter-revolutionary movements meet Tilly’s criteria but aim at
preserving the social status quo, convincing people to act against their own best interests or pulling society back to
the values of an earlier time.42 These counter-revolutionary or reactionary movements are generated by fear of loss
of power or loss of the familiar. Counter-revolutionary movements are similar to revolutionary movements in that
they are conflict-oriented and view life as a zero-sum game with winners and losers—with participants afraid to be
on the losing side.
We live in a time of proliferating social movements. From the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century, meta-
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networks gained speed and momentum through inventions such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television.
The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have seen the invention of the internet and instantaneous,
world-wide interactive communication, and the ability of such sites as YouTube to record live instances of
injustice.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
The late Charles Tilly hypothesized that successful social movements need to demonstrate WUNC: that
they are worthy, unified, numerically strong, and that their members are committed for the long haul.
Choose a successful social movement that interests you, read about it in several different sources, and
identify its WUNC and the factors that led to its success.
The Web has made both a quantitative and a qualitative difference in social movements. From the quantitative
perspective, technology has made it possible to reach millions of people quickly and easily, adding speed and
immediacy to the social change process. However, remember that technology is fundamentally ethically and
morally neutral. It can be used to include or to exclude, to quickly disseminate the truth or embroider lies. Vast
sources of information available through search engines can be false or even dangerous. The speed of information
exchange can leave little time for reflection or wise decision making. The so-called digital divide can further
separate the “haves” who can access technology from the “have nots.” Therefore, critical thinking, discernment,
clear personal ethical standards, and open access to technology are important factors in assuring that the Web
serves society.
Read more about democratic social movements and social movements and adult education. Consider the
various kinds of social movements and their relationship to local community organizing efforts.
This text concentrates on democratic social movements that are based (1) internally on clear communication and
direct involvement of participants and (2) externally, using a non-violent repertoire of strategies and tactics to gain
67 public attention for changing political policies or immoral cultural values (such as increasing gaps between
wealth and poverty) and practices (such as charging usurious credit rates or outsourcing jobs to countries that lack
labor or environmental laws).
Assess your comprehension of Social Movements by completing this quiz.
Collaborations
Collaborations are comprised of representatives of formal organizations (hospitals, mental health organizations,
etc.) and associations (service groups, professional groups, church agencies, etc.) who are assigned by their
employers to work together to avoid duplication of services, fill service gaps, and stretch limited resources.43
Figure 4.3 is a “Collaboration Pyramid” developed by community collaboration expert
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Figure 4.3 Collaboration Pyramid
Source: Bacheldor, Laura. Developing Tools for Measuring Collaborative Effectiveness: Two Case
Studies” . Saratoga Springs, NY: SUNY/Empire State College unpublished master’s thesis, 2007.
Laura Bacheldor for her master’s degree in social policy. The pyramid helps define the skills needed for successful
collaborations and moves upward from initial planning to implementation.44
Collaborations have four dimensions as illustrated by Figure 4.4. On the horizontal axis, they vary from
involuntary to voluntary, and on the vertical axis they vary from service level to management level. Each quadrant
represents different reasons and results of collaboration.
On the horizontal axis, involuntary collaboration occurs when funders push for organizations to work together to
save money through reducing overhead, eliminating redundant services, and curtailing new program creation. In
fact, some funders order their grantees to “collaborate or else.” Needless to say, such involuntary or forced
collaboration leads to tension and resentment. Voluntary collaboration, on the other hand, is freely chosen,
allows for creative expansion of resources, enhances connected learning, and builds trust.
The vertical axis indicates where collaboration occurs. The top indicates collaboration among policy makers, such
as chief executive officers and board members. The bottom indicates cooperation among direct service providers.
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The intersection of the two axes results in four quadrants, each with different properties:
Quadrant 1: Consolidation occurs when separate agencies are forced to combine services usually to save
money. For example, consolidation of health care services occurred in Industrial City over a period of about
ten years as three medium-sized hospitals were merged into one large facility with attendant loss of jobs and
services.
Figure 4.4 Dimensions of Collaboration
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Quadrant 2: The upper right quadrant represents voluntary collaborations among agency administrators for
the purpose of providing new programs or advocacy and is often used to accomplish tasks each collaborator
would normally be forced to do separately, such as demographic and other forms of social science research,
advocacy for a whole service sector, or creation of new programs and projects that no single existing
organization is equipped to do alone. For example, in Industrial City (the home of Smithville), all the
youth-serving agencies joined together to sponsor a yearly summer recreation program. Each agency took a
week and provided planned activities for inner-city youth that provided a ten-week program that no single
agency could have done alone. Elsewhere in Industrial City, executives from several residential programs
serving the infirm elderly joined together to advocate for fair reimbursement for their services and livable
regulations.
Quadrant 3: The left lower quadrant symbolizes involuntary collaboration at the direct service level that
occurs when service cuts make it impossible to really help people and everyone must share limited resources.
Quadrant 4: In the lower right quadrant, shared resources allow workers in various agencies to easily refer
clients to one another. This ensures that clients’ needs are met no matter where they enter the service system
and that no one “beats the system” by getting duplicated services. This works well in Middle View. For
many years needy people had to go from place to place to get help, but now they are given comprehensive
aid at the combined food pantry and thrift shop. This not only helps those who are truly in need but also
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prevents smart “scam artists” from making money by going from church to church with the same sob story
and receiving aid from everyone.
Effective collaborations are difficult to sustain. They require a broad and inclusive vision, mutual trust,
participants who are authorized to act, and sufficient time for negotiation. All are often in short supply. For
instance, most organizations operate in a continuous growth mode. Executives are rewarded for their ability to
increase revenues, develop new programs, and effectively market existing programs rather than for their willingness
to save costs—especially if such savings come through collaboration with competitors or through consolidating
services. Second, in our highly competitive society, successful people are raised to believe that the world is
composed of winners and losers and that it is dangerous to trust anyone, especially one’s competitors. Third,
because participants in collaborative efforts represent organizational rather than personal interests, few are free to
commit organizational time, effort, or resources without going through an extensive approval process. Finally, the
demands of day-to-day operations often leave little time for the concentrated thought needed to make wise,
collaborative decisions or for the many telephone calls, e-mails, and written reports that collaborations seem to
inevitably entail. Often, collaborative responsibilities seem to sink to the bottom of everyone’s “to do” lists.
At some time in your career, your employer will probably require you to participate in a collaborative effort, your
community organizing team will decide that inter-organizational collaboration is the best way to meet community
needs, or you may want to work with others for the common good. Here are a few things you should know about
the collaborative process:
Collaborations have limited life spans, have distinct phases of group development, need clear rules of
communicative engagement, frequently experience conflict and power struggles, and often fail to live up to
their early promise.45
It is not your fault if collaborations fail or move along slowly. In fact, any collaborative effort is better than
isolation and chaos.
Collaborations have life spans: some begin with a definite goal and disband once the goal is reached. Other
collaborations reach limited objectives, take pride in solid accomplishments, and leave the doors open for
future efforts. More frequently, collaborations are amorphous and idealistic with missions such as “building
a better tomorrow together,” which make it hard to measure success or ascertain when the work is done.
Such collaborations may begin with great enthusiasm, creativity, and funding but (1) evolve into
bureaucracies which add another layer to the target system, (2) break into spin-offs, or (3) are integrated
into existing organizations.46
Some collaborations experience so much competition and antipathy among member organizations that
future collaborations are nearly impossible and the focal community system is in much worse shape than
before.47
Collaborations also need clear rules for positive engagement that vary according to whether they are forced or
voluntary, as well as whether they occur at the service or executive level:
Members of forced collaborations communicate best when rational discourse is used, including
parliamentary procedure, clear minutes, and firm direction. Voluntary collaborations succeed when
participants respect one another, use connected learning, listen carefully to each another, and build freely on
one another’s ideas.
Consensus and exchange power can quickly devolve into conflict, tension, and even threats. Such rapid
changes of group mood are disconcerting but very common.
Administration
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Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
Why is the idea of collaboration among organizations so compelling even though it is difficult to sustain and
rarely works well?
Read more about collaboration theory and practice to find suggestions for implementation. Consider the
strategies you would use to encourage successful collaboration.
A thorough understanding of various dichotomies discussed throughout this book—especially rational
discourse/connected knowing, consensus/conflict, power/empowerment, and clarity on small group dynamics—
will provide the intellectual tools and emotional distance needed to keep things on an even keel while progressing
toward shared goals that benefit the focal community system.
At their best, collaborations meet the goals of the collaborators and strengthen the quality of life in focal
community systems. They enable communities and service organizations to do more with less by (1) sharing
resources, (2) developing creative but relatively inexpensive solutions to longstanding problems, and (3) building
networks for solving future issues. At their worst, collaborative failures result in feuds, massive wastes of time and
taxpayer or donor money, and longstanding resentments that make further collaboration impossible.
While all of the other varieties of community organizing are primarily dependent on people who represent their
own interests, needs, and concerns, collaborative efforts are usually composed of representatives of formal agencies
and organizations who are expected to put organizational interests above their personal preferences and the needs
of the collaborative effort. If you look around your focal community, you will probably find that there are many
attempts at collaboration going on simultaneously. Take some time to explore one of them. Observe or participate
in a meeting of agency representatives in a real-life venue such as a local government or school board planning
workshop, an interagency council meeting, or a recorded planning session from a source such as C-Span or your
local public access station. Pay attention to interactional patterns such as who speaks and for how long, evidences
of changes in emotional tone or content, areas where you sense agreement, and areas where you sense conflict.
Reflect on places where there was explicit or implicit agreement and where there seemed to be conflicts of interest
and how each affected the meeting’s outcome. If you were involved, what role would you play? How would you
reconcile your loyalty to your employer with your loyalty to the community? As a participant, how would you lead
the group toward consensus rather than conflict?
Assess your comprehension of Collaborations by completing this quiz.
Mixing and Matching
Successful community organizing depends on using appropriate strategies and tactics. The following typology
(comparison of the varieties of community organizing) can help your team determine which approach best fits
your needs, but these strategies are not mutually exclusive. Tables and 4.5 and 4.6 illustrate ways in which the
various strategies can cross-fertilize one another. Table 4.5 uses housing in the Smithville neighborhood as an
example of a multifaceted issue facing a geographic community. Table 4.6 uses the
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Table 4.5 Primarily Place-based: Overall
Improvement of Housing in Smithville
Alternate View
Table 4.6 Primarily Self-Help: Provide Services
for Persons with Asperger’s Syndrome and Their
Families in the Middle View Region
Self-Help Collaboration Advocacy Social Movement(s)
Social
Innovation
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Provides contact
among affected
individuals and
families who desire to
help one another;
offers conversation and
support both face to
face and online.
Members
contact
agencies and
school districts
for assistance.
Collaborative
meetings held
with success.
Members realize that
agency and educational
supports are limited.
Advocates with school
district(s), private
agencies, and state
government for
appropriate services.
Links to broader
nationwide
movement,
including those
focused on autism,
Asperger’s
syndrome, and
broader issues of
neurodiversity.
Develops a
warm
welcoming
center
providing
services,
counseling,
and
coaching.
challenges facing individuals with Asperger’s syndrome and their families who live near Middle View to illustrate
overlapping types.
Summary
Community organizing takes a variety of forms and occurs in many different places under many different
circumstances. This chapter provides descriptions and a basic analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of seven
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different types of community organizing: (1) place-based relational, (2) social entrepreneurship and social
innovation, (3) mutual economic aid, (4) self-help, (5) community advocacy, (6) collaboration, and (7)
democratic social justice movements. All share the belief that democratic processes are foundational to a high
quality of life and should be practiced in every community organizing venue. The chapter is linked to seven online
handbooks that explore each type of organizing in further detail. Together, the chapter and handbooks can be
used as a framework for specific community organizing efforts. Although both are meant to provide a rational
framework for most community organizing tasks, many specific projects either (1) fit into a primary category and
one or several related categories or (2) begin in one category and move to another, such as when a self-help group
becomes a new social movement. In such cases, you will find it useful to explore the handbooks for all categories
that seem to fit their circumstances in order to choose strategies and tactics that fit their needs. Community
organizing is a wonderful adventure—enjoy your participation in it!
Assess your analysis and evaluation of the chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 5 The Community Organizing Cycle
Gines Valera Marin/Shutterstock
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Focus on Leadership 75
2. Focus on Participatory Research 80
3. Focus on Planning 81
4. Focus on Implementation 84
5. Focus on Management 85
6. Focus on Evaluation 88
1. Summary 90
Welcome to the Community Organizing Cycle—a framework that will used in the next few chapters to examine
the interrelated processes of leadership (Chapter 6), research and learning (Chapter 7), planning and
implementation (Chapter 8), and management and evaluation (Chapter 9).
To put it simply, community organizing is a non-linear process. It begins with the emergence of a leadership
team (a small group of committed people that takes responsibility for the organizing effort). The leadership team
guides the organizing effort through a cyclical process that includes:
Research: developing a thorough understanding of the focal community’s demographics, assets, needs, and
probable approaches to solutions
Planning: agreement on a mission, desired outcomes, processes that will lead to desired outcomes, and
evaluation measures
Implementation: collecting resources, trying out ideas, and beginning to actually do what has been planned
Management and monitoring: keeping an established effort going at a high level, making adjustments as
needed
Evaluation: comparison of actual results with desired results defined in the planning process
Figure 5.1A is an overview of this process. The arrows generally flow from research to planning to implementation
to evaluation and back to the leadership team to begin the cycle again. However, planning
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Figure 5.1A The Community Organizing Cycle
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
and evaluation are linked because, to be useful, evaluation must be linked to an assessment of whether the mission
has been accomplished and outcome goals have been achieved. The leadership team is the “engine” of the whole
process and provides guidance to those responsible for each stage. Members are ultimately responsible for the
success of the whole enterprise, as well as each of the stages.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Managing organizations through leadership and strategic planning
Critical Thinking Question
What are the advantages and disadvantages of following an organizing cycle rather than just letting things
happen spontaneously?
This model can be applied to any organization.
Let’s apply the organizing cycle to a typical family with the mother as its leader. Imagine it’s Saturday in a
moderate income, single-parent household composed of a mom and her two children, John (age 11) and Susan
(age 13). Mom’s job is to get everyone through the day and safely into bed at a reasonable hour each night. Over
the longer run, it’s her responsibility to keep her household housed, healthy, fed, clothed, doing well at school or
work, and as happy as possible. With some input from the children, she has already done some long-range
planning and has set some policies. She has made household rules that (1) allow each child have two major outside
commitments (sports, music, art, scouting, etc.) per school semester, (2) expect each child to take care of his or her
room, and (3) give each child one major household chore that rotates every four months. The family has a sit-
down evening meal once a week, followed by a family meeting, and all three do something fun (and moderately
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expensive) twice a year. On this weekend morning, the plan is for John to tackle the weekly inside housework
while Susan mows the lawn and Mom runs errands. In the afternoon, John has a Little League game and
afterwards will go out with his team for ice cream. Susan has a sleepover with three of her closest friends at 7 p.m.
Mom hopes that everyone, including the three young guests, will get up and out the door for church in the
morning. Implementation begins when both children and Mom sit down to breakfast and discuss the day. There
are many details to be added to each person’s tasks for the day to go well. Mom has to pick up snacks for the girls,
prepare something quick for supper, deposit her paycheck, get gas in the car, and wash and dry John’s uniform.
John has to vacuum the carpet; dust; get down some sheets, blankets and pillows for his sister’s party; and locate
his baseball glove. Susan has to mow the lawn, feed the pets, check if any of her girlfriends need rides, and weed
the family garden. Mom promises to bring home fast food for lunch, when they’ll check their progress. Each leaves
to begin morning chores. Although the management of the assigned tasks does get done, it is not all smooth
going. Mom gets behind schedule when she is caught in line at the gas station. The soda she planned to buy for
the girls’ party is no longer on sale. John spends most of the morning hunting for his baseball glove, has to hurry
through the chores, and breaks Mom’s good vase. Susan calls her friends before starting her chores, talks most of
the morning on her cell phone, and is only half done mowing the lawn when Mom comes home with lunch. The
program monitoring phase is when the three sit down with burgers and fries to discuss the morning. Mom is a bit
irritated by how little has been accomplished at home but reminds herself that, since her ultimate goal is to have
them learn responsibility, she will use this for formative evaluation as a teachable moment. Mom first talks with
John about how the broken vase was important to her because it belonged to her grandmother. Mom’s leadership
task now becomes enforcement of program compliance as they discuss the situation and agree that John and she
will try to repair the vase with crazy glue and, if that doesn’t work, Mom will buy a replacement vase and John will
have $1 taken out of his weekly allowance until it is paid off. Mom will try to find him additional paid chores so
he can pay it off more quickly. Mom and Susan then make a program modification. Even though Susan has been
counting on using the afternoon to prepare for her party, they agree that party preparations will be set aside until
Susan finishes mowing the lawn. There are a few “Aw Moms” from both kids, but they ultimately do as asked.
Mom takes John to his game. Susan mows the lawn and then prepares for her party. Mom is pleased and a little
surprised when she gets home. Susan has completed the lawn, has things ready for the party, and has even made
iced tea and sandwiches for supper! Although we only have followed the family for a single day, the threesome also
organize longer periods of time as well as special events. For example, the family has summative evaluation
sessions at weekly family meetings where they review the past week and plan for the next. At the next weekly
meeting, Mom asks the children what they remember from the past week and what they have learned about living
together as a family. Susan mentions that she learned to do the hard things first, then the easier ones. John
mentions the need to put his sports equipment where he can easily find it and to be more careful around
breakables. They talk about the week ahead and make plans to mesh their schedules. They cycle back to program
planning as they talk a little bit about possible changes in rules, and so it goes. Admittedly, this is an idealized
version of family life, but it shows that the organizing cycle can be applied anywhere.
Assess your comprehension of Generic Organizing Cycles by completing this quiz.
Focus on Leadership
Leadership is the heart and soul of all human endeavors. In community organizing, leadership emerges almost
immediately when there is a movement from quasi-group to association status (see Chapter 2). Six common
leadership approaches include (1) single leadership, (2) power elites, (3) representative democracies, (4) self-
selecting teams, (5) cells, and (6) connectivities.1 Let’s examine each in turn, so you and your emerging leadership
team can begin thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
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Figure 5.1B Leadership: The Heart of the
Organizing Cycle
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ..
The single leader model occurs when one strong person rises to power. In nations, this frequently occurs in times
of chaos and confusion, and usually through a combination of an individual’s intelligence, ability to consolidate
power, charisma, compelling ideology, and economic or military might. In community organizing, single leaders
often emerge when someone has a deep—almost compulsive—commitment to a social goal (as is the case with
social entrepreneurs) or a situation arises where decisions must be made quickly and a strong authority is needed
(as in the case of emergency or disaster response). The single leader model can be effective when the leader is
compassionate, puts the needs of his or her people first, and is willing to listen to them. The single leader model,
though, often falls into tyranny and dictatorship when the leader puts his or her own needs first.
Rule by an elite few is very common. A relatively mild form occurs in community organizing whenever a group of
“old families,” the “educated elite,” or “experienced leaders” provide resources tied to their right to make decisions
for everyone else. For example, Middle View’s resident aristocrats include Mrs. Jonathan Snodgrass, the widow of
the founder of a major local industry, and her closest friends who represent the only “old money” in the area. Mrs.
Snodgrass established the Snodgrass Foundation to “provide for the needs of children and youth in the Middle
View community.” Her friends are on the foundation board and inevitably support what she wants. Mrs.
Snodgrass has definite ideas about what is worthy of Snodgrass Foundation support and often dictates the details
of its grants. For instance, the Middle View Park Association had an opportunity to refurbish an antique carousel
that its members felt would be a tourist attraction and provide local children hours of summertime pleasure. It was
to be free of charge, open daily to the public during the summer, and carefully secured against inclement weather
from mid-October to mid-May. The Snodgrass Foundation was approached for funding its restoration and
ongoing maintenance. Mrs. Snodgrass agreed to fund the project but only on condition that the carousel would be
kept completely glass enclosed, carefully locked, and only available on rare occasions. Mrs. Snodgrass’s reasoning
was that “this area is filled with rough people who don’t care about nice things. If the carousel is open and in
frequent use, ‘those people’ would ruin it.” It didn’t matter to her that a glass-enclosed carousel isn’t as much fun
as one open to the sights and sounds of summer, or that other nearby communities had open-air summer
attractions with little or no vandalism. Rather than fight with Mrs. Snodgrass, however, the Park Association
agreed to her conditions, and as a result riding the carousel is a lot like riding inside a glass aquarium!
Mrs. Snodgrass and her friends are examples of local “aristocrats,” who believe that they are meant to make
decisions for the “lower classes,” an attitude sometimes referred to as noblesse oblige. However, ruling elites in the
form of oligarchies or hegemonies can have a darker side, that is, trading favors with one another while exploiting
the relatively powerless.2 For example, Smithville has recently been experiencing a process called gentrification
where several fine old homes in the neighborhood have been converted from small, low-income apartments into
spacious condominiums and then sold to middle or upper-middle class families, which has displaced many lower
income people. When the Smithville Neighborhood Organization (SNO) investigated the situation, they found
that a network of bankers, realtors, contractors, planning consultants, university business professors, and
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politicians had used Industrial City’s long-range comprehensive plan processes to push for such gentrification.
Each of these stakeholders had gained some benefit, as shown in Figure 5.2, to the detriment of existing residents
—many of whom had been displaced and all of whom had seen their rents rise.
For several hundred years now, democracy (rule by the majority of citizens directly or through their elected
representatives) has been seen as a major bulwark against the excesses of dictators and oligarchies. In the United
States, we are taught that democracy is intrinsically good; that all other forms of leadership are intrinsically bad;
and that community organizers, social workers, and educators should do everything in their power to involve
people in democracy and democratic processes. While generally true, democracy can have undesirable results
unless it is governed by rules and safeguards to prevent mob rule and protect minority rights. The Bill of Rights in
the Constitution is in part designed to prevent the majority from abusing democratic power. Community leaders
can open the decision-making process and mitigate tendencies toward oligarchy and hegemony through orderly
debate, well-defined rules of order, formal voting, and clear record keeping. In most social systems democracy is
the best form of leadership. However, remember that democracy can become mob rule if it does not make
provision for the rights of minorities or if it is based on fear and frenzy aroused by those with hate-filled agendas,
an important reminder of why the Bill of Rights was inserted into our Constitution. Some of the world’s greatest
atrocities have originated from democracy
Figure 5.2 Smithville Gentrification: Who Is
Missing?
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The current residents of Smithville are absent from this illustration because no one consulted them.
The entire gentrification project has benefited those already in power, while it has excluded many of
Smithville’s voiceless and powerless citizens.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
run amok.3 While we generally think of such countries as Rwanda and Nazi Germany in this context, it can
happen in local community systems as well. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of Industrial
City’s economic boom, Smithville was a primarily white ethnic, working class neighborhood comprised of skilled
laborers who were mostly homeowners. When the industrial-based economy crashed in the 1980s, some
Smithville residents slid into poverty while others left the area. From 1990 to 2000, many formerly owner-
occupied homes were divided into inexpensive rental units that housed small contingents of immigrants from the
Caribbean and Guyana. Although most were Pentecostal Christians, some were Hindus, Rastafarians, and
Muslims—many were not yet U.S. citizens. Although there were no facts to indicate that the quality of
neighborhood life was deteriorating, a number of the original homeowners began to worry aloud about crime,
drugs, gangs, and loss of property values. Industrial City’s newspaper and television stations began to report on
criminal incidents and arrests in Smithville that would have escaped notice or been buried on the back pages had
they occurred in more prosperous parts of the city. This reported “crime wave” caused the mostly white, retired
homeowners to create their own association (outside of the SNO) to demand more policing. The police, in turn,
were pressured to make more arrests, which increased the local perception of a crime wave. Association members
formed vigilante committees and a branch of the Ku Klux Klan began to persecute the new residents. The local
police did nothing until the FBI was called in. City government turned its back on the injustice being perpetrated
on the newcomers because the immigrants could not or did not vote. Majority rule turned into majority tyranny.
Cell-based leadership is common in revolutionary and reactionary social movements where secrecy is important.
It is based on an ideology rather than a hierarchy. Cells are small outposts, hidden within a broader social context,
united by a common vision and ideology, but only tenuously connected to one another structurally. Often,
members of separate cells do not know one another, so enemies cannot trace one small cell group to others.
Because each cell is independent of any central authority, cells can operate locally even if the central authority
collapses. Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade
Center in New York City, is a cell-based organization, as was the French resistance movement during World War
II.4 By nature, cell organizations are nearly invisible, but they do exist nearly everywhere, especially among
members of stigmatized social groups in potentially hostile environments. For instance, the majority of Middle
View residents are conservative heterosexuals who do not approve of homosexuality. When Mary Smith and her
partner Patricia Newton bought a home in the Middle View area, they made discrete inquiries about lesbian, gay,
bi-, and transgendered (LGBT) connections and were put in touch with a small group in a neighboring town.
Mary and Patricia quietly identified other LGBT folks in Middle View, invited them to their home, and formed a
mutual support and advocacy group. They were very discrete, quietly developed local friendships, and linked to
other small LGBT groups throughout the conservative rural region. Everyone in the local LGBT community feels
safer because of these connections and enjoys life more because of these friendships. On the other hand,
clandestine, cell-based groups are not always benign. Middle View has a number of violently anti-gay people who
also link to one another quietly, meet in homes, and are in touch with other secret anti-gay groups in communities
throughout the region. Rumor says that they have planned and have conducted overt and covert acts of violence
against the gay community, including the suspected arson of a known gay bar. No one has been able to stop them
because notice of meetings is by word of mouth, planning sessions move from place to place, and it is said that the
lack of reprisal for violent incidents stems from the involvement of some highly connected people in police,
religious, and government circles. The majority of Middle View citizens are unaware of the activities of either
group or prefer to ignore them.
Team leadership, the type most often used in successful participatory community organizing (and the focus of
Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9) has emerged since the World War II and is broadly based on the Total Quality
Management movement in industry.5 Team leadership is often project- or problem-centered, and involves
members who each bring important perspectives, communication skills, and expertise to the endeavor. In team
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leadership, people—not positions—are important. Leadership teams select their own conveners (leaders) based on
the latter’s knowledge of the situation and their ability to facilitate effective communication. So, in a community
setting, it’s quite possible for a team that includes the mayor to be led by an unemployed, impoverished
homemaker.
Leadership teams have a broad mission which they clarify jointly. The best team members share expertise
generously, build on one another’s ideas, share responsibility for failures, and are open to outside input.
Leadership passes from person to person, depending on the skills needed by the group. Ideally, there is little
jealousy or competition. However, team leadership can devolve into destructive factions if one or more members
see the team as a means to power and control.
Leadership teams can be made up of volunteers or representatives of existing agencies and organizations. The SNO
is an all-volunteer model composed of local residents who participate as interested individuals sharing leadership
with other interested individuals. There is no hierarchy, neighborhood voting, or formal appointment process.
Membership is open: if you show up, the team will put your talents to work. The Middle View Health and
Welfare Council, on the other hand, is an example of a team-led organization that is closed to the general public.
For many years, Middle View has had a Health and Welfare Council composed of appointed representatives from
local churches, private human service agencies, county government, the schools, and health care providers. The
council meets monthly, sponsors joint events such as family health fairs, and makes recommendations to various
levels of government about the health and welfare needs of the Middle View area. All members have equal voice in
decision making, and leadership roles rotate among them. People without clear organizational affiliations are not
eligible to participate.
Connectivism is the tendency of individual entities (whether neurons, ants, deer herds, or humans) to naturally
align in beneficial ways despite the lack of a discernible leader.6 The term comes from biological studies and is
emerging as a new way of looking at organizational development and shared learning. Connectivism in
community organizing appears to be especially evident in Web-based social movements in which activities are
largely devoid of formal bureaucratic structures. Interest groups and task forces form and re-form as needs arise
and change, in an organic self-organizing process that behaves much like plant rhizomes or neural connections in
the human brain. Emerging groups are loosely and somewhat chaotically tied through face-to-face conversations,
telephone contacts, and social networking sites, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The amazing thing
about connectivism—whether in nature or in human societies—is how often these “leaderless” activities develop
just what is needed in a given situation. Connectivism allows people in focal communities to easily find good ideas
and adapt them to their circumstances, while simultaneously sharing their own innovations with others and
strengthening all. Connectivism’s weakness is that it can easily descend into anarchy, be overtaken by tyrannical
manipulation, or simply fade away for lack of interest.
To those comfortable with clear hierarchies, connective leadership feels chaotic. For instance, in Middle View
there is small but persistent pressure toward sustainable economic practices. Although some individuals and groups
are identified with parts of this emerging effort, no one seems specifically responsible for central policy and
management. A few people have founded a local “folk school” to help artisans market their products and teach
traditional arts and music; others are working on a community garden and encouraging residents to buy locally
produced food; and still others have focused on sustainable recreation such has hiking and kayaking rather than
activities requiring gasoline-powered vehicles. Many have added extensive recycling to their home routines. Some
people are aware of the global sustainability movement and incorporate its ideas, while others are very locally
focused. Some efforts have been successful while others have faded away, but the trend has been toward locally
based economic sustainability, less waste, a cleaner environment, and a sense that Middle View is part of the larger
world.
Explore Harold Jarche’s slide share on connected leadership for an in-depth understanding. What practical steps
could be taken to ensure that your community organizing effort benefits from connected leadership?
This section introduced you to several different approaches to leadership in various times, places, and social
systems across history and around the world. To make sure you understand the key concepts, identify an example
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of each type, briefly summarize its history, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how positive social
change might have been accomplished under the circumstances. Consider the implications of what you have
learned for you as a leader of a participatory community organizing effort.
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery: Differences between systems of governance and economics
Critical Thinking Question
What forms of leadership are most likely to work well in community organizing settings and why?
Leadership in community organizing emerges through a kind of resonance among the personalities, values and
preferences of participants, internal group dynamics, and demands of the external situation. Emergencies or
situations that require rapid decision making, specific knowledge, and well-developed skills often respond well to
individual leadership. Executive-level collaborations often resemble aristocracies. A few are threatened by outside
opposition and function best as cells. Very limited initiatives may work well as pure democracies. However, by far
the majority of organizing efforts evolve team leadership composed of volunteers who organize to improve the
quality of life in their focal community system. The most successful of all seem to combine the structure of team-
based leadership with openness and opportunities for connectivity. For the remainder of this chapter, you will
explore how the community organizing cycle works under the guidance of leadership teams that encourage
participation and connectivity.
Assess your comprehension of Historic Forms of Leadership by completing this quiz.
Focus on Participatory Research
Let’s visit Figure 5.1 once again, this time concentrating on how the leadership team ensures that community
research is done in a participatory manner that involves those directly affected by the organizing effort (see Figure
5.1C).
Figure 5.1C Participatory Research Section
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
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Imagine that you have been talking to friends and acquaintances and have discovered that many of you have
shared concerns and all of you feel that something must be done. You decide to hold an initial meeting to discuss
the situation in a more formal way, and at the initial meeting you are part of a small group that volunteers to lead
the organizing effort. This initial small group is the core of the community leadership team. Soon after the team
begins meeting, you will probably be tempted to “jump to solutions” by quickly deciding what is to be done and
starting to do it. However, you will soon learn that you cannot accomplish very much without information about
the nature and extent of the problem, what is already being done, and some possible approaches that might be
taken. In social science terms, you must undertake the research component of the organizing cycle. Your goal in
the research component is to gather data (i.e., facts and figures) and consolidate them into information (i.e.,
understandable terms) that you can use in the planning and implementation phases. Although leadership teams
sometimes decide to have the research task conducted by outside professionals, there are several good reasons to do
your own investigation through a process called participatory research. That process saves money, enables you to
define your goals, guarantees that you own the information, enables you to develop skills that can be used both in
the current organizing effort and in future efforts, and provides resulting information that is generally more valid
than that gathered by relative strangers because it can be checked against your life experiences. Well-organized
participatory research increases your team’s knowledge power which, in turn, increases your leadership team’s
credibility with community members, government decision makers, and the media, a process called
empowerment. You may decide that just a few people (designated learners) will do the research and report back
to the leadership team or that everyone on the team will participate.
Participatory research is not conducted once for all time. It is a two-way process between designated learners
(those conducting the research) and the leadership team, which enables your team to constantly reflect on the
meaning of what is learned and how it can be applied to your organizing task. The best participatory research
carefully follows accepted quantitative and qualitative social science research models so that it is hard to dismiss as
untrue. Because community research requires sophisticated research skills, it will be examined in depth in Chapter
7 and augmented by Appendix A at the conclusion of the text. Community research requires sophisticated
research skills that are beyond the scope of this chapter.
Focus on Planning
As can be seen in Figure 5.1D, once the leadership team has completed a thorough analysis of the information
uncovered through research, the focus of the community organizing cycle moves to planning.
Figure 5.1D Planning
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
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Long-range planning begins after the leadership team consolidates the findings of participatory research and
reflects on its meaning. The goals of long-range planning are to define the community organizing effort’s mission
(overall purpose), set specific measurable outcome goals that can be used to determine success or failure, and
begin to define the strategies (overall approaches) and tactics (specific actions) it will take to accomplish these
goals. Long-range planning is one of the primary tasks of your community leadership team.
Planning can be either rational or haphazard as described in Table 5.1.
Rational–deductive or root planning involves visualizing desired outcomes, setting measurable goals, collecting
needed data on current needs and resources, converting
Table 5.1 Approaches to the Planning Task7
Rational–Deductive (Root Planning)
Limited Successive Approximations or
Muddling Through (Branch Planning)
Investigate theories of why the problem exists.
Explicitly or implicitly assume that you
know the nature of the problem.
List values (goals) of the focal system determined by
asking its members to list all possible outcomes, rate each
on desirability, and then identify and prioritize all
options.
Outline all of the options you can think of
in no particular order. Don’t worry about
values; they really don’t matter too much.
Build from fundamental theory, empirically tested if
possible.
Build from current situation in small
degrees.
Empirically evaluate the costs and benefits of each option
based on carefully chosen theories.
Compare options based on past
controversies, experiences of others, your
own experience, and any theory that seems
relevant.
Base plans on options that maximize community values
and desirability of outcomes.
Choose action(s) that move in small steps,
shifting and adjusting as experience
dictates.
Ends–means analysis. Select desired ends, then means.
Experiential “seat of the pants” analysis;
pursuit of individual or group interests.
Make long-range calculations. Consider only the short range.
Define the “community good” as whatever maximizes
the cost–benefit ratio. There is one “best” plan.
Define “good” is whatever the planning
team can agree on that meets their needs.
Conduct a comprehensive analysis. Consider every
important factor.
Use an incremental model responding to
various interest groups and stakeholders.
data into useful information, developing action plans, implementing these plans, evaluating results, and providing
feedback for ongoing efforts. Limited successive approximations or branch planning (“muddling through”) are
more common than rational deduction. In reality, most community groups muddle through: they identify a
problem, speculate about its probable causes, conduct little if any systematic research, talk some more about
possible solutions, jump into a likely project, and make course corrections as needed. Sometimes very valuable
projects are born this way. More often, this lack of systematic planning causes endless headaches.
Planning and evaluating can be rational and carried out in a step-by-step way (referred to as root planning), very
disorganized with many false starts, failed attempts, backtracking, and intuitive leaps (referred to as branch
planning), or a combination of both. Choose a completed organizing project with which you are familiar. Study
Table 5.1 which compares root and branch planning. In what ways did your chosen project use root planning? In
what ways was branch planning used? In what ways was the route taken successful? In what ways could it have
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been improved? Think back to the varieties of community organizing discussed in Chapter 4. Which are more
likely to benefit from root planning? Which are likely to thrive on the seemingly disorganized branch planning
approach?
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Analysis and assessment of the needs of clients or client groups
Critical Thinking Question
While most professionals would probably agree that some form of rational–deductive or root planning
probably may be best, many informal community groups tend to muddle through. How can you as a
professional encourage rational planning while still empowering inexperienced local leaders?
Planning refers to the formulation of ideas and actions into a scheme designed to accomplish some goal or
objective. Planning is proactive because it considers anticipated future actions. It is directive in setting out a
proposed course of action, and it is a process that leads to strategies, action steps, and tactics designed to
implement policy outcomes. Planning begins with the selection of a focal system and proceeds to investigation of
its micro-, mezzo- and macro-levels and research on its demographics, as well as perceptions and measurements of
its assets and needs. This research guides the selection of an organizing strategy, development of a mission, and
definition of measurable outcome goals that can be straightforwardly evaluated. The outcome goals are then
implemented through tactics or action steps. The planning process is a cumulative spiral in that evaluation is
done periodically to assess and re-assess the effectiveness of strategies and tactics to produce desired outcomes.
While planning seems linear, it usually involves many drafts as input is received and integrated from stakeholders,
a term which describes a variety of people including consumers, funding sources, government regulatory bodies,
the general public, and opponents. Stakeholder input leads to modifications as new ideas and information come to
light. Most plans go through several iterations (versions) before being put into final form, and even then the best
plans remain open to reasonable change. Community buy-in (acceptance) is very important so any major changes
should be considered by all the stakeholders before becoming part of a formal document. Although this can be
time consuming, many otherwise excellent efforts have been delayed or destroyed because key stakeholders felt
that they had somehow been left out of decisions on crucial issues. Timing is critical in the planning phase. If
dialogue is cut off too quickly, important considerations may be overlooked or important constituencies may be
slighted. If the process is too lengthy, the delay may stifle growth, anger those responsible for monitoring the
planning process (such as regulatory or funding agencies), or cause you to miss important deadlines.
By the end of the planning phase, your leadership team should have a well-defined mission, clear outcome goals
that define how your focal community will be better because of your efforts, a fairly clear idea of the strategy or
strategies that will be likely to lead the desired outcomes, and some thoughts about specific action steps (tactics)
that will be needed. Once that is achieved, you will be ready to begin the implementation phase.
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Program design, implementation, and evaluation
Critical Thinking Question
What steps can you take to make sure that your leadership team identifies desired outcomes and explores
different ways of achieving them, rather than jumping to solutions?
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A word of warning, though: inexperienced community organizing groups often fall into the trap of jumping to
solutions. In other words, they begin with a product or action (for example, founding a teen center or offering
counseling services) rather than beginning with identifying desirable results. To discern the difference between
these two approaches, think about your own life goals. What do you want for your family or yourself? Many folks
would say “I want a well-paying job with material security.” But is that really what you want? If you think about
it, you will probably realize that you want a life where you have the basic things you need, positive relationships
with people who care about you, and a sense of personal meaning and satisfaction. Ask youself, “Is a well-paying
job the only way to get these things?” Think of other means to the same end. For instance, you could start a small
business and work for yourself; pool your resources with some other people so that each of you only have to bring
in a little income for all of you to prosper; grow, build, or make almost everything you need; live frugally so that
you can live more with less; work intensely for a short period of your life, save money, and then move to
somewhere inexpensive; and so on. As you think about it, you will soon realize that there are probably dozens of
satisfying ways to meet your basic needs outside of a traditional job. Practice this “ends to means thinking” the
next time you consider an issue in your focal community system. It will open many possibilities—some of which
will be more exciting than anything you could imagine if you start out with a preconceived solution.
Explore more about planning issues. Consider the steps needed to ensure successful participatory planning.
Assess your comprehension of the Planning Portion of the Community Organizing Cycle by completing this
quiz.
Focus on Implementation
Now let’s look again at Figure 5.1, specifically at the processes on the right sides and bottom of the figure that
show the flow from program planning to program implementation and the movement into the operational phase.
Once you solidify a plan or vision that includes values, mission, outcome goals, and probable actions, movement
toward implementation begins. Figure 5.1E is a simplified version of a complex process. The transition from
planning to implementation is often an awkward and somewhat scary time as you experiment with different
tactics (specific approaches),
Figure 5.1E From Planning to Implementation
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
make necessary changes, and respond to crises all while maintaining organizing momentum. Experimentation
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often includes pilot projects (preliminary or practice efforts) before full implementation.
Your leadership team will undoubtedly examine many different strategies and tactics during the implementation
process. Some will involve building consensus or agreement among all the people, associations, and formal
organizations that are affected by your organizing effort. Others may involve conflict and the use of social action
strategies that combat injustice. Because they are so complex, the specifics of these approaches are addressed more
completely in Chapter 8.
Eventually your leadership team will settle on the major strategies and tactics you plan to use, divide the
implementation effort into different components, and move forward with them. Since components are typically
implemented at different speeds, there may be confusion. Your leadership team must make sure that everyone
understands what is expected; that they receive regular updates; that perceptions from everyone—including
program beneficiaries—are included throughout the implementation process; and that everyone receives necessary
training in what is expected. Implementation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years depending on
the organizing task. It is typically characterized by frequent changes as the organizing team strives to get things
“just right.” Eventually, though, things will settle down and steady day-by-day direction will displace constant
change.
Focus on Management
Now let’s turn to the management of community organizing efforts. In the community organizing cycle,
implementation, management, and leadership are interrelated as can be seen in yet another visit to Figure 5.1. (See
Figure 5.1F.)
Leadership involves defining and maintaining an overall mission, but management, a term which originally came
from the French word ménage or “household,” refers to accomplishing the daily “housekeeping” work of
community organizing often through directing the work of others. Management of community organizing efforts
is particularly challenging because managers are often simultaneously responsible for the many meetings and
events that compose a community change process, as well as day-to-day business operations and troubleshooting.
There is always something or someone vying for the manager’s attention.
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Figure 5.1F From Implementation to
Management and Monitoring
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Management science has evolved many different theories and models, each of which uses its own labels for similar
processes. Four that seem particularly relevant to community organizing are bureaucratic management based on
rational goals and standardized processes; relationship-based management based on team cohesion and high
morale; distributed management based on the open systems model emphasizing creative, rapid responses to an
ever-changing environment; and contingency-based management which uses the competing values model. Each
form of management is discussed briefly here and more fully in Chapter 9.
Although bureaucratic management is usually associated with established organizations rather than new
associations, some attention should be given to the strengths and weaknesses of bureaucratic management because
it is often seen as the way things should be done. Bureaucratic management (sometimes called Theory x) is the
familiar
Figure 5.3 Bureaucratic Management
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
pyramid shown in Figure 5.3, with a chief executive officer at the top and various levels of authority beneath.
Social entrepreneurship and collaborations are based on a traditional business model and so often use bureaucratic
management from their inception. The other varieties of organizing usually begin with a blend of relationship-
based, distributed, and contingency management but then become more and more bureaucratic as they move
from quasi-groups to associations to formal organizations (see Chapter 2). There are many historical examples of
the bureaucratization of community organizing efforts. For example, the American Red Cross began with a dream
Clara Barton and her friends brought back to the United States from Switzerland and has evolved into a huge
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bureaucracy with several major national programs and thousands of local chapters. The main strength of
bureaucratic management is that everyone knows what is expected. Day-to-day operations run smoothly because
there are rules and policies that cover almost any possible situation. The main weaknesses of bureaucratic
management are its inability to respond quickly and creatively to emerging needs and a tendency to put
organizational needs about the needs of its constituents.
Relationship-Based Management (sometimes called Theory y) was developed in the 1950s and 1960s as a reaction
to the tendency of bureaucracies to create paralyzing layers of rules and regulations that stifle employee creativity,
satisfaction, and flexibility. It is based on the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow8 and
emphasizes the responsibility of managers to allow workers to engage in personally rewarding tasks to meet their
needs for belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization to maximize job satisfaction and productivity. While
relationship-based management may have improved worker satisfaction, it deemphasized accountability, which
sometimes resulted in lack of discipline and productivity. Relationship-based management works best in
community organizing efforts that emphasize the rewards of voluntarism, the opportunity to develop friendships,
and the pleasure of joining with other people to support a good cause. Place-based and relational organizing and
many self-help groups are likely to use relationship-based management.
Distributed management literally means that responsibilities for decision making are spread among many
different people who understand the basic values, mission, and desired outcomes of the organization and have
broad authority to act independently.
Figure 5.4 Distributed Management
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Distributed managers come together at regular intervals to share ideas and make sure that there is cohesion among
the parts but do not answer to a single authority figure. There is no hierarchy. The elements of distributed
management overlap and are illustrated by Figure 5.4.
Distributed management works well when participants are spread across wide geographic areas, in situations where
decisions must be made quickly with little fuss, and where there are significant variations from place to place or
program to program.
Contingency-Based Management is the practical side of team leadership and so fits well with the basic
participatory strategy recommended here. While team leadership involves joint decision making about broad issues
such as mission, values, outcomes, strategies, and major actions, contingency management means using whatever
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models and techniques are appropriate for particular situations. The SNO is a good example of contingency
management. Its leadership team is well respected and admired for taking primary responsibility for setting
organizational priorities and being the visible “face” of the neighborhood. Its members are acknowledged publicly
as “movers and shakers,” and several have been appointed to city-wide commissions. They have earned the right to
be called leaders. On the other hand, since SNO is an all-volunteer group, these same highly respected leaders
must take responsibility for some very practical tasks. For instance, before each monthly meeting, they walk
through the neighborhood handing out flyers, listening to people, and inviting them to attend. They divide
meeting-day tasks among themselves, making sure that the building and meeting room are unlocked, snacks are
available, everyone who attends receives both a smile and an agenda, some trustworthy person is available to
provide child care, and anyone who needs a ride to the meeting gets one. Between meetings they make sure that
minutes are completed and distributed to the membership and other interested people, new attendees are
contacted, and volunteers follow through on their commitments. Throughout the year they make sure that
detailed financial records are kept, bills are paid, and any required reports are filed. Many community organizing
efforts mix and match the four kinds of management to maximize flexibility and participation.
Review more about managing not-profit organizations. Consider what management issues might be unique to
community organizing efforts.
Monitoring supports management and involves keeping track of activities through direct supervision and accurate
record keeping. It is both a managerial duty and a way of ensuring managerial accountability. Accurate monitoring
is especially important for initiatives that are dependent on financial support from international, government, or
private foundations and have to comply with myriad external standards. Externally, you may need to comply with
various regulations of local, county, state, and federal agencies or funding sources. Internally, there may be a
variety of committees and teams which are responsible for short- and mid-term decision making that needs
accurate and up-to-date information. Balancing these requirements is challenging. More specifics and common
questions about management are addressed in Chapter 9.
Assess your comprehension of Types of Management by completing this quiz.
Focus on Evaluation
Monitoring is closely related to evaluation, so let’s now revisit Figure 5.1 and examine the evaluation process. (See
Figure 5.1G.)
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Figure 5.1G Evaluation
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Evaluation should be a constant process that allows the leadership team to monitor events in the focal, micro-,
mezzo- and macro-systems that may impact the organizing mission, make changes as needed, and then reflect on
the results of those changes (a circular process of action–reflection–renewed action that is called praxis). There are
two levels of evaluation. On a day-to-day basis, evaluation is a reflection on how well reality measured up against
hoped-for results. At its most basic, this means asking programmatic questions like “What went well?” “What
went poorly?” “Was there praise?” and “Were there complaints?” It also means asking such logistical questions as
“Did we have enough food?” “Were there enough restroom facilities?” or “Did the audio system work well?” In
the long run, however, big questions like “Have we identified the real needs of the focal system?” “Are we
empowering the community?” “Are our mission and goals appropriate?” “Are our key strategies and tactics
appropriate and ethical?” “Should we be doing something different?” “What are the next steps?” and “How will we
know when we have succeeded?” are far more important and link success to mission and purpose. These big
questions cannot be answered accurately unless they are clearly linked to the planning process, and thus Figure
5.1G directly connects evaluation with planning and monitoring. Planners must identify measurable outcome
goals—and evaluators must use them to measure results and report back to the leadership team—so that needed
changes can be made.
In the planning and evaluation literature, the terms formative evaluation and summative evaluation are used for two
separate but related processes. Formative evaluation connotes judgments used to make changes in an ongoing
process. In many ways, community organizing efforts resemble improvisational productions, and so formative
evaluation can be seen as an artistic process that allows the leadership team to mold and design its approach to
meet changing conditions. Because it enables leaders to judge how well strategies, tactics, policies, and procedures
are working, formative evaluation should be conducted frequently in the early days of an organizing project and in
times of rapid change, and then less frequently during periods of relative stability.
Summative evaluation (summing up of accomplishments) resembles a critical review at the end of a production
that sums up its good points and bad points. Summative evaluation is primarily a way of holding the leadership
team accountable. Summative evaluation involves measurements that are linked to outcomes goals, reported in
written form. In new organizing efforts, summative reflection should be done at least quarterly and at least on a
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yearly basis thereafter. Regular summative evaluation enables the leadership team to develop and maintain
adequate records to satisfy internal stakeholders as well as outside funders and legal requirements. In initiatives
that receive outside financing, funders generally send evaluation teams or expect regular reports documenting
progress. Accurate, easily available records are critical to program management and to the continued existence of
programs. Unclear financial records or sloppy case reporting can lead to defunding or even legal action. Even
when the initiative is not externally accountable, good record keeping and outcomes measurement often uncover
unmet needs or desirable changes. These discoveries, in turn, may necessitate another planning cycle as shown in
Figure 5.1.
Review more about evaluating not-profit organizations. Consider what evaluation issues might be unique to
community organizing efforts.
The organizing cycle is a tool to help you make rational sense of an irrational process. When followed in a step-by-
step way, the cycle can help your leadership team remain on track toward fulfilling its mission, but please
remember that life does not always move smoothly in a step-by-step manner. For example, impatience may drive
the effort directly from idea to action without careful planning and development (skipping from research to
implementation); a plan may prove unworkable during the program development and implementation stages,
requiring a shunt back to the planning stage; or a formative evaluation during implementation may call outcome
goals into question, thereby leading to new policy research.
Assess your comprehension of Evaluation by completing this quiz.
Summary
The community organizing cycle pulls together all the tasks of research, planning, implementing, managing, and
evaluating a community organizing effort into one diagram that illustrates the dynamic nature of the process and
gives you an overview of what needs to occur.
The community organizing cycle is just that—a cycle that organizations go through time after time in their life
spans. Organizations that do not pay attention to periodic renewal die or “hibernate” to rise again. Organizational
death takes different forms. Some organizing efforts die when violence or the threat of violence becomes too
frightening, as was largely the case with the anti–Vietnam War movement after student protesters were killed at
Kent State University in May 1970. Others lose support because of unwise actions or interpersonal conflicts. Still
others complete their missions. Many go through periods of intense activity, followed by something akin to
hibernation. For instance, Myles Horton, founder of the Highlander Folk School, said that social movements and
social change seem to move in waves where a period of intense activity will be followed by a period of rest and
consolidation. Intense activity and growth can be exciting but is difficult to manage. Wise organizers use
consolidation or rest periods to ensure that the gains made in periods of activity become institutionalized as an
accepted part of the community or culture.
Figure 5.1 described in this chapter is intended to be a “map” that your leadership team can use as you work
together to ensure the success of your chosen venture. Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9 further elaborate important portions
of the process.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of the chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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113

Chapter 6 Building an Effective Leadership Team
Hill Street Studios/Eric Raptosh/Blend Images/Alamy
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Chapter Outline
1. Recruiting a Leadership Team 94
2. The Evolving Leadership Team: The Form, Storm, Norm, Perform, and Adjourn Cycle 97
3. Leadership Teams as Living Systems 100
4. Facilitating Effective Community Leadership Teams 104
5. Interactional Processes 108
6. Power in Leadership Teams 109
7. Roles Team Members Play 110
1. Summary 113
Learning Objectives
In Chapter 6 you will apply systems thinking to your leadership team and explore typical communication issues
and group processes you are likely to find within it. Let’s look again at the Community Organizing Cycle from
Chapter 5 We’ll begin with a look at the Community Organizing Cycle, with a focus on development of the
leadership team (see Figure 6.1).
Figure 6.1 The Leadership Team: At the Heart
of the Community Organizing Cycle
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
The focus of this book is on participatory research, also known as educación popular or, in English, “popular
education”: community organizing efforts that arise spontaneously from within focal community systems rather
than being imposed from outside. Almost all such efforts begin with a few committed leaders who make sure that
community members’ involvement remains high. The initial reasons for these efforts varies, as discussed in
Chapter 4, and is shown here in Table 6.1.
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Table 6.1 Leadership Development for Each
Variety of Community Organizing
Alternate View
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Recruiting a Leadership Team
Assume that you have decided that something good needs to happen in your chosen focal system. You know that
your concern is worth the time and effort, but you’re also fairly sure that you cannot do much alone. You decide
that your first tasks are to (1) locate people who share your concerns, (2) raise their awareness of your common
interests, (3) introduce them to one another, (4) build some trust through friendly interaction, (5) begin to work
with them to research the problem, and (6) initiate action. There are two primary strategies you might use to
locate initial team members and build organizational momentum. Large-scale strategies often begin when a few
interested, relatively powerful people organize an initial organizing meeting or rally. These have the triple intent of
introducing key stakeholders and the general public to the issues, building momentum and resources, and
recruiting an ongoing leadership team. Organic strategies begin with a small core group that grows slowly
through personal invitations and involvement of members’ social networks. Each strategy will be explored in turn.
Large-Scale Strategies for Leadership Recruitment
Large-scale strategies are often used in social innovation, community advocacy, social movements, and
collaboration. Figure 6.2 is a flow chart for initiating such actions.
Large meetings can be advertised as rallies (where those attending will focus on issues and concerns, often in an
atmosphere of celebration and/or confrontation); workshops (where those attending will meet in small groups and
work toward possible solutions to a pre-defined issue); information gathering (in which the main task will be to
bring together people from many walks of life to learn more about an issue or concern); or community
conversations (where participants will be asked to share their perceptions of the issue so everyone can gain greater
clarity). Whichever method is chosen, it should be organized to allow maximum input from as many people as
possible; should include a way to collect and collate the data; and should provide a feedback mechanism so
participants will know that their ideas have been heard and will be implemented, if possible. You will find it
helpful to have each participant sign in with name, address, and telephone number so you can use this
information to create a mailing or e-mail list to facilitate this feedback. As soon as possible after the meeting, send
each participant a written message thanking them for their participation, summarizing the proceedings, and briefly
discussing next steps.
Figure 6.2 Flow Chart for Large-Scale Actions
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
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Continuously share information with everyone who has shown concern about the effort, including those who may
have expressed an interest but are unable to initially participate. Such communication lets people know that they
are important and are connected to the emerging organization. E-mail is particularly efficient for communication
and also allows for immediate feedback from recipients, but it is equally important to use more traditional ways of
communicating, including telephone calls, announcements at religious services and other public gatherings,
notices on public bulletin boards, door-to-door visits, and newer technologies, such as text messaging and
blogging. Such communication efforts are time consuming but are very important steps that cannot be easily
delegated early in the group formation process.
The following example from Industrial City (home of the Smithville neighborhood) illustrates the large-group
method for initiating an organizing effort. Since the mid-1980s when a major industry employing 10,000 workers
moved its major manufacturing operations overseas, Industrial City has been having economic difficulties. Not
only have thousands of the core industry’s workers lost their jobs, but an equal number of jobs were lost in
peripheral industries and related support services. It has been a very difficult time for everyone in Industrial City,
but it was especially hard on the newly displaced workers. The most difficult time occurred within the first five
years after the crisis. Many of the newly unemployed were family men in their forties who had worked all of their
lives for the core industry. Although most were high school graduates, all of their vocational skills were industry
specific and non-transferable. Many were too young to have earned vested pensions and too old for entry-level
service positions. For the most part, they felt frustrated, lonely, depressed, and despairing. Even when they hunted
long and hard for work, there were no longer any jobs that paid enough to support established families with
mortgages, teenage children, and consumer debt.
In the face of the collapsed economy, powerful business interests, elected officials, agency representatives,
educators, and even a few union officers banded together in a loose collaboration aimed at reindustrialization and
other new investment in the area. Most of their strategies were designed to protect the investment community,
support the property tax base, provide incentives for peripheral industries and the service sector, and preserve the
few high-paying industrial jobs. But there was no “place at the table” for the displaced workers who not only had
lost their jobs but their union status as well. As a result of this lack of representation, economic development
efforts often made the already well-off more prosperous and the displaced workers more desperate.
Ironically, no one thought about involving the displaced workers in the city-wide effort to revitalize the economy.
Although there are many reasons for this, one major one was that many displaced workers believed that their
unemployment was a personal failure. Like most of us, they had been taught from birth that anyone who lives in
the United States, works hard, and is loyal to his or her employer will inevitably eventually succeed—so they
suffered in lonely silence. Suicide, alcoholism, and divorce rates rose. Employment professionals despaired as well,
because job placement rates were low in spite of resume-writing clinics, job-hunting clubs, skilled career
counseling, and many short-term training programs. Eventually, as highly qualified, hard-working people
continued to be without living-wage jobs, a few displaced workers and their advocates began to realize that the
“new version” of unemployment was a systemic issue and not an individual one. A quasi-group began to form that
brainstormed about how to create a community advocacy effort for the unemployed. Their rallying cry became:
“Wage base, not just tax base!” Their representatives gained support from the branch campus of a major
university, the Catholic diocese, and the local newspaper. A large-scale community conversation was held, which
generated significant interest and greater understanding of the systemic issues. The initial rally generated a smaller
meeting that evolved into a community organizing effort that combined mutual economic aid and community
advocacy.
Such large-scale tactics have advantages and disadvantages. They can make a significant number of people aware of
shared concerns, promote media attention, and jump-start action on an issue, but they can also create problems if
people come to simply vent their anger, push their own agendas, or expect immediate solutions. These large-scale
tactics tend to blossom quickly and fade just as rapidly, so immediate follow-up and specific action strategies are
very important.
To more fully understand the large-scale approach to community organizing, attend a large-scale community
meeting or rally or, alternatively, go to YouTube and search under “community rallies.” Choose four or five clips
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that show people taking on different issues that interest you. What was the purpose of each of the rallies? What
characteristics do they have in common? Why did their organizers choose a large community meeting or rally
instead of other means of organizing?
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
Review the varieties of community organizing discussed in Chapter 4. Which are would be best served by
large-scale organizing strategies and why?
Leadership Arising from “Organic” Initiatives
While some community initiatives begin with large-scale gatherings, many others grow more organically, the way
wildflowers grow from scattered seeds or irises grow from rhizomes. Organic initiatives begin with a single
individual or a small group who share mutual concerns and build their organizing efforts slowly by word of
mouth, adding a few people at a time. For this type of initiative, the transitional step from informally talking
about a concern to actually doing something about it involves a move toward formal, focused meetings and the
beginnings of a leadership team.
Organic initiatives often begin with people who know each other well in other contexts. The strengths of the
organic growth model are its stability and deep commitment within its core group. Unlike large-scale efforts that
attempt to create cohesive organizing efforts from quasi-groups whose members barely know one another, the
initial members of organic groups usually have multiple ties (a sociological term that indicates people who
simultaneously relate to one another in different social contexts, such as family, work, recreation, and worship).
Multiple ties make initial team cohesion easier. On the other hand, that very cohesion may make it difficult for
new members to join and for new ideas to be shared. Because such leadership teams depend so heavily on
interpersonal relationships, they are somewhat more likely to break down if personal animosity develops between
members. In addition, many organic initiatives are begun by well-intentioned but inexperienced leaders who “just
want to do something” about a mutual concern. Sometimes, this inexperience is helpful because it enables such
groups to tackle problems that other “wiser” people might find too daunting. On the other hand, inexperience can
lead to breakdown in the leadership process and the organizing cycle.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Recruiting and managing volunteers
Critical Thinking Question
Both large-scale and organic community organizing rely heavily on continually recruiting committed
volunteers. What strategies and tactics work best for volunteer recruitment and retention? In what ways
might these vary among various types of community organizing?
Many organizing initiatives start slowly, like a plant growing from a tiny seed. To experience an organic initiative
choose a relatively short-range project that you feel would help improve the quality of life in your focal system.
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Talk with some other people who share your concerns, and determine if they are interested in working with you
on the project. Hold an initial meeting with at least three people. Afterwards, reflect on probable next steps. If
there is interest, follow through with the organizing effort. If there is little or no interest, set it aside for another
time. Reflect on what this experience taught you about organic community organizing.
Assess your comprehension of Leadership Team Recruitment by completing this quiz.
The Evolving Leadership Team: The Form, Storm,
Norm, Perform, and Adjourn Cycle
Whether your community organizing leadership team emerges from a large public rally or from incremental
organic development, you will undoubtedly move through a typical developmental cycle often described as form,
storm, norm, perform, and adjourn.1
In the form period, participants begin to build positive relationships and mutual trust. When people first meet,
they are generally polite and tend to try to find common ground in mutual friends, common experiences, and
common interests. The following practical arrangements can make the formation process easier for your leadership
team:
Have a specific time, meeting place, stated purpose, and preliminary agenda.
Personally invite all of those who have expressed an interest.
Provide a comfortable meeting room or provision for simultaneous telephone or Internet connections that
allow people to communicate easily.
Provide a way of publicly recording and organizing the conversation such as a flip chart, whiteboard, the
whiteboard attachment in conferencing software, or use of the recording function in online conferencing.
Set ground rules for communication (such as listening, taking turns, and encouraging shy people).2
Use round robin introductions that give everyone an opportunity to give their name and express their hopes
and dreams for the organization.
Conduct a semi-structured workshop for generating ideas and setting priorities that gives everyone an equal
opportunity to speak, encourages active listening, and discourages nastiness.
Allow plenty of time “around the edges” of the formal meeting for people to get acquainted, share mutual
connections, and begin to feel comfortable with one another.
Provide food, beverages, and other physical comforts, such as good lighting and easily accessible restrooms.
Choose someone to facilitate the conversation and to periodically summarize the conversation.
Appoint someone else to take notes and turn them into meeting minutes so that good ideas are retained.
Ensure timely sharing of meeting minutes with those present and with those who may have expressed an
interest but were unable to attend.
Leadership teams spend varying amounts of time in the formation phase. Some with rather simple tasks and
homogenous membership move through formation and the rest of the cycle very quickly. Others with complex
tasks, competing objectives, and diverse membership may spend many weeks in the formation phase. However, all
follow the general group formation cycle, even when the members know each other very well in other settings.
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Even when members know each other well, agree on their mission, and have enthusiasm for the venture, tensions
will begin to emerge as participants realize that they have different viewpoints, different ways of approaching the
problem, personality quirks, and different levels of commitment and energy. These tensions inevitably create a
storm period. Many leadership teams falter during the storm period because their leaders become discouraged or
give way to panic, disagreements pull the group apart, or participants feel so uncomfortable with disagreement
that they leave entirely. Your challenge is to reassure everyone that such storms are to be expected and can be
weathered if faced honestly and hopefully. In most cases, deep active listening and careful use of group process
techniques will strengthen group bonding and the ability to weather future difficulties.3
The storm period can be emotionally taxing for everyone. Although there is a tendency in our individualistic
society to blame storms on personality clashes, they are really a struggle to define interactional patterns and mutual
expectations. Brewing storms have definite cues. Attendance at meetings may decrease. A few people may
dominate the conversations. There may be sub-groups of rebels meeting outside of regularly set times. Everyone
may become quiet when the leader enters the room. Participants may sit with arms folded, leaning back in their
chairs with scowls on their faces. Meetings that were once full of laughter may become silent and perfunctory.
People may begin spending precious meeting time arguing about seemingly minor details while ignoring major
differences of opinion over mission, purpose, and desired outcomes. All these are cues of a brewing storm.4
Everyone on the leadership team will be tempted to just ignore the gathering clouds and pretend that everything is
fine. This is almost always a mistake. It is usually best to recognize that conflicts are brewing and to bring them up
to the surface with the whole group as calmly and as objectively as possible. One way to do this is to state the
concerns as you see them and then ask that the group set mutual rules of engagement to ensure that everyone has
an opportunity to both speak and listen. You can then function as a mediator, actively looking for points of
common ground and for the validity in even seemingly destructive ideas.5 While most leadership teams manage
their storm periods reasonably well, it may be necessary to bring in an outside mediator if a significant number of
people feel that the team is getting nowhere.
In stormy meetings, it is usually best if each participant speaks in turn and is given a chance to speak without
interruption. Before speaking, everyone should be asked to first restate the last speakers’ comments and receive
confirmation from that person that his or her viewpoint has been understood. It is surprising how many times
people who think that they vehemently disagree with one another are simply voicing the same concerns or
solutions in different terms! Emotions should be treated as valid and relevant. Active listening should be used to
discern both the objective content of what is being said and the feelings behind it. Even in shared leadership
teams, it is often helpful to appoint a facilitator to summarize individual comments clearly and concisely, to the
individual’s satisfaction, as well as to summarize general areas of conflict and consensus.6
Storm periods can be aggravated or prolonged by individual behaviors so your own self-awareness and self-control
are very important. For instance, it is almost never a good idea to ignore a brewing storm in hopes that it will go
away. Even though it may be tempting to share your worries and irritation with trusted fellow group members, it
is never helpful to gossip about others, mull over the brewing storm aloud, or complain about one group member
to another. Such behaviors may feel good at the time, but they inevitably lead to mistrust and animosity. Although
sometimes it can be helpful to bring individual “combatants” together outside of the group setting to work out
their differences in private, this should be done carefully because it can create the appearance that there is an “in
crowd” who “really” make the decisions and that other participants are unnecessary. Storms must be faced
courageously, and their resolution should involve everyone.
It is not uncommon for storms to last for days, weeks, or even months, but if everyone remains as calm as possible,
remembers the mission and desired outcomes, and carefully and clearly states areas of emerging agreement, it is
likely that a new consensus will emerge and the leadership team will become stronger because you have
demonstrated that you can disagree without disintegrating. Ironically, some of the strongest community
organizing efforts have survived the worst storms.
Most worthwhile organizing efforts can weather storms and emerge stronger if everyone involved shows patience
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and courage. A few projects may perish, but they usually are the ones that:
Are weak to begin with.
Have several destructive members pursuing their own agendas.
Refuse to face their storm or ignore it until it is too late.
Do not have a structured, compassionate way of incorporating different points of view into group goals.
Although it is painful, storming is one major way your emerging leadership team goes about defining how you will
work together, the unwritten (and perhaps written) rules that will govern teamwork, the roles members will play,
and power relationships among participants. Such norming is an ongoing process throughout the life of the
group, but most is done during and shortly after the storming phase. As these group norms (unwritten rules) are
created and rehearsed, a sense of unity, group identification, and “we-ness” is built. Group norms typically cover
everything from the simple to the complex and may include such things as whether:
Refreshments are served before, after or during the meeting or not at all.
Participants dress in business clothes or casual clothes.
Children are allowed and how they are cared for.
Laughter is permitted and encouraged, or everyone is expected to be serious.
Decision making is formally structured, using formal procedures such as Roberts’ Rules of Order, or if it
operates by consensus.
Time frames are strictly adhered to or meetings are allowed to go over time.
Most decisions are made in committees, in behind-the-scenes negotiations, or by the group as a whole.
An elected leader or executive committee is allowed to make decisions on the group’s behalf, or even minor
decisions are made by everyone.
There are status differences by social position, race, ethnicity, class, or gender, or everyone has an equal say.
New members are welcome and, if so, how they are brought into full participation.
These are just a few areas where leadership teams develop norms or expected ways of behaving.
Leadership teams in the perform stage have weathered their storms, have developed effective norms, and have
become working units that are able to accomplish their goals fairly smoothly. But keep the following in mind: the
form, storm, norm, and perform cycle is not “once for all time.” The various stages may be revisited when major
internal or external changes occur. For instance, a smoothly performing leadership team may revert to the form or
storm stages if (1) new members are added; (2) the mission changes radically; (3) important participants leave; (4)
major changes occur in the market or client base; or (5) the micro-, focal, mezzo-, and macro-systems undergo
major shifts. However, subsequent changes that occur after the initial cycle are usually easy to accommodate.7
When community organizing efforts end, they face an adjourn phase. There are several reasons for such endings: a
clear conclusion when a problem is solved, a law is enacted, or an agency is founded; or the effort withers because
there is no real need for it, “premature death” occurs because of an inability to handle internal or external conflict,
or it falls prey to a kind of “fading away” found in organizations that operate decade after decade, long after the
initial impetus for action has ended. Others are like the mythical phoenix that dies and then rises from its own
ashes. One of your leadership team’s many challenges is to discern when the time has come to end an effort or
change direction and enable participants to move on.
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Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills
Critical Thinking Question
From childhood on you have probably been involved in a variety of small groups. Take a mental journey
back to some of these experiences and briefly relive them from start to finish, then compare and contrast
them. What evidence do you see of the form, storm, norm, perform and adjourn process? What factors
enabled some groups to survive to the “perform” stage? What factors caused others to fail? What do your
experiences tell you about the process of small group development?
Remember, the group phases are neither good nor bad; they just happen. The storm periods of group dynamics
are often painful and stressful. At such times, it is best to remember that they are also inevitable. The norm periods
can be very creative, and the perform periods can be very satisfying. Returns to the storm phase can be frustrating
and endings can be sad, but if communication patterns are kept open, the group will thrive and accomplish its
desired outcomes—not just in spite of its troubles, but often because of them. If your group adjourns, you should
help the group celebrate its past and look to the future with hope.
Assess your comprehension of the Form, Storm, Norm, Perform and Adjourn Phases of Group Development
by completing this quiz.
Leadership Teams as Living Systems
In many ways, leadership teams act as living systems that are greater than the sum of their parts. It is, therefore,
possible to speak of them metaphorically as if they had conscious intent without necessarily engaging in
reification (i.e., giving a nonliving entity a human personality). Leadership teams can act, learn, and decide.8
Internally, systemic communication is dependent on several factors:
The situational context (i.e., the time, place, and reason given for the group interaction).
The communicator(s): their personal credibility and status in the group and in the focal community, as well
as personal characteristics such as the ability to clearly state ideas
The message
The receiver(s): their ability to “hear” the message as it is filtered through their personal viewpoints and
experiences
The interactional patterns that emerge as you communicate with one another over time
A change in any dimension tends to result in changes throughout the system. Understanding communication
within leadership teams requires a grasp of the communicators’ attitudes, values, and beliefs; the context of the
organizing effort; the cultural and linguistic orientation of members; and a range of psychological factors.
Communication in leadership teams is both complex and dynamic. It’s complex because various systemic
dimensions operate simultaneously and their influence changes as interaction occurs. It’s dynamic because it
changes over time.
Leadership teams tend to be either open or closed systems. Most community organizing efforts are open systems
whose membership varies over time as people come and go. Closed systems, on the other hand, have a relatively
static membership, do not welcome newcomers, or have a reason for limited membership. In community
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organizing, open leadership teams have life and vitality but may have little sense of the ongoing existence of the
effort or the need for long-term commitment to its mission and goals. Because attendance in open systems varies
from week to week, it can seem as if the leadership has to be reinvented every time it meets and that it never
moves from talk to action. On the other hand, closed leadership teams can become very ingrown and ineffective,
especially if they depend too much on a few people. New people can easily feel rejected and isolated so that if the
“select few” lose interest, the whole organizing effort may be lost.
Leadership team members should make sure that they are open to newcomers but that the team has enough form
so that its mission and purpose are clear to participants and outsiders alike. Having a systematic way of welcoming
and involving newcomers in the ongoing life of the leadership team is one way to ensure that there is a good
balance between openness to new people and ideas while maintaining your ongoing mission.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: An understanding of capacities, limitations, and resiliency of human systems
Critical Thinking Question
Small groups, including leadership teams, tend to exist on a continuum between completely closed and
completely open. Think about some small groups where you have been a participant or an observor, and
rate each on a continuum of completely open to completely closed. What were the characteristics of the
closed groups versus the open ones? In each case, was its level of openness appropriate to its desired
outcomes? If not, what tactics could the group leader have used to ensure an appropriate level of openness?
What could “ordinary” members have done to increase group openness?
Communication Patterns
Leadership teams develop typical patterns of communication, which include the wheel, overlapping, and all-
channel types.9 Figure 6.3 shows these typical patterns.
In wheel-type communication, members communicate through a single leader, much as the spokes of a wheel
depend upon its hub. Wheel-type communication
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Figure 6.3 Communication Patterns in
Leadership Teams: Wheel, Overlapping, and
All-Channel Types
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
occurs in leadership teams that are dependent on a single strong, charismatic leader. In the overlapping type,
group members communicate mostly with those closest to them either physically or emotionally, although there is
some overlap. Overlapping communication tends to give team members who participate in many different systems
advantages over those who are only engaged in a few. Overlapping messages are often incomplete or garbled, can
make people feel left out, and result in poor decision making—so leadership teams with overlapping
communication patterns must spend time and energy to keep everyone “on the same page.” In the all-channel
team, everyone communicates on an even footing and has an equal chance to be heard. All-channel groups are
usually the most effective but are also the hardest to maintain because everyone must make an effort to speak and
must ensure that everyone else is heard. Moreover, in community groups, all-channel communication must be
maintained during meetings and between meetings. All channel groups are often dynamic but can be chaotic. In
situations where anyone can speak for the group, it often seems that no one really speaks for the group, causing it
to appear fragmented and ineffectual.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills
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Critical Thinking Question
It is not uncommon for all three of the communication patterns we have explored to occur in the same
event! Observe a meeting or event you normally attend. Pay close attention to communication patterns.
What were the predominant forms of communication? When were they used? In what ways were the forms
of communication appropriate and helpful in furthering the group’s purpose? Where did they get in the
way? What might have been done to improve the clarity and effectiveness of communication?
The most effective leadership teams seem to be a combination of the wheel, overlapping, and the all-channel
modes where members take turns functioning as “transfer stations” and make sure everybody knows what others
are thinking and that those with common interests and concerns are linked appropriately. This connecting
function is both enjoyable and challenging. In practice, it means that everyone must be constantly aware of
creative ways people might be brought together to share mutual interests and build on each other’s ideas. In
practical terms, this means that each member of the leadership group must be willing to take the time and effort to
introduce people with mutual interests to one another; share resources you find with those you know who might
be interested; and generally become known as a helpful, supportive, and essentially unselfish. Often it means
discerning connections that are not immediately obvious, bringing them to light, and catalyzing whole new
approaches to tired old problems.
Assess your comprehension of Communication in Leadership Teams by completing this quiz.
Team-Directed Learning
Like individuals, leadership teams have preferred styles of learning and working together. Understanding your
leadership team’s preferred learning style can help it be more effective and avoid some common pitfalls. Adult
educator J. A. Dickenson in an unpublished doctoral dissertation10 compared group learning to the individual
learning styles defined by experiential learning theorist David A. Kolb.11 Joyce McKnight, the author of this
text,12 then expanded it to community organizing. Figure 6.4 shows how Kolb’s model can be applied to
community organizing leadership teams.
Kolb concentrated on four dimensions of learning based on individuals’ preferred styles of thinking and acting.
The thinking dimensions are abstract conceptualization (i.e., grasping the “big picture”) versus concrete
experience (i.e., orientation to a specific detail). The behavioral dimensions are reflective observation (i.e.,
thinking about the meaning of events before acting) versus active experimentation (i.e., learning by doing,
without much forethought). Kolb combined these dimensions into four learning styles: convergent (abstract
conceptualization/active experimentation); divergent (concrete experience/reflective observation); assimilator
(abstract conceptualization/reflective observation); and accommodator (concrete experience/active
experimentation). McKnight built on Kolb’s discussion of individual learning styles to adapt it to learning within
community organizing teams and identified four major learning team types, as shown in Table 6.2.
McKnight found that the most effective leadership teams have a balance of all four learning styles. They begin
with the conceptualization of the problem (the big picture).
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Figure 6.4 Kolb’s Model Applied to Community
Organizing
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
They then move to a consideration of the details (the specific resources needed to make the plan a success), which
includes (1) reflective observation on the best approaches and continual judgments about what works and what
does not; (2) active experimentation to bring the group’s goals into reality, then (3) returning to the big picture
and repeating the steps to refine the process. Your leadership team must be constantly aware of any imbalances in
its approach to learning and intentionally incorporate all four styles.
Assess your comprehension of Team Learning Styles by completing this quiz.
Facilitating Effective Community Leadership Teams
Facilitation is a term frequently used in the helping professions in conjunction with small group dynamics that
can be applied to community leadership teams. Facilitation consists of specific behaviors such as reflective
listening, open questions, reflective summation, and reframing inflammatory issues that enable a group process to
move smoothly and effectively. Although the facilitator or facilitators in group work are usually highly skilled
professionals who are well versed in both individual and group dynamics, facilitation can also be a shared process.
Let’s now explore facilitation skills needed by leadership team members.
Team leadership requires that everyone assume responsibility for decision making, and so communication
positions may change within the course of a single meeting. At times you will step forward to assume the position
of facilitator; at other times you will step back to allow someone else to guide the group. Whatever their position
at any given moment, group members must speak frankly and honestly, listen carefully and thoroughly, mediate
disputes compassionately, and sort through seemingly contradictory elements carefully to make wise decisions.
This can be a daunting task, especially for those who may not have had prior experience with team-based
leadership. Tables 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5 provide you with very specific ways to
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Table 6.2 Learning Styles Used by Community
Leadership Teams
Alternate View
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Table 6.3 Facilitation of Effective Leadership
Team Communication
Alternate View
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Table 6.4 Facilitation of Effective Leadership
Team Decision Making
Alternate View
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Table 6.5 Practical Considerations
Alternate View
facilitate leadership team processes. Remember that although the tables refer to “participants” and “leaders,” you
will find yourself occupying each position. You will find it helpful to refer to these tables frequently whenever you
are part of a community organizing leadership team.
Explore tips on group facilitation skills. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as a group facilitator and what
you might do to improve your facilitation skills.
Assess your comprehension of Leadership Team Facilitation by completing this quiz.
Interactional Processes
Let’s now turn from facilitation skills to an examination of group processes and power relationships. Exchange,
cooperation, competition, and conflict are four principle aspects of interaction in every system. Here we will look
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at how they operate within organizing teams.13
Exchange relationships occur when participants exchange goods or services (including information) and are
guided by the norm of reciprocity, an unwritten social rule that if I help you, you will help me sometime and vice
versa. In leadership teams, knowledge or information may be treated as a medium of exchange. Members share
information to develop closer ties as individuals; to gain advantages for themselves or their organizations; or, more
benevolently, to add to the group’s store of shared knowledge. Information is a powerful currency. When
information and other resources are shared freely, trust is built and the organizing effort is likely to be
strengthened. Effective leadership teams share information freely, generously, and gratefully with one another, the
organizing effort’s constituents, and potential allies.
Cooperation occurs when people work together to achieve common goals. Synonyms for cooperation include
teamwork,14 collaboration,15 and connected learning.16 Cooperation is very important in leadership teams. In
practical terms, cooperation can be facilitated by (1) assigning people with complementary interests to shared
tasks, (2) formally and informally assigning new members to mentors who help them learn the group history and
welcome them into the effort, and (3) publicly and privately thanking people who make contributions and work
well with others. Simply using the pronoun “we” often, rather than “I” or “you,” can encourage cooperation and a
sense of mutuality.
Competition is “a struggle over scarce resources regulated by shared values.”17 Competition implies “winners”
and “losers.” It is a very common American value and, therefore, manifests itself in community organizing teams
of all kinds. It is especially evident where members represent organizational interests in addition to their own. Not
infrequently, members compete both individually and as organizational representatives for status within the group,
recognition for their contributions, and authority. Competition is a two-edged sword. Some competition keeps
people interested and involved. Too much competition can destroy the team’s bonds and derail its mission. You
should recognize that while competition is inevitable it is usually at least mildly destructive. It can often be
mitigated by simply acknowledging that members have competitive agendas, freely talking about them,
intentionally finding points of mutual agreement, and sometimes “agreeing to disagree” on minor points to move
forward on major ones.
While mild competition can lead to creativity, conflict and coercion are almost always negative. They occur
because many people believe that there are inevitably winners and losers in life and that must they fight hard to be
winners. While in leadership teams competition is often mitigated by written or unwritten norms and policies,
those who use conflict and coercion ignore such rules. Their goal is to succeed no matter what. Conflict and its
related tactic, coercion, can be (1) blatant, such as threatening to remove financial or other resources from the
mutual effort, or (2) underhanded, characterized by the formation of competitive sub-groups, gossip, whining,
and spreading general dissension.
Exchange, cooperation, competition, and conflict or coercion can all occur in the course of a single meeting. It is
also possible for a single group to be high on some dimensions or low on several others.18 For example, leaders in
Industrial City (the home of Smithville) once tried to create a collaborative effort aimed at increasing everyone’s
health and well-being. Participants represented almost all of the major stakeholders in Industrial City’s health and
welfare community, including representatives of two major hospitals who were locked in a kind of corporate
warfare. In meeting after meeting, this collaboration moved from polite exchanges of mutually useful information
to enthusiastic plans for mutual collaboration to thinly veiled competition and conflict, usually over access to
power, authority, and funding. These coercive activities were usually between representatives of the two hospitals
and occurred while everyone else watched uncomfortably. The whole process resembled a hard-fought sporting
event. It might even have been enjoyable if it had not paralyzed the collaboration, which led to its eventual
demise. On the other hand, a proposed teen center in Middle View failed to gain momentum because no one
cared enough to maintain the effort.
Assess your comprehension of Interactional Processes by completing this quiz.
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Power in Leadership Teams
One definition of power is the energy to get things done. Here we will be looking at how power dynamics work in
leadership teams. You will first examine the positive role power can have in leadership teams and will later examine
some negative forms of power, especially those that are endemic in small groups.
Benign or positive forms include resource power, position power, expert power, and personal power or charisma.
Each is briefly defined here in Table 6.6.
While the forms of power described above have both positive and negative sides, passive aggression and
manipulation are purely negative. Passive aggression is the power to keep things from happening—usually by not
doing what is expected or by doing an assignment in a halfhearted way. Passive aggression usually appears in times
of low morale, stress, or frustration. Manipulation occurs when an individual or a sub-group deviously puts its
own needs above the common good. Ironically, manipulation requires an empathetic understanding of others’
motivations. It is empathy without a heart.19 Your challenge is not to deny that power and power imbalances exist
in community leadership teams but to channel them in ways that will enable desirable outcomes for your focal
community.
Table 6.6 Power in Leadership Teams
Type Definition Functions Possible Dysfunctions
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Resource
Power
Ability to
provide or
withhold
needed
resources.
Provide resources, including
people, money, and ideas.
May exercise inordinate control over
group decisions.
External
Position
Power
Based on social
position within
broader systems.
Provide links to and
credibility with important
people, social networks,
professions, and established
organizations.
May use their connections to coerce
team to comply with their ideas.
Internal
Position
Power
Based on formal
and informal
roles within the
leadership team.
Determine how meetings are
conducted and what
information is shared, and
ensure that everyone is heard.
May control communication flow to
accomplish personal rather than group
goals.
Expert
Power
Based on
possession of
scarce
knowledge or
skills.
Supply hard-to-obtain
information and technical
services.
May withhold needed information, give
self-serving advice, charge high fees, or
try to impose “one size fits all” solutions.
Personal
Power
(Charisma)
Energy,
commitment,
and contagious
enthusiasm.
Provide inspiration that keeps
everyone enthusiastic and
feeling that the effort is
worthwhile.
May overpower others, keep them from
making optimum contributions, and
prevent the leadership team from
developing an adequate plan for
succession.
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Roles Team Members Play
Community leadership teams operate very much like sports teams. Think about a basketball team. Players first
learn basic skills, such as dribbling, passing, making lay-ups, shooting free-throws, and guarding against the other
team’s players. Then they are expected to practice putting these separate skills together to ensure a smooth
performance. In addition to developing particular skills, they are expected to know when to use them during
actual games when the team needs to work together. Although many basketball teams have “stars,” many star-
based teams do not win titles. Most championship teams seem to be the ones that work together, whose stars are
willing to pass the ball to others, and whose players know their basic skills and use them. Similar to players’
positions on a sports team, community organizers have positions and roles in the community organizing “game,”
as defined in Table 6.7.
No single person can effectively hold all of these positions or effectively play all of these roles, but they are not
formally assigned or static. They move from person to person, sometimes within the same meeting and certainly
over the course of an organizing effort. Those with special talents for one or more of these positions should be
encouraged to develop them because a good balance among them can ensure success.
Assess your comprehension of the Roles Team Members Play by completing this quiz.
Unfortunately, there are several unhelpful positions and associated behaviors (roles) commonly found in
community groups. In fact, some of the
Table 6.7 Helpful Positions and Roles
Position
(Status)
Behavior (Roles) Positive Results
Catalyst
Recognizing need for action, bringing people
together.
Ignites activity.
Expressive
Leader
Befriending (finding out the cares and concerns of
participants), active listening, mediating,
recognizing contributions, celebrating group
successes.
Participants feel needed and
enjoy being together.
Instrumental
Leader
Keeping group on task, setting agendas, keeping
discussions on track and focused, making sure
records are kept and disseminated. Representing
group to the general public.
Tasks are accomplished
efficiently and effectively.
Strong Fighter
Stands up for his or her opinions but once
convinced can be counted on to strongly support
the mission with courage and determination in spite
of difficulties.
Consistent stubborn
commitment pushes through
difficulties and leads to
eventual success.
Quiet listener
Quietly pays attention to what everyone is saying
and then often says just the right thing to unite
people or keep them on target.
Promotes unity by articulating
the common sense of purpose.
Conceptualizer Is able to articulate a broad vision.
Clarifies the mission and keeps
core values in front of
participants and the public.
Detail Person
Makes lists, clarifies assignments, follows up on
people’s promises, solves problems, and generally
keeps events flowing smoothly and on time.
The complement to the
conceptualizer. Makes sure that
“devilish details” do not ruin
group efforts.
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Mediator
Finds common ground in opposing viewpoints,
reframes issues, articulates hidden concerns.
Weaves and splices seemingly
unrelated or contradictory ideas
into viable and creative plans
and actions.
Devil’s
Advocate
Intentionally brings up opposing viewpoints and
identifies places where the organization will
probably face opposition.
Enables the group to examine
potential weaknesses before
they are uncovered in public
venues.
Information
Bringer/Inside
Educator
Conducts participatory research and presents
findings to group in understandable ways.
Provides well-organized
information to support
decision making and action.
Bridge Builder
Has many contacts inside and outside the
organization.
Links diverse individuals and
groups, strengthening the
mission.
traits that lead to positive results in some contexts can lead to problems if they occur at the wrong time or in the
wrong way.
Enthusiastic dominators have a high need to participate and often use the group time poorly. Even though
dominators may have useful contributions to make, their constant need to speak can be intimidating to
quieter people and aggravating to others who have important points to make, and can cause the group to
lose its momentum.
Aggressive dominators interrupt others, fail to listen, put others down, and refuse to consider other
viewpoints. While enthusiastic dominators genuinely embrace the team’s mission and see themselves as
helpful participants, aggressive dominators truly believe that their ideas are better than anyone else’s.
Passive aggressives say they will do something and then either don’t do as promised or do it poorly.
Freeloaders depend on others to do the work while they take the credit, claim an identity as part of the
group, and benefit from others’ efforts.
Cynics (also called “yes-but-ers” because they like to preface remarks with “Yes, but . . .”) find something
wrong with everything that is suggested and cast a pall of hopelessness.
Clowns can play a useful part in reducing tension, but they can also distract the group from important
tasks.
Disruptors steal the meeting agenda. They are often loud, disorganized in their thinking, stuck on minor
points, or take the conversation totally away from the point at hand to something unrelated and confusing.
While many disruptors are simply self-centered, others may be legitimately mentally ill.
Personalizers bring their personal issues with other group members into the group context and are unable to
work with them objectively.
Manipulators are sociopaths who sometimes have well-defined personal or organizational hidden agendas
but, just as often, simply like to see if they can make others do what they want by tricking participants into
playing various emotional games.20
“Rabbit chasers” may be very creative individuals who tend to pursue tangents that are not related to the
task at hand. They tend to draw others with them and can cause a massive waste of time and energy.
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Each of these negative behaviors can be disruptive and difficult. But if they are allowed to dominate, other group
members are likely to feel frustrated and unneeded. Likewise, if the facilitator calls attention to them in the group
setting, others may fear that they too will be “put down” in public.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills
Critical Thinking Question
What insights about team member roles would be most useful in your community organizing practice?
Participants in community organizing efforts typically act and speak in ways that others come to identify as typical
of them. Some of these behaviors are helpful and lead to successful outcomes and pleasant shared experiences
while others are unpleasant and disruptive. Explore your own communication patterns. Ask someone you trust
about their perceptions of your typical approach to group participation. Ask them what you do right and ways you
might improve. Think about what they have said and compare their feedback with your own perceptions. In what
ways are your typical behaviors helpful? In what ways can they be problematic? Experiment with your group roles
until you feel that you have the right balance.
Explore the Team Building skills section of the online Free Management Library to learn more.
Summary
This chapter gives you and other members of the leadership team a framework that you can apply throughout
your community organizing efforts and to which you can return as needed. It is based on the premise that
community organizing is not primarily an individual venture but depends on teamwork and mutual responsibility
—starting with isolated individuals who become a quasi-group and then take on the characteristics of a leadership
team.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of the chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 7 Participatory Research
VLADGRIN/Shutterstock
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Chapter Outline
1. Connected Knowing: The “Engine” of Participatory Research 115
2. Data Gathering and Consolidation of Information 117
3. Analytical Frameworks 122
4. The Asset-based Approach 122
5. The Problem-centered Approach 124
6. Gap Analysis 125
7. Sustainability Analysis 126
1. Summary 129
Learning Objectives
The community organizing cycle (first discussed in Chapter 5) is your guide through the organizing process. In
Chapter 6 you learned how to build and maintain an effective leadership team. In this chapter, you will focus on
the research phase of the community organizing cycle. Figure 7.1 is presented here to remind you where research
and learning fit into this cycle.
Figure 7.1 Research and Learning as a
Component of the Community Organizing
Cycle
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
You and your leadership team will learn to use a process called participatory research in which the research task
(asking and answering key questions about the focal community and what needs to be done) lies with you rather
than a professional organizer or other outside expert. You will learn how to use connected knowing processes,
accepted social science research techniques, analytical frameworks used by professionals, and instrumental
(applied) learning to help members of your leadership team generate the information you all will need to make
good decisions.
Connected Knowing: The “Engine” of Participatory
Research
Throughout the community organizing cycle and particularly in the research (and learning) phase, the leadership
team or its designated learners (those who have volunteered or have been appointed to execute certain research
and learning tasks)1 engage together in making sense of complex issues and intricate systems by constantly asking,
“What do we need to know?” “What does this all mean?” and, especially, “What are its implications for action?”
In participatory research, you make sense of your findings, build on each other’s insights, and decide what to do
and how to do it through an ongoing process of connected knowing.2
The best way to illustrate connected knowing is through an example. Let’s follow the progress of a group of
Smithville women who became a sophisticated leadership team from their humble start as casual acquaintances
who used the same coin laundry. Imagine two or three young moms casually chatting as their families’ clothes
tumble in the dryers and their toddlers play in the steamy laundromat. As they fold clothes and corral children,
they talk about how it is impossible for their kids to play in the local park because it has been taken over by gangs,
it is filled with used condoms and syringes, and the swings and slide are broken. Someone says sadly that she
doesn’t dare take her kids to the park anymore because her toddler was badly cut on the knife-like edge of the
metal slide and had to have stitches. As they talk, they feel angrier and angrier. At first, they simply tell additional
horror stories and build on one another’s complaints until finally someone says, “Let’s try to do something.” This
simple remark changes their focus, and they begin talking about how to involve others in cleaning up the park and
how they might push the City Park Department into continuing to keep it clean.
Although many such conversations might have been dropped at this point, these moms followed through. They
kept meeting at the laundry and then at one another’s homes. They built on each other’s ideas. Soon they gathered
their friends for a “park clean-up and fix-up day.” After the initial clean-up, they recruited some other mothers,
grandmothers, concerned dads, and granddads and divided everyone into two-person teams who took turns
cleaning up the mess. The organizing mothers took up a collection to buy lidded garbage cans.
Although they were engaging local residents as much as possible, the organizers realized that they needed strategic
information and tactics to involve the city and other mezzo-systems (although no one knew that term). Each took
responsibility for learning as much as possible about how other communities had gotten attention. Together they
learned some of the data gathering and presentation techniques that will be discussed later in this chapter and
invented some of their own. They used the information they gathered to create a written report about the dangers
of the park that included stories about children who had been hurt, data on the number of such incidents, and
pictures of the broken slides, trash, and empty syringes. In addition to the written report, they videotaped
interviews of children talking about how much they wanted a safe place to play and included photos of a mural
the children had created that showed their ideal playground. Once the organizers consolidated this information,
they tried to follow protocol by taking their report to the City Parks Commissioner in his office. He promised to
look into their complaints. After waiting several months for his promised visit and promised changes, they took
their report, photographs, and videos to the local media. Soon their effort (and the city’s lack of response) was on
the nightly news and was featured in the newspaper. Local celebrities joined their cause, and there was even a small
article in the national media. Not surprisingly, the City Parks Department responded within a few days after the
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news reports, and major repairs were finally made amid much media fanfare and a neighborhood-wide celebration
at the newly refurbished park. Now several years later, no one can say exactly who started the initial playground
conversation or how it evolved so quickly into effective action, but everyone knows that some organizing mothers
built off one another’s ideas with a positive result, and, perhaps just as important, everyone believes they could do
it (or something like it) again if need be. This connected knowing process, based on mutual respect and caring, is
the energy that enables creative leadership teams to accomplish amazing feats with few material resources; it is the
essence of the participatory research process discussed here.
While connected knowing in community organizing sometimes emerges spontaneously, as in the preceding
example, it more often takes someone with courage and vision to “jump start” the process—someone like you.
Even with a few volunteers, you and your leadership team can use connected learning to build on each other’s
ideas. Your goals for the group process will be to (1) enable the team to cooperatively discern and prioritize
outcomes; (2) gather and consolidate information; (3) create compelling documentation of the needs and viability
of proposed solutions; (4) identify key decision makers; (5) present the case appropriately to the proper decision
makers using the kind of information they expect and can understand; and (6) if necessary, use mildly
confrontational tactics to get attention and action.
The connected learning process used in participatory research can be time consuming and requires that you give
up your individual control, but it teaches inexperienced community leadership team members research and
presentation skills that can be generalized to other situations; often leads to creative, cost-effective solutions; and is
impressive, especially to political decision makers who are aware that community leaders are not only voters but
also influence other voters.
Commitment to connected learning is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee success. Team members need to
learn to use accepted social science research processes to gather data, produce coherent documentation, and
develop strategies to improve the quality of life in their focal community system.3 Participatory research and
learning differs from traditional academic research not so much in technique but in its emphasis on community
ownership of research findings. Emphasis is not on ownership by an academic researcher or outside sponsoring
organization.
Assess your comprehension of Connected Learning by completing this quiz.
There are several types of learning that occur in community organizing milieus, including data gathering and
consolidation of information among other types. Let’s now explore these two turn.
Data Gathering and Consolidation of Information
Data gathering and consolidation of information is what most people think of when they hear the words
learning or research. It involves gathering data (facts and statistics), consolidating this information in
understandable terms, and then making sense of the information in light of community needs and goals.
Common ways of gathering needed data include reading, listening to experts, and conducting research using
accepted social science techniques. Most grassroots community organizing efforts do the data gathering and
consolidation work themselves. Collaborations of established organizations, government agencies, and research
universities occasionally have the financial backing to hire professionals. The following discussion focuses on how
members of your leadership team can gather, consolidate, and interpret the data needed to make good decisions.
Those who guide the emerging effort are referred to as the community leadership team, while those who do most
of the data gathering and information consolidation on their behalf will be referred to as designated learners (i.e.,
people who have volunteered, have been appointed, or have been hired to learn on behalf of the emerging
community organizing effort).4
While it is beyond the scope of this book to give you an in-depth description of social science research, designated
learners need to become familiar with major techniques and specific approaches. The chapter gives an overview.
Appendix A* will help you with specifics.
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A * Concepts in this chapter that are expanded in Appendix are marked with an asterisk (*).
Because a focal community system is always comprised of micro-systems and is embedded in mezzo- and macro-
systems, your leadership team’s research task involves exploring and organizing relevant data from relatively
narrow local concerns to mezzo-systems and broad macro-systems. The most effective research consists of
comparing and contrasting your findings at different levels of the system, a process that happens naturally in the
creative thinking that was compared to “clicking through” the various levels of a microscope in Chapter 2. In this
process, the researchers must be alert for relevant information wherever it may be found and actively search for
connections among seemingly unrelated data and information.*
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Compiling, synthesizing, and categorizing information
Critical Thinking Question
What information will you need to collect in order to gain a thorough understanding of your community?
How will you organize it?
Web-based research is a good place to begin exploring. You will find that Web research in community organizing
feels like entering an unknown territory and being assigned to map landmarks, resources, and dangers. It feels
daunting, confusing, scary, and exciting all at the same time. But rather than charging into the wilderness, it is
best to begin with a broad outline. Divide up the territory, clarify exploration strategies and records to be kept,
keep in touch periodically during the exploration process, and meet frequently at “base camp” to pull information
together and make sense of it.
In addition to helping you map the territory, there are several other ways Web searches can be useful. For instance,
your team may have an idea for a specific approach or have ideas for a specific project. In such cases, you should
use key words in your search engine that are likely to lead you to organizations with purposes similar to yours
(e.g., teen centers, community gardens, self-help groups, or mutual aid). Your search will most likely lead you to
websites for particular projects and programs. You can use these websites for ideas about program design, funding,
and organizational structure and compare them to your own focal community. If you find an interesting
organization, you may want to call and ask questions. Some people will be very friendly, others will not, but
telephones can be powerful tools for sharing ideas and making connections.
It is a good idea to use an academic search engine, such as EBSCOHost (available through most college or
university libraries), if you want to understand how others have approached similar situations and whether they
have been successful. An academic search for journal articles on your topic will give you good ideas for possible
approaches, criteria for success, and additional search terms to help you explore the topic. Librarians are generally
quite willing to help because libraries have a community service mission.
If you want assistance with funding, you can use your search engine and type in “funding for . . .” although you’ll
have to be very careful that the sites you find are legitimate. Beware of any site that charges money for its services.
If you want to find self-help or advocacy groups, try various combinations of “help for . . .” or “. . . advocacy” or “.
. . rights.” Any site you find should be evaluated carefully.
Your specific data gathering strategy will depend on the topic. You will often find it helpful to begin with
government sites to see what is officially available on your focal community or issue. The following list includes
some of the most useful sites that provide raw data for community organizing: the U.S. Census Bureau; national
government sites; USA.gov: “US Government Made Easy”; state sites; and county, town, village, tribal, and city
sites. Government websites are helpful in finding factual data about a geographic target area, and government
agencies may help you with particular projects.
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Once oriented to government resources, you may want to explore other organizations with missions similar to
yours. One way to do this is to use your search engine to review examples of similar projects and programs. As is
wise in all Web research, carefully judge the quality of the information you discover.
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Using technology for word processing, sending e-mail, and locating and evaluating
information
Critical Thinking Question
The Web has greatly simplified initial community research by putting thousands of pieces of data at your
fingertips.* Practice the Web-search techniques by exploring your focal community, tentative outcome
goals, and possible programatic approaches. Save anything you may find useful. As you conduct your search
try various techniques for locating information, note what worked well or poorly. What did your
exploration teach you about Web-based research?
Assess your comprehension about Web-based Research by completing this quiz.
Eventually, work on the Web will yield decreasing data, so you will want to enhance computer research with
primary information from the community members themselves. Most people think of surveys first when
considering ways of collecting community information.*
Unfortunately, surveys are much harder to design, deliver, collect, and interpret than they seem. However, if
properly designed, they can provide valid and reliable information from large numbers of people. There are two
main criteria for surveys and other types of quantitative research: (1) validity refers to whether the research
measures what it is intended to measure and (2) reliability refers to whether the research findings are likely to be
easily replicated if other researchers follow the same protocols. Many surveys are reliable in that they can produce
similar results when replicated with similar population samples, but their validity (the “truth” of their findings)
may be easily compromised by design problems, such as leading questions (questions that are worded so that
every available response supports the researchers’ biases), poor sampling (choice of distribution methods or people
to survey), low rate of return, biased self-selection of respondents, and respondents’ bias (the desire to look
good). For example, in a notoriously embarrassing case based on poor sampling, the Chicago Tribune boldly
printed a “Dewey Beats Truman” headline before the 1948 election results were in. Truman, of course, defeated
Dewey. The erroneous headline happened because a telephone poll showed that Dewey would win by a landslide.
He would have, if all the voters had had telephones! Working class and poor people did not usually have them,
but they did vote—for Truman!
In spite of its faults, carefully executed survey research can answer important questions quickly and easily and can
provide a basis of comparison with other sources of information. Table 7.1 lists some of the strengths and
weaknesses of survey research.
Table 7.1 Strengths and Weaknesses of Survey
Research
Strengths Weaknesses
Questions minimally applicable to
fit a large population because they
are too general to be useful.
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Relatively inexpensive (especially if self-administered)
Useful in describing the characteristics of a large population
Can be administered from remote locations using mail, e-mail,
or telephone.
Very large samples are possible, increasing statistical significance.
Large sample sizes allow for multi-variable analysis.
Many questions can be asked, thus adding flexibility.
There is flexibility in the design and implementation phases,
which allows you to choose the questions, mode of delivery, and
return mechanisms that fit your needs and budget.
There are now many free or inexpensive survey-generating
websites.
Very general questions are likely to
miss important specifics.
Inflexible; once designed, it cannot
be changed.
Wording is extremely important.
Bias easily creeps into questions.
It is impossible to know the reasons
why people respond.
Generating a high rate of return is
often problematic.
It is sometimes difficult to track
duplicate responses.
Respondents vary widely on
knowledge of topic.
Even in anonymous surveys, people
usually choose to make socially
acceptable responses.
Choice of method is critical to
response rate and validity.
Carefully designed survey research can be very helpful but it must be designed ethically. Your designated learners
should answer the following questions before implementing survey research:
What questions do we need to answer that can only be answered through a survey?
How shall we design the questions?
How shall the questions be worded?
How can we include those who actually know the extent of the need we have identified?
Whom should we ask? (Choosing the sample)
How shall we distribute the survey?
How can we be sure to reach our main target group (those who are most affected by our concerns)?
How will we ensure confidentiality?
How much will this cost? How much can we afford to spend?
How can we maximize the rate of return?
Review how survey questions can affect results. Consider how the wording of questions of surveys you’ve
conducted, what questions could lead to potential biases?
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Assess your comprehension of Survey Research by completing this quiz.
It is impossible to cover all the nuances of survey research here; entire books, university courses, and businesses
focus on it. However, the hints and suggestions in Appendix A will give you an idea of what is involved when
someone innocently suggests, “Let’s do a survey!”
While quantitative research—such as Web searches, use of census data, and surveys—give you a broad idea about
community perceptions, qualitative research (listening to people and taking an in-depth look at specific
examples) helps you identify and explain complex structures and interactions within your focal system and its
related systems.
Qualitative research, like other forms of systematic inquiry, is judged on both validity and reliability—but a third
factor, generalizability (the judgment of the readers about its relevance), is added to the mix. To be generalizable,
your team’s research reports must written clearly, honestly, and with narrative detail (telling the complete story)
so that your readers can determine whether the findings are relevant and believable and whether they have
relevance to their own needs and interests.
Despite many conflicts in the sciences and social sciences about the merits of quantitative and qualitative research,
both are important and useful in community organizing. Quantitative techniques tend to be reliable (in that they
can be repeated relatively easily with similar results) but depend greatly on their research design (that is, asking the
right questions in the right way) for their validity. Qualitative studies tend to be valid because they rely on in-
depth exploration and feedback from participants but may be less reliable because every situation is different and
kaleidoscopic community processes lead to constant change. Qualitative studies also tend to be more useful to
readers because their stories, examples, and honesty about possible researcher biases make it easier to place
information in a matrix of understanding.
Typically, researchers combine several qualitative research methodologies to provide more valid results.
Triangulation of methods (also called multiple methods), in which three or more methodologies are used and the
results compared against each other, is common and provides a more complete understanding of a focal system.
Observation, in-depth interviews, use of artifacts and written materials, focus groups, narratives, and arts-based
techniques—such as producing local theater or music, creating community murals, and the like—are qualitative
methods commonly triangulated in community organizing.
Observation begins with your commitment to fully experiencing the world around you in a four-step process that
can be remembered with the acronym EDIT: experience, describe, interpret, and transfer. That is, the observer
describes what has been noted, interprets its meaning, and then transfers (applies) what has been learned. The
EDIT process is based on inductive reasoning as it builds from specific details to hypotheses about what is
occurring, rather than beginning with preconceived notions and working down to an experimental proof.
Interviewing involves systematically talking with people and recording what you learn. There are several forms of
interviewing that are relevant to community research, ranging from questions you ask in a chance encounter with
someone to those using formal samples and interview protocols. Most interviews fall in between. Specialized forms
of interviewing include focus groups, narratives or story telling, and structured reflections on drama, dance, and
the visual arts.
Artifacts are anything that is produced from human activity. Important artifacts for your participatory research
effort will include (1) private documents such as diaries, journals, correspondence, and e-mails; (2) semi-public
written documents such as meeting minutes and written organizational policies and procedures; and (3) public
documents such as published newspaper accounts, statutes, and regulations. It is interesting to compare the
“public story” to the “private story” to determine congruencies and discrepancies. In addition to written
documents, artifacts may include visible evidence of human activity. For instance, in rural areas, one can
determine where residents do most of their business dealings by observing which side of an intersection or
driveway has the most gravel—data that can be useful in differentiating community boundaries.
Triangulation is the last stage of qualitative data gathering in which you comb through all the notes and
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recordings you’ve made, looking for patterns that make sense of what is happening and helping you understand
how others view the situation. Triangulation has been compared to walking around a statue or viewing a scene
from various perspectives. It is the mental and emotional process of looking carefully at each piece of information,
combining them into a whole, and then holding the parts and the whole in creative tension. This step takes
practice and wisdom.
Qualitative research involves the triangulation of information from many different sources. To gain some
experience using qualitative techniques, read the material on qualitative research. Create a qualitative research plan
for exploration of the assets and needs of your community focal system.
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Obtain information through interviewing, active listening, consultation with others,
library or other research, and the observation of clients and systems
Critical Thinking Question
How will you combine the Web-based, quantitative, and qualitative information you gather in order to gain
a clear picture of your target community? How will you share what you have learned with the designated
learners and the leadership team?
Assess your comprehension of Qualitative Research by completing this quiz.
Some people find the very word research terrifying because of its association with the mysteries of statistics, but it
is simply a way of systematically asking and answering questions. This chapter and Appendix A are a primer on
the major social science research techniques used by community organizers so that designated learners can be
comfortable in gathering, consolidating, and using research materials. Further, you will be able to present
information to decision makers in the conventional ways they expect.
The next step in participatory research is to consolidate information into written reports and tables. Consolidation
of information serves both internal and external functions. Internally, it enables the organizing team to understand
system dynamics and make wise decisions. Externally, it provides material to tell the story of the emerging effort to
potential supporters, ease the fears of potential enemies, and clarify the effort to potential stakeholders and the
general public. The best reports integrate stories gained from qualitative exploration with the numerical facts
gained from quantitative methods. Stories speak to the heart; numbers speak to the head.
Analytical Frameworks
By the completion of the data gathering and consolidation phases, your leadership team should have a clear
picture of the focal system and its components—it will have the beginnings of an intuitive understanding of what
is needed. Analytical frameworks are intellectual tools that enable you to further understand and evaluate what is
happening in your focal community system.
Community organizing is a field of applied social science whose intellectual leaders are mostly professionals from
the fields of social work, public affairs, sociology, rural sociology, and community education. These scholars, many
of whom work for colleges and universities, have developed comprehensive approaches to community research and
its applications, which are part of their institutions’ service mission and are intended to be used by emerging
community groups. This section explores several of the best:
The asset-based approach of John Kretzman and John McKnight of Northwestern University5
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A problem-centered approach developed by Drew Hyman from the Pennsylvania State University and
author Joyce McKnight from SUNY/Empire State College6
The Gap Analysis Technique invented by Betty Reid Mandell and Barbara Schram7
Sustainability indicators being developed by the world-wide sustainability movement8
The Asset-based Approach
The Asset-based or Community Building approach is most useful in geographic focal systems, such as Smithville
and Middle View. Its premise is that communities should concentrate on building their strengths instead of
focusing on community weaknesses or on bringing in outside resources. The Asset-Based Community
Development (ABCD) approach to neighborhoods and communities aims at identifying strengths and assets
rather than liabilities. Let’s now look at the steps involved in the asset-based approach:
Step 1: Identify the geographic target community (the focal system).
Step 2: Identify the formal organizations within the target geographic area, prioritize those that are most
important either to your community or to your mission, and talk with their leadership. Identify their
missions, their view of their role in the neighborhood, their plans for the future, key people who are
involved, and what needs they may have for volunteers or paid employees. Note how they may be linked to
each other and to broader social systems. Be sure to keep good notes.
Step 3: Identify semi-formal organizations or associations that may provide positive resources and add to the
positive quality of life in your focal community system.
Step 4: Identify the primary groups, such as families and friendship networks, with special attention to the
core people who hold these networks together.
Step 5: Search for individuals with talent, strength, and integrity.
Step 6: Keep good notes and contact information on everyone you encounter in a place where all designated
learners and the planning team can easily access it.
Step 7: Look creatively at the information you have gathered. What institutions, agencies, and individuals
could you link to one another to improve life in the community?
Step 8: Pick a project that is an “easy win” and begin. Look at your list of assets and contact the
representatives of organizations and associations, as well as talented individuals who are most likely to help
you with it. Link them into a formal or informal project team. As you link people together, they will find
more things in common. Often your community will literally blossom with community gardens or clean-
ups and later with larger, more challenging projects and advocacy efforts.
Explore ABCD Institute to learn more about the asset-based approach to community development. Consider
how you might apply the asset-based approach to community development to your organizing effort.
Do something. Evaluate it. Do something else. Remember that some people will be interested in the whole
community and the long haul, while others may only want to be involved in one project. Don’t worry if the group
concerned with the needs of the whole community is a small one because their main task is to discern possible
links among organizations, associations, families, and friendship groups and individuals. Bring them together,
encourage them to think creatively, encourage them as needed, and watch as the focal community blossoms.
For several years now, Middle View community leaders have been more or less intentionally using the asset-based
approach for economic and cultural development. They have identified government resources, business
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organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, business owners, the local summer music camp, practicing
artists, and many others who have joined together in creative ways to enhance the summer tourist offerings. For
example, the music camp has joined with a local gourmet restaurant to offer a reasonably priced combined
dining–concert experience. The town government, local folk school, historical society, public library, and
individual artists and musicians have created a summer arts series that draws people to the “downtown” area.
Middle View Village is buzzing and blossoming as new ideas constantly emerge. Indeed, it seems as if many
different people have more or less unconsciously developed the knack of making such positive connections so the
core leadership team has to do very little to catalyze new ideas—the “garden” is growing on its own.
Assess your comprehension about Asset-based Community Development by completing this quiz.
The Problem-centered Approach
The problem-centered approach is probably the mostly commonly used by those who have identified a specific
burning issue or concern that they want to address. Let’s look at some examples from Middle View and Smithville,
based on an amalgam of real cases. Middle View is isolated from the nearest medium-sized city by narrow,
winding roads and fierce winter storms that make winter transportation difficult. For many years its small hospital
lacked a kidney dialysis program. Dialysis patients frequently had to go for six-hour treatments two or three times
per week coupled with two hours of travel. Many were exhausted and discouraged, but then a transplant recipient,
who had been a dialysis patient herself, decided that something needed to be done. She organized the patients who
were well enough to participate, their families, and some of the local medical personnel. They collected data on
the number of patients in the area, their treatment needs, particularly poignant stories, and the figures showing
that a locally available dialysis unit could actually save money in reduced infections and inpatient hospitalizations.
They presented the data to state-level politicians, to the local hospital board, the Kidney Foundation, and an
insurance company–run private provider agency. Steady advocacy, solid financial information, local fund-raising,
and some help from the state representative on regulatory and licensing issues eventually led to a small but
effective locally based dialysis clinic. The problem was solved. Local advocacy groups often begin with specific
issues or problems, too. For example, several years ago in Smithville, the only direct bridge from downtown to the
neighborhood was scheduled to be closed for up to two years, thus threatening to shut down bus routes and
increasing a five-minute commute by car to forty-five minutes over back streets. The bridge issue galvanized the
neighborhood, and a community advocacy effort forced the city to build a temporary by-pass. This successful
effort became one of the catalysts for the current neighborhood organization.
While such efforts can be awe-inspiring, they must be based on careful participatory research. The following is a
list of questions participatory researchers should ask:
What are the important aspects of the problem?
What outcomes do we really want?
Who are the important players or stakeholders?
Who are potential audiences for our advocacy efforts?
Are there pay-offs from our advocacy project for various players, including both friends and enemies? How
can we use these pay-offs to bring at least some of our opponents to our way of thinking?
Who has the power in the situation and what is its nature?
What other social problems may be taking precedence over this issue, especially in the mezzo- and macro-
level systems that impact it? How can we move it closer to the top? In other words, what are the politics
involved?
The development of systematic answers to these questions, and others that your group may generate, will help you
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implement approaches that (1) acknowledge conflicting views and interests but (2) still make consensus building
possible.
Gap Analysis
The Gap Analysis is a third useful analytical process and combines the research process discussed here with the
planning and implementation processes discussed in Chapter 8. The gap analysis technique can be used in most
community efforts, but it is especially useful when focused on specific issues, either as stand-alone concerns or as
part of a broader community mission. Figure 7.2 is a flow chart of the first phase of the Gap Analysis process, that
is, identifying the Gap.*
Figure 7.2 Gap Analysis Process, Phase 1:
Identifying the Gap
Leadership team members intuitively recognize a need in the target system, resolve to do something
about it, use participatory research techniques to measure it, and begin to make others aware of it.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Phase 1: Identifying the Gap
Step 1: Identifying the gap intuitively
Step 2: Committing to filling the gap
Step 3: Collecting evidence about the “size and shape” of the gap
Step 4: Figuring out reasons for the gap by analyzing information
Step 5: Raising consciousness about the gap
The next step is illustrated in Figure 7.3, which is a flow chart of phase 2 in which the gap is magnified by looking
at it in a larger context.
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Figure 7.3 Magnifying the Gap
The leadership team moves its focus from the gap to the “landscape” around it. By looking at existing
resources, creative possibilities, and various forces affecting the situation, the team begins drafting an
initial plan as a beginning point for discussion.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Phase 2: Magnifying the Gap within a larger context
Step 1: Inventorying other programs
Step 2: Brainstorming ideas
Step 3: Critically evaluating suggestions and ranking them
Step 4: Doing a force field analysis which determines factors in favor of the project and those against
it
Step 5: Drafting a plan and an alternative
The next phase, which focuses on identifying which action steps are needed, is illustrated in Figure 7.4.
Figure 7.4 Microscoping (Action Steps)
The leadership team decides on a specific implementation plan and moves forward.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
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Phase 3: Microscoping to identify the action Steps*
Step 1: Building a resource bank
Step 2: Specifying and assigning tasks to be done
Step 3: Establishing time schedules
Step 4: Evaluating the plan and following up
The Gap process is a concise summary of the steps used in all good planning and is often applied in existing
human service organizations and formal collaborations where it is generally very straightforward. On the other
hand, new community organizing efforts tend to be more formless, move more slowly, have more variance in
participation, and are harder to keep on track. They are also great fun, can lead to lifelong friendships, and elicit
creative ways of meeting important human needs.
Assess your comprehension about Gap Analysis Technique by completing this quiz.
Sustainability Analysis
The concept of sustainability has become a world-wide movement often characterized by grassroots organizations
that combine the word sustainable with the name of a specific place. The movement began with Sustainable Seattle
and now has branches throughout the world. Sustainability asserts that the paradigm of unlimited growth that
characterizes global society cannot be sustained and will eventually deplete the world’s resources. Community
organizing efforts that embrace sustainability look at the ways current behaviors are strengthening the viability and
sustainability of a focal system, ways such behaviors are threatening it, strategies for increasing the likelihood of
sustainability, and ways of measuring whether these tactics are working. The sustainability model described here
can be applied to any geographic system, but it is most commonly used in geographic regions that share
environmental resources such as watersheds.
The sustainability movement predicates a paradigm shift (a major shift in the way people view reality). Figures
7.5 and 7.6 illustrate the change from exploitation of the environment to long-term sustainability.
The goal of the “old paradigm” is constant economic growth. Constant economic growth is sustained by all other
social institutions. All social institutions such as
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Figure 7.5 The Old Paradigm
In the old paradigm, everything serves continuing economic growth.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
education, religion, health care, criminal justice, and government are called industries and are organized in ways
that support the economy. The value of human beings is based on their position in the economy and is called
human capital. The natural world is to be exploited to increase production and economic growth.
The “sustainability paradigm” turns the old paradigm upside down. It asserts that all life on earth depends on the
natural order—on finite supplies of air, fresh water, and minerals and on temperature balance—and that
unlimited exploitation of natural resources cannot be maintained. It also asserts that well-being does not come
from
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Figure 7.6 Sustainability Paradigm
In the sustainability paradigm, the economy serves the people, not vice versa.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
amassing consumer goods but from clean air, sufficiency of healthful food and fresh water, decent shelter, health
care and wellness practices, loving relationships, opportunities for learning, and inner peace. The goal of social and
economic institutions is to ensure that everyone has enough. Finally, it asserts that economics is not the master of
human beings but should be our servant.
Organizing efforts based on sustainability often use the compass points as their framework for analyzing the health
of a community or region. Your leadership team must consider all points of the compass for the development of a
healthy focal system (see Figure 7.7).
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Figure 7.7 The Sustainability Compass
All four compass points must be in balance for a high-quality life:
N = Nature. Our environmental heritage, our use of resources, and our impact on the earth
E = Economy. Our livelihoods, our wages, and our capacity to keep even the poorest out of
absolute poverty
S = Society. Our collective social institutions such as government, religion, family, education,
health care, human services, and justice that together comprise and gauge the health of our
culture and democracy
W = Well-being. The ability of individuals and families to sustain health, happiness, and the
capacity to learn and take advantage of all life has to offer
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
If you choose to use the sustainability research model, divide your emerging task force into subgroups charged
with assessing focal system needs for each of the four compass points. While each focal community will be unique,
some typical sustainability goals might be to:
Provide more transportation choices.
Promote equitable, affordable housing.
Enhance economic competitiveness.
Support existing micro-systems within the focal community.
Coordinate and leverage government policies and investment.
Value and build on diversity.
Once each of the four teams is satisfied that they have identified suitable goals, the teams should define indicators
to measure the current situation and to evaluate changes over time.
Good indicators are hard to create, but they have:
Validity (the indicator measures what it is supposed to).
Lack of ambiguity (everyone knows what exactly is being measured).
Availability (it does not take a great deal of time to find, measure, and organize the findings).
Timeliness (it can be measured quickly if rapid decision making is needed).
Relative stability over time (comparisons are important in sustainability research; therefore, indicators must
be consistent so that accurate comparisons are possible).
Accuracy and reliability of measurement.
Understandability (it should be easily understood by anyone with average mental abilities).
Relevance to policy (it should provide information needed for wise policy formation).
Low cost and relative ease of collection.
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Creativity.
Ability to sustain the measurement effort.
All of the indicators taken together should result in clarity about all four compass points and should show how
economic and social indicators support well-being and the health of the environment. Creating indicators can be
interesting and even fun. For instance, one of the water quality indicators that Sustainable Pittsburgh9 participants
chose was the number of ducks present at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers on a
certain day every year. Because ducks only go where there are healthy water plants, the more ducks, the higher the
water quality! Other communities have used the number of flower boxes and small gardens in the neighborhood as
indicators of intangible qualities like hopefulness.
Once valid reliable indicators are selected, reasonable targets and target dates for evaluation purposes are set.
Follow-up is extremely important because indicators are often created and measured for only a year or two until
funding resources are depleted. To be useful, indicators must be measured consistently over time so that
comparisons can be made.
Explore sustainability and sustainability research at Learning for Sustainability Network. Consider how you can
make sustainability an important component of your community organizing approach.
Assess your comprehension about Sustainability Framework by completing this quiz.
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Performing elementary community-needs assessment.
Critical Thinking Question
Which analytical framework or frameworks seem likely to be most useful to your leadership team and why?
The asset-based approach, the problem-based approach, Gap Analysis, and sustainability indicators are all tools
that your participatory research group can use to define desirable outcomes and processes. Because all are
legitimate forms of social science research, they give your group credibility with decision makers and are useful for
your planning purposes.
Summary
In this chapter, you learned the basics of participatory research, including how to enable a community leadership
team to use connected knowing processes, apply social science research techniques, and use analytical frameworks
to clarify and make use of the information you collect to attain your community organizing goals.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 8 Planning and Implementation
Kayte Deioma/PhotoEdit
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Four Types of Planning 131
2. The Planning Questions 133
3. Assessing the Situation 136
4. Implementation: Defining the Next Steps 139
5. Mixing and Phasing the Implementation Strategies 150
6. Training and Pilot Projects 150
1. Summary 152
At this point in the community organizing cycle your leadership team will have thoroughly researched the assets
and needs of your chosen focal community system and will be ready to move from information gathering to
action. This chapter continues the journey as you concentrate on planning—which involves clearly defining your
vision, mission, outcomes, and major actions—and implementation, which makes your vision a reality. We will
begin by examining the planning phase by revisiting the planning cycle illustrated here in Figure 8.1.
Figure 8.1 The Planning Phase
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Community organizing plans are a design for change based on what your leadership team has discovered in the
research and analysis phase of the organizing cycle. Your approach to planning should be based on (1) the variety
of community organizing you have chosen (see Chapter 4) and (2) the “ideal type” of planning that works best in
circumstances like yours. To help you make good decisions and make the process run more smoothly, you should
begin your planning process by identifying the variety (or varieties) of organizing discussed in Chapter 4. Table
8.1 can be used as a reference.
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Table 8.1 Long-Range Planning across Different
Types of Community Organizing
Alternate View
Four Types of Planning
Once your leadership team has gathered information and has made at least a tentative decision about the variety of
community organizing you are using, you will be ready to select the type of planning that is likely to be most
useful. The planning literature defines four ideal types of planning: traditional, relational, advocacy (or equity),
and participatory. The four ideal types are defined in Table 8.21
1 Note: In social science, an “ideal type” is one that perfectly fits a mental model. For instance, you probably have
a mental model of a bird as something that has feathers, wings, can fly, can sing, eats seeds and insects, and so on.
This is your ideal type that you use to categorize a creature as a bird. Of course, you can imagine a creature that
would not fit your ideal bird type completely but would still be a bird: penguins, ostriches, and crows, for
example. The same thing is true of the ideal types discussed here. Most planning efforts will not completely meet
the criteria for any of the ideal types.
You will find that, from their beginning, some projects are a mixture of these ideal types while others may begin
with one ideal type and move to another as organizing continues, as seen in Figure 8.2.
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Table 8.2 Comparison of Four Ideal Types of
Planning
Alternate View
Figure 8.2 Mixing and Matching Types of
Planning
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Skills to develop goals, and design and implement a plan of action
Critical Thinking Question
Consider the variety of community organizing your leadership team is likely to use, and ask yourself which
type you will probably use. What factors support your choice?
Any particular planning effort can be divided along two dimensions. The horizontal dimension has to do with
leadership of the process and is a continuum between local control and control by professional planners. The
vertical dimension is a continuum between consensus-based approaches, which emphasize collaboration with
existing bureaucracies, and conflict or advocacy approaches, which emphasize giving powerless people a voice in
the planning process. Using this model, planning processes can move from block to block. For example, if the
professional planner strongly believes in justice and inclusion, traditional planning may take on aspects of
participatory and advocacy planning. Relational planning may become advocacy planning when participants
realize that many of their friends and neighbors are experiencing injustice. At times, relational planning becomes
traditional planning if participants decide to bring in a consultant to facilitate the process. Frequently, relational
planning becomes participatory planning when members of the focal community decide that “something has to be
done and we are the people to do it.”
Explore the Participatory Process Planning Guide. What are the advantages of planning with community people
rather than planning for them? Are there any potential disadvantages? If so, what might they be?
Assess your comprehension of the Four Major Types of Planning by completing this quiz.
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The Planning Questions
Once you have decided on suitable type(s) of planning, you will need to address key planning questions. Note that
these move from very broad to quite narrow and lead to specific actions needed for implementation. Table 8.3
addresses these planning questions and some important considerations for each step. A Middle View example then
follows to give you an idea of how the process worked in real life.
When Middle View was planning its runaway prevention project (a social innovation effort), the leadership team
developed a series of questions, which they then answered. The questions were:
What is our overall mission (purpose)? Another way of asking this is, “In general, how will the focal
community be better when we succeed?” For example, the mission of Middle View’s runaway prevention
project was “to enable at-risk teens to grow into successful adults by providing an anchor in Christ and
community.”
Table 8.3 Things to Consider during
Planning
Stage What It Entails Considerations
Vision
Informal process of
asking “What do we
need to do to improve
this situation?”
At this phase you should be listening carefully to
everyone, especially those who will be directly affected
by your effort. Beware of premature closure or letting
your own preconceived notions or biases get in the
way of effective consensus building.
Mission
statement
Consensual creation of a
short (one or two
paragraphs maximum),
clear statement of what
you intend to
accomplish.
Take the time to create a mission statement that is
clear, concise, and actually defines what you intend to
do. Avoid broad statements and excessive claims.
Research suggestions on how to create mission
statements and follow them.
Define
outcome
objective(s)
Statements of the
measurable results you
hope to achieve for your
target population or,
better yet, what this
population wants to
achieve for itself.
Do not mix outcomes with processes. For example, if
you want to prevent suicide in a designated target
population, your outcome goal would not be to
provide x number of hours of individual counseling
time; it would be to reduce the suicide rate by y
percent or in z absolute numbers.
Define
evaluation
measures
Clear definitions of how
you will know that you
have achieved your
desired outcomes.
These are very hard to create. They must be valid in
that they really measure outcomes, are easy to collect
and monitor, and are easy to collect for the evaluation
phase of the organizing cycle. Be sure that you can
actually collect and maintain the data needed before
you commit to a particular outcome measure.
Define
processes
What you are actually
going to do to achieve
your desired outcomes.
Avoid the temptation to start with processes. They
should flow naturally from your mission and outcome
goals and should be simple, relatively inexpensive,
accessible to your target population, and as open to
their input as possible.
Build How your effort is going You will need to decide the kind of organizational
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
appropriate
organizational
structures
How your effort is going
to be organized in the
long run.
You will need to decide the kind of organizational
structure that will best help you fulfill your mission.
Different options are discussed in Chapter 10.
Resource
development
and
budgeting
The financial, human,
and other resources you
will need to meet your
outcome objectives.
Financial plans should flow from your mission and
outcome objectives, not from resources that may be
available. Chapter 10 and its Appendix define the
budgeting process in great detail.
Action steps
What needs to be done,
when, and by whom to
make your dreams real.
Define this as carefully as possible and give yourselves
adequate time. Everything takes longer than you
think, so keep working away at your plan even if you
run into barricades.
What are our outcome goals? Outcome goals focus on specific measurable ways life will be better in the
focal community because of your activities. In the runaway prevention program, the focal community was
teenagers within the Middle View Schools, particularly the micro-system of those at risk of running away
from home. The leadership team identified the desired outcomes as an increase in family stability as
measured by fewer incidences of running away and teen homelessness, an increase in knowledge and skill
development as evidenced by higher school retention and graduation rates, improved decision making among
youth as evidenced by reduced incidence of status offenses (such as running way, incorrigibility, and
truancy), and ongoing stability in adulthood as measured by completion of education or military service
beyond high school, stable adult employment, successful marriages, and successful parenting.
What processes will we use to reach these outcomes? Processes are the specific things that will be done to
bring about the desired outcomes. The processes chosen for runaway prevention included family crisis
intervention, mediation and problem solving between parents and teens, an overnight “cooling off” shelter
while crises were being handled, longer term group home care if indicated, and ongoing follow-up with
families and youth.
How will we evaluate our progress as we go along (formative evaluation)? The formative evaluation of the
whole program was done at monthly board meetings in a standard format that included reports from the
executive director and all of the committees, followed by discussion of old and new business. Once the
program was running, measurement of client outcomes was done at weekly treatment planning meetings
focused on the needs of clients and their families and tracked the outcome goals, not just the services
rendered.
How will we know when we have succeeded (summative evaluation)? Although summative evaluation
comes later in the community organizing cycle after implementation and management, it must nevertheless
be designed into the planning phase. Summative evaluation is always linked to outcome goals. In the
runaway prevention case, incidence of running away, truancy rates, referrals to Child Protective Services for
status offenses, and graduation rates all provided quantitative data on the success of the program. Qualitative
data included the results from interviews with adult family members, youth, school personnel, and agency
representatives who shared their perceptions of program success.
What organizational structures are best? Several different ways of structuring community organizing efforts
are discussed in Chapter 10. The leaders of the runaway prevention project explored options like becoming
a program of the county children’s services department or remaining a local church mission. But in the end
they decided to incorporate under the broad name of Middle View Concerned for Youth, with the runaway
project as a sponsored program. The thought was that the Concerned for Youth corporation might
eventually want to sponsor other youth-oriented projects, but in the end the runaway project remained its
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What resources will we need to accomplish our outcome goals? What do we have available now? What will
we have to generate? What is our expense budget? What is our revenue budget? In the runaway prevention
example, generating answers to these questions was an ongoing process. The first few years were the hardest
as there were many false starts due to trial-and-error approaches. The project began with just a little over
$1,000 from a church mission project, a few hundred dollars more from contributions, and a small grant
from the local United Way. Money for a down payment on an old house was raised through a donation
letter and local fund-raisers. A small grant was obtained. The project opened for business on a shoe string.
At first, the leadership team decided that a house should be purchased to provide a homelike atmosphere.
Care would be provided by live-in house parents working largely for room and board; and administrative
guidance and professional counseling would be provided by a full-time executive director working first as a
volunteer and later for a minimum salary. There would be some non-personnel expenses, such as food and
utilities, and some one-time expenses for building repairs, re-modeling, and code enforcement. They further
decided to keep costs as low as possible by relying heavily on volunteers and community contributions. The
original budget was $20,000 in 1978 dollars. In some ways this austerity strategy worked, as they were able
to successfully operate for a year or so, demonstrate that there was a need for the services, and leverage that
success into a much more reasonable and stable budget. But the stress and strain caused many tensions
among the staff, which led to “burn out” of the house parents and the director—all of whom had no relief
from being on 24-hour call to the police and the rest of the community. Upon reflection, former members
of the leadership team believe that the project was very worthwhile but that if more time had been spent on
the research and broad planning phases of the organizing cycle, the first years would have been far less
painful.
What action steps should be taken, by whom, and in what order? The runaway prevention project’s leadership
team formed committees to divide their tasks. There was a building committee, a budget committee, a program
committee, a fund-raising committee, and a by-laws/administrative committee, all guided by a fifteen-member
board of directors (the uneven number was intended to avoid tie votes, although it was probably a bit too large to
be truly effective). Each of the committees was assigned well-defined tasks that included what was to be done, who
was to do it, when it was to be completed, and how it would be evaluated. The completion deadlines were put on
a timeline and first monitored by the board of directors and later overseen by the board and the executive director.
Assessing the Situation
After answering the above questions, your leadership team will have a well-defined mission, clear outcomes, an
idea of which processes will likely to lead to success, preliminary revenue, expense and budgets, a workable
business structure, and a preliminary evaluation plan. But, you will still face the challenge of making your vision a
reality. So your team can use one or more approaches to analyze the situation: the Gap Analysis method discussed
in Chapter 7, the balancing method shown in Figure 8.3 that follows, or a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, threats) analysis.
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Figure 8.3 Factors Affecting Program Success
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Much of your chance for success will depend on the balance among a number of factors. Here Figure 8.3 shows a
simple system depicting some of the factors that can be used as a framework for brainstorming.
Imagine that Figure 8.3 is a sort of seesaw with organizing tasks as the fulcrum. Demands include all of the people
who want the effort to succeed. In the case of Middle View, these people included counselors, teachers, and other
school officials who wanted young people to have stable living situations so they could learn, parents who were at
wits’ end in dealing with incorrigible teens and wanted help to be available locally, the police who wanted an
alternative to the juvenile justice system, and some teens themselves who wanted to be able to successfully navigate
adolescent challenges. Supports include those people and organizations that are willing to provide human,
material, and financial resources. In Middle View, this included several local churches, the local United Way,
some high school teachers and guidance counselors, other leadership team members who later became the board of
directors, a volunteer attorney, and the County Juvenile Court judge. Barriers are anything that blocks the way.
Some barriers are comprised of people and organizations that are in direct opposition to the organizing effort,
while others are simply part of the mezzo- and macro-systems whose bureaucratic responsibilities can block
progress. There were few local barriers to the runaway prevention program except for some people who were
concerned about the location of the shelter near their homes. Major barriers came from the mezzo-system: lack of
available outside funding, bureaucratic rules and regulations especially regarding health and safety requirements, as
well as program requirements from the state department of social services. Competition often comes from existing
organizations with similar missions, as well as from dissimilar organizations that nevertheless draw from the same
resources. For instance, the runaway prevention program competed directly with several other group homes within
the county, as well as with county agencies like Child Protective Services (which had a shelter program of its own,
forty miles distant). It competed indirectly with other municipal, county, and state services such as highways,
bridges, public health, mental health, public welfare, state parks, and many other interest groups. The equation is
simple: demands and supports for the organizing effort must outweigh barriers and competition. The leadership
team’s task is to find specific things that can lead to surmounting these obstacles.
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Skills to develop goals and to design and implement a plan of action
Critical Thinking Question
Analyze your focal system and potential directions using Gap and balancing methods discussed. Compare
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problem and a description of the proposed solution(s). This letter was sent to many community leaders and
to the local newspaper that printed several stories emphasizing the local need and the local effort. Additional
community leaders were recruited to the board of directors and were encouraged to talk with their personal
contacts within the county and state mezzo-systems to ask for their support.
What are our weaknesses?
The weaknesses were a lack of support from critical components of the mezzo-system, including the
directors of county Child Protective Services and the county Office of Juvenile Justice, whose directors
thought that support should go to existing programs and who expressed concern about the qualifications of
the project leaders. The leadership team (which had become a formal board of directors) decided to work to
win over these leaders. The board president joined a collaborative effort among directors of youth-serving
agencies and gained their respect by contributing time and energy to their joint work. Other board members
visited agency leaders, shared the descriptive letter, talked with them about the credentials of the board
(which included an MSW (Master of Social Work), two masters-level counselors, an accountant, and an
attorney), listened to their concerns, and most important of all, gained their buy-in by incorporating some
of the agency leaders’ good ideas into the ongoing planning process. These activities built credibility.
Internal weaknesses included a lack of expertise on the business side of program development including
revenue and expense budgeting; a lack of political savvy in dealing with municipal, county and state politics;
lack of knowledge of the mezzo- and macro-systems focused on the needs of youth; and a lack of specific
research, planning, and organizing skills that sometimes led to inaccurate information and unnecessary
initiatives. To overcome these weaknesses, the board carefully recruited additional volunteers with
appropriate expertise.
What are our opportunities?
Somewhat ironically, the strategies used to address weaknesses led to new opportunities which included
assistance from the county judge for referrals; ability to match local funding with state funding at a
10%/90% rate, which greatly enhanced the overall budget; assistance from existing private youth-serving
programs whose directors graciously provided assistance; volunteer help from local professionals in
procuring property; attainment of non-profit status; design and maintenance of the accounting system; and
repair of the property once procured.
What are some possible threats?
Threats included competition for limited funding from other public and private agencies; delay of needed
health, safety, and program approvals by state level agencies; and the volatile nature of client situations with
the ever-present possibility of disastrous publicity. Participation in collaborative activities with other
agencies somewhat mitigated the competition for funding as other agencies were reassured that the new
effort would add to the service system rather than deplete it. Unfortunately, problems with regulatory
agencies were ongoing despite an increase in support from both the local community and the county mezzo-
system. These were mitigated somewhat by support from such political leaders as town council members,
the juvenile court judge, and even the U.S. congressperson. A major threat arose when the director of a rival
agency worked his way onto leadership of a review panel and manipulated its evaluation, leading to denial of
second-year funding. Thankfully, the runaway prevention project’s leadership team then learned that the
matching money which would have been used for the second year of the grant could instead be used for a
much larger and longer lasting funding source. Good came from a potential disaster. Most threats seem to
come out of nowhere. During the runaway prevention agency’s first pilot year a young man and his sister
came to the shelter after a falling out with their natural parents and failure in foster home placement. Soon
after their arrival the young man was accused of a brutal rape. The local police (who were important
stakeholders in the runaway project) took him into custody for questioning. The agency director and the
agency’s attorney insisted on being present during the interrogation, which angered the police and led to
deterioration of police–agency relations. Eventually, after much anguish on everyone’s part, the young man
was proved innocent through DNA evidence, but it took over a year to restore a positive relationship
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system. These were mitigated somewhat by support from such political leaders as town council members,
the juvenile court judge, and even the U.S. congressperson. A major threat arose when the director of a rival
agency worked his way onto leadership of a review panel and manipulated its evaluation, leading to denial of
second-year funding. Thankfully, the runaway prevention project’s leadership team then learned that the
matching money which would have been used for the second year of the grant could instead be used for a
much larger and longer lasting funding source. Good came from a potential disaster. Most threats seem to
come out of nowhere. During the runaway prevention agency’s first pilot year a young man and his sister
came to the shelter after a falling out with their natural parents and failure in foster home placement. Soon
after their arrival the young man was accused of a brutal rape. The local police (who were important
stakeholders in the runaway project) took him into custody for questioning. The agency director and the
agency’s attorney insisted on being present during the interrogation, which angered the police and led to
deterioration of police–agency relations. Eventually, after much anguish on everyone’s part, the young man
was proved innocent through DNA evidence, but it took over a year to restore a positive relationship
between the agency and local police.
Explore the web for more about how to use SWOT analysis. Consider how you might use a SWOT analysis in
understanding issues faced by your community organizing effort.
Your organizing effort will, of course, have its own SWOT list. In addition to carefully brainstorming your
SWOT, your leadership team should identify areas that are unknown and therefore need additional research and
investigation. This is a really important step. For instance, you may want to know if there are other organizations
or programs with similar missions emerging that may be a threat to your efforts. You may want to explore the
mezzo-system—especially municipal, county, state, and national policy making—to determine if there are any
proposed laws or budget recommendations that will affect your efforts. You may want to determine if there is any
local gossip about your efforts or hidden opposition from apparent friends. The leadership team should be
encouraged to bring lingering questions or doubts to the surface so they can be investigated. As you saw in
Chapter 5, some organizing groups address these planning questions in very formal ways, others “muddle
through,” and most probably do a bit of both—but all must answer these questions and continually revisit them.
Assess your comprehension of Situation Analysis by completing this quiz.
Implementation: Defining the Next Steps
Plans are only a design for change; change itself is brought about through conviction and action. Implementation
puts legs under your plans. Since organizing is a cycle, there is no clear-cut demarcation between planning and
implementation, but Figure 8.4 shows the general movement.
There are four ideal types of implementation described in the community organizing literature: (1) relational
development, (2) community/locality development, (3) social action, and (4) popular education or participatory
development. Relational development is based on friendship, family, and other personal ties. Community or
locality development refers to top-down approaches that are imposed on communities by those in authority and
usually emphasizes economic strategies. Social action
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Figure 8.4 The Implementation Process
Note that this version of the organizing cycle adds training and piloting between planning and
implementation. The former two processes are not used in every organizing venture, but they are
discussed here because they are often needed.
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
approaches are also imposed but are based on the conflict model of society that pits relatively powerless action
groups against powerful target groups. Popular education or participatory development refers to implementation
that is accomplished by members of the target system. In practice, these four types of implementation are not
mutually exclusive, but they are separated here for clarity.
Table 8.4 outlines the characteristics of these four implementation approaches and maps them to the varieties of
community organizing discussed in Chapter 4.
Relational Implementation
In relational implementation, communities are viewed primarily as networks of relationships so the leadership
team seeks to link people at the institutional, associational, primary group, family, and individual levels in an
ongoing network of mutual care. Relational efforts focus on the family, friendship circles, other primary groups,
and neighborhoods. They are rooted in home and family rather than the public arena. Relational implementation
often begins slowly in places where people meet frequently and talk openly about issues that affect the quality of
their lives. Many relational efforts are quite ordinary and, therefore, easily overlooked. Many informal helping
efforts, social innovations, and community advocacy efforts over the years have been spawned and perfected over
coffee at the diner, conversations in line at the post office, and beauty shop gossip.
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Implementation in relational organizing is a person-centered, organic process. It grows from the perception that
individual hurts may have community-based causes and community-based solutions. Projects grow organically
with the slow application of ideas and insights to community problems, often with no written plan. Instead,
there’s a sense of an overall direction that grows from an implied consensus. Those using this model see power and
politics quite differently from those operating from other implementation models. In relational organizing, power
arises in the private sphere of relationships and is conceptualized as limitless and collective.
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169

Table 8.4 Implementation in Practice
Alternate View
Those engaged in relational organizing are not naïve. Because they actually live in a targeted community, many
have experienced powerlessness first hand. Relational organizers don’t compete with established powers but
develop their own power to solve problems in their own way through a process of connected learning. Relational
implementation moves in fits and starts as plans and action steps are vague, general, and rarely written down
unless required for outside funding.
Relational organizing is based on creating and maintaining warm interpersonal relationships that improve the
emotional, interpersonal, and practical aspects of life in a focal community system. Discerning, befriending,
connecting, weaving, clarifying, bridging, interpreting, strengthening, splicing, and serving are all roles (behaviors)
that strengthen relational organizing and should be cultivated among everyone:
Discerning neighborhood assets is a complex activity that usually begins with informal discussions in homes
and community free spaces. When a consensus emerges that something must be done about a particular
concern or issue, such discernment leads to action.
Befriending involves becoming a valued member of the community by helping others in practical ways,
such as giving a ride to the hospital or babysitting. Those who offer friendship are quickly accepted as part
of the community and are often thought of as natural leaders.
Connecting or linking involves informally bringing together people with similar interests to focus on
common goals for the good of the whole community.
Weaving is a complex process that emerges from linking and involves ensuring that existing and emerging
social ties form emotionally sustaining patterns and effective networks.
Clarifying is a continual process of figuring out what is going on and determining how different people
perceive ongoing processes and their roles in those processes. It involves empathy and listening skills.
Bridging involves finding ways to unite different interest groups and individuals so that everyone benefits.
Interpreting is a form of mediation and relates to bridging. It involves a thorough understanding of various
positions and relaying accurate, unbiased information to all participants.
Strengthening is subtle and involves helping participants continue their efforts when the going gets rough
by listening, taking an interest in each other’s personal and family struggles, and providing practical,
concrete help as needed.
Splicing involves healing strained or broken relationships among participants.
Serving is the practical role that holds the relational process together. Serving means that participants find
no task too small, too dirty, or too menial if it is necessary to ensure that essential work is completed.
Because those engaged in relationship-based efforts believe that friends, families, and neighbors have a
responsibility to care for one another in good times and bad, their efforts are a natural outgrowth of caring. They
don’t wait for government permission or funding to act. They depend on each other far more than on government
or other outside resources. Many relationship-based efforts in both Middle View and Smithville are so ubiquitous
that they go unnoticed. For instance, when a young boy from a working class Middle View family was diagnosed
with a serious form of leukemia, the whole community sprang into action. As medical costs mounted, a local
church started a bank account for the family; the boy’s middle school class, the local Lions Club, the volunteer
firefighters, and a local bar held fund-raisers; and dozens of individuals donated funds, gasoline, and food to
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support the family’s needs. Thousands of dollars were raised. No government structures were involved at all.
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: Interdisciplinary team approaches to problem solving
Critical Thinking Question
Relational organizing is based on the cultivation of mental and emotional habits and positive behaviors that
enable you to make positive contributions and enjoy yourself while you are doing it. What are your
relational strengths as well as areas where you feel you could use more work? How might you improve your
relational skills?
In Smithville, members of the Smithville Neighborhood Organization (SNO) were upset by littering near a local
convenience store. Three elderly ladies decided to approach the owner. When he told them that he was too tired
and busy to pick up the litter on his lot (which had grown to monstrous proportions), they volunteered to pick it
up and have it carted away if he would agree to keep the area clean. An informal agreement was struck, the ladies
and some of their friends picked up the litter, and the store owner has kept up his end of the bargain. No code
enforcement or other unpleasantness was needed.
Assess your comprehension of the Roles Involved in Relational Organizing by completing this quiz.
Locality Development
The terms locality development and community development are often used interchangeably and refer to the
processes and products used to implement formal economic development activities and large community projects,
such as schools, libraries, parks, and infrastructure. Locality development is both a process and a product. The
process goals are to (1) facilitate negotiation among key stakeholders, (2) gain public support for large public
projects, and (3) facilitate problem solving by engaging pre-identified stakeholders with one another and with
those at the mezzo- and macro-system levels who have determined that a given project is needed. The intent is to
negotiate details so that key stakeholders will agree to cooperate and will be satisfied with the results. The outcome
goals of locality development are public projects that meet the needs of major stakeholders.
Locality development processes use workshops, meetings, and public hearings as venues to disseminate
information, solve problems, and develop consensus. These events are generally organized by government officials,
agency representatives, or paid consultants. Although many working groups incorporate citizens’ insights into
problem solving and implementation, others are primarily informational or perfunctory with communication
flowing from experts to the community. Locality development presumes the basic goodwill of everyone involved.
Locality development is a product (or products) that enhances the economy of a focal system. Common locality
development projects include roads and bridges, sewage and water, railroads and other means of transportation,
public schools and libraries, loans and tax breaks for businesses, and changes in zoning laws. Key participants
usually represent important economic interests. Although some provision is usually made for input from “ordinary
citizens,” processes are usually designed to accommodate key economic and political players.
The comprehensive planning process in Middle View exemplifies locality development. The Town of Middle
View is mandated by the state to engage in comprehensive planning efforts on a regular basis (usually every five to
ten years). These comprehensive plans are then used to define needed economic development, infrastructure
requirements, and zoning. Municipalities use the data and conclusions as a basis for funding requests to state and
federal agencies and as tools for setting their own outcome objectives. Such comprehensive plans are very
important because they guide decision making at the local and mezzo levels over many years. Originally,
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comprehensive planning (and related implementation) was mandated by states as an antidote to unplanned
growth, “sweetheart deals” among powerful people, and the exclusion of citizens from having input into important
community decisions.
Openness and community engagement are still major process goals. However, over the years, the comprehensive
planning process has become a closed system with technical planners and expert consultants frequently moving
between public service and private practice. Intelligent town officials know that it’s wise to hire established
consultants to guide the process—not only because they have technical expertise in a field that is full of jargon and
nuance but because established relationships can smooth the process. Middle View town officials hired a seasoned
consulting firm to implement their comprehensive planning process and to do the technical work of consolidating
the information gathered and writing the plan. The consultants’ process alternated private meetings of the
committee with public meetings linked by written reports that were produced by the firm. The strength of the
process was in the professionalism of the planners, their knowledge of the mezzo-system, and the quality of the
final plan. The plan and its follow-up will meet some important economic development goals. One portion
addresses the need for a well-designed sewage disposal plant that will protect the fragile mountain soil from
overuse by antiquated septic systems. Another provides for replacement of leaking water pipes and ensures the
safety of town wells. Still other provisions protect the purity of the lake and river areas, provide for green spaces,
and encourage creative recreational and economic uses of a formerly abandoned railroad. Because the plan has
been carefully written to comply with the state specifications and specific funding streams, it is likely that
important local projects will be implemented with little or no impact on local taxes. The main weaknesses were in
the process, which occurs in comprehensive planning efforts everywhere. Those who had the loudest voices were
those with powerful interests, who were somewhat sophisticated in government operations, who were aware of the
importance of comprehensive planning, and who had time to invest in it. Middle and working class people, young
adults and youth, and some neighborhoods were noticeably absent from the deliberations or were not aware of
important provisions until it was too late to change them. There were many reasons for these weaknesses,
including practical issues such as the time and place of scheduled meetings and inadequate publicity, but other
reasons involved the lack of general awareness of the importance of comprehensive planning. Many people are
either unaware of its impact or think of it as an empty exercise. On balance, though, the contents of the final plan
were largely in everyone’s best interests. Middle View is better off because there is a comprehensive plan to direct
development. Middle View’s experience of both the positive and negative aspects of locality development strategies
seems to echo in many localities around the world.
Locality development usually occurs in formal settings such as comprehensive planning efforts. To see locality
development in action, attend a public meeting such as a local planning or zoning board, a long-range planning
meeting for the school district, or a comprehensive planning workshop. Use the observational skills discussed in
Chapter 7 to learn as much as you can about the locality development process and then reflect on it. In what ways
was the meeting you observed inclusive? What groups or constituencies were conspicuous by their absence? What
groups or constituencies seemed most likely to benefit from the meeting’s results? In what ways were the results
likely to benefit the focal community system? In what ways might the results be harmful?
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Planning and evaluating programs, services, and operational functions
Critical Thinking Question
Both Human Services and Social Work emphasize clients’ involvement in decisions affecting them. Over
your career you will probably participate in many community development efforts as leader, professional
representative, or community participant. What can you do to make sure that those who are directly
affected by planning decisions have a real voice in the process?
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Social Action
Social action efforts are based primarily on the conflict model of society and have an overt goal of improving the
lot of those exploited by powerful economic and social interests. This is accomplished through strategies designed
to (1) create social movements, (2) gather sympathy from decision makers and the general public, and (3)
persuade the target group to stop their exploitative practices. Social action efforts involve imbalanced power
relationships that must be changed; a change agenda (mission); specific measurable outcomes, strategies, and
tactics to bring about change; a group of onlookers to influence; and a target group defined as adversaries. The
outcome goals are changes in policies and practices that will benefit the exploited group. This is accomplished
through swaying the weight of public opinion toward the desired change while simultaneously coercing the
adversaries into making desired changes or capitulating.
The political historian Charles Tilly1 asserted that social action and social movements are distinguished from other
political actions by (1) a campaign, which he defined as “a sustained, organized public effort making collective
claims on target authorities”; (2) a social movement repertoire of potential actions, including the “creation of
special purpose associations, public meetings, solemn processions, vigils, rallies, petition drives, statements to and
in the public media; and pamphleteering”; and (3) WUNC. or “participants’ concerted representations of . . .
worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment on the part of themselves and their constituents.” WUNC causes
target authorities and the general public to take the effort seriously.
WUNC is demonstrated by the following behaviors:
Worthiness is often demonstrated by sober demeanor, neat clothing, and the presence of clergy, dignitaries,
and mothers with children. It is also demonstrated by touching stories of unfair treatment of innocent
people such as children, the elderly, hard-working families, and the like, as well as stories that cause
potential supporters to identify themselves as possible victims.
Unity is demonstrated through matching badges, banners, or costumes; marching in ranks; and singing or
chanting.
Numbers include headcounts at demonstrations, names on petitions, messages from constituents, filling
streets or venues, and so on.
Commitment includes braving bad weather, visible participation of the old and handicapped, resistance to
repression (being beaten), ostentatious sacrifice (being imprisoned), and substantial contributions of time,
money, reputation, and personal relationships.
Two main social action strategies include (1) using the adversarial nature of established political and judicial
processes to bring about change and (2) using demonstrations, speeches, sit-ins, and public marches to raise
awareness of injustice. Social activists generally prefer one of these broad strategies over the other. Differences in
these two main strategies sometimes lead to conflict within social action organizations, but both have a place.
Campaign tactics support social action strategies and are chosen for their likelihood of changing the behavior of
the target system, increasing public support for the social action group’s agenda, or both.2 Often several different
tactics are used in a single place, or similar tactics may be used simultaneously in different venues. Your leadership
team should choose the campaign tactics that are most likely to work in your focal community and its
surrounding mezzo-systems.
Our focus is exclusively on social action tactics that include the use of legitimate third parties, bargaining and
mediation, ahimsa or non-violent resistance, and non-violent coercion. A significant number of social activists
have advocated violence, but for ethical and moral reasons it is not included here. Table 8.5 examines typical
social action tactics.
Social action strategies and tactics are successful when the target group makes the changes demanded.
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For a case in point, let’s look at Smithville, where social action tactics have been used with some success.
Smithville has a faith-based social action organization—an “organization of organizations”—and a secular
membership-based organization. The SNO—made up of churches, community-based organizations, and a few
individual members—works politely but firmly with government through yearly neighborhood forums that
formulate and present various resolutions to city officials. The SNO’s policy is to use the least coercive tactics
possible to get desired results, and they’ve found that presenting a reasonable resolution to the appropriate official
or agency usually works. At other times, leaders schedule private meetings with key officials and allow the officials
to set time and place. In quiet, pragmatic sessions, activists use mediation tactics and listening skills to enable
reasonable compromises. Sometimes bargaining occurs in which local activists agree to support city officials’
broader agendas at the county, state, and national levels in return for official attention to neighborhood needs and
concerns.
Negotiations around Community Development Block Grants3 are a good example of this kind of bargaining and
consensus building. Community block grants were originally designed to ensure that local municipalities rather
than national agencies have the final say in where some federal tax dollars are spent. The process is rather
convoluted, but in essence it is a redistribution program. Some of your federal taxes collected by the IRS are given
back to the states, which then pass the money back to municipalities, who must file yearly applications justifying
their needs and accounting for how the funds will be used. The law and regulations stipulate that neighborhood
leaders must be engaged in the planning and proposal process. In struggling municipalities like Industrial City,
block grants provide a much needed supplement to local tax dollars, so neighborhood leaders are called upon
periodically by municipal authorities to participate in planning for the distribution of funds and to advocate with
their congressional representatives for adequate program funding.
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Table 8.5 Social Action Tactics
Alternate View
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On the other hand, when officials become intransigent over particular issues, organizers initiate such tactics as
letter writing campaigns, polite attendance at city council or school board meetings, and quiet gatherings (such as
candlelight vigils) to call attention to the situation. While participants aren’t afraid to make their voices heard,
most are pragmatic enough to know that because they will need to negotiate with officials at other times, it’s best
to keep lines of communication open. Moreover, most participants find violence and confrontation morally
repugnant; they are simply more comfortable using mediation and compromise than confrontation. A major
strength of the SNO is that participants have learned to encourage residents to meet their own needs so that
confronting government has become less necessary. Longtime members of the Smithville community say that
SNO has made slow but sure progress on some issues identified in neighborhood meetings, such as rehabilitation
of housing in a substantial sector of the neighborhood, but progress in other areas has been stymied by other city
priorities and entrenched power. Promises have often been broken, such as improvements to storm drains and side
streets. The SNO has had its ups and downs, such as maintaining momentum through personnel changes at the
participating churches and withdrawal of key leaders due to illness, family, work, threats of reprisals, or
discouragement. At other times, new people have taken up the effort and pushed forward in a wave-like
movement.
In contrast to SNO, Smithville’s secular membership-based organization (a local affiliate of the now defunct
ACORN network) is based on a more confrontational approach. For instance, members stormed one city council
meeting to demand block grant funding for the local community arts center (which had never received such
funding in the past). They came late, talked loudly, cursed, wore dirty clothes, and insisted on breaking into the
established agenda, ignoring protocol. Their leader, a paid outside organizer, had clearly prepped them to create a
dramatic event. Although they were given an opportunity to present their case during the public portion of the
meeting, they instead chanted their demands, then rose and left. Their attitude affronted city council members
and the mayor, who simply shook their heads at the interruption, picked up their agenda, and continued.
Although that particular campaign tactic did not work, some of the coercive tactics of the ACORN affiliate—such
as marches, sit-ins, and disruption of public meetings—received rapid attention and led to the refurbishment of a
desolate urban park, more protective lighting in dangerous areas, and swift punishment of abusive police officers.
The choice of tactics depends on your leadership team’s objectives. The consensus-based approach favored by
organizations like SNO is appropriate if your organization wants to gain a respected voice at the table over the
long haul, and if those in power are fairly likely to respond reasonably and humanely. More coercive tactics, like
those of the ACORN affiliate, may be necessary when your goals are immediate, the situation is threatening to
innocent people, or those in power are cruel or intransigent. Often a balance is needed. In fact, many successful
social action efforts have two separate components: one composed of negotiators who are willing to compromise
and another that specializes in the use of more coercive tactics.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
What activities help an organization develop its WUNC (worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment)?
Why is WUNC so important in facilitating social change?
Assess your comprehension of Social Action Tactics by completing this quiz.
Popular Education: Implementation of Participatory
Research
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You will recognize many of the ideas in this section because popular education is the implementation phase of the
participatory research model advocated in this text. The term is based on the phrase educación popular, commonly
used in Latin America to refer to processes, demands, and results emerging from the efforts of oppressed and
exploited people themselves.4 Popular education as used here blends social action and relational organizing. On
the social action side, such efforts are initiated by those who realize that they and their neighbors are victims of
oppression (compliance in their own mistreatment) and feel called to awaken others. This awakening from false
consciousness (the implicit belief that existing power relationships are inevitable or deserved) is called
consciousness raising. The goal of consciousness raising is twofold. It makes people aware that the way things are
is not a result of fate or a punishment for their individual faults and failings but is caused by social structures that
keep the rich rich and the poor poor. A second goal is to encourage those who are newly awakened to stand up for
themselves. This often means engaging in social action while at the same time engaging in mutual economic aid
and other forms of self-help.
The locus of control in popular education begins and remains with the people who must live with its results. The
community organizing cycle is controlled by a leadership team whose members are directly impacted. Popular
education has characteristics of relational organizing and social action efforts, and sometimes even uses locality
development techniques. However, it differs from these three approaches in that it is totally controlled by
members of the focal system themselves. The term “popular” in “popular education” means “from the people” and
refers to actions by ordinary people on their own behalf. Popular education efforts use consensus methods
internally but often use social action tactics with those who exercise unjust power. Popular education as a
systematic approach to community organizing is a reaction to (1) the top-down, condescending approaches of
locality development; and (2) the tendency of some social activists to impose their own ideologies on target
populations.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
The core ideas of popular education are that relatively powerless people can overcome their belief that the
“way things are” is the “way that things are supposed to be”, thereby gaining the courage to actively create
their own destinies. This is an important part of community organizing, but history frequently shows that in
practice this simply means exchanging one form of tyranny for another. How can you play a role in such
transformative learning without forcing your own political agenda on people?
Implementation of popular education approaches has both internal and external dimensions. As your leadership
team uses the popular education approach, you will learn by doing and have a sense of “feeling the way” semi-
blindly through the community organizing cycle.5 One challenge will be learning how to use the natural gifts,
acquired knowledge, and skills of participants in empowering and respectful ways. You may be surprised to find
that you already have members with the knowledge and skills needed to implement action or can easily recruit
them from within your focal system. Second, you will find that it’s possible to use self-directed and connected
learning processes to gain needed information to make wise decisions. Third, you will learn that there are few, if
any, irreparable mistakes and that a conscientious process of action, reflection, and renewed action (praxis) can be
very effective in overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties. Successful popular education initiatives are based on
mutual trust, connected learning, and faith in the ultimate rightness of your mission.
Assess your comprehension of the Popular Education Ideology and Techniques by completing this quiz.
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Mixing and Phasing the Implementation Strategies
Relational development, locality development, social action, and popular education are ideal implementation types
that rarely succeed alone in a community milieu. In real life, they are often mixed and phased. For example,
locality development organizations used to accept the old model of persuading people to adopt new technologies,
which subsequently led to resentment, occasional misuse of land, and long-term loss of productivity. Locality
development specialists today are more likely to engage local people from the beginning and respect local customs
and local wisdom. While this is an improvement, there is still a tendency for development agencies to adopt a top-
down approach, engage only established leaders, and fail to develop ongoing models of community engagement.
Although radical social movements exist and some have become more violent and have evolved into terrorism, the
overall trend is for communities to initiate their own responses to human need and injustice through the process
of participatory action and grassroots initiatives (popular education). These local efforts judiciously use both
locality development and social action techniques to control the quality of life in their own communities.
Relationships are so ubiquitous that they are frequently overlooked, yet they are at the heart of effective
communities and the basis of high quality of life. Relational development uses techniques developed over years of
community organizing, the wisdom of feminist scholars, and an ethics of caring as a firm foundation for
community change.
The challenge for community organizers is to use each implementation strategy appropriately within the context
of mutual respect. The time has passed for community organizers to play the messiah role for other people.
Connection, collaboration, and active participation of all involved are the keys to effective community change.
Planning and Evaluating
Understanding and Mastery: Skills to develop goals, and design and implement a plan of action
Critical Thinking Question
Review the decisions your leadership team has made about the variety of community organizing to be used,
your mission, desired outcomes, programs and processes, and evaluation criteria, and then review the four
types of implementation. Which type will your group probably use? What factors influenced your choice?
Training and Pilot Projects
Training prepares participants for action and may be formal or informal. In relational organizing, training is
generally informal, specific, and done on an as-needed basis. For instance, some of those concerned about the
ongoing well-being of Middle View are members of a local service club that is frequently asked to help with
various community events. One such fund-raiser is a bicycle race along country roads sponsored by the local
Chamber of Commerce that attracts cyclists and their families to the town. The service club is paid a fee to
provide volunteers to direct the cyclists along the route and provide assistance, if needed. These volunteers are
briefly trained on safety precautions and procedures by race organizers on the day of the race. Such brief training is
built into almost every local event. In Smithville, the Neighborhood Watch has recruited responsible adults to
watch for unusual or potentially criminal activity. These volunteers have been formally trained by the local police
on strict protocols about what they can and cannot do. Training is usually infused in locality development
processes. For instance, in the Middle View comprehensive planning process, the consultants taught participants
to use connected learning methods through the way they organized small groups and facilitated their sessions. No
one ever said, “We are going to teach you a process that will enable you to work together smoothly” but that is
what happened. Social action efforts often engage in three kinds of training: (1) consciousness-raising about the
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implications of the issue, (2) training about personal safety and conduct during non-violent actions, and (3)
specific tasks related to other tactics. Training is especially important in popular education because its strategies
depend on an awareness of injustice on the one hand and the possibility of effective engagement on the other.
Training efforts should include consciousness-raising within your focal community about injustice, provide
insights into possible causes, and move toward possible responses. These reflective activities can be done through
community meetings, workshops, theater and other arts, or any other techniques that enable people to share their
life experiences and to begin to realize that what they thought were individual faults and personal troubles often
have their roots in injustice. Members of your leadership team should participate as equals rather than as experts,
share what you have learned and some hopeful approaches to action, but leave plenty of room for insights from
others. The goal of training in popular education is to break through fear and hopelessness and to develop shared
confidence, mutual trust, tools for taking action, and a willingness to risk.6 Pilot projects are used to determine
whether a strategy, tactic, or program process is likely to have the desired result. Such programs combine
experimentation and training. Pilot projects are often used to (1) determine whether academic theories will work
in practice, (2) test whether particular programs or processes will produce the desired outcomes, (3) compare two
processes to one another on a variety of criteria, and (4) identify potential pitfalls. Pilot projects are commonly
used in efforts where public money will be used and where successes are likely to be replicated in several locations.
Pilot projects are not very common in relationship-based efforts, social action, or popular education because such
undertakings tend to grow organically by trial and error rather than using a formal experimental method, usually
lack funds for experimentation, often have participants who are convinced that their course of action is the right
one and so do not see the need for a trial period, and are under time constraints to grow quickly.
Although radical social movements exist and some have become more violent and have evolved into terrorism, the
overall trend is for communities to initiate their own responses to human need and injustice through the process
of participatory action and grassroots initiatives (popular education). These local efforts judiciously use both
locality development and social action techniques to control the quality of life in their own communities.
Relationships are so ubiquitous that they are frequently overlooked, yet they are at the heart of effective
communities and the basis of high quality of life. Relational development uses techniques developed over years of
community organizing, the wisdom of feminist scholars, and an ethics of caring as a firm foundation for
community change.
The challenge for community organizers is to use each implementation strategy appropriately within the context
of mutual respect. The time has passed for community organizers to play the messiah role for other people.
Connection, collaboration, and active participation of all involved are the keys to effective community change.
Assess your comprehension of the Four Approaches to Implementation by completing this quiz.
Summary
In this chapter, you have continued to move through the community organizing cycle and have examined (1) four
ideal types of planning, (2) how they apply to the varieties of community organizing approaches, and (3) examples
of their application that your leadership team can generalize to its own situation. You then moved to the
implementation phase, examined the four ideal types of implementation, explored the strategies used by each, and
were challenged to determine the appropriate uses of each. The next chapter will complete the community
organizing cycle by examining management and evaluation.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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180

Chapter 9 Management and Evaluation
Jim West/Alamy
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Five Types of Management 154
2. Evaluation 161
1. Summary 168
Chapter 9 is the conclusion of your journey through one circle of the community organizing cycle. Here you will
examine some approaches to managing an emerging organization, monitoring its progress, periodically evaluating
that progress, and summarizing its impact. Your passage through these final phases is highlighted in Figure 9.1, a
reprise of Figure 5.1.
Figure 9.1 Management in the Community
Organizing Cycle
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Five Types of Management
As your effort moves from dream to reality you will find that there are more and more concrete daily tasks that
must be addressed or things will become “messy.” The term management is derived from the French word for
“housekeeping,” so a manager is someone who organizes and conducts the hourly and daily affairs of an
organizational “household.” Management involves deciding what needs to be done; getting it done in the best,
most effective and efficient manner; and constantly evaluating results. While leadership involves broadly defining
the vision and mission and guiding the whole community organizing cycle, management assures that tasks are
accomplished properly and in good order. Not all leaders are good managers. Not all managers are good leaders.
Each has its own role set of knowledge, skills, values, and behaviors. Effective management depends on the
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interaction of four major factors: the mission, the organizational structure, the tasks to be managed, and the
strengths of the individual manager.
Table 9.1 compares five broad types of management found in the management literature and will enable you to
compare and contrast their uses in community organizing.
Most of us are familiar with bureaucratic management, which has a pyramid-type organizational structure with a
chief executive officer at the top who carries out the policies of the governing body within its day-to-day
operations. Bureaucratic organizations usually are formally incorporated with boards of directors, by-laws, and
clear operating procedures. The organization itself has legal status as a fictitious person and is treated as an
autonomous actor for social and legal purposes. While the board of directors has ultimate authority for policy
formation, the executive director and his or her management team are responsible for setting the direction of the
organization and seeing that its organizational mission is accomplished. Work is highly structured.
Communication is almost entirely top-down through non-interactive means, such as work orders, memos, and
informational meetings. Collaborative decision making, if it exists, is only among top executives. The assumption
is that upper management knows best and that other staff members, volunteers, and clients have little to offer. The
manager is clearly the boss. Bureaucratic managers are generally very respectful of legal authority, try hard to please
funding sources and regulatory agencies, resist innovation, and worry about the impact of change. They depend
on legal authority, knowledge power, and productive power.
In community organizing, bureaucratic management is most frequently found in economic development–based
efforts such as long-range planning where administrative authority often begins with an elected or appointed chief
executive officer who initiates, manages, and monitors a formal planning and implementation process. In many
instances, policies, procedures, and expectations are spelled out by law or regulation. The underlying assumption is
that only those with technical expertise and established power are fit to manage day-to-day operations. Rigid
administrative practices and procedures make it difficult for bureaucratic organizations to flexibly adapt, which
explains why community organizers may have difficulty working with representatives of established bureaucracies
—even when individual employees try to be helpful. Bureaucratic management works in organizations with career
ladders where people work for pay and prestige. This management approach doesn’t work well in voluntary
organizations where people work to improve the quality of life for themselves or others, for personal satisfaction,
or in service of God or others.
The characteristics of relationship-based management are presented in the second column. In community
organizing, relationship-based management is frequently found in place-based organizing, self-help groups, and
social innovation efforts. It was first
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Table 9.1 Types of Management
Alternate View
presented in the business literature by Douglas McGregor in 1957, primarily as an alternative to the coercive
“scientific management” of Frederick Taylor, which was used in twentieth-century manufacturing. McGregor
outlined contrasting views of management he called Theory X and Theory Y.1 McGregor’s premise was that most
managers have an intrinsic view of human beings that they use as a basis for their management style. Theory X
managers view people as basically lazy, or even evil and believe that they must be forced to work. Theory Y
managers believe that most people want to spend their time in worthwhile endeavors and find engaging work
intrinsically rewarding. Relationship-based management evolved from Theory Y, which derived from the ground-
breaking work of humanistic psychologists Carl Rogers2 and Abraham Maslow.3 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—
with its emphasis on belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization—is still a classic of relationship-based
management.
Relationship-based management is based on mutual loyalty and trust. As much as possible, managers ensure that
people’s basic needs and needs for safety are met and that the organizational culture provides a sense of belonging.
This, in turn, provides emotional space for everyone to attain self-esteem and self-actualization. Maslow’s
hierarchy and McGregor’s Theory Y were largely based on the individualistic paradigm characteristic of the
modern era (mid-twentieth-century America). Theory Y emphasized a warm, almost parent–child relationship
between manager and subordinates. More recently, the paradigm has shifted toward the idea that satisfaction in
work and life is based on networks of relationships, so today’s relationship-based management emphasizes
mutually supportive relationships among equals. Its core is the belief that trust, mutual respect, and friendship can
overcome most external obstacles. Managers in relationship-based management resemble person-centered
counselors. They cultivate an awareness of the needs and interests of individual participants and an understanding
of the affective dimension of formal and informal subgroups, and they work to build a warm, fulfilling
organizational culture. They also understand that organizations are more than their products and that everyone
thrives in a climate of warmth and mutual understanding. They work in large and small ways to build such a
climate and see themselves as servants of the focal system and of their colleagues. Relational management styles are
most effective in voluntary organizations where participants’ primary motivation is satisfaction, derived from
interacting with compatible people while making a useful contribution to society.
Distributed management is based on systems thinking and spreads decision-making power, information, and
authority for daily operations across the organization so that decision making occurs at the level most appropriate
for rapid, appropriate action. This type of management has become more common in all kinds of organizations
due to the growth of the Internet and effective long-distance conferencing tools. It has also been spurred by the
need for rapid innovative decisions and the growth of the continuous quality improvement (CQI) movement in
services and total quality management (TQM) movement in manufacturing.
A weakness of distributed management is that cohesion may be lost and “mission creep” may occur as local
managers interpret broad organizational goals in different ways. Confusion can be a problem for active
participants and outsiders, such as the media, and for target populations as well, because one manager may say one
thing and another may say something else. Internal competition may occur as various managers assert their views
and recruit followers. Solving these difficulties involves establishing clear lines of communication among managers
with comparable duties and honest vertical communication among levels of management. Managers in distributed
organizations must remember that clear communication is the heart of effective practice and not peripheral to it.
Exchange relationships, information power, trust, and willingness to participate actively are extremely important.
Distributed management is useful in community organizing efforts that have a wide geographic spread and varying
local conditions. It gives local leaders opportunities to act quickly without waiting for orders from above that may
be neither applicable nor effective.
Participatory management is associated with popular education.4 It is the community organizing equivalent of
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TQM or CQI and the “learning organization” in the business world.5 Participatory management is based on
teamwork and a flattened chain of command. Important management functions are delegated to work groups,
task forces, or teams composed of volunteers who have appropriate interests, knowledge, or skills that can be
applied to a specific task. Unlike bureaucratic organizations that are stratified by job titles and privilege, team
members are considered equals. Team leaders are democratically selected by team members for their skills in
facilitating group interaction and their wisdom regarding the task (rather than by job title, status, or seniority).
Unlike bureaucratic departments that tend to become permanent fixtures, teams are formed and disbanded
according to organizational needs. Participatory management models are heavily outcome-oriented, their
budgeting tends to be project-based rather than static, and reward structures are based more on teamwork than
individual performance. Participatory management works best in new or growing organizations that begin with
persons who embrace collaboration and connected learning—which is ideal for popular education initiatives. For
those who enjoy working with others to actualize a common dream, participatory management is very
empowering, makes good use of everyone’s talents, and can be personally rewarding. On the other hand,
participatory management does not work very well when imposed on an existing bureaucracy or in competitive
organizational cultures that rely heavily on rewards for individual initiative, and it sometimes becomes unwieldy as
organizations grow larger.
Members of participatory management teams must to be willing to both lead and follow and should have a
thorough understanding of both the instrumental and expressive nature of group leadership. Members should be
willing and able to assist others to discover their own talents and skills and to allow others (or the group as a
whole) to take credit for their contributions. Relationship and productive power are particularly important in
participatory management. Participatory management works best in popular education efforts. Although many
locality development efforts and social action endeavors claim to embrace participatory management, this is an
illusion because most are bureaucratically managed with power centered in a few individuals. If your effort is
bureaucratic in nature, your leadership should be transparent about it. It is unwise to hide bureaucratic
management with the trappings of participatory management because it leads to resentment. If an effort is
bureaucratic (top-down) in nature, it should be honestly so.
Read the TQM blog to learn more about participatory management and total quality management. Consider
how the principles of TQM used in business settings might be modified for use in a voluntary community
organizing effort.
Contingency management theory developed because management scholars observed that each of the other
theories worked sometimes and failed at other times. It asserts that appropriate management methods depend a
great deal on the situation at hand, organizational goals, and the match between management approaches and the
rest of the cycle.6 Figure 9.2A is a simplified model of the Competing Values Framework, one of the most
common models of contingency management.
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Figure 9.2A Characteristics of the Competing
Values Framework
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
In Figure 9.27 The circle has a vertical continuum (Flexibility ←→ Structure), and a horizontal continuum
(Internal Focus ←→ External Focus), which divide management tasks into four quadrants. The shading varies as
it moves from right to left.
The innovator and broker tasks in the upper right-hand quadrant require flexibility and innovation, skills that are
especially useful early in organizational life. The innovator role involves dealing with change and especially with
adapting creative ideas and practices, while the broker role involves procuring human, financial, and material
resources at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner. For example, in its infancy, the juvenile runaway prevention
program in Middle View required the ability to quickly respond to changes, the ability to adapt existing models to
the Middle View situation, and skill in cooperating with stakeholders.
The producer and director tasks in the lower right-hand quadrant involve providing excellent services and
marketing them on a consistent basis. Producers make sure that external undertakings are accomplished. The
specifics vary among the varieties of community organizing. For instance, in Smithville, several members of the
Smithfield Neighborhood Organization (SNO) provided the hot dogs, buns, chips, and charcoal; arranged for
grills; obtained permission from homeowners and landlords; and held a series of mini-block parties to strengthen
friendships among neighbors. Another SNO member worked on community advocacy goals by coordinating
recruitment and transportation for ten community members who attended a City Council meeting to request that
attention be given to neighborhood storm drains.
Directors make sure that participants know what is expected of them. For instance, SNO oversees the community
crime watch. One of SNO’s members has been given the task of crime watch manager. His task is to make sure
that every crime watch volunteer obtains the proper legal clearances and knows how and where to perform his or
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her duties.
The two quadrants on the left (the internal foci) support the external mission by stabilizing internal activities. The
coordinator and monitor roles in lower left-hand quadrant emphasize the ability to make sure that routine
processes run smoothly and efficiently and that records are accurate and easily accessible. The lower left-hand
quadrant focuses on the flow of activities and accurate record keeping. Coordinators balance time, people, and
material resources to make sure that work gets done. For instance, Middle View has an annual local history day
that celebrates the past, bringing together several history-related organizations such as storytellers, re-enactors, folk
musicians, and artisans for an all-day event attracting tourists from throughout the region. The coordinator is
responsible for identifying and registering participants, assigning them locations and time slots, arranging for
public restrooms and rest areas, assigning the set-up and take-down crews, making sure attendance records are
kept, and handling any emergencies that may occur. Monitors can be very important in newly funded programs
that are being assessed by regulatory agencies and evaluated by outside funding sources and auditors. Monitors use
record keeping tools to measure activities and to ensure that performance is within desired quality standards.
Monitors must pay close attention to details. They handle routine data, compile statistical information, interpret
the meaning of evaluative research, compile periodic reports, and make sure that these reports are filed promptly
and properly. Poor monitoring and reporting can have serious consequences. Many years ago now members of the
Board of Directors of the Industrial City Community Action Agency were accused of malfeasance not because any
funds had actually been embezzled but because two funding streams were improperly blended.
The facilitator and mentor roles in the upper left-hand corner focus on supervisory tasks including the
maintenance of discipline, morale, and professionalism. The facilitator makes sure that people work together well
with a minimum of conflict and a maximum of mutual respect, is often responsible for guiding meetings and
building consensus, and is crucial in participatory research and popular education efforts. Mentors provide
guidance to volunteers and employees, provide feedback on performance, and demonstrate expected behaviors by
direct teaching and by example.
Contingency theory reminds us that all of these roles are necessary in smooth-running organizations and that the
“art” of management is in discerning the proper balance among them.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Managing organizations through leadership and strategic planning
Critical Thinking Question
Contingency management theory is based on the idea that effective management is a product of several
factors. Think about your focal community system, your leadership team, the management milieu, and the
sort of situations you are likely to encounter. Review the competing values framework. How are each of the
roles likely to “play out” in your organizing effort?
Assess your comprehension of the Competing Values Framework by completing this quiz.
Planning, implementation, and management approaches often seem to be matched on important dimensions
Figure 9.3 shows some likely relationships among these functions.
Other variables that will impact your management choices include the following:
The length of time your organization has been in existence. Older organizations tend to have established
policies and procedures, so a top-down bureaucratic approach is appropriate both internally and externally.
This is also true of
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Figure 9.3 Relationships among Planning,
Implementation, and Management Functions
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
organizations, such as local governments, that have legally defined purposes, policies, and procedures. Newer
organizations that must collaborate with established organizations or are subject to bureaucratic regulations
may need to adopt bureaucratic management styles to manage required record keeping and interface with
bureaucratic sponsoring organizations.
Its mission, purpose, and context. Participatory and relational management are more appropriate when
issues are complex, many viewpoints are needed, and no single individual or small group is likely to have
true expertise. Bureaucratic or authoritarian management is appropriate in emergency situations when it’s
important to act quickly without much debate. Distributed management is suitable when portions of the
organization are isolated from one another, conditions vary across geography or among focal issues, or the
organization is vulnerable to dismemberment from hostile forces. Contingency management is a process
rather than a philosophy and frees you to do whatever is needed.
Expectations of participants. Some participants find it easy to take responsibility for their own work and
enjoy working with others to create something. Others are used to being told what to do, find it hard to
believe in their own freedom, and fear or resent being required to take responsibility for the venture. A
helpful rule of thumb in management is that often it’s easier to change organizational structures than to
change people’s personalities and behavioral preferences.
The personal style and philosophy of the manager. Some managers believe the Theory X position that most
people are lazy and need direction. Such people are often authoritarian in nature and are uncomfortable if
they are not clearly in charge. They feel hypocritical or hostile when expected to adopt participatory or
relationship-based management styles and frequently communicate these underlying attitudes to those who
work with them. Such attitudes are common in established bureaucracies, government offices, large
agencies, founder-type social entrepreneurship, and volunteer efforts that are based on a military-style
hierarchy such as volunteer fire departments and neighborhood watch groups. In such cases, everyone will
probably be more comfortable if managers can exercise clear authority. Other managers truly enjoy
collaboration and teamwork, and both their colleagues and they thrive in participatory or relationship-
centered management.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Managing organizations through leadership and strategic planning
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Critical Thinking Question
Five ideal types of management used in community organizing were discussed. Which type will your
group probably use? What factors led to your choice?
There is no “correct” management style, only a correct approach in particular situations. Management decisions
must be based on what is needed given the talents, skills, and motivations of the people available. You are now on
the cusp of completing a single revolution of the community organizing cycle. By now you have probably realized
that the cycle is rarely, if ever, completed once and for all—it is a continuing process.
Assess your comprehension of the Five Types of Management by completing this quiz.
Evaluation
Most people think of evaluation as something that occurs at the end of a process, like a final exam. Others think of
evaluation as a “hoop you have to jump through” to obtain or retain the resources necessary to justify continuing
your work. Still others think of evaluation as an accounting process in which practitioners record the number of
services rendered, with little or no measurement of whether these activities had positive results. Although
evaluation does fill these functions in community organizing, its major purpose is to ensure (1) that your effort
remains on track with its mission and values and (2) that you accomplish desirable outcomes for the focal
community system.
When you examine Figure 9.1 closely you will note that evaluation is linked directly to both management and
planning. This is because effective evaluation allows you to determine whether you have done what you set out to
do. This is based on the logical premise that once your mission, values, and outcomes are clear, then every single
activity should be chosen in light of its ability to ensure that the desirable outcomes are being implemented and managed
with them in mind. Thus, your program planning efforts should include an evaluation plan (note the double arrow
between evaluation and planning in Figure 9.1). Evaluation requires the development of formative evaluation
plans, implementation of continuous quality improvement processes that ensure stakeholder satisfaction, and
creation of a management information system (record keeping system) that ensures that the information
collected (1) accurately measures progress toward the desired outcomes and (2) provides easily retrieved and
replicable information for reporting purposes and a procedure for summative evaluations for external
stakeholders. Let’s look at each in turn.
Creation of formative evaluation plans is part of the planning phase of the organizing cycle (which is why
planning is linked to evaluation in Figure 9.1) and is linked directly to the selection of outcome goals that measure
positive changes in the quality of life for those within your focal system. Outcome goals were discussed thoroughly
in the planning section of Chapter 8 so here we will concentrate on how you use these goals and measurable
objectives in the evaluation phase of the organizing cycle. Evaluation begins early in the implementation phase
through intentional periodic reviews called formative evaluation that your leadership team should conduct
periodically to determine if your effort is on track—based on its organizing mission, its values and outcome goals,
and whether the processes being used are the best available. As a general rule, formative evaluation should be
frequent during the early weeks and months of an endeavor and done less often as the effort stabilizes. Formative
evaluation is done by the whole leadership team or by their designees and should be based primarily on accurate
quantitative data coupled with observation, informal interviews, and focus groups. Key questions include the
following:
What is our status in achieving the outcome goals? Will they be achieved on time?
If so, what can we do to make sure this trajectory continues?
If not achieved on time, were they the right goals to begin with?
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If so, what is needed to get them back on track? What additional resources do we need?
If not the right goals, is there something we missed in the initial assessment, or have conditions changed in
some way?
Should we revisit the planning process and re-think the mission, outcome goals, or priorities? (Note: Such a
radical decision should be made very carefully. Many organizing efforts fail because the leadership team gives
up too easily or too often completely re-thinks its mission and outcome goals.)
If the mission and outcomes are still desirable, are the current processes working well enough? If so, they
probably should be left alone. If not, you should briefly return to the research, planning, and
implementation stages of the cycle to identify issues and make necessary changes.
Each formative analysis with recommendations should be presented to the leadership team. Don’t assume that
consensus by your leadership team will automatically spread to all of your stakeholders. If changes are made, they
should be introduced carefully to both internal and external stakeholders so there is “buy-in.” Remember that
some people respond well to change while others resist it. Because community organizing efforts depend heavily
on the good will of volunteers and the general public, plenty of time and energy should be given to getting all
constituents on the same page if major changes are made.
In many ways evaluation in all varieties of community organizing is a process of continuously discerning and
meeting the needs of your focal community system. In this section you will explore how concepts from total
quality management (TQM) and continuous quality improvement (CQI) can be applied to evaluation. TQM
was originally developed after World War II by W. Edward Deming and Joseph Juran, who assisted the Japanese
in rebuilding their shattered manufacturing sector.8 Their ideas worked so well that they were adopted by
manufacturing operations around the world, becoming especially popular in the 1990s. These ideas continue in
various forms. Because they were originally designed for manufacturing, TQM concepts and particularly their
emphasis on statistically based quality control do not quite fit service organizations, and so beginning in the
1980s, leaders in human services, education, and government began adapting TQM concepts to their work and
changed the name to CQI. Both TQM and CQI share several common characteristics including an emphasis on
pleasing internal and external customers; continually measuring outcomes; employee, volunteer, and customer
involvement in the process; a flattened decision-making hierarchy; and responsive changes based on feedback.
These characteristics make the quality movement very compatible with the participatory processes used in the
community organizing cycle.
CQI emphasizes “customer delight and satisfaction.” Although the very term “customer” with its connotation of
buying and selling seems far from the intent of most community organizing efforts, it really means those who
benefit from your efforts. Like other organizations, community organizing efforts have both external and internal
customers. Your external customers depend on the variety of community organizing you have chosen and include
those within your focal community system who will directly benefit from your efforts; external funders; the micro-
, mezzo-, and macro-systems that are enhanced or challenged by your actions; and the general public, which
benefits from an improved quality of life for some or all of its members. Your most important internal customers
are your volunteers who gain personal satisfaction and empowerment from their participation. Staff members are
considered internal customers; regulators are considered external customers. CQI begins with the identification of
both external and internal customers and their needs, a process you pursued during the research and planning
phases of the community organizing cycle. Providing readily available, accurate data for immediate decision
making and more formal periodic evaluation is accomplished by the development of a usable management
information system (MIS). Involvement of the leadership team, volunteers, supporters, and especially members of
the focal community system is at the heart of the community organizing cycle you have been studying, and this
involvement can be powered by the techniques used for the implementation of CQI. CQI emphasizes flattened
management, meaning that it emphasizes participatory, distributed, and contingency management over
bureaucracy. Finally, CQI emphasizes the careful but prompt implementation of suggested changes derived from
feedback and the continuous nature of the evaluation process. All of these factors make CQI very compatible with
community organizing processes.
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Over many years, organizations that have used TQM and CQI have learned when and how it works best as well as
factors that cause it to fail. Effective CQI begins with the leadership team who must clearly understand its
principles and philosophy and explicitly agree to support it. Many CQI efforts have failed because upper
management (in your case the leadership team) has insisted on overruling the findings of CQI teams. Your
leadership team must be willing to trust the process. Here are some suggestions for successful implementation.
Quality improvement efforts sometimes fail when they are imposed on ongoing, established organizations,
so be sure that their principles and practices are built into your community organizing effort from its
beginning.
Make sure that everyone on your leadership team understands the philosophy and processes that you will be
using. Use these processes from the very beginning of your efforts so that they become an intrinsic part of
your organizational culture.
The leadership team is responsible for identifying issues that need attention and developing them. Make
sure you do not form overlapping teams whose decisions could contradict one another.
Choose teams carefully with an eye to having a mixture of skills and approaches. Make sure that participants
understand and buy into the concept and have the communication skills needed to work together well.
Encourage teams to select their own leadership based on participants’ skills and interests rather than on job
titles or social status. Encourage them to rotate leadership depending on which approach to a particular goal
is needed.
Provide training in group dynamics and in the technical knowledge and skills needed for the specific tasks.
Enable participants to identify their own skill sets, emphasize the equality and importance of everyone’s
efforts, and analyze the quality and quantity of their contributions. Some supervisors feel threatened by this
equality, and their fears must be recognized and acknowledged.
Trust your teams. Once you have carefully built the teams and trained them, let them do their work with as
little interference from the top as possible. Provide them with sensitive information if it is needed for good
decision making.
Implement your teams’ suggestions or explain why their suggestions are not feasible or why they may have
to be delayed. Many organizations delegate tasks to teams, accept their reports, and then fail to implement
their suggestions without telling team members why—which causes frustration and demotivation for those
directly involved and for those reluctant to waste their time.
Give credit. Always give credit to individuals and teams who contribute good ideas. This is especially
important in community organizing because it depends so heavily on personal satisfaction rather than
remuneration. Likewise, leaders should never claim credit for something that has actually been generated by
team effort.
Measure effectiveness. Teams should be encouraged to develop benchmarks or key performance indicators
connected to their suggestions so that once the suggestions are implemented, their effectiveness can be easily
monitored and adjusted as needed.
Enjoy the process. CQI can enhance community organizing efforts as it builds camaraderie and empowers
individuals, teams, and the whole organizing effort.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Planning and evaluating programs, services, and operational functions
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Critical Thinking Question
Continuous quality improvement requires that managers constantly take the desires of internal and external
“customers” into consideration. Identify your project’s internal and external customers. What factors will
your leadership team need to monitor in order to ensure their ongoing satisfaction?
Evaluation is related most directly to long range planning and begins with the creation of an MIS that will enable
your leadership team to guide the organizing effort, make adjustments as needed, and measure your progress
toward your desired outcomes. The term management information system may conjure up visions of complex
computer programs, endless data, and complex analytical tasks, but it actually means the way you collect, store,
retrieve, and collate data to measure progress toward carefully chosen outcomes. Community organizing efforts
typically have little money and less time, so your management information system should follow the KISS (keep it
simple, stupid) principle and should be designed for both ease and accuracy. The following set of questions will
help the leadership team (or a sub-group charged with the creation of the MIS) with its design.
What are the outcome goals from our comprehensive plan? What criteria have we set for measuring success?
What are the specific activities we will use to bring about the desired outcomes?
What information will we need to gather on each of these activities to determine what is being done and
how well we are doing it?
Which audience(s) will need the information? What information will each audience need? (Note: The
audience will not only include your leadership team but also your focal community, volunteers, mezzo-
systems that regulate your activities, and funding sources. Be sure to note the specific information each of
these audiences requires.)
When (at what intervals) will we need the information?
What human, technological, and financial resources will we need to facilitate data collection?
How will we collect the data? (Note: See Chapter 7 and Appendix A for full coverage of research
techniques.)
How will we store, retrieve, and collate the information?
Who will manage the process? To whom will they be accountable?
How and to whom will the information be released?
Explore the Free Management Library to learn more about management information systems and other
management and evaluation tasks. Consider what kind of simple but adequate management information system
might be needed by a voluntary community organizing group.
The answers to these questions should be used to create a written document that will include flow charts and other
visual tools and that covers the entire MIS. This should be presented to the leadership team (the governing body)
for approval, an implementation timeline developed, and responsibilities assigned.
Since community organizing leaders tend to be visionaries and innovators rather than “detail people,” those
responsible for the MIS will have to be carefully recruited for systems thinking skills, attention to detail, and
commitment to organizational goals. Ideally, they should also have some skills in facilitation and mentoring so
that they can explain the record keeping process clearly to non-technical people. Those responsible for the MIS
implementation phase are charged with creation of specific processes and procedures of data gathering, recording,
storage, and retrieval and should have the ability to analyze and simplify systems, identify needed information,
create forms, and work with computers and databases (or create manual systems that can be easily computerized).
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Pilot projects should be used before training on full implementation of your MIS to work out any glitches in the
record keeping system. Because many community organizing volunteers and paid staff members are action
oriented, find record keeping odious, and have a tendency to skimp on paperwork, training is a very important
part of MIS implementation. Experience shows that you can increase buy-in and reduce time and frustration by
thoroughly training staff and volunteers to: (1) understand the importance of record keeping, (2) see how
everyone fits into the process, and (3) handle the record keeping details through supervised practice. Give people
the opportunity to formulate questions and present them to you ahead of time so that you can be sure that the
content of the training session meets their needs.9 If at all possible, training should be tailored to individual
learning styles. Some people learn technical skills best if they can participate in a highly structured, time-limited
format where they follow an instructor who demonstrates the process, gives time for practice, allows time for
shadowing an experienced person, and then gives opportunities for more and more complicated scenarios.
Learners who learn technical processes slowly or become anxious under perceived time pressure may prefer to be
shown a process and then given time to practice it on their own. Technical training usually works best for
everyone when learners can immediately apply what they have learned before the details get lost. Once the MIS is
implemented, changes should be made infrequently because constantly changing forms and processes frustrates
volunteers and staff and complicates the data retrieval process.
Management of an MIS is a daily challenge for most organizations and requires a delicate balance of skills. MIS
managers must have skills in coordinating and monitoring and make these functions a priority without allowing
them to impede the organizing mission. MIS managers must be well organized and able to retrieve needed data
quickly and organize it coherently to use in various kinds of formative and summative evaluations.
Information Management
Understanding and Mastery: Compiling, synthesizing, and categorizing information; disseminating routine and critical
information to clients, colleagues or other members of the related services system that is provided in written or oral form
and in a timely manner; using technology for locating and evaluating information; using technology to create and
manage spreadsheets and databases.
Critical Thinking Question
Review your organizational mission and outcomes. Develop measures of success. Outline the major
components of a management information system that will measure your progress. What challenges did you
face in completing this task?
Assess your comprehension of Formative Evaluation Techniques and Practices by completing this quiz.
Summative evaluations are the external face of your organization and are commonly created to satisfy demands
for accountability from stakeholders such as funding sources, government officials, regulatory agencies, and
members of the general public. Although each of these audiences requires accurate information, each may need
and want to know different things about your efforts. You will find that evaluation is a painful chore if you have
to create separate evaluations for each of these stakeholders from scratch each time you have a request for results,
so the wisest course is to create a master template and database that can be used whenever an evaluation is
requested. Some of major recommendations for evaluation are as follows:
Develop an evaluation plan or template that can be used for nearly every required evaluation and provide it
to major funders or bankers.
Carefully document the information found in your plan so that it can be easily retrieved as needed.
Record enough information in a clear form so that someone outside the organization could easily use it to
complete a similar evaluation and obtain the same results. (Note: This is the principle of reliability in social
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science research that was discussed in Chapter 7.)
Many organizations find it helpful to prepare a standard evaluation format with some of the information
(sometimes referred to as “boiler plate”) already filled in. Such a format can be easily and quickly modified for
specific reports.
1. Title page (name of the organization, date)
2. Table of Contents
3. Executive summary (one-page, concise overview of findings and recommendations)
4. Purpose of the report
5. Background of your organization
1. Organization description and history
2. Product, service, or program description
1. Description of the community need that is being met
2. Mission, vision, and values (based on your strategic plan)
3. Outcomes and performance measures (based on your strategic plan)
4. General description of how the product, service, or program works (based on your
implementation model)
5. Staffing (based on your implementation and management models)
6. Questions that will be answered through the evaluation process
7. Methodology
1. Types of data and information collected
2. How data and information was collected.
3. How data and information were analyzed
4. Cautions about limitations of the findings or conclusions and their use
8. Interpretations and conclusions
9. Recommendations
Appendices: content of the appendices depends on the goals of the evaluation report, such as:
1. Instruments used to collect data and information
2. Data (presented in tabular or other format)
3. Testimonials, or comments made by users of the product, service, or program
4. Case studies of users of the product, service, or program
5. Any related literature such as brochures, research studies, internal reports, and external evaluation statements
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So far, you have examined general evaluation principles and practices that can be modified to apply to any
community organizing process. Table 9.2 provides a brief view of the role evaluation plays in each of the
organizing strategies.
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Table 9.2 Evaluation for Each Organizing
Strategy
Alternate View
Assess your comprehension of Evaluation Processes in Various Types of Community Organizing by completing
this quiz.
Remember that success in community organizing of any kind is not really possible without intentional evaluation
that others can measure. In today’s atmosphere of accountability, if something has not been written in measurable
terms, most policy makers do not believe it has actually been done. The evaluation process enables participants to
assess the past to build the future. It is crucial in effective organizing, and so it is ironic how many organizing
efforts fail to effectively evaluate their programs.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Managing organizations through leadership and strategic planning
Critical Thinking Question
In this section techniques for formative and summative evaluation were discussed in some detail. What
challenges will your organization face in implementing a systematic yet doable evaluation process?
Summary
This chapter completes your study of the community organizing cycle that began with an emphasis on
management approaches and management skills that you will find useful in the day-to-day work of community
organizing. The cycle then ends with evaluation techniques that you will find useful for continuing quality
improvement and for accountability to your organization’s stakeholders. Remember the cycle is just that—a cycle
that you can and should revisit frequently as you engage in particular community organizing endeavors and
especially as you begin new efforts throughout your professional life.
Explore more information on evaluation and evaluation techniques. Consider how you will link your desired
outcomes to accepted evaluation techniques.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 10 Organizational Structures, Budgeting, and
Funding
hkeita/Shutterstock
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Chapter Outline
1. Organizational Structures 169
2. Organizing Internationally: Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) 177
3. Budgeting Basics 178
4. Guiding the Budgeting Process 179
5. Expenditure Budgeting 179
6. Zero-based Budgeting 180
7. Income Budgeting and Funding 181
8. Budget Management throughout the Year 183
9. Accountability and Audits 184
10. Cash Flow Problems 184
11. Ethical Budget Management 185
1. Summary 187
Learning Objectives
This chapter will help your team to decide which organizational structure is right for your purposes, make
responsible budget decisions, and raise needed funds.
Organizational Structures
Sometimes the best strategy is to insist that existing institutions do their jobs or obey legal and moral laws through
advocacy or social action. In such cases, you should create a community advocacy effort or small social movement
designed to last only as long as it takes to accomplish your goals. For instance, when many Smithville residents
became aware of an up-tick of criminal activity, police corruption, and racial profiling, their first response was to
go to a Smithville Neighborhood Association (SNO) meeting to complain. The SNO, in turn, appointed some of
the most vocal protesters to a task force charged with addressing these issues. The task force identified a significant
number of residents with similar concerns, did research on the nature and extent of the problem, decided that the
police department should be held accountable, and developed some social action tactics to force the department to
listen and act responsibly. These tactics included neighborhood rallies, media awareness campaigns, meetings with
the mayor and police commissioner, and insistence on a state-level investigation of the police department. They
campaigned to the mayor and city council for a change of top police leadership and kept up these demands over a
period of months. In a more consensual vein, they sought out police officers who were known to be honest and
helpful and included them in brainstorming sessions about how to improve the neighborhood. They contacted
their state and national legislators for help with funds for community policing. Slowly, with pressure from the
community, the media, and honest political leaders—as well as some outside resources—things began to change
for the better. When the advocacy group was no longer needed, a police–community relations board made up of
citizen-activists was created to address specific issues as they arise. While far from perfect, the Industrial City police
force is much improved, and inner-city neighborhoods, such as Smithville, are significantly safer places to live.
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Some initiatives are best served by quasi-groups (people who are not really sure they are a group) or associations
(loosely tied, very open organizations of like-minded people; to refresh your memory, see Chapter 2 for
definitions). Middle View, for instance, has a loosely knit group of community leaders (i.e., catalysts) that
individually, in small groups, and occasionally in ad hoc committees (committees that exist only for a short time
and for a limited purpose), keep watch over Middle View and donate time and energy to whatever is needed to
make it an enjoyable, safe, and pleasant place to live. Without these people, Middle View would have no flowers
in its public gardens, no docents for its historical museum, no seasonal festivals, and no tourist train. These
catalysts generally know one another or know of one another. They communicate face to face, on the telephone,
and on Facebook. They use connected learning to build on good ideas. Although they individually participate in
various formal organizations, they have no interest in becoming an organization themselves. Such informal
leadership networks exist in every cohesive focal community. Their very lack of formal structure has the advantage
of freedom and flexibility, enabling caring people to do what is needed without worrying unduly about mediating
internal conflicts, getting permission from government or other authorities, being bound by unreasonable
regulations, or being hampered by the need to pay staff. The disadvantage of informal associations is that they are
like the wind: you can see the results of their efforts but they have no discernable form, substance, or clear lines of
authority and accountability. Since they do not exist in a legal sense, they cannot handle money, own property,
hire staff, or perform other business functions on their own. When they become involved in an organizing effort
that requires purchase of property, loans, grants, capitalization, paid staff members, or the other accoutrements of
formal organizations, they have to choose between adoption by a pre-existing organization or else becoming an
independent legal entity. We will discuss these options next.
If your leadership team is committed to addressing a particular social need, you may want to consider contacting
an existing organization with a comparable mission, sharing your ideas, and asking them to adopt your initiative as
one of their own programs. Adoption can be especially useful if there is community endorsement for your
initiative but you lack the time, energy, money, or support base needed to create a whole new organization.
Adoption can save time, energy, and costs, as well as provide an already established support base and reputation,
central management, and accounting structures. Adoption has the advantage of circumventing the arduous,
complex, and somewhat expensive incorporation process and can provide access to existing infrastructure such as
websites and links, facilities, and insurance protection. It can also avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary
competition. Almost any organization can be a suitable adoptive partner as long as your missions are compatible.
In appropriate circumstances faith-based organizations, existing non-profits, public agencies, for-profit businesses,
or collaborations among several different existing organizations can all be suitable adoptive partners.
While on first glance adoption can seem like a good choice, it can lead to cooption or loss of control over your
organizational mission. Cooption occurs when the goals and mission of your initiative are taken over by the
adopting organization for its own purposes, so that your original mission is mutated beyond recognition to match
an existing program or becomes lost in a maze of other priorities. Cooption nearly occurred with the runaway
prevention program in Middle View. Because the County Child Protective Services (CPS) was charged with the
care of runaways and other status offenders, the community catalysts approached them for help with their
proposal to provide community-based emergency housing, crisis intervention, and mediation within Middle View
itself. They invited the CPS director to a community meeting to get his help with their plans. Instead of listening
to their perception of community needs, he discouraged them from initiating their own program, reassured them
that his agency was already effectively handling the problem, and urged them to invest the money they had already
raised into the CPS’s runaway shelter (which was located 40 miles away and provided none of the desired
intervention and follow-up services) and to put their energy into finding more local foster parents. Those
attending were very disappointed. They had no interest in supporting the existing shelter since it did not meet
their goal of enabling teens to remain in their own hometown and school, it separated them from their families,
and it had no comprehensive plan for follow-up. After the “adoption” meeting community interest in the whole
project waned, but the catalysts were determined. They met again privately, coalesced into a leadership team, and
decided to develop their own locally based nonprofit organization which has successfully served teens and their
families for nearly four decades.
The balance between accepting much-needed support and giving in to cooption is particularly tricky for self-help
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and support groups. For instance, care providers can sometimes be very important allies and sponsors while at
other times they can disguise selfish corporate interests. For example, Industrial City (home to the Smithville
neighborhood) has a very active local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) group that provides a drop-in
center, advocacy, informal case management, and support services for dozens of mentally ill individuals and their
families throughout the city. Each year in October, the Industrial City NAMI (IC-NAMI) sponsors a mental
health awareness week with public events, screenings, candlelight vigils, and workshops. Because IC-NAMI is an
all-volunteer group, it has very little money and must depend on sponsors for its programs and projects like
Mental Health Awareness Week. Over the years, the week’s sponsors have included the local hospital that has
inpatient and partial hospitalization units, a large non-profit mental health agency with many county and social
security contracts, and several pharmaceutical companies that manufacture psychotropic medications. On the one
hand, IC-NAMI has been grateful for their financial support and has valued its collaborative relationships. On the
other hand, over the same time period, many IC-NAMI members have been rightly concerned about the low
quality of care given by the hospital and the mental health agency, problems with transitions between inpatient
and outpatient care, general lack of follow-up, overreliance on medications with serious side effects, and the use of
warehouse-type group home care rather than independent living arrangements. These conflicts with the mental
health providers and sponsors eventually caused the IC-NAMI Board to decide that it was untenable to advocate
for better mental health care while accepting support from the very agencies they opposed. Faced with this ethical
quandary, the IC-NAMI Board decided to pull away from its corporate sponsors, even though this meant
sacrificing financial support and caused even more tension between IC-NAMI and the mental health providers.
Adoptions take time, mutual respect, have false starts, and may fail at the last minute—but they can be effective
given patience and wisdom. The following example from Middle View illustrates this process. A number of years
ago, catalysts in Middle View and its surrounding towns held a community meeting to address economic decline.
Participants decided that residents needed to have locally available higher education and training opportunities in
order to compete effectively in the global workplace. They formed a local leadership team which, in turn,
contacted the local state senator, who enthusiastically agreed to help. He arranged for the leadership team to
engage a professor of higher education from the State University to design a “cooperative college.” The professor’s
model was to have involved twelve different institutions, each of which was to offer some courses locally and
accept courses taken from the partner institutions as components of its degree programs. “Mating eleven
dinosaurs” proved impossible for structural, philosophical, and financial reasons, but the local leadership team
kept trying to find ways of offer local access to higher education. Eventually, a nearby community college (located
in another state) adopted the project, negotiated the problems of cross-border public higher education, and
created a small branch campus that awards associate degrees. In addition, a few of the original partners agreed to
offer bachelors’ level courses and access to their degree programs.
If neither short-term advocacy nor adoption by an existing organization works, your team may conclude that the
only way to accomplish your mission, honor your values, and attain your desired outcomes is to become a
separate, formal organization. Formal organizations come in several forms. In the United States, formal
organizations are defined by their ownership and tax status. Public agencies are created through legislation and
funded directly by local, state, or federal taxes. This option will not be discussed because it is unlikely that your
organizing effort will be able to initiate a new public agency in today’s political climate. For-profit organizations
are privately owned and may be sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited corporations, or corporations and exist
mainly to make profits (i.e., returns on investment over and above the cost of doing business) for their owners and
investors who, in turn, pay taxes on their profits. For-benefit organizations make profits for their owners who pay
taxes on them but balance profit making with a service mission. Nonprofit corporations are discussed in the next
section.1
One of your first organizational choices will be whether or not to formally incorporate. Sole proprietorships,
partnerships, and the various forms of limited corporations are all fairly simple to initiate and are often the best
choice if your organizing effort has limited goals, a small budget, and is likely to have a limited life span. On the
other hand, formal incorporation can be a challenge and may require substantial legal consultation, but there are
advantages to formal incorporation, including limits to the liability of the incorporators. You should consider
incorporation if your effort has long-term outcome goals, intends to own property, will need major funding, or
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may be exposed to liability. (Note: When the time comes to choose an organizational structure, you should be sure
to recruit an accountant and attorney to your leadership team, as laws and accounting requirements change
constantly. Violations or perceived violations of the tax laws governing non-profit organizations can cause endless
problems.)
All corporations, whether non-profit or profit-making, must be chartered by a state government and must
negotiate for operating privileges in other states. Profit-making corporations produce a wide variety of goods and
services, but their main mission is to make a profit for their investors. For benefit, B-corporations, or L3C
corporations couple profit making with altruism and in a few states are given special tax consideration. In addition
to earning profits for their investors, B-corporations must have one or more altruistic missions. They must (1)
create a positive environmental impact, (2) strengthen the communities in which they are located, (3) provide
employee welfare, or (4) provide a public service. They are not eligible for government or private grant funding
but can receive government and foundation contracts. As of August 2011, several states had enacted legislation
creating B-corporations.2 B-corporations have the advantage of having fewer operational constraints than private
non-profit corporations but are sometimes seen as opportunistic because of the profit-making designation.
Many community organizing efforts decide to become non-profit corporations. Non-profit corporations (aka
non-profits) are a uniquely American invention. They pay no local, state, or federal taxes because they are
presumed to serve the common good. They have no owners. Governing board members serve for free so there is
no profit incentive. Any revenues (i.e., monies) received must be used for the organizational mission. Because
dishonest people can be tempted to claim non-profit status for their organization as a way of avoiding taxes, state
and federal laws make it very difficult to obtain a non-profit designation, but your team may find it worth the
effort because non-profit status is often required for various forms of funding.
Many people are unaware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applies the term non-profit to a wide variety of
organizational types, each of which contributes to society. We will look at several of them, beginning with 501c-3
organizations because they are the most common. As your leadership teams becomes familiar with its
organizational options, you will hear people talking about something called a “501c-3,” which refers to a section of
the U.S. tax code that defines “public good” organizations that are exempt from federal taxes and are able to offer
tax deductions for contributions. Numerous community organizing efforts eventually evolve into 501c-3
organizations. Many people are surprised to learn that 501c-3 non-profit organizations can vary from tiny efforts,
like the runaway prevention center in Middle View, to huge organizations, such as major hospitals with large
budgets, multiple campuses, well-paid employees, and positive balance sheets. People wonder how such huge
enterprises could ever be considered non-profit. They fail to realize that there are major differences among
revenues (the money that is brought into an organization), expenditures (the money that is paid out for goods,
services, and salaries), and profits (the money that is paid to the owners of the enterprise). Non-profit
organizations have no owners or stockholders. They generate revenues and have expenditures but do not generate
profits for anyone. Members of their Boards of Directors do not receive profit from their participation and, in
fact, these Boards are highly regulated. Contributions to 501c-3 (public good non-profit) organizations are tax
deductible because there is a presumption that donors to organizations with this designation are supporting good
works that would otherwise be neglected or would have to be paid for through public funds. Donations to them,
therefore, simply leave out the government as a third party. The 501c-3 designation requires a rigorous application
process at both the state and national levels designed to assure the government that the organization truly serves
the public interest and is structured so that it is likely to survive and accomplish its goals. All nonprofit
organizations are exempt from federal and state taxes, but only donations to 501c-3 designees are tax deductible
for donors. To provide grants, direct funding, or per diems (daily fees for service), most foundations, private
funders such as the United Way, major donors, and government grantors require your organization to have 501c-
3 status.
Although many community organizing efforts in the United States seek 501-c3 private non-profit status, this
move should be considered carefully. The tax-exempt 501-c3 status has many advantages: it provides legal
protection to individual members of the board of directors, makes the organization eligible for a wide variety of
private and public grants, secures legitimacy in the eyes of the government and the general public, guarantees
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freedom of decision making within the constraints of its established by-laws, and provides the stability of a board
of directors so that no single individual can take the organization too far off track. On the other hand, gaining and
maintaining the 501c-3 designation brings challenges. Increasingly, non-profit organizations have to compete for
funding in a highly competitive and somewhat cut-throat milieu. In recent years, 501c-3 organizations have been
required to provide ever more detailed reports to the IRS. The difficulty of attaining 501-c3 status varies from
state to state, from decade to decade, and in how political various regimes interpret corporation law and enforce
regulation. For instance, when the runaway prevention program in Middle View was incorporated in the mid-
1970s, it was relatively easy to apply for and attain both state and federal non-profit status. In contrast, the SNO
applied for non-profit status for a similar program in 2011 and found it nearly impossible to attain state-level
permissions. Finally, and probably somewhat ironically, 501-c3 organizations are difficult to disband, so you
should be reasonably sure that your organization will have a reasonable life span.
In general, 501-c3 status is desirable if
You determine that your effort is likely to continue over a relatively long period of time.
It meets a unique need in the service system that requires a new approach.
It has potential board members who are well respected and who have the time needed to commit to the
venture.
It is likely to meet initial IRS and state-level criteria for evaluation and record keeping.
Non-profit ventures depend greatly on the attention, sophistication, and reputation of their board members. If
you decide to apply for 501-c3 status, you should be prepared to spend time developing an extensive set of by-laws
and be willing to invest in an attorney who is well versed in the laws of the state where you want to incorporate.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Legal and regulatory issues and risk management
Critical Thinking Question
Search for “[your state] State’s requirements for nonprofit incorporation” and explore the rules and
regulations for non-profit incorporation. What would be required to incorporate your proposed community
organization? What advantages would there be to 501C-3 status? What difficulties would you face? Would
you recommend that your leadership team incorporate its efforts? Why or why not?
Faith-based community organizing efforts may opt to be designated churches or integrated auxiliaries rather than
501C-3 organizations. The word “church” as used in the tax code does not encompass just Christian places of
worship. It is used as a designation for any organization that meets all or most of a long list of criteria for faith-
based organizations. It includes all of the major world religions, many sects and cults, and even some individual
entrepreneurial ventures. Many worthwhile community organizing efforts (especially social innovations) begin
within organizations that are legally defined as churches or integrated auxiliaries and fall initially under the tax
laws, insurance codes, and regulations that affect the church itself. Churches are permitted to offer a variety of
human service programs and community activities as part of their missions under a special category called an
integrated auxiliary. Organizations that qualify as churches are not required to apply for a tax designation, and, in
fact, the IRS urges them to refrain from doing so. Churches and integrated auxiliaries are exempt from the
challenges of 501c-3 organizations, including Form 990 reporting requirements, which means a great savings of
time and energy. Contributions to churches and integrated auxiliaries are tax exempt, but historically they have
not been eligible for state or federal funding and are not always eligible for foundation funding either.
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Church sponsorship has many of the same plusses and minuses as any kind of adoption by a larger, established
agency. On the one hand, you will have the protection of a larger, recognized organization. Conversely, your
efforts will be supervised by its governing body, which will have the right to define your policies and practices and
override the decisions of your leadership team. Your clientele may feel threatened by your close association with a
particular church, and your financial and volunteer resources may be limited by the size of the sponsoring
congregation because many people are reluctant to volunteer anywhere but their own place of worship. Your
leadership team and a lawyer should look at these criteria to determine if you qualify for church status and,
indeed, if you want to quality for it.
A dilemma over whether to become a 501c-3 organization or remain a church-related auxiliary occurred with the
Middle View food pantry. The food pantry was originally a mission of an established Christian congregation with
deep historical roots. For some years it was housed in the church building, and then the church decided that the
food pantry needed a building of its own. They built a small building to house both the food pantry and an
associated thrift shop. Times grew tougher in Middle View, and the need for food pantry services increased
greatly. Members of the food pantry board (a committee of the church’s governing body) felt that they could no
longer handle the growing demand. They approached a local service club and the Town Board for help in
constructing a larger food pantry and supplying it with commercial refrigerators and other needed equipment. As
a result of their initiative, the food pantry became a major community organizing effort that involved hundreds of
people in large and small ways. As the project grew, the question of legal structure arose. It was clear that the food
pantry was no longer simply the mission project of a single congregation but belonged to everyone in the
community. The food pantry committee, the church’s governing board, members of the service club, and a variety
of other interested people decided that since the food pantry now belonged to everyone it should become a
separate 501c-3 organization with its own board of directors. Once it became a secular organization, the food
pantry was able to use its independent status to gain support from government and human service mezzo-systems
that would not have been available had it remained directly church affiliated. The founding congregation still
provides most of the volunteers and many of the contributions, but the new structure is a better fit.
Explore the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tools to assist non-profit organizations. Consider the IRS
definition of “churches” in comparison with your community organizing initiative. What are the legal pros and
cons of becoming an integrated auxillary of an existing church, becoming a church in your own right, or opting to
become a 501C-3 organization?
While the majority of long-term organizing efforts eventually become adopted components of existing public or
private organizations, free-standing 501c3 organizations, or church-related auxiliaries, the IRS does allow for
several other tax-exempt categories you may want to consider. While such organizations do not make a profit for
owners or stockholders and are, therefore, not taxed, nevertheless because they exist for the benefit of their
members rather than for the public good (as determined by the IRS), donations to them are not tax deductible.
Americans love to create associations. The list of organizations and associations that are eligible for tax-exempt
status certainly supports this notion. Here are some types of tax-exempt organizations taken from a recent IRS
publication.3 Each of the legal definitions is quite specific and subject to change, so they will not be elaborated on
here.
Civic leagues and social welfare organizations include:
Labor, agricultural, and horticultural associations
Business leagues and similar organizations
Social and recreational clubs
Fraternal beneficiary societies and domestic fraternal societies
Employee associations
Local benevolent life insurance associations, mutual irrigation, telephone companies, and similar
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associations
Cemetery companies
Credit unions and other mutual financial associations
Veterans’ organizations
Black lung benefit trusts
Title-holding companies for single parents
State-sponsored high risk health coverage organizations
State-sponsored workers’ compensation re-insurance companies
A few of these categories such as membership-based organizations may be interesting to your organizing effort. For
instance, in Middle View several senior citizens have decided to form a membership-based organization called
Aging in Place, which will provide a form of mutual economic aid broadly based on the concept of time banking.
Members agree to offer volunteer services to one another so that they can remain in their own homes as long as
possible. They will pay an annual fee to cover insurance for folks providing transportation to appointments and
for incidental organizational expenses. Membership will be open to anyone within the Middle View community
who considers himself or herself to be a senior citizen, is willing to pay the modest membership fee, and provides
at least two letters of reference attesting to their trustworthiness. Aging in Place is an example of a locally based
tax-exempt membership organization whose fees are not tax deductible. Meanwhile, in Smithville, a group of
community advocates have decided to form a membership-based organization to advocate for improved city
services. This, too, is an example of a tax-exempt, membership-based organization with non-deductible fees. The
main advantage of membership-type organizations over 501c-3s is that members have nearly complete control
over their mission, policies, procedures, and activities. Their main disadvantage is that they must be self-
supporting as they are not eligible for public or private grants or tax-deductible contributions.
Sometimes the best thing for community organizers to do is to provide the funding others need to accomplish
their goals. Foundations and giving circles are two forms of non-profit organization that exist primarily to
provide financial support to community initiatives. Foundations are charitable trusts or non-profit corporations
whose principle purpose is to make grants to organizations, institutions, or individuals for scientific, educational,
cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes. There are two broad types: private foundations and public
foundations (i.e., grantmaking public charities). Private foundations are a way for individuals, families, or
corporations to structure their charitable giving. Public foundations are umbrella organizations that derive their
support from individuals, private foundations, and government sources. They often provide administrative services
for small foundations and charitable trusts, especially those serving local community interests.4
While foundations have historically “belonged” to wealthy individuals, families, or corporations, giving circles
allow people with limited funds to join forces to invest in causes they support. There are three types of giving
circles. The most common are formed by small groups of friends with similar social concerns who meet regularly
to pool their resources, develop criteria for donations, and give grants to worthy individuals and organizations.
Members find them to be a pleasant social outlet as well as a way of increasing the impact of their giving. Informal
networks are loosely connected groups of people with similar interests who respond financially when they are
alerted to pressing needs. They have few if any rules for dispersal of funds and often directly support needy
individuals or the good work of a single individual. Formal organizations are a cross between the informality of
the giving networks and small groups and the bureaucratic structures of foundations. They tend to be larger than
the other two types, require more initial investment, and adhere to stricter grant-making standards.5 Your
leadership team may want to consider whether you want to include some kind of funding structure in your plans.
Explore the Giving Circle movement. In what ways might the giving circle concept be useful in your work?
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Political organizations are non-profit but non-tax-exempt entities created primarily to influence public policy
issues, support specific legislative initiatives, and represent their members’ viewpoints to political bodies or
regulatory agencies. They are required to seek 527 status. This status is primarily used by the IRS to exclude
donors to such organizations from the benefits of tax deduction since their contributions are presumed to further
their own passions and concerns rather than serving the general public good. Examples of 527 organizations cross
the political spectrum and include such recognized organizations as the Sierra Club, MoveOn.org, the American
Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Christian Coalition, the National Rifle Association, political action
committees (PACs), and political parties of all stripes. Social Movement Organizations (SMOs) generally must
register as 527 organizations. Tax-exempt statuses are sometimes mixed and matched. Some organizations have a
501c-3 branch for charitable activities and a separate 527 organization for political activism.
Assess your comprehension about the Considerations in Your Choice of Organizational Structures by
completing this quiz.
Organizing Internationally: Non-governmental
Organizations (NGOs)
Although this book is primarily geared toward community organizing efforts in the United States, some of you
may be interested in organizing efforts in other countries or in efforts that stretch across borders. If this describes
your effort, you will need to become familiar with the world of non-governmental organizations or NGOs. The
term non-governmental organization was coined at about the same time as the founding of the United Nations in
1947 and accurately describes their function. NGOs are private organizations that provide social, humanitarian,
and educational services independent of governments or international government organizations (IGOs) such the
United Nations, its affiliates such as UNICEF (originally the United Nations International Children’s Emergency
Fund) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as well as a wide
variety of international bodies that are formed by international treaties between governments. NGOs vary in size
from huge efforts such as the International Red Cross to small, local projects. Each nation and international
government organization has its own laws, rules, and regulations regarding the structure, rights, and
responsibilities of NGOs that you will have to explore if you plan to work outside the United States.
Human Services Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Range and characteristics of human services delivery systems and organizations
Critical Thinking Question
You have read about the various ways community organizing efforts can be structured. Make a list of the
pros and cons of each for your community organizing effort. Choose the one you think would be best and
write a rationale for your choice.
Budgeting Basics
No matter which organizational structure you choose, your organization will need a budget process, a way of
organizing and managing your finances. Budgeting is an ongoing activity that occurs before, during, and after
decision making about organizational structures and before the acquisition of funding. Budgeting is a crucial part
of community organizing, but many grassroots organizers have very little or no experience with it. This section
and parts of Appendix B* focus on what your leadership team will need to know about budgeting.
* Ideas that are expanded upon in Appendix B are indicated by an asterisk (*).
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http://MoveOn.org

You will find that the following rules are basic for budgeting:
1. A budget is a plan for spending money to reach specific goals by a certain time.
2. Any budget is only as good as the time, effort, and information people put into it.
3. No budget is perfect because none of us can totally predict the future.
4. To reach your goals, all budgets and plans must be monitored and adjusted as time goes on.
5. Budgeting is a thoughtful and deliberate process which is closely tied to the planning component of the
community organizing cycle.
6. Budgeting is inclusive and should bring together the perspectives and interests of your stakeholders.
7. Budgeting is an ongoing process that requires ongoing monitoring, data gathering, analysis, revised
projections and assumptions, and consideration of alternatives needed.
Explore the web for examples of budgets. Compare and contrast these budgets. Consider challenges you’ll face in
developing budgets.
There are several kinds of budgets:
The organizational or operating budget is used to manage all activities and is composed of the budgets of all
projects and programs under the umbrella of the entire organization.*
Specific budgets are for individual programs, units, or activities.*
Capital budgets are tools used to help plan and manage capital projects, which are those requiring
relatively large, one-time expenditures. Examples include buying or constructing a building or acquiring
expensive equipment.*
Cash flow budgets show when your organization can expect major revenues and expenditures. They are
used to help you make financial plans that will allow your operation to run smoothly so you can pay the
bills without panic.*
Good budgeting practices are difficult even in organizations that have highly qualified paid staff who have
established connections with funding streams and the time for negotiations, attention to detail, and rapidly
changing circumstances that are common in financing community efforts. Good practices are even harder for
initiatives that are dependent on the limited time and sometimes the limited skills of volunteers. However, even in
organizations operating on very limited resources, the money and time spent on the budgeting and budget
management processes is well worth it. In fact, given a choice between hiring a paid director and hiring a paid
bookkeeper or accountant, you should choose the accountant.
Guiding the Budgeting Process
The leadership team is responsible for the budgeting process, which is a subset of planning and based directly on
your mission and outcome goals. Budget-related tasks of the leadership team include:
Establishing general budget policies.
Formally reviewing and approving the budget.
Regularly reviewing financial and narrative reports.
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Comparing your budget history with similar organizations if the data is available.
Developing long-range financial forecasts and operating plans.
Establishing draft budget guidelines by setting expense and income targets.
Establishing guidelines or formats for the budget document itself.
Holding budget information sessions for members, clients, staff, or contributors (or for government funding
sources such as the federal, state, or county legislature or city council).
Often budget preparation itself is delegated to a finance team or finance committee that develops an expenditure
budget and an income budget, which must be equal. The finance committee then makes recommendations to the
full leadership team (board of directors and the like).
Expenditure Budgeting
Whether expenditure budgeting is done by your full leadership team or is delegated to a finance team or
committee, the leadership team must choose among approaches: budgeting by a central authority, participatory
budgeting, or distributed budgeting.
Budgeting by a central authority is particularly common in collaborations and comprehensive planning
efforts that are closely tied to public sector funding and to social entrepreneurship efforts that have a single
founder. Under this budget development strategy, a central operating authority sets expense and income
targets for the coming year for the whole organization and then for each individual unit. In this way, the
units know in advance the income that is available and are better able to estimate any income they may have
to generate themselves. They are forced to work within the framework they are given.
Participatory budgeting is the preferred mode for most varieties of community organizing and parallels
other parts of the community organizing cycle. Participatory budgeting begins during the research phase as
you investigate program options and their costs and then accelerates once outcome goals and performance
measures are set. The actual work of budgeting may be done by a committee of the whole, designated
individuals, or a small group. Participation is the key word in participatory budgeting, followed by openness
(availability of budget information), transparency (clarity for everyone on how the budget is created and
managed), and accountability (budget processes that are set up so that embezzlement or misappropriation
of funds is impossible). Those in charge of the process should make sure that all of those who have major
interests in the effort have an equal voice in the various iterations of the process. Teams should be given
authority to design and manage their own budgets. If budget cuts are needed, the teams should be given the
reasons for them. Budgeting and budget management should be honest and boring; there should be no
unpleasant surprises for anyone involved.*
Distributed budgeting parallels distributed management. It is a dialogue between the central leadership
team and its micro-systems and is similar to participatory budgeting. In distributed budgeting, the
leadership team has the broad financial view while the dispersed leaders know their own programs,
geographic locales, financial needs, and potential resources. The leadership team collects current information
and estimates on future ventures and expenditures from each of its far-flung spin-offs and, in turn, gives
their managers information on funding that is likely to be available and advises them on future program
directions. Budgeting information flows back and forth between various micro-systems and the leadership
team but is rarely, or never, shared among the various ventures.*
Zero-based Budgeting
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Budgeting by a central authority, participatory budgeting, and distributed budgeting all begin each year with a
past budget history of income and expenditures that is used to build the following year’s budget plan. Zero-based
budgeting (ZBB) changes that premise by beginning afresh each year. ZBB is not really a budget process but a
method of re-examining the reasons behind budget items. It should be used when your organization shows signs
of needing reinvention; when efforts that have been running for a while lose their momentum, clarity, or purpose;
or when you contemplate major changes or you find that the balance of funding for different sub-systems no
longer reflects external demands. ZBB was quite radical when it was first created in the 1960s as an alternative to
budgeting practices that simply added additional funds to existing budgets, year after year, to cover inflation.
Zero-based budgeting has no built-in assumptions or automatically included items. It challenges you to answer the
questions: “If this product (activity or unit) were not here today, would we start it? If so, how can we strengthen
it? If not, should we eliminate it? If so, how can we eliminate it?”*
Your choice of budgeting strategy depends on the organization, its stage of development, and the type of
organization. Most new participatory organizations will benefit from a participatory budgeting strategy, while
community collaborations may benefit from a top-down approach. Distributed organizations may benefit from a
participatory approach that is delegated to teams at the various units or sites, whereas organizations that have
existed for a while—and which may be flagging in their effectiveness—may respond best to ZBB.
Review the Free Management Library’s tips for budgeting and financial management in non-profit organizations.
What tips will you find most useful as you face the challenges of budgeting and financial management?
Income Budgeting and Funding
Many organizations start with funding opportunities and work backward to program development. In
participatory organizing, you begin with the needs of your focal community system and simultaneously keep your
eyes and ears open for funding. If you follow any of the budgeting processes just described here or in Appendix B
in good faith you will be able to develop a reasonable expenditure budget. Once you know what you need, you
will be ready to search for resources. Here are some tried-and-true tips:
Never, ever start with available funding and work backwards to a need. Start with a real community need
and only then look for funding. (You would probably be shocked at the number of human services
organizations that start with available funding and then try to demonstrate a need. Such practices are
unethical and ultimately lead to failure because they cannot be sustained.)
Remember that resources need not always to be in the form of cash. They can be in the form of volunteer
hours, material donations, space, or transportation. Not only can many of these in-kind resources be used to
provide direct services, but many can be matched with cash from other funding sources to increase your
total budget.
Be sure to investigate local as well as regional and national resources. (Hint: many sources of funding can be
found with an Internet search.)
Be sure to target funding sources that support your project’s mission (i.e., do not be tempted by funding
that does not fit your mission because it is generally not worth pursuing).
Pursue funding sources that you realistically can attain given available human resources. In general, this
means that you should avoid applying for small grants with complicated application procedures, grants or
contracts that have historically gone to already established organization, or grants that known to be highly
competitive.
Prioritize funding sources that promise long-term stability.
Create a diversified funding base that does not depend too much on a single source of funds.
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Divide the total project need among the various types of funding available, taking into account the type of
organization you are developing (i.e., for-benefit or traditional non-profit), the resources available for the
type of organization, and which aspects of the program are likely to be funded for each need. (For instance,
foundations and major donors often like to fund “brick and mortar” projects that last for many years but
steer away from funding operating expenses. Most grants and contracts can be used for direct services but
often provide little for administrative expenses. Annual giving campaigns may be the most useful for
funding administrative and similar expenses.)
Set realistic targets for funds from each major source.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Developing budgets and monitoring expenditures
Critical Thinking Question
Foundations can be helpful sources of capital funding, particularly for social entrepreneurship and social
innovations. What role might foundations play in funding your organization?
Once the information on needs and potential resources has been gathered and digested by those in charge of
income generation, a balanced income budget can be created and submitted to decision makers.
Income budgeting is a continuous process because funding is a constant concern, especially for new initiatives. It is
likely that income budgets will be revised frequently depending on the availability (or loss) of income sources.
Explore more about non-profit fundraising. What fund-raising strategies will you probably find most useful?
What fund-raising challenges do you expect to encounter?
Income budgeting can be tricky. It is often tempting to seek funding just because it is available, but you should be
sure that funding source requirements (1) match desired outcomes, (2) do not compromise the mission of your
organization (i.e., do not come with too many strings attached), and (3) are not more administrative trouble than
they are worth. Organizations that chase after a different kind of grant every time their old grant runs out find that
their mission becomes diffused and they are losing their identity—which results in the loss of interest by
volunteers, staff, donors, and funders. The overall goal of income budgeting should be organizational stability—
even if that means somewhat limited growth.†
†Appendix B covers the following funding sources and gives the pros, cons, and eligibility requirements for each:
public grants, contracts, block grant allocations, foundation grants, benefactors, dues and memberships, mutual
economic aid, in-kind contributions, fees for service, fund-raising events and campaigns, and partnerships with
businesses.
The following are rules of thumb gained from decades of successes and failures:
Cultivate multiple funding sources so that your initiative is not vulnerable to the many dangers inherent in
support from a single funding source—anything from complete cooption to disintegration.
Develop long-range support for the central mission and work constantly on developing networks.
Understand the role government at all levels plays in your funding and in the regulation of your activities as
well.
Collaborate with other similar agencies in professional organizations and in community efforts, but don’t let
them co-opt your mission.
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Cooperate with others when necessary, but be aware that competition, especially for funds, can be vicious.
Be assertive and clear with your stakeholders, collaborators, funders, and yourselves about how your
initiative fills its own unique niche.
Make sure that potential and past supporters know about your successes and give credit to those who made
them possible.
Choose your funding sources wisely.
Be constantly on the lookout for new funding opportunities.
Be constantly wary of potential threats to existing funding.
Make sure that you are not spending more money than you are gaining from a particular funding source.
This is especially true of competitive grants where the staff time expended may not be worth the unlikely
chance of receiving the funds.
Assess your comprehension on Revenue Budgeting and Fundraising by completing this quiz.
Budget Management throughout the Year
Once the yearly expense and income budgets are approved, they become tools used by decision makers at all
organizational levels. Each of these levels has its own role in budget monitoring and feedback. A budget is similar
to a map: it is a guide through the projected weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly financial ups and downs of an
organization. Just as a pre-prepared road map may not be able to predict all of the conditions that will be
encountered on a road trip, a budget cannot predict everything your organization will encounter on its journey.
The leadership team (board or other governing body) has ultimate responsibility for fiscal management of the
organization and in some cases may be held personally liable for mismanagement. So, before every decision-
making meeting, provide your leadership team with accurate monthly, or at least quarterly, budget reports that
compare past, projected, and actual budget expenditures. Everyone should take budget monitoring responsibilities
seriously, be trained to read budget reports, and feel comfortable about asking hard questions. Even in very small
organizations where the same people have to serve on several different teams (or committees), you should have a
budget team (committee) dedicated to budget management that should work closely with other teams, such as
fund-raising and marketing, long-range planning, regulatory compliance, and capital projects. Such teams do
much of the real work of your organization. Meeting times and places should be flexible, scheduled to include as
many people as possible and, if necessary, include electronic media (such as conference calls, video conferencing,
community cable television, and so forth) blended with face-to-face meetings to maximize participation. Team
meetings are the place to work out specific plans and suggestions. You should use the leadership team meeting to
pull these plans together into a coherent whole and to formally approve actions that require changes of direction,
expenditure of significant funds, or applications for new funding. Day-to-day, routine budget management is the
responsibility of unit and financial managers.
Accountability and Audits
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for those opposing a community initiative (especially one that is engaged in social
action) to accuse an organization of financial irregularities. Credible, carefully audited accounting practices can
save you many headaches, up to and including litigation. Even in small organizations you should have someone
who is well trained in accounting handle the “books”—including documentation of all revenues and expenditures.
You should arrange for both internal and external audits by reputable individuals or firms. Your budgeting team,
under the auspices of the leadership team, should keep financial records in good order and in accepted formats
that are ready for inspection by auditors, the leadership team, and any interested stakeholder. Because
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embezzlement can and does happen, you should be sure that your accounting system is as embezzlement-proof as
possible.*
Review more about nonprofit financial management and accountability. What financial management and
accountability issues are you likely to find most challenging?
Assess your comprehension of Financial Accountability by completing this quiz.
Cash Flow Problems
Cash flow refers to whether or not your organization has the money directly on hand to pay its bills. Problems
with cash flow are probably the greatest cause of anxiety among financial managers. Interrupted or reduced cash
flow—caused by unexpected loss of income, unexpected costs, and other situations—can cause innumerable
problems.
Unexpected loss of income occurs fairly frequently in community organizing, especially those initiatives dependent
on government funding. Government funding is based on a three-step process: (1) “enabling legislation”
(government jargon for giving permission) authorizes a program, (2) monies are allocated through the budgeting
process, and (3) disbursement regulations are developed by the executive agency in charge of oversight. Cash flow
can be interrupted if the enabling legislation fails to obtain funding at the budget level (so-called unfunded
mandates fall into this category), if the regulatory agency fails to create or modify disbursal regulations and
procedures in a timely manner, through mechanical failures (such as computer breakdown), or even through a
personal emergency or vacation of the individual responsible for “cutting the check.”
Government funding can also be significantly reduced if a chief executive—such as the president, governor,
county executive, or mayor—refuses to release or “sign off” on funds allocated by the legislative branch. In
addition, enabling legislation, especially at the federal level, may be affected by “signing statements” made at the
time a bill is signed into law, in which the president asserts the authority to refuse to abide by the legislation.
(There is considerable controversy regarding whether the executive branch actually has authority under the
Constitution to refuse to release duly allocated funds, but constitutionality matters little if you are waiting for
badly needed funding.)
If pledges are lower than anticipated, funding from such organizations as United Way or a State Employee
Funding Agency (SEFA) can be reduced. In such cases, funding is usually reduced on a prorated basis across
participating organizations unless donations specifically designated to your agency have been received.
Individual decisions may also adversely affect agency cash flow: direct donors may fail to honor pledges, fee-for-
service clients may fail to pay their bills, expected payments from per diem referrals may not occur, or members
may not pay their dues. Your budget system should be flexible enough to handle these contingencies.
You may encounter unexpected costs as well, related to emergencies—such as the increase in posttraumatic stress
disorders following disasters such as an earthquake, hurricane, terrorism, or the spread of disease; legal
requirements for higher quality; different or expanded services due to a lawsuit or changing expectations of
regulatory agencies; legal costs above or beyond the scope of the organization’s liability insurance; and unexpected
costs caused by extensive damage to buildings or other property. Such events can literally come from nowhere,
such as when the Middle View Thrift Shop and its associated church faced a $20,000 expense for bat eradication!
Other unexpected costs are personnel related. Typical sources of unexpected personnel costs include increases in
government levies such as Social Security, unemployment, or workers’ compensation; increases in the cost of
employer-provided benefits such as health insurance; negotiated increases in salaries or benefits, especially in
unionized organizations or where salary expectations are defined by funding contracts.
Unexpected costs that arise in non-personnel expenditures also hurt. Some typical rising or unexpected non-
personnel costs include transportation costs due to increased gasoline prices; higher heating, cooling, and other
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utility costs; increased cost of building maintenance and repair due to increased cost of materials; increased food
costs in residential or day programs; changes or renovation of buildings due to changes in government health and
safety regulations; and increased cost of liability insurance and increases in property and other taxes in the case of
for-benefit organizations. These are not comprehensive lists, of course. The very nature of unexpected costs is that
they are—well—unexpected.
Assess your comprehension of Cash Flow Problems and Contingency Planning by completing this quiz.
Contingency plans are one way you can survive budget managers’ nightmares. Funding emergencies have four
phases:*
1. A preliminary phase in which you become aware that possible funding problems are on the horizon
2. An intermediate phase where plans must be made and quickly implemented
3. A crisis phase
4. An evaluation phase in which you must redo the budget(s) to reflect the new situation
Ethical Budget Management
It is tempting in an ethics section to simply make a list of prohibited behaviors, but ethics is a decision-making
process that can be facilitated by intentional organizational structures.
Two of the world’s great religions, Christianity and Confucianism, developed similar “golden rules” for ethical
behavior. The Christian version, in King James English, states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto
you.” The Confucian version is somewhat more pragmatic: “Do not do anything to others which you would not
want them to do to you.” Both versions of the rule are relevant to ethical budgeting practices.
Imagine yourself as a donor, either directly from your personal funds or indirectly through your tax dollars. How
would you want your money to be used? Where would you want it to go? Where do you not want it to go? What
information do you expect in return for your contributions? Basic ethical budget practices lie in the answers to
these simple questions. Here are some possible answers to which your leadership team can add others. Donors
want to:
See that their money goes where they think it is going. Oddly enough, this is not always done, especially by
disaster-related organizations. Donations have been used for administrative costs or to develop contingency
funds for the next disaster rather than being used for the situation at hand.
Know that direct services are maximized. Donors want you to use their money to do the published mission
of the organization. They do not begrudge you a decent salary (although they do not want it to be many
times their own), nor do they begrudge their dollars funding the administrative staff, marketing budget, or
equipment necessary to maintain support for your effort. However, if your administrative costs exceed 30%
of your total expenditures, they will feel cheated and may report you to the Better Business Bureau or other
watchdog groups that monitor charitable organizations. Also, if your administrative/service delivery ratio is
too high—for example if 80% of your expenditures are administrative rather than service oriented—you
may lose your 501c-3 status.
Make sure that education is really education, not propaganda. Donors usually do not mind real educational
efforts that provide the public with necessary information that enables them to be protected from potential
danger or to unite in a worthy cause, but they do not want you to pretend that the money they have
donated is going to educational purposes when it is actually going to market your organization.
Hire competent, hard-working staff and pay them decently but not exorbitantly. In general, donors do not
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mind if you pay yourself a decent wage or hire your daughter as a program manager, as long as each of you is
well qualified to do the job and is working hard. They do mind “sweetheart” deals in which unqualified
owners, board members, administrators, direct service providers, or their close friends and relatives are given
preference over more highly qualified candidates.
Respect donors’ privacy. Most donors do not want you to share their names with others, even other
charitable organizations representing similar causes, without their permission. They also do not want to be
cited as a donor in your marketing campaigns unless they give you explicit permission to do so.
Be who you seem to be. Donors expect you to have a unique organizational identity. They resent being
fooled because your organization uses a name that is similar to another’s. Don’t steal another agency’s hard-
earned reputation.
Keep accurate, honest, “transparent” records. Donors expect you to keep records that are easy to follow,
conform to government regulations, are readily available, and clearly show that your organization is
operating legitimately.
Remember that contributions represent your donors’ belief in your cause. Their donations come from their own
life work. Respect that.
In a world where it seems that truly ethical practices are rare, it is important to be ethical and to demonstrate
ethical practice. Therefore, financial management practices should be transparent to all constituents and should
provide convincing evidence of the integrity of your organization. Here some ways you can do this:
Have a respected and respectable leadership team. Members of your leadership team should have impeccable
reputations for honesty and hard work. Moreover, they should not have personal political agendas and
should never receive direct or indirect financial gain from their participation. You should publish their
names and affiliations on your written materials and on your website.
Have clear accounting structures. This was mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating. Accounting structures
should be clear, up to date, and follow accepted practices. Multiple accounts should be managed according
to contractual or regulatory requirements and should also be cross-referenced for easy tracking. Mandatory
reports, such as the Federal Form 990, should be clear, detailed, and honest.
Have internal checks and balances. There should be no temptation or opportunity for anyone to
misappropriate funds. Therefore, no single person should be given complete responsibility for financial
processes. For instance, two people should account for money raised even for something as simple as a bake
sale. Receipts should be required for all purchases reimbursed by the organization. Receipts should be given
for all donations (whether cash or in-kind), as well as for money received as fees for service. Whenever
possible, payments and donations should be by check or credit card, not cash. Only a few persons should be
approved to accept cash payments. All cash received should be immediately placed in a locked area until it
can be safely deposited. Periodic internal audits should be conducted and available to the governing board
and regulatory agencies. Use redundancy and checks and balances.
Ensure external accountability. You should have annual or bi-annual external audits conducted. Budget
reporting requirements of funding agencies should be followed scrupulously. A yearly budget report should
be published and made generally available.
Ethics in budget management is a matter of the practical application of the Golden Rule and transparent record
keeping. Do no evil. Keep good records so that others do not suspect evil where none exists.
Interpersonal Communication
Understanding and Mastery: Developing and sustaining behaviors that are congruent with the values and ethics of the
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profession
Critical Thinking Question
Think about the ethics of personal and organizational money management. What does the ethical
management of financial resources entail? What is your ethical responsibility for finances as a member of a
community organizing leadership team? How would you respond to an ethically questionable financial
decision advocated by fellow team members?
Test your understanding of ethical budget management by taking this short Quiz.
Summary
Chapter 10 and Appendix B provide you with specific, detailed guidance on organizational structures, budgeting
processes, funding, contingency planning, and ethical financial practices, as well as giving you the needed tools to
form an organization that will fulfill its mission, honor its values, and achieve its outcome goals.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 11 Power and Empowerment
Jim West/ImageBroker/Glow Images
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Two Ways of Discerning Power 188
2. Power as an Individual Attribute 188
3. Power as an Attribute of Certain Classes or Categories of People 189
4. Power as a Product of Interaction 191
5. Interactive Power Transactions 194
6. Power and Authority 195
7. How Others Perceive Your Power 197
8. Power within the Varieties of Community Organizing 198
9. Empowerment: Increasing the Power of Individuals and Communities 199
10. Maximizing Your Own and Others’ Individual Power 200
11. Organizational Empowerment 204
12. Community Empowerment 205
13. Forces against Community Empowerment 206
1. Summary 207
Community organizing efforts often are composed of relatively powerless people who must face powerful
individuals and organizations but may lack the confidence to do what needs to be done. In this chapter, you will
learn how power operates and how to empower (increase the power of) everyone involved in your organizing
effort—including members of the focal community, volunteers, and yourself. Its intent is to enable you and those
you serve to understand and use power ethically and effectively. You will explore power as a general concept and
learn how to convert your understanding of power into empowerment of individuals, organizations, and
communities.
Two Ways of Discerning Power
There are two major views of power: power as an attribute or capability and power as a result of interaction.1
Let’s first look at power as an attribute and move from individuals, to groups, to organizations within your focal
system, and finally to power within mezzo- and macro-systems.
Power as an Individual Attribute
In the view of power as an individual attribute, power is something an individual can possess and accumulate.
From this perspective, power is like money: you can earn it, have it given to you, give it away, or save it. When
you spend it or give it away, you have less of it; when you hoard it or steal it, you have more.
An attribute is a combination of personality traits reinforced by behaviors and social position that eventually
becomes a recognized component of your identity. There are many characteristics that can become attributes. For
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example, if you can count on Mary to willingly, respectfully, and unselfishly share what she has with others,
chances are you will say, “Mary is kind” and attribute kindness to Mary as a part of who she is. Likewise, if Mary
can consistently make things happen (or keep things from happening), you will say “Mary is powerful” and
attribute power to her.
People use attribution as a shorthand for knowing what to expect of people. In our Mary example, over time you
have come to expect certain behavior from Mary so while changes may surprise you, you probably won’t change
your overall opinion of her. We make such attributions all the time, but if you are trying to discern who has
attributed power in a community, you must intentionally listen for some key words such as is and sometimes must
or have to (e.g., “Mr. Jones is powerful”; “If you want to get anything done around here, you have to have Bob
Jones in your corner”). If you hear such phrases over and over in reference to someone, make a mental note
because that person has attributed power, and you will have to reckon with him or her.
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Skills to effect and influence social policy
Critical Thinking Question
Power is sometimes viewed as an individual attribute. Identify someone who is seen as powerful. List some
of the personal attributes, behaviors, and social connections that have led people to this conclusion. Evaluate
your own level of attributed power. What characteristics have led you to this assessment? What might you
do to increase your level of attributed power?
Power as an Attribute of Certain Classes or Categories
of People
Power can be analyzed as a shared attribute of groups, organizations, and focal communities as well as being
viewed as an individual characteristic. For instance, in the 1950s and 1960s, political scientists argued over the
nature of power as an attribute of political systems and divided themselves into the elitist school and the pluralist
school. Although the two have melded over the years, you will find that applying these broad theoretical
frameworks at the micro-, focal-, mezzo-, and macro-levels helps you analyze power relationships at every level.
(See Chapter 2 to review systems theory.)
Elitism
Elitists believe that in every social system there are a few individuals who really make the decisions and control
what happens. This view of society was first articulated in C. Wright Mills’ book The Power Elite, published in
1956.2
There are several different models that have been suggested for the elitist perspective:
In a power elite power flows only one way, from those who hold power to everyone else in the community.3
In a democratic elite a small group holds most of the power but there is a way for the people (constituents)
to provide feedback through voting or through the organization of social movements and activities (such as
massive campaigns that may include e-mails, telephone calls, letter writing, media contacts, and promises to
give or withhold financial support). It is likely that the United States is a democratic elite based on its
history.4
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In a segmented elite different sectors or segments of society are believed to be controlled by their own small
groups and are relatively equal in power. For example, there is a military elite, a sports elite, a religious elite,
an economic elite, and so forth.5 Empirical studies in real communities have shown that different people
tend to be involved in different issues with little overlap among them.6 Figure 11.1 illustrates the segmented
elites model.
Figure 11.1 Segmented Elites Model
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
In the strategic elites model, however, there is a hierarchy of elites. For instance, in any given time and
place there may be a political elite, a military elite, an educational elite, a business elite, a recreational elite, a
religious elite, a media elite, and so on, but these elites will vary in importance.7
The community of Middle View shows some evidence of segmented elites. Its political elite is composed of those
who hold elected office and key appointments on town commissions. They are generally middle-aged, white, male
businessmen, or prosperous retirees. Most have lived in Middle View for several decades or have been long-term
summer residents. There is another group composed of old, local families. While most of them are not
economically rich, they have multiple inter-generational connections and tend to vote and act in unison, which
gives them power in numbers as well as the advantage of knowing everyone’s personal stories for generations.
Third are the “summer people” who have their own powerful association and keep in regular touch over the
winter months via newsletter. They are a force to be reckoned with, especially regarding taxes and any economic
development that threatens the ambience of the community. There are other elites as well: a “church goers elite”
counterbalanced somewhat by the “bar regulars”; a “sports elite” that controls the Little League and other
community teams; a “senior citizen elite” that makes sure that multiple services are provided to people over age
60; and a “small business elite” that runs the local Chamber of Commerce and coordinates many community
promotional events. There is even a “snowmobile elite” that controls local trails, rules of the snowmobile road, and
competitions. Mixing among the elites occurs because some individuals participate in several systems and because
many families have representatives in several systems as well. There are many examples, but let’s look at two in
particular. For example, an industrialist who has retired to Middle View is a member of the Town Council, an
elder in his local church, president of the Chamber of Commerce, past president of the local service organization,
“trail coordinator” of the snowmobile club, and has a weekly golf match with the school superintendent. Another
relatively young woman traces her local ancestry to before the American Revolution, comes from a family that has
always held political office, and is president of the Parent Teacher Organization. Her mother has been Town
Clerk for thirty years, her father is a successful local businessman, and her brother is the elementary school
principal. If you asked a random sample of Middle View residents, “Who runs Middle View?” most would name
these two individuals and a dozen others. So, you could easily map their connections and decide where they “fit”
into your organizing efforts.
Remember that at the focal community level in the United States, elites and segmented elites do not sit in smoke-
filled rooms and make decisions for the rest of us. They talk with each other on the golf course, at dinner parties,
in fellowship hours after church, and around the edges of service club meetings. But note that when it comes to
community organizing efforts, they hardly ever talk with those who are not part of their social circle. Their limited
interactions result in a shared view of the world that may not resemble the way non-elite people experience life.
Remember, too, that elite members of your focal community might not be considered elite anywhere else (the “big
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fish in a small pond” syndrome) so you have to determine where members of your focal community’s elites fit into
the bigger picture of mezzo- and macro-systems.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
Examine a focal community system of your choice. What evidence do you see of the existence of a power
elite? How is it likely to affect your work? What evidence do you see of democratic elites? What strategies
might your group use to influence them? Identify the segmented elites. Which of them are most likely to be
important in your organizing effort? How will you influence them?
Pluralism
The pluralistic view of power means that pockets of power can exist simultaneously for many different people and
organizations, and that there are no such things as “power elites” (or if they do exist, they are constantly
changing).8 This view makes sense in light of real life communities because experience shows that communities do
have individuals, families, informal associations, and formal organizations that have an inordinate “say” in what
happens. But while these powerful people know one another and often agree, they rarely speak with one voice or
literally control what happens.
Elitism and Pluralism: A Dynamic Balance
From today’s perspective, the elitism-versus-pluralism argument seems abstract and irrelevant. Most scholars who
hold the elitist model admit that there is no monolithic “power elite” but rather there are “segmented elites.”
Those holding the pluralist model have modified their views to include stratified pluralism, which means that
some groups and quasi-groups have more power than others. After years of argument, almost everyone who studies
power in political systems and communities believes that communities are neither manipulated by the few (the
elitist model) nor are they pure democracies (the pluralist model). Rather, they are an amalgam of the two. To
identify your focal community’s unique balance of power, look for elites, segmented elites, strategic elites, and
evidence of pluralism (i.e., “pockets” of influential people, groups, and organizations). Then look for ways that
your focal community system has openings for democratic dialogue. You can mentally move back and forth
between the two extremes to understand what is really going on in a focal community through the use of
systematic analytical techniques such as power mapping.
Review the power mapping slide share. Consider the pockets of power in your own project. Create a power map
based on the sample found from this site.
Assess your comprehension of Power as an Attribute by completing this quiz.
Power as a Product of Interaction
While many political scientists view power as attribute and define it as a commodity that can be gained, lost, and
traded, interactional sociologists and social psychologists view power as a by-product of interaction. (See Chapter
3 to review symbolic interactionism, especially role taking and role making.) Succinctly stated, interactional
theorists believe that power is the result of action and reaction.9 In this view, power is a product of the ways
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people or groups respond to one another. Power is only an issue when its imbalances are accepted by all parties, in
particular those over whom it is exercised. Contrary to what we might think, interactional power is given to the
wielder (i.e., not taken by the wielder) by those over whom it is exercised.
Five Types of Interactional Power and Related
Behaviors
Let’s examine five types of interactional power and their related behaviors in Table 11.1.
Threat power is the ability to intimidate others by convincing them that if thwarted, you have the ability and the
will to hurt them or those they love. Force and threat of force are obvious examples of behaviors associated with
destructive power, but manipulation is equally destructive but far more subtle and so deserves attention. Those
who manipulate others tend to be cynical, believe that everyone is essentially selfish, and are selfish, too.10
Manipulation is often felt in private meetings, behind-the-scenes telephone calls, and subtle appeals to
individuals’ self-interest, organizational interests, and private fears. Manipulation has two faces: Machiavellianism
(named after the medieval writer who first systematically described the behavior) is most often thought of as a
manipulative trait of individuals,11 and organizational politics is the way manipulation is manifested in groups,
organizations, and communities.12 While destructive behaviors may seem energizing in the short run, they usually
fail in the long term—often resulting in a powerful backlash. You may be tempted to use threat power and
destructive behavior irrationally in fits of temper or fall into manipulation to make others do things your way, but
they have no place in organizing groups and communities.
Productive Power is based on the ability to make things or provide goods, services, or financial resources of worth
to someone.13 Productive power is closely related to economic power and to the capitalist economic model in
which investors provide the financial, material, and human resources needed to make, market, and distribute
goods and services. The impact of productive power is as close as your latest newscast, stock market report, and
political debate. In the not too distant future as our natural resources become depleted, productive power may be
redefined to include the ability to creatively do more with less. Exchange behavior uses productive power to
enable people to trade goods and services with each other so that all of the trading partners obtain what they need
and want. Exchange behavior began eons ago with direct trading arrangements among individuals and tribes but
now is usually mediated by a medium of exchange (such as money). Exchange behavior is a vital part of
community organizing. It can be as simple as sharing a written or Web-based resource with a colleague or as
complex as sharing personnel or facilities. Organizing team members use productive power and
Table 11.1 Power and Related Behaviors
Primary Type of Power Associated Behavior
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Threat Destructive
Productive Exchange
Relationship Integrative
Knowledge Informative
Soul Inspirational
exchange behavior when they work hard, share their skills freely with each other, and do what is necessary to get
the task done.
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Relationship power (i.e., the power of love or respect) is built on the natural bonds that unite people.14 There are
many moving examples of the power of human relationships and mutual commitment. It has often been said that
soldiers in battle are willing to die—not for ideas, but for their devotion to their comrades. Positive relationships
sustain us when we are discouraged, and they make achievements sweeter. Relationship power is at the heart of
effective community organizing. The active component of relationship power is integrative behavior, that is, the
ability to bring diverse people together. It is based on caring, loyalty, respect, and trust. Threat power or
destructive behavior is not often seen within organizations built on integrative behavior, but integrative behavior
can ignite destructive behavior in outsiders who feel threatened by organizational unity. The Civil Rights
Movement is an example of how violence from outsiders can be aggravated by integrative behaviors. As African
Americans became more unified in non-violently working for their rights, the more violent the reprisals from the
white power structure became.15 Unfortunately, integrative behavior can also become destructive if those involved
become fanatics and make enemies of all who oppose their ideology. In fact terrorism is, in some ways, the result
of integrative behavior gone wrong.16 Those who use integrative behavior in their organizing efforts are able to
step back from their own desires and viewpoints, discern what others are thinking and feeling, and find ways to
build on areas of agreement and mitigate areas of conflict. They clearly show their willingness to give and receive
support from other people by listening, mediating, and helping people find common ground. They demonstrate
openness to receiving help from others. Members of organizations who demonstrate high levels of integrative
behavior enjoy being together. They laugh a lot, celebrate joyously, often eat together, and provide everyone with
the emotional sustenance that makes hard work worthwhile and builds everyone’s self-esteem.
Knowledge power manifests itself as cognitive power, expressive power, emotional intelligence, information
power, and connectivity. Cognitive power is sheer mental energy—the ability to think clearly, quickly, and
accurately and to apply that thinking to important issues. Expressive power is the ability to convert information
and ideas into easily understood forms through writing, speaking, stories, music, drama, or visual art. Emotional
intelligence (emotional knowledge power) is the ability to understand and respond appropriately and
empathetically to others and to create opportunities to build relationship.17 Information power has two
components: information storage, which means having needed facts and figures readily available, and
information literacy—the skills to find, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and apply data and information.
Information literacy is especially important in this technological age. Connectivity (or connected knowledge
power)18 is the ability to gather knowledgeable people together often through Web-based means to create ideas
and plans together.
Informative behavior is the ability to gather, create, consolidate, and distribute knowledge, ideas, information,
facts, and figures in an effective way. Participants in organizing efforts who have knowledge power and can use
informative behavior can conduct research and find the information needed by the group, turn raw data into
useful information, write or speak clearly to share information with the group and the public, lead the group and
help it develop consensus, understand policy creation and the political process, and apply specialized knowledge to
issues. Participants can draw upon these and more skills from other participants who may have never dreamed
they had such talents.
Soul power (spiritual and moral strength) springs from deep moral conviction and includes the ability to
communicate to others the need for social justice, repentance, and change. It has deep roots in many religious
traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism; and in the last century, this power
was demonstrated in the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) by Mahatma Gandhi19 in India, Martin Luther King
Jr.20 in the United States, and Bishop Desmond Tutu21 and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.22 Soul power
combines spiritual strength, faith in the ultimate justice and kindness of the universe, determination, and courage
practiced with a set of strategies and tactics known as ahimsa, that is, non-violence and non-cooperation.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Conscious use of self
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Critical Thinking Question
There are five primary types of interactional power and associated behaviors. Rate yourself on each type and
give reasons for your ratings. In what ways might your personal power be useful to your community
organizing efforts?
Inspirational behavior is based on soul power and involves self-sacrifice, personal risk, and “putting your life
where your mouth is.” When others see you model inspirational behavior, it motivates them to do the same.
Those who demonstrate soul power and inspirational behavior can live with courage and grace in difficult times
and sacrifice themselves for others. Inspirational behavior doesn’t necessarily include a once-and-for-all sacrifice,
imprisonment, social rejection, or even giving up the pleasures of life (although it can mean all of those things). It
does mean being willing to (1) ignore your own needs and desires on behalf of the greater good, (2) listen when
you are tired, (3) face your fears, (4) rejoice when there seems to be no joy, (5) hope when things seem hopeless,
and (6) continue working when it is tempting to give up. It means seeing beyond the practical objectives of your
work to the reality that true power exists in the process of living creatively with others.
Assess your comprehension of Interactional Power by completing this quiz.
Interactive Power Transactions
Now that we have defined the kinds of interactive power and some of their related behaviors, let’s look at aspects
of interactive power as shown in Table 11.2 You can use this table when deciding how to respond to various forms
of power and authority.
Threat power, productive power, relationship power, knowledge power, and soul power are all present to varying
degrees in community organization activities and community organizing leaders and participants. One of the
major challenges in community organizing is to find the balance that enhances the quality of life for everyone. It
takes a lifetime to understand the forms of power, where they fit into your life and behavior, and how they affect
your relationships with other people, organizations, communities, and all of society.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
Power (as the ability to do what needs to be done) depends on interpersonal and intergroup interactions.
Identify instances of the various interactional patterns within your focal community system.
Assess your comprehension of Power Transactions by completing this quiz.
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Table 11.2 Power Transactions
Alternate View
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Power and Authority
Now let’s now turn to the relationship between power and authority. Authority is the right to control, demand,
or determine what will happen and is directly related to the ability to use power. Legitimate authority is granted
to the wielder by the receiver who acknowledges the right of the wielder to make a request and to have that request
honored. Authority is granted by receivers because they believe that the holder of authority has the right to make
requests and to expect compliance.31 There are four major kinds of legitimate authority:
Legal–Rational Authority is closely associated with political structures and the by-laws of organizations. It
is based on laws and regulations that give those in certain positions the right to make requests and to take
action.
Traditional Authority is based on time-honored customs and beliefs in the right of certain individuals to
make requests and take action on behalf of the community as a whole. For instance, pastors in African-
American communities often have traditional authority that helps account for at least some of the authority
exercised by the Reverend Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement.
Charismatic Authority is based on the exceptional personality or character (charisma) of the person
exercising it.32
Value-Rational Authority is the power of values and ideas as expressed by those in leadership. Value-
rational authority is usually present as a motivating factor in all kinds of community organizing.33
An individual person may have several kinds of authority. For instance, Dr. Martin Luther King had traditional
authority as a pastor of the black church. He had charismatic authority through the power of his personality and
speaking style, and value-rational authority through the power of his ideas. The stronger the authority base, the
more powerful the person.
Influence is a covert from of authority and is the ability to persuade those with legitimate power or authority to
act or refrain from acting. Influence often occurs behind the scenes. You need to be concerned about identifying
and working with persons who can influence decision makers and also with increasing your own power and
influence. Influence in the community setting is often the ability of a power broker to act as gate keeper, a person
who operates behind the scenes to give permission or block something from happening. Community influence is
often not so much a factor of what you know as who you know. In many tight-knit neighborhoods and small
towns, individuals who seem at first glance to have very little position power may actually have enormous
influence because of family connections. Factors involved in influence include the gate keeping role, for example,
the ability of administrative assistants to deny access to decision makers. Other factors that affect influence include
centrality in community or organizational networks, time spent in the organization, commitment and interest,
willingness to use power, importance of skills or resources, and whether the person is irreplaceable.34 Influence is
not only an individual characteristic but it accrues to organizations. Organizational influence grows as
organizational capacities grow, as people learn to trust one another, and as organizations demonstrate cohesiveness
and the ability to act effectively. Influence not only follows resources as in traditional theories of power, but
resources follow influence as individuals and groups establish internal cohesion and external legitimacy.35
Assess your comprehension of the Differences between Power and Authority by completing this quiz.
You may not be aware of your own influence or how you can increase it. For instance, you will find that a
reputation for service, kindness, generosity, ability to link people to resources, a willingness to accept help—as well
as to give it—and a reputation for personal integrity and reliability are important components of influence. In
general, influence is not a given because of your position; rather it must be built and earned.
Wielders of power can choose from either the destructive side of power (threat power, force, and manipulation) or
the ethical side of power (legitimate authority and soul power).
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How Others Perceive Your Power
It is not only necessary to understand the various forms of power and your ability to use them, but it is necessary
to understand how others perceive your power and that of your organizing group members, especially in
relationship to their perceptions of their own relative power. Position Power is the amount of power assigned to a
given position or social status in a particular social interaction. Power is not static. You may have a good deal of
power in one social situation and nearly none in another, depending on the perceptions and expectations of those
around you.
The power dimensions of your status in any given interaction depend on:
The value placed on your position(s) by society as a whole. For instance, in U.S. society (and in most
community meetings), medical doctors have more power than sanitation workers, although both are
necessary for public health.
The value historically placed upon your status in similar social contexts. For instance, traditionally mothers
have had a good deal of power over their children but have had little political power.
Your master (main) status and how others perceive it in a particular setting. Each one of us has a status set
made up of all the positions we hold. In any setting, it is almost inevitable others will feel that one of the
social positions you play is more important than others. This tendency to be labeled or “pigeonholed” is
particularly frustrating for members of historically powerless groups (women, young people, people of color,
the disabled, the elderly, etc.) because their power is often determined by these ascribed statuses (things
they cannot change) rather than by achieved status, what they know and can contribute or the positions
they hold or may have held.
How you perceive your own power. Your own sense of personal power depends on your sense of self. You
should strive to be honest and balanced. Others in the community organizing effort, the focal community
system, and its surrounding micro- and mezzo-systems may see you as powerful and influential while in
your own heart you may feel full of self-doubt; conversely, you may think of yourself as powerful, wise, and
influential but others see you quite differently.
Your power will vary a good deal in different contexts. You should neither overestimate your personal power nor
sell yourself short. This ability to infuse a sense of effectiveness into your whole life enables you to share your
power with others. You should try to help others appreciate their own power and enable them to use it in positive
ways. As group members discover and use their own power, they will function well in other circumstances.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Conscious use of self
Critical Thinking Question
Position power (sometimes referred to as “status”) is based mostly on others’ perceptions of you within a
specific social context. Consider the various social contexts in which you frequently find yourself, such as
student, worker, family member, volunteer, and community participant. How do others perceive you in
each of these settings? What factors influence their perceptions? In what ways are your behaviors influenced
by the way you believe others perceive you? What position power do you bring to your chosen community
organizing effort? How can you enhance it?
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Figure 11.2 Choices Available to Receivers
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
In some ways, power is only as effective as the receiver allows it to be. Figure 11.2 illustrates the various choices
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that receivers of power have.
Power within the Varieties of Community Organizing
Each of the varieties of community organizing uses power in slightly different ways. Table 11.3 shows typical
patterns of power in each type, based on the literature and current cross-case research.
Table 11.3 Power-Related Behaviors and
Varieties of Community Organizing
Threat Power,
Destructive
Behavior
Productive
Power,
Exchange
Behavior
Relationship
Power,
Integrative
Behavior
Knowledge
Power,
Informative
Behavior
Soul Power,
Inspirational
Behavior
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Place-based No role Major Major Moderate Varying
Entrepreneurial/
Social
Innovation
No role Minor Moderate Moderate Major
Advocacy/Social
Movements
Moderate Minor Minor Minor Major
Mutual Aid No role Major Major Moderate Minor
Self-help No role Moderate Major Minor Moderate
Collaboration Minor Major Minor Moderate Minor
You can use this chart to help determine which power-based tactics are most likely to work under which
circumstances.
Empowerment: Increasing the Power of Individuals
and Communities
In the mid-1990s, attention moved from the study of power to understanding how powerless individuals,
organizations, and community sectors could take control over their own lives and actively influence decision
making. The term empowerment was coined to describe this process. Although the word empowerment has been
overused so it has lost some impact, no other term seems to express so aptly the progression of individuals,
organizations, and communities from being controlled by others to affecting their own destinies.
The definition of empowerment used here comes from a consensus of community psychologists about its core
meaning. Empowerment is “an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual
respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation through which people lacking in an equal share of
valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources . . . or put more simply a process by which
people gain control over their lives, democratic participation in the life of their community and a critical
understanding of their environment.”36
Power in community organizing efforts results from constantly changing interactions among individual
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perceptions, decisions made by the organizing effort, and events in the focal community system and its micro-,
mezzo-, and macro-components. To be effective, your leadership team must continually scan itself, the organizing
effort, and the focal community—including its micro-, mezzo-, and macro-systems—to discern power
relationships. Each of you must examine your own personal power by asking: “What is my relative status in our
organization, in the focal community system, and in the micro-, mezzo-, and macro-systems affecting our
organization?” “What kinds of power do I have and how effective am I at using them?” “How do I perceive my use
of power? Is my perception accurate?” “What can I do to increase my effectiveness?” This self-reflection should be
encouraged as an ongoing part of effective community organizing.
Your team should also continuously look its organizational power. You should ask members of the leadership
team, participants, and other stakeholders,
“Are we relatively powerful or relatively powerless?”
“Where does our power come from?” “How can we increase it?”
“What is drawing power away from our cause? Is there anything that can be done about it?”
Simultaneously, you should ask about power relationships in the focal community and its micro-, mezzo-, and
macro-systems, focusing particular attention on how your organizing effort can enable community members to
maximize their individual and shared power to improve the quality of life. Let’s examine each of these interactive
components in turn.
Maximizing Your Own and Others’ Individual Power
Organizing efforts bloom when individual participants become sure of themselves and their ability to persevere
and succeed. This personal empowerment is a perceptual, cognitive, emotional, behavioral process that results in
a strong belief that past efficacy will be linked to future efficacy. In psychological terms, your sense of personal
power—as well as your decisions about remaining active in a particular endeavor—is a mental construction built
from your perceived knowledge and skill development (i.e., perceptions that your knowledge and skills have
grown), conclusions that your participatory competencies (i.e., ability to make valuable contributions) are
increasing, expectations of future contributions (i.e., your assessments about whether you will be able to
physically and mentally maintain or increase your level of effective participation), sense of the organization’s level
of success, belief in the righteousness of the cause, and your evaluation of the likelihood of future success.37
Perceived Knowledge and Skill Development
This is the degree to which members believe that their participation in the organizing effort has increased their
overall knowledge and skills. There are two steps your organization should take to foster this belief: you should
provide members with many opportunities to build their knowledge and skills and give them constant positive
feedback that acknowledges their learning. Your leadership team can enhance members’ knowledge and skill
development through providing them with time for active reflection on successes and failures; technical
information needed to make good decisions; leadership opportunities requiring the use of effective
communication, problem solving, and negotiation skills; data and information gathering tasks requiring research
skills; and opportunities to reflect on how their worldviews are changing as a result of their organizing experiences
(i.e., perspective transformation).38 You can reinforce their pride and satisfaction by providing them with positive
individual feedback, “positive gossip” (i.e., telling others’ about their good work so that your praise gets back to
them), and publicly celebrating individual contributions. For instance, for many years the Smithville
Neighborhood Organization (SNO) was quietly but effectively led by Martha Manning, a neighborhood resident
who—in spite of her personal struggle with cancer—gave hours of her own time to ensure that the city
government kept its promises to rehabilitate neighborhood homes. Toward the end of her life, other SNO leaders
decided to have a Martha Manning Day and awarded her with a plaque for her efforts. They held a celebration
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that highlighted not only her accomplishments but the work of several other unsung neighborhood members,
which, participants say, not only gave Martha well-earned recognition for her life of community service, but also
reignited their own commitment to SNO.
Perceived Participatory Competencies
Participants feel competent when their ideas are respected and incorporated into organizational strategies and
tactics. Likewise, they experience participatory competence when they are able to speak up in public forums and
are given opportunities to share relevant knowledge, to donate resources, and to demonstrate their persuasive
abilities both within and outside the organization. You can increase individuals’ feelings of competency by such
simple things as keeping them informed of meeting times and places, circulating minutes, including them in
decision making, listening carefully and respectfully to their ideas, and allowing time for telling personal stories
and mutual reflection. Such behaviors communicate trust, respect, and the sense that everyone is needed and
appreciated. On the other hand, you can inadvertently push people away by dropping them from your mailing
lists, changing meeting times arbitrarily, making decisions behind their backs, publishing inaccurate contact
information, interrupting their comments and personal stories, ignoring their attempted input, or putting them
down by teasing or sarcasm.
Expectations for Future Individual Contributions
Each of your members must constantly weigh whether the organizing effort is worth their investment of time and
effort. The more they feel genuinely needed, appreciated for their unique talents, and that they can count on other
members for moral and practical support, the more likely that they will be motivated to stay involved. You should
provide one another with mutual emotional support through deep, compassionate listening; thanks; wise
coaching; gestures of true welcome; inclusion in events both inside and outside the group; friendship; and
respectful mutual engagement. All of these actions communicate that each person is a valued part of a supportive
team. As a joint endeavor, it is not just the role of the organizer to keep spirits up—rather, it is the job of all
participants whose mutual support is nurtured through these inclusive and heartfelt gestures.
On a practical note, members’ continued participation can sometimes be ensured in concrete ways through child
or elder care, economic support, temporary or long-term housing, legal aid, cooperative purchasing, and
provisions for re-engagement.
Perceptions of Group or Organizational
Accomplishments
Members’ continued participation is also influenced by their perceptions of group and organizational
accomplishments. Their perceptions may have little to do with actual outcomes but rather with the sense that
headway is being made toward those desired outcomes. Organizations that start off with bright hopes for
immediate results often find themselves caught in bureaucratic red tape and political manipulation that slows their
progress. While this is to be expected, it is disconcerting to those who are new to community work and impatient
for success.
You must constantly keep group members informed of progress, engage members directly in the work whenever
feasible, and reassure everyone that many of the most durable positive changes are those that take the longest to
bring to fruition. Let them know that setbacks do not necessarily mean catastrophe or malfeasance.
Failure to communicate with members about such difficulties is especially dangerous in long-range efforts. This is
exemplified in the SNO’s decades-long cycles of success and failure. SNO was founded twenty years ago by an
activist pastor who was well trained in Alinsky-style community advocacy (see Chapter 4 for a description of this
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variety of organizing). He was initially successful in building an “organization of organizations” and engaged well-
connected community members, several of whom lived near the church. After extensive organizing efforts, SNO
was able to influence the Industrial City government to sponsor a housing rehabilitation effort for all of Smithville
to be done in three stages. Because the six blocks near the pastor’s church were most in need of repairs, they were
selected for the first round. Round one was completed successfully seventeen years ago, financing was arranged so
renters could become home owners, and the area became an island of domesticity in a sea of continuing blight.
This initial success led the federal government to allocate additional funds to rehabilitate the rest of the
neighborhood with the understanding that the Industrial City government would provide local matching money.
It seemed as if Smithville rehabilitation was well on its way until the municipal government changed and the new
mayor refused to support the project. In spite of extensive efforts by SNO leadership, the federal money was
returned, and no more has been requested or forthcoming. For the last fifteen years, the majority of Smithville has
continued to deteriorate.
Although these decisions were made at the mezzo- and macro-levels and were not the fault of anyone on SNO,
neighborhood residents blamed its failure on the SNO leadership largely because the leaders neglected to regularly
report on their continuing advocacy activities to the rest of the neighborhood. This lack of news made it easy for
people who were used to being disappointed to conclude that the SNO leaders had stopped their advocacy once
their own homes had been completed. Rumors and resentment abounded on the streets. SNO lost credibility,
membership, and effectiveness in a downward spiral that is still very difficult to reverse years later.
Belief in the Value of the Cause
Continuing participation not only depends on perceptions about past and present accomplishments but must
include hope for the future and the belief that your mutual effort will prevail because it is good and right.
Throughout history, successful groups have been those who are able to relate compelling narratives (shared
stories) about where they are, have been, and will be in the future because their cause is profoundly just.39
Successful narratives are tales of bondage, struggle, courage, and eventual triumph and include an emphasis on the
righteousness of the cause, the sense that you all are doing what you are meant to do, obedience to some higher
power that gives meaning and purpose beyond the struggles of the present moment, and the firm belief in the
eventual triumph of good. As successful ventures have done for millennia, your organization’s journey narrative
should remind everyone of why you each decided to courageously move from your former “bondage” toward a
new “promised land.” It should enable all of you to reminisce about your adventures, relive good times, shake your
heads in amazement over the difficulties you have already overcome, and declare that together you have hope for
the future. You should often convey this hopeful saga in varied ways such as songs, dramas, visual art forms,
anecdotes, and formal storytelling to engage new members and encourage old ones. As a general rule, the more
often you tell the whole story, the more everyone will be reminded of your commitment to one another and to
your cause.
Cost–Benefit Analysis: Expectations of Success versus
Likelihood of Success
Because most people like to back winners, their expectations for future group or organizational
accomplishments are very important and can be very fragile. Members’ and outsiders’ perceptions of likely future
success are greatly influenced by your past organizational track record. Your track record, in turn, is determined by
concrete successes, media portrayals, and the degree of positive change experienced. Everyone even remotely
connected with your effort continually balances these factors and makes implicit cost–benefit analyses, asking
whether the results likely to be obtained are worth the investment needed. Such implicit cost–benefit analyses can
lead to loss of motivation, anger and violence, or increased motivation.
Loss of motivation or the perception that nothing is happening or ever will happen can lead to discouragement
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and despair, especially if leaders themselves begin to give up. For example, an attempt to found a teen center in
Middle View ended after a few dedicated souls who donated countless hours and hundreds of dollars from their
own funds were unable to gain wider support. Their discouragement spread and led to organizational collapse.
A perception that the costs are too high for the results obtained can lead to a kind of implosion as participants
become discouraged afraid, or give up. This crushing of the spirit has occurred in many different settings. In 1970,
four student protesters were killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio. On many
campuses, students reacted immediately to these killings with student strikes, but by the following September,
most campuses were quiet and even peaceful protests had largely ceased. Except for a few radical members of
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), popular participation in the peace movement of the late 1960s and
1970s essentially died after Kent State, although the impact of the anti-war movement lingered.40 Likewise, the
democracy movement in China was largely crushed after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989.41
Violence is especially likely when promises have been made that have only been partially kept so that community
members feel that positive change is stalled or being actively thwarted. Such frustration leads to a loss of faith in
non-violent means, which, in turn, can lead to such seemingly irrational violence as riots. This pattern has been
repeated in such varied settings as prisons,42 urban communities,43 non-violent social movements,44 and
revolutionary social movements.45
Increased individual motivation and empowerment occurs when community assets and hopeful signs of change
are recognized internally and externally through public celebrations—such as this vivid example from Industrial
City (home of the Smithville neighborhood). For years, Industrial City was known as a depressing “rust belt has-
been” with little or nothing to be proud of until a coalition of ethnic organizations and service clubs decided to
sponsor an annual folk festival. Every Labor Day weekend since the late 1980s, the streets in a neighborhood
known for its beautiful Eastern European ethnic churches, labor history, and current diverse population have been
blocked off and opened to the whole community. The city transit authority provides special buses, the churches
are opened for tours, street vendors are given permits to sell foods and souvenirs from around the world,
wandering musicians play, and well-known acts are performed each hour. The folk festival was originally financed
by federal funds but is now self-supporting through business sponsorship and modest participant and vendor fees.
It involves hundreds of volunteers and draws visitors from miles around. This yearly party has become a tradition
and a source of renewed pride for both Industrial City and its target neighborhood, which now sports a year-
round labor museum, an ethnic arts center, and many ethnic shops. Many people who began as festival volunteers
now actively participate in other worthwhile civic endeavors, and a definite sense of hopefulness pervades the city.
Assess your comprehension of Individual Empowerment by completing this quiz.
Organizational Empowerment
Empowered individuals lead to empowered organizations, which in turn lead to empowered communities. While
empowered individuals are certainly required for empowered organizations, there are social processes that can
empower or disempower organizations themselves. To be considered empowered, your organizing effort will need
to gain a recognized place among the other associations and formal organizations within your focal community
system. (Review systems theory and the sociological definitions of various group configurations.)
An empowered organization needs:
Clear organizational structures that provide many different ways to involve individuals.
A clear mission and appealing, easily understood outcome statements.
Many places for participants to plug in and feel needed, wanted, and respected.
A plan of succession so it is not dependent on just a few people.
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A primary emphasis on local citizens’ perceptions of needs and issues.
A hopeful organizational narrative or story that can be easily understood and embraced by all sorts of people.
A respected voice in community decision making.
Access to needed resources.
A track record of recognized success.
Independence from outside control.
Among all of these, respect from representatives of other community structures, empowerment of individual
members, a hopeful story, and independence from outside control appear to be the most important. Each factor
works with the others to strengthen the community organization internally and to build its external credibility and
power.46
Unfortunately, there are several factors that can weaken or disempower your organization. For starters, loss of
mutual trust due to internal conflict over desired outcomes—coupled with hidden agendas—can do great damage.
Once destroyed, trust is hard to rebuild. Second, simmering interpersonal or intra-group conflicts can destroy
your organizational effectiveness. Often new organizing efforts are composed of individuals who haven’t had
practice in personal conflict resolution, so their disagreements may dissolve into personal vendettas or grudges that
may spill over into group meetings and decision-making forums. Hours of time and emotional energy that could
be devoted to the organization’s mission may be diverted to infighting.47 Third, community organizing efforts
may be disempowered by benefactors (rich, outside volunteers or financial contributors) who intentionally or
unintentionally communicate disrespect to community members. The latter issue is raised by theologian Mary
Thiessen-Nation who recounts a conversation with one of three women who agreed to participate in a dialogue
with her about the nature of inner-city ministry. When the woman heard Thiessen-Nation refer to her work as an
outside volunteer as “throwing ropes” to community residents, she asked Thiessen-Nation the uncomfortable
question: “Who has the more difficult job? The person who stands at the brink of a well of despair and ‘throws a
rope’ or the person who catches the rope and, although she has no floor to stand on and no handholds to use to
climb slippery walls nevertheless hauls herself and her family up to hope?”48 The answer should be obvious, but
too often those of us who are “throwing ropes” have little appreciation for the intelligence, willpower, emotional
strength, and deep faith it takes to make a life in spite of nearly impossible odds. Empowering and empowered
organizations respect their participants as individuals and the ability of their organizations to bring about positive
change.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
Think of several organizations in which you participate regularly. Rate each of them on an “empowerment
scale” with “0” being terribly ineffective and “10” being extremely effective. What factors led to your
ratings? What does this tell you about the process of creating effective community organizing efforts?
Community Empowerment
Empowered individuals and organizations lead to empowered communities. In many ways, this text is about
233

building empowered focal communities that are characterized by:
Strong social institutions that are engaged and concerned about the common good, not primarily about
organizational survival.
Citizens with a proactive, “can do” attitude and a history of successful community efforts.
Individuals who can build bridges among different organizations within the community and with important
resources outside of the community.
Courageous individuals and organizations that encourage hope and joy despite fear and despair.
Individuals and organizations bound by trust and mutual respect, not necessarily by complete agreement.
The ability to embrace diverse individuals, groups, and economic classes with an overarching narrative of
mutual support and respect.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
The Asset-based approach to communtiy organizing is a very effective way to enable people to
experience the power that already exists within themselves and their communities. What steps might
be taken to initiate an asset-based approach in your community organizing effort?
Catalysts or catalytic events and issues that bring people together.
A reasonably supportive, or at least non-intrusive, broader social context.
Empowering a community is comparable to lighting a fire: (1) you gather the kindling through an assessment of
institutional, associational, and individual assets; (2) you bring those assets together through informal networking
and through focusing attention on a burning issue or issues; and (3) you continue to feed the fires of mutuality
through continued networking efforts, enthusiastic celebration of successes, and mutual sharing of life’s journey.
Assess your comprehension of Organizational and Community Empowerment by completing this quiz.
Forces against Community Empowerment
It would be nice if community empowerment were a simple matter of saying and doing the right things, thereby
gaining a smooth road to success. Unfortunately, not only are you likely to meet overt opposition to your
community, the very term community empowerment can be used to hide disempowering practices. Too often
structures that claim to “empower” people subtly disable them. Planner Judith Arnstein was among the first to
articulate how powerful interest groups manipulate supposed empowering and how seemingly fair and rational
planning processes can actually retain and reinforce existing power structures and disempower the very people they
are supposed to empower.49 Arnstein’s “ladder of power” gives a somewhat cynical but probably accurate view of
how those in power include or exclude community organizing efforts and citizen participation—while giving lip
service to empowerment. Table 11.4 illustrates Arnstein’s ladder, moving from disempowering processes on the
bottom to full empowerment at the top.
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Arnstein discerned two categories that give people no control over decisions made on their behalf. Manipulation
occurs when those in power maneuver people and situations so that the former’s desired ends are accomplished
before anyone is aware. Therapy resembles the mental health treatment model that assumes that those with
scientific expertise are better equipped to solve community problems than the people themselves. This occurs
when those in power convince the public that the actions that “experts” take on the public’s behalf are really in the
public’s best interests and that public input is
Table 11.4 Arnstein’s Ladder
Type of Involvement Level of Citizen Empowerment
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Citizen Control Citizens’ power
Delegated Power Citizens’ power
Partnership Citizens’ power
Placation Tokenism
Consultation Tokenism
Informing Tokenism
Therapy Non-control
Manipulation Non-control
unneeded and could be harmful. Citizens who disagree are “in denial.” At the therapy level, programs and
procedures are imposed on the public to convince them to change their beliefs and actions. In both manipulation
and therapy, the public is both passive and powerless.
Phase two or tokenism has three categories:
Informing involves calling public meetings, sending press releases to the media, and providing written
information on decisions that have already been made by those in power. Informing acknowledges the
public’s right to know but does not provide for any feedback.
Consultation involves selecting a few representatives from the target population to provide feedback on
decisions that have largely been made. Sometimes these community consultants can suggest minor changes,
but control of the planning process remains with those already in charge.
In placation, those in charge make a few relatively minor changes to keep protesters quiet but do not really
listen to public concerns.
Many community meetings have one of these three agendas, which often fulfill the letter of the citizen
participation laws but cynically violate their spirit.
Finally, Arnstein identified three planning processes that truly empower citizens. In partnerships, citizens or
recognized citizens’ groups are given equal voice with other stakeholders—such as business and political interests
—but are largely recruited by the power holders and tend to hold their basic values. Partnerships can work if those
chosen to participate are indeed truly representative of the community and feel powerful enough to speak up. In
delegated power, citizens are represented by persons of their own choosing, a process that works well when the
delegates are trustworthy. Citizens’ control is the highest rung and involves putting planning directly in the hands
of those affected. Citizens’ control is rarely granted by those in power but can be grasped by self-empowered
groups, such as those you have learned to build.
Explore the Web to learn more about Arnstein’s ladder. What can you do to ensure that participants in your
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community organizing effort have a real voice in decision making?
It is unlikely that those using Arnstein’s lower levels plot to keep the public ignorant of their true intent, although
certainly some do put their own personal and organizational needs before the common good. It is more likely that
those making decisions simply think of themselves and their fellow “experts” as knowing what is best and proceed
accordingly. But your organizing team must be aware that not everything labeled “empowerment” actually
accomplishes that goal.
Assess your comprehension of Forces that Disempower Communities by completing this quiz.
Summary
This chapter on power and its uses is divided into two major sections. The first section deals with abstract terms
and concepts related to power and its use, and is intended to familiarize you with terms that you will encounter in
future reading or when talking with others about the nature of power.
The second section deals with empowerment of individuals, organizations, and whole communities. Community
organizations should be both empowering and empowered. Empowering organizations give participants a sense of
control over their own destinies. Ideally, experiences in empowering organizations “spill over” into people’s daily
lives so that they have greater satisfaction, experience a deep sense of security, and no longer feel victimized by fate
or other powerful forces. Empowered organizations, in turn, have a voice in the quality of life of constituents and
the issues they’re interested in. Those with established power take them seriously. Empowered communities and
groups with well-supported issues, in turn, have a voice at higher levels of government and policy making—and
the whole process builds democracy.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 12 Navigating the Political Labyrinth
Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Why We Have Governments 209
2. Three Views of the Role of Government 210
3. Political Negotiations 213
4. Six Dimensions of Public Policy 213
5. Level Three: Sectorial Policies 218
6. A Real-World Example 225
7. Playing the Political Game 226
8. How to Play the Political Game with Politicians 228
9. Playing the “Policy Game” with Bureaucrats 230
1. Summary 236
You may hate politics and want to avoid involvement with governments and their bureaucracies as much as
possible, but unless your organization is very small and completely independent, you will find that a clear
understanding of political processes and an ability to live with ambiguity and frustration is an important part of
community organizing. This chapter will help you and your organizing team work through political issues
affecting your organizing effort and develop some of your own political power along the way.
Community organizing efforts vary greatly in their involvement with formal political structures. Some, such as
most self-help groups, are completely independent of government control, intervention, or support and have little
or no connection to government or social policy. A few, such as community advocacy groups and social
movements, are active players in politics and policy formation. Other varieties fall somewhere in between.
Why We Have Governments
Human beings are a contradictory species. On the one hand we are violent, aggressive, and frequently engage in
internal disagreements and external conflicts. On the other hand, we are capable of major feats of cooperative
effort and compassion. In a well-functioning society, these two elements are held in tension through a social
contract (an implied agreement to abide by governing structures so that most of us can live together in peace and
prosperity). The United States was and still is an experiment in the development of a dynamically balanced
democratic social contract which allows most adults to share in decision making based on a fair balance of rights
and privileges. You can see this dynamic balance in the founding documents. The Constitution primarily defines
the rights of the powerful while the Bill of Rights and other amendments modify the Constitution to protect the
powerless. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches and their various powers were carefully defined so that
it is almost impossible for any one person or interest group to control all three at the same time. Moreover, the
Constitution defines a federal system of national, state, county, and municipal governments that ensures
maximum local input and control while delegating more complex tasks to state and national government.
Explore the United States Government Manual to learn more about the U.S. government. What role, if any, is
legislation and regulation likely to play in your community organizing effort?
Assess your comprehension of the Basics of U.S. Government by completing this quiz.
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Three Views of the Role of Government
Political decisions are influenced by implicit or explicit ideas about the appropriate role of government in our
lives. Historically residualism and institutionalism have been the two primary abstract views of the appropriate
role of government. Those holding a residual view believe that the main function of government is to provide safe
boundaries in which everyone can act freely with a minimum of interference from law or government regulation.
Residualists believe that governments should provide citizens and corporations (which are endowed with the legal
characteristics of human beings) with freedom to pursue their private economic goals. They believe that maximum
freedom will lead to maximum prosperity for everyone as the success of the rich will eventually “trickle down” to
the poor. In the United States, the residual view is usually called libertarianism, conservatism, or “right wing”
politics and is frequently associated with the Republican Party. The residual view of government can be summed
up in the phrase: “The government that governs least governs best.” Conservatives and libertarians believe that we
should all have freedom to pursue our individual goals, a value that spurred the original European colonization and
western expansion.
The institutional view is often associated with the terms progressivism, liberalism, or “left wing” politics and is
usually associated with the Democratic Party. Those holding an institutional view believe that governments have a
responsibility to ensure that all of their citizens have the basics such as food, clothing, shelter, safety in
emergencies, health care, and educational opportunities. They assert that (1) all people should have a voice in
government whether or not they are wealthy; (2) work of all kinds is important no matter what it pays; (3)
everyone has equal value in spite of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference or physical
attributes; and (4) there is a need for laws and regulations to prevent ruthless people and organizations from
preying on the weak. Liberals emphasize the responsibility of governments to ensure that their citizens have
freedom from fear, want, and exploitation and believe that these goals can best accomplished through direct
provision of government services and strict regulation of the private sector coordinated by a strong national
bureaucracy. They are often accused of over-governing. Both views focus on general abstract principles and macro-
systems.
There is an emerging third perspective that emphasizes balance between the two functions of government and
adds a dimension of mutual community building. This third viewpoint is coalescing from various directions which
emphasize commitment to local engagement, grassroots participation, and participatory democracy. You have
been exposed to some of its ideas here through our discussions of systems theory, sustainability, popular education,
participatory research, and asset-based community organizing. All of these are united by commitment to
subsidiarity, the idea that many needs are best addressed locally in the community focal system or its micro-
systems by people working together to solve their own problems. In this emerging model, the role of government
at all levels is primarily to support such local efforts. It is the government “of the people, by the people and for the
people” spoken of by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address.
Let’s look at health care to illustrate this third view. The residual view of health care (which has been the norm in
the United States) makes it an individual or family responsibility, largely governed and delivered through private
enterprise. On the other hand, the institutional view common in Northern Europe and Canada makes it a human
right provided for by government, which largely eliminates the role of the private sector. Both views emphasize
curing illness rather than sustaining and maintaining health. The third changes the focus from illness to wellness,
opens the doors to alternative treatments, and emphasizes individual, family, and focal community approaches to
wellness—while deemphasizing chemically and technologically based treatments that are dependent on an
industrial model. Let’s look at how this view changes practice using the Smithville neighborhood as an example.
Smithville, like all communities in the United States, has a fragmented health care system that is largely a
combination of the residual and institutional views. Under the residual view, medical care is a commodity. Like all
commodities, the best medical care is available to those who are able to pay for it. Most of the residents of
Smithville are unable to pay. Many go without adequate medical or dental care until they are very ill and then
turn to the public hospital emergency room or an under-stocked and under-staffed free medical clinic, a nod to
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the institutional view. Moreover, most Smithville residents do not have easy access to the elements of a healthy
lifestyle. Corner stores do not stock fresh foods, local playgrounds have unsafe equipment and are filled with all
kinds of trash, the houses still contain lead paint, and even the soil is contaminated with heavy metals.
If the new paradigm were implemented in Smithville, the current non-system would be replaced with a shared
neighborhood emphasis on prevention and mutual responsibility for good health. There would be a multitude of
community gardens and access to inexpensive but healthful food, safe playgrounds, indoor exercise and recreation
facilities, community sports teams, and culturally diverse medical traditions. Houses would be rehabilitated to
increase their safety. Crosswalks would be added on several busy streets. Garbage pickup would be regular to
reduce rats, cockroaches, and other disease-carrying vermin. There would be several easily accessible, inexpensive
local clinics to provide continuity of care from pre-birth to death. The clinicians would respect natural healers and
care givers and would integrate them into their outreach and educational efforts. At the city-wide (mezzo) level, a
coordinated network of outpatient resources would provide local clinics with sophisticated diagnostic services,
using computer links to experts. Those few people needing to leave the neighborhood for inpatient care would be
quickly released and cared for through compassionate and conveniently located follow-up services. As the
“Smithville model” became successful, comparable approaches would appear throughout the United States, each
tailored to the needs of a specific focal community system.
Some of this vision such as community gardens, improved playgrounds, indoor exercise and recreation, farmers’
markets, involvement of alternative care givers and health education could be implemented at the neighborhood
level with little or no need for government intervention or funding. Infrastructure improvements such as safe
crosswalks, housing inspections, and adequate garbage collection would require municipal involvement. Other
components of the vision such as improved clinics and increased means of access to medical treatment would
require collaboration with local hospitals, private physicians, and other health care providers supported by regional
medical centers. State laws regulating outpatient and inpatient care would need to be developed to financially
support true community-based care as well as in-home services. National health care policies would be required to
encourage investment in health care alternatives, prevent misuse of funds, and concentrate cost-cutting measures
on regulation of large hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance providers to ensure that no windfall
profits are made on human suffering. On the financial side, adequate funds would need to be allocated through
the budgeting process to ensure that even low-income areas could receive high-quality care. Other federal laws
would be needed requiring that public research dollars be used for investigating and eliminating environmental
health hazards, as well as for research on inexpensive, noninvasive treatments. People with expertise in community
organizing skills and techniques would be needed at all levels to provide coordinated efforts to make this vision a
reality.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to analyze, interpret, and effect policies and laws at local, state, and national
levels
Critical Thinking Question
The principles of subsidiarity imply using appropriate organizing strategies within various systems to bring
about desired change. Choose an area of concern within your focal community system and picture desirable
outcomes, and then identify what would need to be done at the local, municipal, state, and national levels to
make the dream a reality. (Hint: Read the Smithville health care example to get an idea of what might need
to be done.)
Those who embrace the residual view of government believe that the “government that governs least governs best”
while those with an institutional view believe that government has primary responsibility to ensure that people
have the basics needed for a good life. The subsidiarity view asserts that families, private organizations, and various
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levels of government each have an appropriate role in ensuring that basic needs are met and that the “good life”
results from an appropriate balance among them. Think about your goals for your focal community. Will you be
more likely to accomplish them by (1) being left alone to work independently (i.e., the residual view), (2)
receiving direct help from the government and government agencies (i.e., the institutional view), or (3) some mix
of the two (i.e., subsidiarity)? Begin to think about the steps you will take to achieve your desired level of
government involvement.
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery: Exposure to a spectrum of political ideologies
Critical Thinking Question
Which of the three primary views of government (1) best expresses your values, (2) is most reflective of the
members of your leadership team, (3) represents the general views of those in your focal community, and (4)
represents the elected officials and government bureaucrats you will be working with? How will you
reconcile differences among these views?
Assess your comprehension of Three Views of Government by completing this quiz.
Political Negotiations
Politicians you encounter will tend to take either the residual or the institutional position (although a few may
lean toward the subsidiarity paradigm). You can use your understanding of these views to identify the probable
position that a particular politician or group of politicians is likely to take and how you should approach them.
For example, Republican officials are likely to have a residual view and are unlikely to support initiatives that
require heavy government investment, new laws, bureaucratic structures, strict regulation of private enterprise, or
national-level initiatives. However, they may respond well if you emphasize the independence and self-sufficiency
of your efforts and cost savings that might be derived. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to take the institutional
view and may respond well to appeals based on governmental responsibilities for human needs, projects that will
interface with and strengthen existing bureaucracies, and proposals for large initiatives with statewide or national
implications. A few progressives may find the locally based participatory action approach appealing. Your own
approach should be pragmatic (practical) and non-partisan. Your leadership team should carefully define the
appropriate role of government based on the issue, your organizational mission, and your desired outcomes. Some
issues are best dealt with through independent initiatives in which governments and government representatives
have no role. Some do well as private collaborations with little government involvement, while still others may
require new or changed laws at the local, county, state, national, or international levels. Many require the
enforcement and application of existing policies. Your choice to seek or not to seek government involvement
involves balancing freedom and flexibility with the power vested in formal authority. Independent efforts often
have freedom of movement and decision making—but little authority. Government action may have authority,
but at the expense of flexibility. It is usually best to solve problems through collaboration and a blending of private
and public resources, involving formal legislation or government regulation only if necessary.
Six Dimensions of Public Policy
American politics are complicated. Not only do we have a complex federated system of national, state, county, and
municipal governments compounded by separate elected bodies (such as local school boards), but each of these
often has a legislative, executive, and judicial component. Moreover, policies at various levels frequently contradict
one another! It seems crazy but somehow it has worked reasonably well for over two hundred years.
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Policies are courses of action. The term politics is usually used in reference to the processes governments use to set
their courses of action. Here we will look at six levels of policy and their effect on community organizing efforts.
The levels are (1) societal values, (2) regime policy, (3) sectorial policy, (4) jurisdictional policy and laws, (5)
administrative policy and regulations, and (6) delivery-level (street-level) policy and procedures. The levels
interact: each can affect the others and changes in any one can affect the entire policy system. You can help your
leadership team analyze the political context when you understand the six levels of policy and how they interact.
Let’s look at them one at a time.
Level One: Values and Social Policy
All public policies and the laws and regulations that flow from them are based initially in widely held societal
values (i.e., conscious and unconscious beliefs and assumptions about what is really important in life and what
behaviors and norms are foundational to life together). Values are often largely subconscious, but they are the
implicit guides to how we live and are the criteria by which we judge others. Many political conflicts are based in a
clash between contrasting values held by substantial numbers of people. Therefore, identifying complementary
and contrasting social values that impact your community organizing effort is one of the first steps in predicting
how your initiative is likely to be received. To understand politics, you must analyze the values and clashes of
values involved in living in our society. As a community organizing team, you will first want to ask: “What major
social values support our organizing effort?” and then ask “What major social values conflict or compete with
ours?” and finally, “What strategies will we use to strengthen our position and encourage people to adopt our
values?”
Even seemingly simple projects such as the Middle View runaway prevention program can be plagued with values
clashes. As you probably recall from earlier discussions, the runaway project was founded by a group of pastors,
educators, and parents who wanted to provide a temporary shelter for young people who were considering
running away or who had been thrown out by their parents. The leadership team felt that their community had a
responsibility to provide troubled young adults with structure, an opportunity to remain in school, and a path to
becoming responsible adults. However, some community members valued the ascendancy of the rights of
individuals and families and felt that conflicts between parents and children should remain in the family. Others
believed strongly in individual decision making at any age and in the right of young people to run away from
home if they chose to do so. Still others felt that young people should be obedient to adult-defined standards for
appropriate behavior and should be publicly punished for misbehavior, such as running away. Others felt that
caring for runaways was the responsibility of county and state government and not a local concern. Figure 12.1
illustrates these conflicts.
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Figure 12.1 Values Conflicts in the Middle View
Runaway Project
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Understanding these values conflicts and especially working respectfully with those who held them helped the
leadership team to create a program that (1) respected the rights of families, and (2) respected the legal
responsibilities of the juvenile courts, while enabling young people to have a stable place to live if family mediation
and reunification proved impossible.
Level Two: Regimes and Regime Policies
Once you have identified the various values that are most likely to impact your project, you will need to sort out
the various regimes and regime policies that directly affect your work. Regimes can best be thought of as “those in
charge” and in government are often composed of a symbolic leader such as a president, governor, or mayor and
all of those with paid positions who support their views. Every political organization from your local town to the
United Nations is run by a regime. Every level of government has a regime policy, a broad set of principles
applied by governing authorities as their overall approach to governing.
In the United States, there are dozens of regimes and regime policies that often conflict with one another. At the
national level, the President and the Executive Branch are the most obvious regime, but each party in both houses
of Congress has regime policies coordinated by their leaders, and even the Supreme Court has a sort of regime
policy determined by the majority of its members and heavily influenced by the Chief Justice. Likewise, each state
government has its regime policies in all three branches of government and so forth down to county, municipal,
and school district levels. Think of regimes as a stack of blocks with several different levels as illustrated in Figure
12.2.
In a multi-level system as in the United States, regime policies often conflict. For example, a Republican president
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and a Democratic governor may have very different views of the appropriate role of the national government, the
provision of collective versus private goods, the level and kind of taxation, and a variety of other issues. Regimes
can also conflict within the various levels of government. For instance, it is possible for the president and the
majority of Congress to be of different parties or for the two houses of Congress to have different party majorities
and, of course, the same can be said of state and local level politics. Regime policies may also conflict within a
target community or neighborhood. For instance, it is not uncommon for school district policies to conflict with
municipal policies or for the policies of nearby municipalities to conflict with one another. Regime policies can
even conflict for a single organizing project. For instance,
Figure 12.2 Regimes in the United States
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
community organizing work in the Middle View area is often slowed by the need to juggle two county regimes,
four town regimes, a consolidated school district regime, and the national park authority.
Three of the many challenging tasks facing you are (1) identifying the regimes most likely to have the greatest
impact on your organizing effort, (2) determining how existing regime policies can facilitate or impede concrete
action and communication, and (3) determining how the policies of various regimes may contradict one another
making it nearly impossible to meet all of their requirements. For example, the runaway prevention program was
impacted by:
a local municipal regime policy that placed the provision of social services outside the realm of municipal
responsibility;
county regime policies that emphasized service delivery through county agencies—with little or no provision
for collaboration with independent, private non-profit agencies;
another county regime policy that emphasized keeping property taxes low by passing costs on to the state;
and
state level regime policies that gave oversight and control of program content, service delivery, health
standards, and building safety to a set of fragmented and under-staffed departments with often contradictory
expectations and—at the national level—policies that emphasized states’ rights, state control, and reduced
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support of social programs.
Leadership team members were all new to the task of bringing a complex project from dream to reality. They were
challenged by the need to identify the regime policies at all levels that impacted or might impact their work;
identify the agencies and major contact people involved in enforcing the regime policies; and sort through exactly
what each policy meant in concrete terms and figure out how to pay for requirements that all seemed to be geared
for large, well-established agencies, all while remaining true to their mission and honoring promises made to
community supporters. The task of sorting out regime requirements was doubly challenging because all of the
regimes were constantly changing their policies and (true to the rules of systems theory) any changes in the mezzo-
system affected the whole focal system (review systems theory in Chapter 2). It was like trying to put a fitted sheet
that is slightly too tight on a bed that is slightly too big; some portion or other was always popping up out of
control, and then when that was fixed something else would pop up. None of the regimes provided much
guidance on how their demands were to be met, nor did they provide financial resources for meeting their
demands. Many rules and regulations were written in a “one-size fits all” format aimed at large, financially stable
established institutions in urban settings that could not easily be adapted to Middle View’s rural context. Perhaps
most frustrating of all was the regimes’ refusal to help financially. Their representatives agreed that there was
indeed a need to prevent young people from running away and for there to be a place for them to sort through
their personal and family issues while living and going to school in their own community, but the Town Council
said it was not their problem; the County Commissioners through their Department of Human Services said it
was not their problem, it was the state’s problem; and State representatives said “Oh no, it’s a county problem.” In
the meantime, young people kept running away. Like the potato in the children’s game Hot Potato, the
innovators felt as if they were being thrown from one regime to another and given no real help anywhere.
An example from Smithville also represents regime clash. For many people the American Dream of individual
success and family security is symbolized by home ownership. In Smithville, this dream has been supported at the
focal system level by a non-profit agency founded by members of the Smithville Neighborhood Organization
(SNO) dedicated to renovating and selling homes within the focal neighborhood. In the late 1990s, these efforts
were supported at the mezzo-level by the Industrial City Housing Authority and at the macro-level by the Clinton
regime’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In the 2000s, regimes changed at the
Industrial City municipal level and at HUD. Tax money for renovation and new construction dried up.
Community Development Block Grant money (money from federal taxes that is given back to states and
municipalities for their use) as well as some already allocated housing renovation funds were diverted by the
municipal government from low-income housing to other uses. Municipal regime priorities moved from home
ownership for the working poor and lower middle class to gentrification for the upper middle class. National
funding for housing dried up. As a result of these regime changes, SNO’s housing rehabilitation and housing
ownership efforts stalled with only one-third of the work accomplished. As a result one part of Smithville looks
quite attractive with a substantial number of rehabilitated owner-occupied residences and only a few rundown
properties. The rest of Smithville remains occupied by low-income renters or has been abandoned completely.
SNO’s dream of a thriving neighborhood of proud, working class homeowners has been largely thwarted due to
municipal and federal policies beyond SNO’s control.
The Middle View and Smithville projects are just two examples of how regime policies affect community
organizing efforts, and they demonstrate how important it is to carefully analyze the impact various regimes may
have on your work. The following questions may help you sort out regime policies:
What level of government are we examining?
What are the regime policies (broad views of the role of government), and are they primarily institutional
(supporting the use of government funding and government bureaucracy for the regulation and provision of
goods and services) or residual (based on the idea that the government that governs least governs best)?
Does the regime we are examining emphasize openness, citizen involvement, and making the public aware
of available services? Does it make information difficult to find, and are most decisions made by a secret or
elite group of insiders?
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What are the regime’s priorities? Is it likely that they will emphasize keeping taxes down at the expense of
services, or will they make human needs a priority? How is this policy likely to affect our funding resources?
Are there conflicting regimes at each level of government? For instance, is there a Republican president and
a Democratic Congress (or vice versa)? Are the House of Representatives Republican and the Senate
Democratic? What are the likely consequences of these splits for our efforts? Likewise, are there divisions at
the state, county or municipal regime levels, what are they, and how will they affect our work?
The answers to these questions will help you accomplish your mission and outcome goals.
Explore the various regimes in our federal and state system. What U.S. government organizations are most likely
to impact your community organizing effort?
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
Identify the regimes that most directly affect your community organizing effort. Determine the regime
policies that are most likely to affect its success or failure and begin developing strategies for addressing these
concerns.
Level Three: Sectorial Policies
Sectorial policies and regime policies are linked. Regime policies define a broad view of the role of government on
such general matters as taxation, regulation, and interpretation of the Constitution and are often labeled “liberal,”
“conservative,” or occasionally “utilitarian” (i.e., doing whatever is necessary to make government function well).
Sectorial policies that affect particular issues, concerns, and people flow from these general viewpoints. Sectors are
broad areas of public life such as health, economic development, education, human services, transportation,
housing, food and drug concerns, agriculture, labor, banking, and defense, to name a few. Sectorial policies may
be directed toward a particular part of the population or may affect everyone.
Almost all government bureaucracies are organized by social sectors that coincide with significant areas of life.
Regime and sectorial policies go together. Regimes not only have a set of principles that provide an overall
approach to governing, but these principles lead to their sectorial policies (i.e., approaches to particular areas of
public life). For instance, at the national level the president’s cabinet and various executive departments are
divided broadly by social sectors such as health and human services, education, agriculture, commerce, and so
forth. State, county, and municipal government departments are also similarly organized by broad social sectors.
The national and state political platforms of the two major parties also cover many sectors of life. Figure 12.3 is a
representation of how the various sectors fit together in national regimes.
Figure 12.3 illustrates the various social sectors, their size in relation to one another, and areas of overlap. For
instance, the commerce and military sectors touch one another in several ways such as government contracts for
military expenditures, military demands for industrial goods, and military protection of commercial interests.
Health,
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Figure 12.3 Typical Sector Divisions
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
social welfare, and criminal justice touch one another in a cluster of somewhat related services. Moreover, they
overlap at various points. For instance, mental health care overlaps both health care and human services, the
juvenile justice system overlaps human services and the criminal justice system, drug and alcohol services overlap
human services and the criminal justice system, and so forth. Many social innovations and entrepreneurial efforts
are impacted by several sectors. For instance, the Middle View Runaway Shelter dealt mostly with the juvenile
justice and human services sectors but was also affected by the educational sector because the young people were of
school age, the health sector because sanitary conditions had to be maintained in the group home, and even the
infrastructure sector which oversaw building code enforcement.
Clashes among sectorial policies are common in all varieties of community organizing, but they are especially
troublesome for advocacy groups and social movements that have to decide where, whether, and how to apply
social action strategies. Let’s use the disabilities movement as an example of an issue that has had to work within
several sectors. To ensure access to education, activists worked at the national and state levels to pass the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was implemented primarily by state level education
departments and at the local school district level through Individualized Educational Plans (IEP). Advocates for
the disabled have fought within several levels of the educational sector for access to appropriate educational
resources. Almost concurrently, advocates for the physically disabled fought for passage of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). Requirements of the ADA affected accessibility to the buildings, technologies, and services
that are part of American society including, but not limited to, government offices, city sidewalks, commercial
establishments, employment opportunities, public transportation, health care, housing, parks and recreation,
telephone service, and social security disability. Its provisions have benefited old and young alike, as well as such
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special populations as the developmentally disabled, the mentally challenged, and disabled veterans. In fact, the
impact of the ADA is so pervasive across so many government offices that the Obama administration established a
national ADA website, which provides an Internet portal to all of them. They are presented here in Table 12.1 to
give you an idea of the many sectors of life impacted by disabilities issues.
These are a few of the national offices affected by the ADA. Imagine these multiplied over fifty times (the state
level plus the U.S. territories) and thousands of times (the municipal and school district levels). Advocates must
use systems thinking and understand the connections among systems to keep the IDEA and ADA effective. For
instance, IDEA and ADA must be enforced at the local level, respected by the sectors of society they touch, and
applied reliably. IDEA has limited use if there are no places for the disabled to go when they “age out” of public
schools. Parking spaces for the handicapped are a cruel joke if non-handicapped people are allowed to use them at
will or if curbs are too high to navigate. “Accessible” restaurants can be a source of misery if their restrooms are too
small to accommodate wheelchairs. Elevators in multiple-story buildings make them accessible but can be
dangerous if there are no alternatives in case of fire. Extensive regulations and enforcement of these laws’
provisions can be self-defeating if local stores are forced to close because of costly required changes.
Many seemingly simple solutions require negotiations with many different people, compromise, and creative
problem solving. Advocacy efforts require simultaneous multiple approaches and require participants to apply
social action strategies where they
Table 12.1 National Level Sectors and
Departments Affecting the Disabled (2012)
Sector Government Department Acronym
Legal Rights Department of Justice DOJ
Employment Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC
Public Transportation Department of Transportation DOT
Telephone Access Federal Communications Commission FCC
Proposed Design Guidelines United States Access Board (separate agency)
Labor—Civil Rights Center Department of Labor DoL
Education Department of Education ED
Health Care Department of Health and Human Services HHS
Housing Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD
Parks and Recreation Department of the Interior DOI
feel the most comfortable and where they will do the most good. Therefore, your leadership team may find it
helpful to identify the various sectors that impact your effort and to take the time to map the various agencies and
organizations involved.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
While regimes are the overall governing structures of government, sectors focus on particular needs. Identify
relevant sectors and sectoral policies by asking, “What broad areas of society most affect the people and
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issues we are trying to address? What broad sectors (or divisions) of the various levels of government most
affect our work? How will their policies at each level be likely impact our initiative?
Level Four: Jurisdictional Policies
The term jurisdiction connotes the area over which an individual or organization has authority. The term usually
has both geographic area and sectorial dimensions. Sorting out the many people and organizations have
jurisdiction over all or part of your organizing effort can be very confusing, but some examples might help you
figure out how to do it. Let’s take transportation as an example, with roads in particular. If you take a look at a
typical road map you will notice that different kinds of roads are usually differentiated by size and color. The
largest are the “interstates” that are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, followed by state highways,
county roads, and then township roads. As you drive from place to place on all these roads, you generally do not
notice changes of jurisdiction, but sometimes jurisdictional change is very obvious. For instance, a highway may
go from two lanes to four lanes when it crosses a state line, within a matter of a few feet; a country road may go
from paved to dirt when it crosses a town border; or a smooth road may become full of potholes or vice versa
when you pass a county line. If you investigate a little further, you will find that each of the jurisdictions on each
side of such divides maintains its own road crew, heavy equipment, and snowplows; has its own set of laws and
ordinances covering road building, repair, and maintenance; and has its own road budget! From time to time you
may read about state level initiatives to get all of these local transportation jurisdictions to join forces, maintain
shared crews, and buy shared equipment. Such initiatives rarely work because people tend to be jealous of their
own power, authority, and independence. Such jurisdictional divisions affect almost every aspect of our lives
together.
At the national level, large agencies are often divided into jurisdictions with regions that may encompass several
states or parts of states. Regional jurisdictional policies can vary greatly even in the same agency. For instance, one
of the reasons that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, was far worse in
Louisiana than in Florida was that the regional branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
with jurisdiction in Florida was better prepared for hurricanes than the one with jurisdiction in Louisiana.1 The
Katrina disaster was not only exacerbated by conflicting policies within FEMA itself, it was worsened by poor
coordination of efforts and contradictory regime, sectoral, and jurisdictional policies. Help was greatly delayed
because of conflicts among the city, state, and national governments over who had jurisdiction. As a result,
effective action was stymied, hundreds of people died, and many others were injured and displaced.2
The term jurisdiction not only applies to the span of control of a particular person or organization; in politics it
also refers to responsibilities for defining, enforcing, and adjudicating regulations related to specific laws and
ordinances. While legislative bodies at various levels of government pass laws, these laws are under the jurisdiction
of regulatory agencies. In fact, it has become a truism that policy is really made by regulatory agencies. Your
community organizing efforts will be required to respond internally to jurisdictional policy expectations, and you
will need to shape your own internal policies based on external priorities and constraints. In fact, you will often
spend much thought on the impacts of government policies, regulations, and monitoring on strategies, tactics, and
desired outcomes of the organizing effort. Most laws are outlines of what the government intends to do, broad
guidelines about how it intends it to be done, and general guidelines for enforcing the law including any sanctions
that will be imposed for non-compliance. You should make every effort to identify the agencies likely to directly
impact your efforts, as well as the direct and indirect roles they play in public policy as it is really enacted, not how
it is supposed to be enacted. You should ask questions such as:
What government departments and agencies will have jurisdiction (regulatory power) over our initiative?
Exactly what control will each have?
Will several different agencies vie for jurisdiction?
What conflicts are likely to arise at various levels of authority?
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What recourse will we have in solving such conflicts or protesting unfair treatment?
Once again Middle View’s runaway prevention project provides a good example. The shelter portion of the
program design was impacted by contradictions between local fire department regulations and state-level labor and
industry safety regulations. The fire department required that all windows be made of heavy wire-embedded safety
glass to prevent explosion during a fire while the Department of Labor and Industry required that these same
windows be used for egress by youth living on the second floor. The wire windows were too heavy for adolescent
girls to lift, which caused a substantial delay in project implementation until a compromise was reached.
The program was likewise impacted by contradictory jurisdictional demands. For example, the same troubled
youth might be subject to different treatment demands
Figure 12.4 Jurisdictions Affecting the Middle
View Runaway Shelter
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
depending on whether she or he fell primarily into the mental health system, the drug and alcohol treatment
system, or the juvenile justice system. Seventeen-year-olds were required to receive very different treatment under
the juvenile justice system than the same person at eighteen under the adult corrections system, regardless of his or
her developmental age. An intellectually challenged or mentally ill youth was treated differently by the mental
health jurisdiction than by the developmental disability jurisdiction. Figure 12.4 illustrates how these
contradictions in jurisdictional policies affected the runaway project. You should map similar contradictions for
your own focal project and focal system.
Even simple community events often require permission and cooperation from several different jurisdictions.
Imagine that your organizing project has decided to sponsor a community pride day by having a neighborhood
clean-up followed by a picnic and street dance in a local park. Identify the government departments that will have
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jurisdiction over various parts of the event (e.g., trash pick-up and renewal, participant safety, park use) Within
these departments, who has the authority to make decisions? Who is responsible for carrying them out? In what
ways are they likely to be supportive? Where might they make things difficult? What approaches will ensure
maximum cooperation? What tactics will you use should they prove uncooperative?
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
As a community organizer you will frequently encounter conflicts among jurisdictions. What
communication skills will you need in order to reduce these conflicts and obtain your desired outcomes?
Level Five: Organizational Policies
Regime, sectorial, and jurisdictional policies all eventually impact organizational policies. Your organizational
policies are created in the context of various jurisdictions and regulatory agencies that may define such things as
program design, program delivery, acceptable record keeping including treatment plans and financial records,
fiscal year, personnel practices, staffing levels, rules for confidentiality, consumer and personnel safety criteria,
reporting procedures, external inspection schedules, and criteria for resolution of consumer complaints. These
external rules and regulations, in turn, define the record keeping expectations that you have of paid personnel and
even volunteers. It is sad but true in this day and time: “If it isn’t written down, it hasn’t been done.”
Most of your organizational policies and procedures will flow from the expectations of the various agencies that
have jurisdiction over your processes and programs. Organizational record keeping almost always causes headaches
and complaints, but it can be especially frustrating when different regulatory or funding agencies require different
forms and reporting structures (even different fiscal years). For instance, caregivers working in a program for the
developmentally disabled located in Smithville were expected to develop two sets of treatment plans; establish
measurable objectives; and keep duplicate case notes for each consumer, one for the State Health Department and
one for the State Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. The State Health Department used a medical
model and expected that the treatment plan would emphasize pharmaceutical interventions and physical therapy
largely developed by care givers. The Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation used a cognitive–behavioral
approach and expected that consumers or their families would be active participants in the treatment planning
process and in their own habilitation efforts. Imagine the confusion when some consumers were funded under
Medicaid and supervised by the State Department of Health, others were funded by the Office of Mental Health
and Mental Retardation (MH/MR) under the auspices of the State Department of Welfare, and still others
received funding from both. Because all had complex records to be filled out daily, many poorly paid direct
workers complained that they didn’t have time to work with consumers because they were drowned in paperwork.
Such confusing and contradictory reporting requirements are difficult to manage even in well-established agencies,
so they can cause even more difficulties in new, small agencies where few staff members or volunteers keep
organizational records while trying to maximize services. Here are some suggestions for you and your leadership
team to help deal with these regulatory realities:
Be discerning about organizational goals and objectives and do not try to be all things to all people.
Regulatory record keeping, financial accounting, and related policies are difficult and time consuming.
Look carefully at funding opportunities for their costs and benefits. Sometimes the combination of
application procedures, record keeping, and reporting take so much time and energy that they are not worth
the effort involved.
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Beware of moving too far from your original mission for the sake of funding. Multiple missions often
require multiple reporting structures. Chasing after varying funding sources may lead to mission drift and
loss of identity.
Help your direct service staff and volunteers understand that paperwork requirements really aren’t designed
to make their lives miserable but are necessary to maintain funding, enhance the organization’s reputation,
and keep everyone in the clear.
Never lose your sense of humor! Bureaucracies and their requirements are inherently frustrating.
Level Six: Street Level Policies
It is ironic but true that what is supposed to be done rarely is what is done. Street or delivery level policy and
procedures are how things are actually done in the real world, but they are rarely written or formal. Street level
policies vary widely among similar organizations and even within the same organization and depend on such
things as (1) the configuration of the organization; (2) the urgency of the situation; (3) the availability of leaders
for consultation; (4) organizational ideology; (5) sectorial values and mores (unwritten rules); and (6) the
participants’ personal values, knowledge, and skills.
Let’s now look at each of these influences on street level policies in turn:
Configuration of the organization refers to the strategy being used and the maturity of the organizational
structure. Place-based relational initiatives, self-help groups, community advocacy, and social movements are
likely to have flexible structures that allow for individuals or small groups to make decisions on their own.
Social entrepreneurship and social innovation, mutual economic assistance, and collaborations are likely to
be more structured and more dependent on outside funding sources and, therefore, less likely to make room
for street level policy making and individual discretion.
Urgency of the situation refers to the importance of timeliness for making a decision. Some decisions are time
sensitive and must be made without taking time to consult others.
Availability of leaders for consultation: Some organizations, such as those that are dispersed or that have their
resources stretched over a wide area, simply do not have readily available leaders. Decisions must be made by
lieutenants in the field.
Organizational ideology refers to the members’ views of leadership and authority. For instance, radical groups
like Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, the Student Non-violent Coordinating
Committee, and more recently the various Occupy efforts believe that any kind of authoritarian structure is
intrinsically wrong. Major decisions are made by assemblies. Any member is empowered to speak for the
whole group.3
Sectorial values and mores: Some social sectors allow for more street level discretion than others because of
the diffuse nature of the work. For instance, police officers may be given discretion because they must make
rapid independent decisions. On the other hand, social workers who work in office-based clinical teams are
less likely to have discretion and more likely to be urged to seek supervision.
Participants’ personal values, knowledge, and skills: Some individuals are more comfortable making street level
decisions than others, and some are delegated more responsibility because they have proven trustworthy.
There are two different but equally difficult problems with street level policy creation. On the one hand, some
participants may be afraid to act creatively and independently, which may lead to paralysis and missed
opportunities. On the other hand, participants may take too much authority, which leads to contradictory
messages, uncertainty over tactics, and confusion about who really speaks for the group. While the tendency to
circumvent rules and regulations might seem to be best handled by more rules and regulations and clearer
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bureaucratic lines of control, in fact the more rules (especially contradictory ones) there are, the more attempts to
circumvent them, resulting in more chaos.
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Political and ideological aspects of human services
Critical Thinking Question
Examine an existing human services organization with which you are familiar and identify how it is
impacted by each of the six levels of policy. What frustrations and contradictions are its leaders facing? How
do they cope? What similar frustrations and contradictions is your organizing effort likely to face? What
coping strategies will you use?
Assess your comprehension of the Six Levels of Public Policy by completing this quiz.
A Real-World Example
Societal value and regime, sectorial, jurisdictional, organizational, and street level policies are not a hierarchy, but
by understanding them and their interactions, you will help your leadership team analyze the political context of
your work and how you might increase your chances of success, as seen in the following Smithville example of
interaction among various levels of policy.
The Smithville neighborhood is known as a home for prostitutes and their pimps. Historically, based on their
social values, people have believed that prostitution is a personal, moral failing of the women involved or that the
women are largely victims who are trapped in “the life.” Several members of SNO have taken the latter position.
They believe that most prostitutes were victims of child sexual abuse and now are victims of their pimps, they do
not want to be trapped in prostitution, and they would leave it if they had a way to safely escape. These values
have led to a social innovation project—the development of a safe place where prostitutes can get off the streets,
rest, take a shower, eat nutritious food, recover their health, and converse with caring people—a place that will
meet their basic needs so they have the energy to make an escape plan. Regime policies at the federal, state, and
city level all affect this project somewhat negatively because all three governmental levels are pursuing financial
austerity—so even if prostitutes were not stigmatized by their profession (which, of course, they are), there is no
tax money anywhere for new programs. Moreover, because some of the highest office holders (including the
governor, mayor, and at least one judge) are rumored to be “johns,” they have no incentive to help the prostitutes
because their own involvement might be brought to light. At the sectorial and jurisdictional level, police, laws,
jurisdictions, and enforcement patterns negatively affect the project. The police in Industrial City have long
followed an unwritten policy of punishing prostitutes and ignoring the pimps (the men who sell the women’s
services) and the johns (the men who buy their services). Project sponsors and prostitutes alike feel that these
unwritten but real sectorial policies put them in danger—from the pimps who may seek to punish them for
intervening in their trade and even from some police who may see the safe house as a place to “bust” prostitutes.
The SNO leaders who support the project are well aware of all of these political realities so they have created
administrative policies that take them into account. The service will be very low key, supported by volunteers and
a few churches—there will be no government funds involved; its location will be an “open secret,” known mostly
by word of mouth among the prostitutes; even the program’s name “Molly’s Place” has been carefully chosen so
that if someone asks where one of the women is going she can say “Molly’s place” so that she might be visiting a
friend rather than an agency. The major street level policy will be “each one, reach one” with those who have been
helped bringing friends and pooling resources. There will be no public advertising.
Those supporting Molly’s Place will work together constantly to understand and, in some cases, change policies at
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each of the six levels. At the societal level they will work to shift the public view of prostitution from moral
shortcoming to victimization. At the national and state regime and sectorial levels, they may work to make sure
that laws are passed that de-criminalize prostitution, punish those who practice sex trafficking, and make
purchasing sexual services a crime. At the local jurisdictional level, they may identify police officers who share their
views and seek their help in ensuring that Molly’s Place is protected. Finally, at the organizational and street levels,
supporters will continue to monitor their own practices to maximize the safety of everyone involved.
Politics often seems like a game with two sides and a bevy of spectators. Each side is motivated by strongly held
beliefs and values. Your “side” has two goals: (1) to convince the undecided to support you and (2) to win over as
many opponents as you can. It is important for you to understand and respect conflicting values you may
encounter and to think about how you will cope with them. “Winning” often depends on how well you
understand your opposition, and that means putting yourself in their place. Think about some issues you are likely
to face in your organizing effort. Assume that your opponents believe they have very good reasons for their
positions. Stand back and consider their values that might contrast, compete, or conflict with yours. Imagine
defending their positions. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Are there any components of their
positions that can be incorporated into your plans without sacrificing your integrity? What convincing values-
based arguments can you develop to support your position? What values-based arguments might you use to
dispute their viewpoints? You will find that taking a variety of perspectives and positions will help you negotiate
well with others, develop a sense of commonality, and eventually result in a reputation for effectiveness for you
and your organization. At first you may find the challenges and contradictions of understanding and coping with
the six levels of policy daunting and discouraging, but with practice they became analytical tools that help you and
your leadership team understand and work in almost any situation.
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Political and ideological aspects of human services
Critical Thinking Question
In the first section of Chapter 12 we have discussed some of abstract concepts related to policy and policy
making. Why were they included? In what ways are these ideas relevant to the practical world of community
organizing?
Playing the Political Game
Politics is like a game or perhaps a melee. You may find the main contenders in the arena; an inner core of
announcers and die-hard fans; a second tier of concerned but undecided constituents; and the general public (who
may pay enough attention to have something to talk about at the office). In the arena metaphor, politics looks
something like Figure 12.5.
Imagine yourself in a blimp high above this arena. On the field itself you can see small figures representing
different teams. About half of them look like tiny elephants with a few dollar signs and tea pots mixed in (the
right-wing team) and about half of them look like little donkeys with some smiley faces and protest signs thrown
in (the left-wing team); there are some referees in black-and-white striped shirts (media representatives) as well.
Although there are definite goal posts at either end of the field, there seem to be sub-goals in the middle as well.
You notice that the field of play is not very well organized. Some of the players are in huddles. Others seem to be
running the ball. Still others form defensive lines. Still others are being carried off on stretchers. Your eyes move
from the field to the stands. You notice that the first rows of seats are in sections that are roughly divided in half
by the left and right wings with the elephants, dollar signs, and tea pots on the right and the donkeys, trees, and
protest signs on the left. One thing that strikes you is that the spectators are always moving, changing seats
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between plays, and that sometimes people from the seats run onto the field and join in the action and vice versa.
As you look further
Figure 12.5 The Policy Arena
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
up in the stands you see a section of half-empty seats, occupied at various points with cameras, small computers,
newspapers, and so forth. This is the media section with those who report on the action. As your eyes move
further from the playing field you notice that there are a few spectators of various ages, colors, and genders who
sometimes watch the game but more often talk among themselves, get up to get popcorn, move away from the
arena, or leave altogether. Most of the time, they (the general public) do not seem to be paying much attention
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until a cheer or groan goes up from the inner crowd and causes them to move closer to the field, grab pennants,
and put on team apparel. After watching for a while, you decide that although this looks chaotic, it might be
challenging and even fun. You ask the pilot to land; you buy a ticket, enter the stadium, and begin to learn to play
the “political game.”
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Skills to effect and influence social policy
Critical Thinking Question
Where would you place yourself in the political arena? What roles would you need to play to make your
community organizing effort a success? What factors enable people to move outside their “comfort zone” as
observers of political action become active participants? If you are not now politically active, what would it
take for you to become more politically engaged?
How to Play the Political Game with Politicians
Although political teams have several major players, we will look at the two that are most important for
community organizing: politicians and bureaucrats.
There seem to be many routes to public office, but common ones include:
Voluntary participation in political processes through community organizing, advocacy, or appointed office
Voluntary or paid participation in party politics
Service on the staff of an elected official
Life-long interest in politics as a career
Being drafted by others because of one’s connections or leadership potential
Whatever the route to public office, candidates enter the arena with ideas about outcomes of their work and
policies they would like to see strengthened or developed. These personal values and ideologies help them develop
their personal policies and campaign themes, and often help them determine their choice of political party. Party
affiliation, in turn, helps determine the issues they will support and which voters they are likely to attract.
When working with politicians you should ask:
What types of politicians are we dealing with?
Are they pragmatic or idealistic? If idealistic, are their personal morals, ethics, and views compatible with our
cause, or would it be better to pursue someone else’s assistance?
What other issues do they support, and do these issues coincide or conflict with our interests?
If they are pragmatic, how can we convince them that supporting our effort will be in their own best
interests?”
The answers to these questions will tell you which political officials to approach first for support, which are likely
to be neutral, and which are likely to be unhelpful. Remember that trustworthy elected officials want to gain office
and stay in office by pleasing as many of their constituents as they can without sacrificing their values or ethical
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standards.
No matter what their party affiliation, elected officials must eventually answer to the voters. In a geographically
based representative democracy such as ours, this means that officials must first and foremost listen to the needs of
the residents of their districts before concentrating on other issues. Sometimes these regional needs and priorities
remain fairly stable over time. At other times, rapid social change—such as man-made or natural disasters,
economic downturns, or rapid changes in population patterns—may necessitate immediate responses. During
times of crisis, issues that were not even on the radar may become paramount.
Honest politicians’ main goals are to be elected, stay elected to the limits of their legal terms, and, in the interim,
serve their constituents as best they can. They do this through external relationships with voters and financial
supporters and through internal relationships with colleagues, often balancing time in their geographic districts
with time in session. Names for their internal functions vary, but they are similar at all levels of U.S. government
and include committee assignments (usually determined by seniority, party affiliation, and personal interests);
party caucuses (including expectations that they will, in general, support the “party line”); and ad hoc groups
representing internal coalitions of persons with similar interests such as women, ethnic minorities, supporters of
balanced budgeting, and so forth. Most elected officials are engaged in several committees, their political party,
and one or more informal groups.
Remember that most political work is done ahead of time at the committee level and informally behind the scenes.
Often the formal legislative process is rather pro forma although it is symbolically important. Voting patterns are
particularly important for individual office holders, because they are often used by constituents and interest groups
as a sort of litmus test to determine whether the office holder is keeping his or her promises.
The typical elected official spends many hours in various venues using his or her communication skills to hammer
out policy agendas, formulate approaches, and negotiate changes. At any level the policy arena is a hectic
environment. An elected official can be compared to the chief executive officer of an entrepreneurial organization.
It would not be humanly possible to hold most public offices without a staff. Like any entrepreneur, the political
official relies heavily on wisely chosen staff members, paid or volunteer, who may have different functions. Some
act as case managers who help constituents navigate government structures. They answer questions and generally
provide links between the elected official and the people. Other staff members may provide technical planning
skills to their employers, constituents, and constituent communities and may procure information on particular
issues and initiatives. These technical planners usually do the actual work of formulating policies, writing laws, and
negotiating compromises under the authority and guidance of the elected representative. A few staff members are
essentially sales managers with the task of presenting the elected official in a positive light, with an eye on the next
campaign. You are far more likely to work directly with staff members than elected officials, so get to know staff
members, their relative power within their organization, and their personal interests. Staff members are important
gate keepers who can open or close the door to opportunities.
Working with elected officials is often difficult. As a neophyte community organizer, you may fail to understand
the points of view of the various political officials you encounter. You or your leadership team may mistakenly
assume that just because you believe your cause is worthwhile, public officials will automatically leap to help. In
truth, public officials are beset by dozens of different worthy causes every day, and it is up to you to convince
them why your cause is worthy of their support, how it is politically viable, and how it will increase their political
capital (standing) with constituents. Remember many worthy causes receive verbal support from seemingly
friendly political figures, but concrete support in the form of legislation, supportive regulations, and especially
funding generally depends on your individual and organizational power, including threat power (denying votes or
monetary support), exchange power (delivering votes, positive publicity, volunteers, or monetary resources),
information power (accurate numbers and moving stories), and soul power (inspiring fervent voter support).
Remember power is the currency of politics.
Human Systems
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Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Question
Non-profit, tax-exempt organizations are not allowed to formally lobby, but chances are you will want to
influence government level decision makers in support of your organizing effort. What strategies and tactics
can you use?
The whole lobbying industry has grown up around the art and science of influencing elected officials. You will
probably lack the time, energy, or funds to compete with professional lobbyists and, in many instances, will be
restrained from doing so by federal and state regulations for non-profit organizations. However, there are several
inexpensive ways to influence elected officials. Here are a few of them:
Review the MoveOn.org power mapping guide. Consider your organizing efforts. Identify the politicians who
will likely have positive or negative effects based on the power map.
Get to know your local representatives. Most politicians genuinely want to hear from their constituents. Visit
their offices, attend their public meetings, write them personalized letters, make telephone calls, and send e-
mails and even Twitter messages. If you have useful information on a topic, provide it to them. Thank them
and their staff members for the help you receive.
Let them know that you vote and intend to hold them accountable and then do it!
Get acquainted with the staff member or members assigned to your particular geographic area or area of interest.
Representatives are expected to know about many issues. They divide research tasks among their staff
members who tend to rely on experts (like you) for their information. It can help your cause to provide staff
members with concise, accurate information in printed or electronic form if possible.
Show up at such public events as public hearings, local council meetings, and meet-the-candidate nights that give
voters a chance to speak. Present your viewpoints in reasonable, well-thought-out ways that help you build a
reputation for wisdom and common sense—and use strong emotions when clearly needed.
Use electronic means of communication and add personalized comments.Many advocacy groups provide easy
ways to send mass mailings to representatives through e-mail, and most now provide space for
personalization. Take the time to personalize your letter. Share stories from your experience, backed up by
figures to support the extent of the problem, because politicians love personal stories.
Use any title you may have, especially if relevant to your cause.If you have a doctorate, sign as “Dr.”; if you are a
pastor, sign as “Reverend”; if you have an MSW use that designation; and so on.
If you can afford it, make contributions to political candidates whose views you support and find a way to let them
know you have contributed.Candidates’ finances are judged by the media in two ways: (1) by the number of
dollars raised and (2) by the number of donors. Numbers of donations are often used as gauges of voter
support. Because the Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United ruling—which declared that corporations are
fictitious persons with the same rights as individuals to make anonymous political contributions—opened
the door to huge political contributions, small donations from real human beings are more important than
ever.
Assume that elected officials are honest, but be aware that corruption does exist.Do not participate in corrupt
practices.
Assess your comprehension of How to Play the Political Game with Politicians by completing this quiz.
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http://MoveOn.org

Playing the Policy Game with Bureaucrats
Community organizers frequently breathe a sigh of relief when desired legislation is passed, only to find that the
real work is just beginning.
Many good laws and executive orders have been spoiled through poor regulations or inadequate enforcement.
Public office holders have mostly indirect roles in policy implementation, although members of bicameral (two-
part) legislatures—such as the national House of Representatives and Senate—may play a role through conference
committees by reconciling different versions of legislation and helping to write the final version of laws. On the
executive side, elected administrators (such as mayors, county executives, governors, and the president) have the
duty to either sign bills into law or exercise the power of the veto. The judiciary may occasionally be called upon
to rule on the constitutionality of a particular piece of legislation, but once a bill becomes law, bureaucratic
administrators become the major players. Some bureaucrats are truly dedicated to the common good and will do
everything in their power to help community groups. Others enjoy threat power and use it.
While senior agency officials are often political appointees committed to a particular regime and its policies, many
mid-level executives are career bureaucrats. Once a law is passed and funds are allocated, government agencies and
departments have three primary responsibilities: rule making, rule application, and rule adjudication. Figure
12.6 shows how these functions are related to the basic policy process.
In rule making, administrative agencies are charged with taking the often vague wording of enabling legislation
and turning it into specific rules and regulations for implementation. In rule application, agencies are charged
with ensuring that these rules are followed. In rule adjudication, agencies (and sometimes the courts) are charged
with developing and using a process to ensure that the rule application (enforcement) stage has been conducted
fairly. Sometimes, all three functions reside in a single agency or department, but at other times they may be
divided. Rule making and rule application are frequently found together, whereas rule adjudication is often
separate to ensure lack of bias.
The roles of regulatory agency administrators and your leadership team’s role as representatives of community
organizing efforts are interactive. Regulations and their enforcement have a great deal to do with how and even
whether newly won political gains will be actualized. Typical regulatory processes involve the assignment of a
newly passed law or executive order to a designated government agency, along with the legally defined timeline for
developing the specific regulations and processes required for implementation. Figure 12.7 illustrates a flow chart
of this process.
This flow chart shows the usual progression from passage of a law through the various phases of bureaucratic
implementation.
Rule Making Phase
Laws contain broad statements of legislative intent, give timeframes for implementation, and often designate the
executive agency that is to ensure implementation. Once the designated agency receives word that the law has been
passed, it begins the
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Figure 12.6 Role of Regulatory Agencies
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
implementation process. The top line in the flow chart shows the movement of this rule making phase. The
designated agency formally or informally collects ideas from various stakeholders regarding their views on
implementation, assigns experts to research and review background information, sorts through all of this informal
information, and then creates an initial draft of the regulations. This draft is sent out for review, often through a
very clearly defined process of public hearings. The agency is required by law to collect all of this public input, sift
through it carefully, and publish a final set of regulations. These final regulations generally define the specifics of
implementation, how adherence will be measured, who will enforce adherence, and penalties for failure to abide
by regulations. These final regulations are sent to the government, non-profit, and profit-making entities that they
will affect, ending the rule making phase.
Rule Application Phase
If your organization is going to be affected by the new law and its accompanying regulations, you will either be
sent or will need to obtain a set of the finalized regulations. At that point, your leadership team will have to decide
how to respond. If the finalized rules do not meet your organizational needs, you may decide to resist them and
protest to the regulatory agency, the legislative body, or the courts (the arrow shown going back to the regulatory
agency), or you may decide to drop the program altogether. If you do decide to implement the new regulations,
you will have to implement a cycle of planning, implementing, managing, keeping good records, and preparing
required reports for the regulatory agency.
Rule Adjudication Phase
Primary responsibility for rule adjudication is in the hands of the regulatory agency, which often maintains staff
members whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the
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Figure 12.7 Rule Making, Rule Application, and
Rule Adjudication
Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
organizations charged with implementing the law carry out their obligations. It is important that you develop
smooth working relationships with evaluators and their supervisors, so try to talk with key people about their
major expectations and develop your internal policies, procedures, and record keeping in ways that will facilitate
the process and communicate your respect for their efforts. Evaluation teams will require you to keep good
records, prepare reports in a format they provide, host site visits, allow them to interview staff members at all
levels, and often allow them to interview your clients as well. Once the evaluation visit is complete they will take
all of this information and write a report on your organization’s performance, which will be used to determine
such things as renewal of licenses, levels of funding, and the public reputation of your organization—so inspectors
have high levels of threat power. Fortunately, many evaluators are dedicated professionals who really want the
public to receive excellent services so you can use their reports to improve services or to build a case for increased
funding. However, a poor report can be disastrous. You may encounter inspectors or monitors who enjoy their
power and generate negative reports that can threaten the existence of your organization. If this happens, most
laws have provision for recourse. You can (1) protest to the regulatory agency itself, (2) take your complaints to
the next bureaucratic level, (3) organize your supporters to protest your agency’s mistreatment, or (4) seek judicial
intervention. However, as in most things, the best initial strategy is to negotiate with the regulatory agency,
especially because you probably need to work with them in the future.
The truism that “the devil is in the details” is especially valid for the regulatory process. Excellent laws can be
destroyed by poorly defined rules and regulations, through poorly designed enforcement, or through unjust
adjudication. Your leadership team should insist on having members included in all phases of the regulatory
process and should carefully read and be prepared to respond to regulations as they are proposed, finalized, or
changed over the years. Table 12.2 shows which issues should be addressed by advocates and administrators at
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each stage of the regulatory process.
All three stages of the regulatory process can be frustrating because they seem intentionally or unintentionally
designed to favor regulatory agencies and large established providers over advocacy groups and community-based
organizations. Some common frustrations and their antidotes are included in Table 12.3.
Assess your comprehension of the “Regulatory Game” by completing this quiz.
Politicians at all levels pass laws, but bureaucrats are responsible for carrying them out. Let’s look at two examples
of working with bureaucracies.
When the folks in Middle View were working on the runaway shelter, the State Department of Labor and
Industry had jurisdiction over approval of building renovation plans. Although these plans are usually developed
by highly paid architects with long-standing relationships with department officials, the leadership team could
only afford an experienced engineer to draw up their plans. The board chairperson took an early morning flight
across the state to the capitol where she met with a kindly bureaucrat who understood the community goals and
passed the plans. In this instance, relationship power, knowledge power, and a bit of soul power accomplished this
community objective.
In contrast, the Industrial City School District (where the Smithville neighborhood is located) wanted to add a
cosmetology department to its vocational school but could not get the State Department of Labor and Industry to
approve it because free vocational
Table 12.2 Regulatory Tasks for Advocates and
Community-based Administrators
Community Advocates Should Community Program Managers Should
Rule
making
Insist that proposed definitions
meet the “spirit of the law.”
Challenge any barriers to service.
Examine proposed levels of
bureaucratic management to
determine if complexity is likely
to hamper implementation.
Insist that regulations regarding
implementation include a clear
voice for advocates and
consumers.
Insist that financing be used to
pay for services for people rather
than administrative expenses. .
Negotiate a self-regulation process
that gives your organization
authority to enforce the provisions
of the law.
Advocate for random independent
Insist that eligibility requirements be clear and fair.
Demand that requirements for accountability be
clear, written in understandable English, and cover a
reasonable time period.
Insist that all new regulations and regulatory
changes include a clear collaborative process among
the regulatory agency, the administrative agency,
and consumers’ representatives.
Ask for input into reporting requirements:
timelines, form in which data is to be kept, forms,
etc.
Insist that rules and regulations be humanly possible
to follow.
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
monitoring.
Rule
application
Check with providers to
determine whether regulations are
serving their intended purpose.
Insist on adequate resources for
implementation.
Insist that end users be involved
in agency planning and
implementation.
Meticulously follow the regulations as you develop
your program.
Provide high-quality staff training to ensure
compliance.
Develop internal practices that exceed regulatory
expectations.
Rule
adjudication
Insist on reviewing monitoring
reports and evaluations.
Ask that advocates and consumers
be included on monitoring teams.
Insist on timely monitoring.
Insist on sanctions for poor
performance of regulatory agency
and service agency or agencies.
Insist on random monitoring
visits.
Mediate between regulatory and
provider agencies to ensure that
services continue as problems are
being fixed.
Recruit a staff member who can write reports using
language demanded by regulatory agency.
Do what you have promised.
Keep records in good, consistent order.
Teach staff to keep up-to-date, accurate records.
Develop a systematic plan for monitoring visits.
Insist that adequate notice be given of changes in
regulatory expectations.
Push for adequate funding to ensure compliance.
Have a contingency plan in case of a negative
report.
training would compete with local private cosmetology schools. The bureaucrat with the authority to give final
approval ignored letter after letter. Even if the agency had denied the application, it would have moved the process
along, because there could then have been an appeal. But it was neither approved nor rejected, just tabled. So the
school district superintendent and the school solicitor went to the state capital, barged into the
Table 12.3 Frustrations and Antidotes in the
Regulatory Process
Frustration Antidote
Difficulty in finding notices for
public hearings and other avenues of
input into the rule making process.
Require that all notices be published in commercial
newspapers, in free publications, and on the Internet.
Short timelines for rule making
impede community people from
Require that all laws give adequate time (at least nine months
from the date of executive signature) to complete the rule
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
digesting proposals and preparing
responses by deadline.
from the date of executive signature) to complete the rule
making process.
Public hearings are held at
inconvenient times.
Require that all public hearings be held evenings and weekends
instead of during the traditional working day.
Public meetings are held in
inaccessible places.
Require that hearings be held in locations near those who will
receive service. Require that provisions be made for alternative
means of input—such as the Internet, telephone, and written—
and that the availability of such options be widely advertised in
free venues.
Preference given to members of an
“in-crowd”—career people who
move back and forth between
representing government and
representing big providers.
Require government employees to wait at least three years
before accepting employment in an agency related to their
employment. Forbid regimes to appoint regulators who have
worked in areas they will be regulating.
Backroom deals
Enforce “sunshine laws” requiring public representation at all
major decision-making sessions. Make sure that all stakeholders
are aware of negotiation sessions and are encouraged to attend.
Public hearings that result in no
changes in proposed regulations
Require published summaries of all public hearings and
consolidation of suggestions.
Require that suggestions for significant changes be incorporated
into final regulations or provide documentation justifying their
omission.
Allow plenty of time between public hearings and
implementation.
No access to results of hearings. Widely publish hearing results. Freedom of Information.
Frequent regulation changes after
initial law is passed.
Require justification for any changes in regulation regardless of
regime change.
Little notice of mid-course changes.
Require the same public hearing processes for mid-course
regulation change as initial regulation development.
Regulations and procedures not
easily accessed, unclear, full of
jargon.
Require transparency and openness. Maintain openness even
when regimes changes.
bureaucrat’s office, and literally sat on his desk the way the bureaucrat had “sat” on their application until he
laughingly signed the paper.
There are three morals to these two stories:
1. Many bureaucrats are dedicated to the common good and will try to make rules and regulations livable.
2. Even crusty bureaucrats can be moved— and have a sense of humor.
3. Use whatever works—short of violence.
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Understanding and Mastery: Legal/regulatory issues and risk management
Critical Thinking Question
Identify the regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over your proposed community organizing initiative.
Investigate the regulations that will most directly affect your work. Begin considering how you will meet
regulatory requirements, and begin developing advocacy strategies you feel may be needed.
Summary
Chapter 12 introduced some key concepts of the U.S. political system as they apply to community organizing.
You examined six levels of policy formation that must be simultaneously applied at appropriate levels of
government. You viewed the political process as a game with multiple players and gained insight into the
worldviews of politicians and government bureaucrats. These analytical frameworks, tools, and tips can help you
and your leadership team successfully navigate the political labyrinth.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s contents by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 13 Value Systems and Ethics
Curioso/Shutterstock
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. Quality of Life Values 237
2. Competing Value Systems: Modernism and the Quality of Life 238
3. Ethical Viewpoints 239
4. Professional Ethical Standards and Codes of Ethics 252
1. Summary 253
This chapter is both the most abstract and the most practical chapter in this entire book. Ethical living has two
dimensions: (1) it is based on an implicit or explicit value system (your view of the intent and purpose of life
against which you measure your own and others’ actions) and (2) how you choose to live your life day by day and
moment by moment. In this chapter we will first examine the quality of life values that undergird this book and
then compare and contrast them with the common modernist (growth machine) values that pervade our society.
We will then shift to consideration of specific ethical frameworks that support the quality of life value system and
will learn how to put them into practice.
Because ethical practice is intimately tied to daily life, it is almost impossible to write completely objectively about
it. In fact, those who claim to have an objective ethical framework demonstrate their own rigidity and deny their
own humanity. Ethical decisions are made in the rough and tumble of life, not in an ivory tower.
Quality of Life Values
Here are a few of the values and ethical assumptions on which this book is based:
The current model of unlimited growth that sacrifices the natural world and human well-being cannot be
sustained. Quality of Life is more important than increasing life’s speed or the number of things one owns.1
There has been a historical bias against people of color and other powerless groups that is implicit in our
thinking and laws, which must be redressed.2
All of the earth belongs to all, not just to a privileged minority.3
Everyone has something to contribute. Ways must be found to give everyone a voice.4
Non-violence is always a viable alternative.5
Civil disobedience to immoral laws is acceptable, but one must be willing to accept the consequences.6
Caring for one another is the key to a high quality of life.7
Stand up for justice and fair treatment of everyone.8
Cultural and religious differences are to be understood, respected, and celebrated.9
Everyone should be judged not by physical characteristics or one’s circumstances but by the quality of his or
her character.10
Creativity, artistic expression, joy, and mutuality are ethical imperatives.11
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Community organizing takes courage and determination, often against tremendous odds. Many people find
that they are sustained by what they define as spiritual resources.12
Start with community assets, not liabilities.13
Professional ethical codes provide valuable guides for ethical decision making.14
Competing Value Systems: Modernism and the
Quality of Life
Humanity is engaged in a global battle between modernism (the growth machine model of economic well-being
that has resulted in 1% of the world’s people owning 99% of the world’s wealth) and a quality of life model that
asserts that all the earth belongs to all people. Each of us must choose a side.
Modernism is characterized by the growth of industry, including agri-business, and a belief in the ability of science
and technology to solve all human problems. It is also characterized by a belief in the power of science and the
scientific method to describe, explain, and eventually control everything in the universe including human
behavior.
Practical applications of the social sciences—such as social work, human services, and community organizing—
have been deeply influenced by modernism, especially in their desire to be legitimated by cause–effect research and
by their search for a universal, overarching meta-narrative explanation of the social world.15 The impact of
modernism can be seen in the techno-centric model of economic development and traditional community
planning models of community organizing.16
The major problem with modernism is that it has failed. The twentieth century was welcomed by modernists and
progressives as likely to herald the end of war, pestilence, hunger, and many other human ills. Instead, the
twentieth century was filled with wars, increasing social inequality, and environmental destruction. Technologies
such as nuclear energy delivered the horrors of nuclear reactor accidents—rather than unlimited energy—in
Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986 and Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. The so-called green revolution in
farming depleted topsoil, created dependence on a limited gene pool, and caused vulnerability to plant and animal
diseases of all kinds. Hunger increased. More recently, genetically modified crops lacking the ability to self-
germinate led to farmer suicides in India17 and increasing starvation in Sudan. The increase of greenhouse gases
led to global warming and the possibility of massive climate change resulting in droughts, massive flooding, and
increased wind storms.18 Even the wide use of antibiotics led to drug-resistant strains of bacteria. The gap between
the world’s “haves” and “have nots” has expanded, and new threats such as terrorism, rabid fundamentalism, and
factionalism threaten to plunge the world into chaos or totalitarianism. In late 2008, the excesses of modernism
(also known as neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism) plunged the entire world into near economic disaster.
In spite of its obvious weaknesses, the modernist paradigm is still alive and well in community development
circles, especially in efforts sponsored by all levels of government, powerful international organizations, and most
research universities. It has become the foundational value in most economic development efforts. You can find
the modernist paradigm present in meetings of local government bodies, Chamber of Commerce discussions,
industrial development corporation deliberations, the daily stock market report, and among your friends when
they long for new industries to replace old ones in spite of compelling evidence that the paradigm’s emphasis on
unlimited growth has endangered global ecology and impoverished millions.
On the other hand, the Quality of Life or post-industrial paradigm is a synthesis of the warmth of the communal
spirit, the scientific and technological methods of the Industrial Revolution, and the ease of communication of the
information age. Creating this post-industrial quality of life world will not be easy. It is predicated on a very
different value system than has been the norm since at least the mid-eighteenth century. The premise of this book
is that the change to a quality of life paradigm will be accomplished primarily by ordinary but dedicated people
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who have the courage, convictions, and mutual support to make creative changes in their own communities and,
thus, in the world. In Table 13.1 you see a comparison between modernism and the quality of life ethical
paradigms.
Professional History
Understanding and Mastery: Exposure to a spectrum of political ideologies
Critical Thinking Question
This section contrasts the modernist and quality of life paradigms. Read the descriptions carefully. Where
do you see evidences of the modernist paradigm in your life and in your focal community? Where do you
see evidences of a focus on the creation of a high quality life for everyone? How do your daily decisions and
actions fit into each paradigm?
Assess your comprehension of the Modernist and Quality of Life Paradigms by completing this quiz.
Ethical Viewpoints
There are several ethical viewpoints that support the quality of life paradigm including the ethics of post-
modernism, critical theory, discursive dialogue, power, non-violence, care, joyful sharing, rational choice, cultural
humility, religious/spiritual perspectives, and professional ethical standards that come into play in the helping
professions, especially social work and human services. Ethics as a branch of philosophy has been explored since
ancient times and in many cultures and has taken many different paths. We begin with several recent perspectives:
post-modernism, critical theory, discursive ethics, and Foucault’s ethics of power.
Post-modernism
Post-modernism is a very complex philosophy based primarily on the idea that social reality is not absolute but
has been constructed (invented) by human beings and
Table 13.1 Modernism Compared to Quality of
Life
Social
Sector
Modernism Quality of Life
Food
Production
Agri-business: genetic modification,
“factory” farms, loss of genetic diversity,
corporate ownership of food production,
petroleum-based fertilizers
Locally based: organic methods, adaptation
of proven historic methods, family farms,
community gardens, seed banks, genetic
diversity
Health Care
Health Care “Industry”: illness-based
emphasis, patented chemicals
(pharmacology), costly medical
equipment, professional providers
supported by costly insurance
Self-care/Healers: personal responsibility for
wellness, integration of traditional practices
from various cultures, emphasis on the
interrelationships among energy, chemical
balances, cellular functions, organ systems,
and the whole person
Globalization: control by big banks and Sustainability: regionalized economics, based
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Economic
Well-being
multi-national corporations; growth
machine mentality based on manipulation
of monetary system
on real products and services produced and
delivered locally or regionally primarily by
micro-businesses (with 1–200 employees)
Education
and
Learning
Schooling: people are “human capital”;
education is focused on career; credentials
are vital; Western thought and
technologies are primary.
Life-long Learning: learning is a life-giving
activity that occurs in many ways in many
places; all the world’s knowledge should
belong to everyone; all cultural traditions
have something to offer
Higher
Education
Business Model: Income and growth are
the main institutional goals; close
relationships among government, military,
and industry; students are customers
whose primary outcome is to become
highly skilled workers and managers
Wisdom Model: Teaching, service, and
adding to cumulative human knowledge
(research/writing) are main institutional
goals. Professors and students seek the truth
in a learning community with a primary
outcome of ethical, caring leaders
Community
Organizing
Community Development Model:
Coordinated by experts from the top
down; emphasis on economic
development that fits into globalization
Popular Education/Participatory Research:
Controlled by and for members of focal
community systems; emphasis on positive
relationships, respect, shared wisdom,
mutual assistance, and courageous non-
violent action when necessary
therefore can be de-constructed (taken apart and altered or changed completely). A corollary is that the current
construction (fabrication) of social reality grants privileges to white, northern European, heterosexual males that
are not available to other people.19 Post-modernism is a reaction to this dark side of modernism. Like many
intellectual movements, post-modernism arose in many countries almost simultaneously, but this perspective is
most commonly associated with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.20
Postmodernists view society and social relationships as “texts to be read” rather than as an objective reality to be
understood scientifically. For Derrida, life was filled with aphorias or puzzles. Life in community is full of
ambiguity and choices among competing demands from those he called the “other, others.” Each of us face the
same choices on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. For instance, you cannot simultaneously spend recreational time
with your family and friends, do volunteer work, vacuum the carpet, and study this text. Whatever you choose,
someone will be unhappy, and you will feel torn. Since life is full of ambiguous choices, Derrida made clear that
decision making requires courage. He urged what he called differance or hesitation before acting. Like Soren
Kierkegaard21 and other existentialists, Derrida believed that, after all is said and done, any decision requires a leap
into the unknown. He asserted that no matter how one might try to think through all the possibilities the future
may bring, there is never any certainty about the results of your actions. All you can do is your best, which is true
in community organizing as in the rest of life.
Critical Theory
Critical theory evolved as a way of understanding the mechanisms and de-humanizing aspects of modernism and
ways of coping with it. It challenges you to discern the many ways power imbalances lead to injustice and
inequality and to stand back from your assumptions about the world and ask whether things as they are things as
they have to be.22 Critical thinkers emphasize that all members of any society (or a focal community system)
believe that the way things are is the way things should be. They call this internalized belief false consciousness,
which makes it very easy for those who are in power to remain in power and is based on the combined forces of
hegemony and plutocracy. (Hegemony is the control of the many by the few and is a source of false
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consciousness; plutocracy is a similar term that means control of the political process by the wealthy.) These two
combined forces create a cultural story that life is about material success through any means possible. This story
surrounds us and has become an intrinsic part of the way most of us view the value of life.23 Although the
plutocracy has become symbolized by such institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and
Wall Street, the danger of the consumerism or growth model is in the way we have become convinced that the
“products and services multinationals offer fulfill genuine needs and are endemic to a happy, fully adult life”24 or,
expressed more colloquially, “The one with the most toys when hedies, wins.”
Critical theory is the activist philosophy that supports the popular education and participatory research methods
we have discussed. It requires that you (and your leadership team) become conscious of the many ways you and
those in your focal community are being exploited, are convinced that there is no hope for change, and believe you
are powerless to build a better life, and that you issue a “wake-up call” through a process called consciousness-
raising, which means to analyze the ways you are being exploited and how you can join together to resist
exploitation and build a higher quality of life.25 As a personal ethical framework, critical theory asks you to
constantly look at others’ motives and for ways they unconsciously (or consciously) support injustice.26 Likewise,
it demands that you (and
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Economic and social class systems including systemic causes of poverty
Critical Thinking Question
Critical theorists assert that most people believe that the way things are is the way things should be and are,
therefore, living in a dream-like state of false consciousness and oppression. Therefore, the role of the
community organizer is to sound a wake-up call, enable people to understand the ways they are oppressed
and act together to bring about social justice. Identify areas of false consciousness in your focal community
system or elsewhere. What actions might you take to “wake people up” and get them moving?
your leadership team) examine your own motives and behavior to make sure that you are not unconsciously
bigoted, that you are not unconsciously supporting the power imbalances inherent in your organizing context, and
that your communication practices and organizational structures are designed to empower all of your
participants.27
Discursive ethics (finding ethical solutions through respectful, rational discussion) is most directly associated with
the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas and is the basis of the rational discourse form of communication
discussed in Chapter 6. Habermas insists that justice can only be built through the consensus of everyone affected
rather than through individual decision making or the decisions of persons in power who act on their behalf.28 In
practice, discursive ethics is based on rational argument or discourse so that, given fair rules of engagement, a
group of rational people— each presenting his or her views in a thoughtful, structured way—will eventually agree
on an approach that will come close to a categorical imperative (an action that if done by everyone would have
positive effects).29
Successful discursive ethics require what Habermas called a sense of solidarity among all participants. This
involves concern for everyone involved and for the broader community context in which decisions are made.
“Rules of engagement” are also required, which ensure that everyone has an equal chance to speak and be heard.
Discursive ethics are very important in community organizing because they ensure that everyone who is affected
by community decisions is involved and respected. However, such ethics are very hard to implement in practice in
daily life for a variety of practical and political reasons. For instance, it can be hard to get everyone who should be
involved in community decisions together in the same place at the same time. It can be politically difficult to
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politely ask powerful people to keep quiet and listen, challenging to encourage those who are timid or frightened
to speak their minds, and awkward to ask participants to follow rules of discourse if they are used to speaking
anytime they please. Yet as an ethical community organizer, you must make sure that all voices are heard and
understood by all, a daunting but rewarding task.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: How small groups are utilized, theories of group dynamics, and group facilitation skills
Critical Thinking Question
Discursive ethics is based on the premise that everyone has the right to speak, be heard, and have their good
ideas incorporated into community life. Think about some of the meetings you have attended. In what ways
were some people “silenced”? What could you have done to make sure that everyone was heard?
Foucault’s Ethics of Power
Michel Foucault was a late twentieth century theorist associated with both critical theory and post-modernism
who focused on the nature of power and the ways in which power is internalized so that we monitor and censor
our own thoughts and behaviors almost as if we were constantly being watched.30 At some time in your organizing
efforts, you will be frustrated by lack of participation, and Foucault’s work will give insights into why people who
have been historically powerless and voiceless are hard to engage in organizing efforts.
Foucault addressed social work and many of the other helping disciplines that seek to manage or discipline human
life and conduct, so his thinking is relevant to community organizing. He was very aware of power differences in
helping relationships, the danger of the manipulative use of professional skills, and the coercive power of agencies
and government regulations.31 Such power imbalances make honest discursive ethics difficult and belie the
modernist view of moral neutrality, whether in individual psychotherapy or community organizing. According to
Foucault, ethical action stands at the nexus (intersection) between care/control and knowledge/power in
relationships. Community organizers must examine their own motives and the power imbalances inherent in any
organizing context and only then participate in organizing activities, caring for others, and acting responsibly in
daily life and decision making.32
Community organizing settings are a complex mix of power-laden practices, as illustrated by the following
example from a Smithville Neighborhood Organization (SNO) meeting. Imagine that you are a young, poor,
white, single woman who has been invited to your first community forum. It is being held in a huge old
downtown church where everyone seems to know everyone else. It is a mixed racial group. Most of the people in
attendance have clear roles in the process. There are several pastors, some social workers, a few college professors,
some professional community organizers, a journalist, and representatives of SNO and other community
organizing efforts. You are one of the few people who are just representing themselves as neighborhood residents.
Most people sit in small clusters in the pews. You sit alone. The chairperson is a well-respected African-American
pastor who speaks from the pulpit and sets ground rules. He encourages everyone to participate but cautions
against speaking too long or repeating what others have said. He emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and
listening to one another. Clearly he wants the day to go well and for people to feel that their time has been well
spent. All of this formality seems a little strange to you since this is your first meeting of this type.
One of the resolutions calls for a prayer walk to be held in the neighborhood. People of all faiths—including
Roman Catholics, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims—will be asked to walk together through the neighborhood and
pray for justice and peace to prevail. Everyone smiles and nods. Clearly to them this is a “no-brainer,” but you
have serious doubts. You believe that the only way for people to change is for them to accept the fundamentalist
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Christian faith you have found for yourself. In fact, you have been walking the streets alone talking personally to
prostitutes and other street people and have even had the experience of being mistaken for a prostitute yourself. In
spite of your fear, you have begun developing friendships with some of the people you have encountered. In
addition to talking with them about Jesus, you have been doing your best to help them in concrete ways. You feel
that what is really needed is not a prayer walk but the kind of one-on-one witnessing and serving that you have
been doing. When the prayer walk resolution is presented, you dare to get up and speak, awkwardly and a bit
belligerently. It is immediately clear that your input as a poor, white fundamentalist Christian is not welcome. The
group leader clears his throat rather loudly. There is an intake of breath from some of the other participants. No
one actually says anything critical, but the chair moves right along to vote on the resolution almost as if you had
said nothing. The resolution passes with only one abstention, yours. You hang around for a few more minutes and
then leave. No one seems to notice. The group goes about its business and passes several resolutions on behalf of
the community that will be given to various government and private organizations. The meeting ends, and many
of the professionals wonder aloud why so few neighborhood people bothered to come out.
Foucault would assert that, although the community forum had advertised itself as a welcoming space where
neighborhood people would be free to present their views, your experience shows that only those who were able to
meet certain expectations were truly welcome. You felt (probably accurately) that you were under surveillance and
that only certain responses were acceptable. You felt unwanted and unneeded and left early. Those who claimed to
want input from people who, like you, actually live in the target neighborhood were puzzled because they found
themselves talking only to each other!
No one is really to blame in this scenario, but it illustrates Foucault’s point that you must be aware of the
possibility of power imbalances and the subtle ways that those in power—even in a well-intentioned group—tend
to maintain their power.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Conscious use of self
Critical Thinking Question
What techniques or personal disciplines do you use to make sure that you hold yourself accountable for your
moral and ethical behavior?
Foucault challenges us to pay attention to the subtle ways those of us in the helping professions undercut those we
claim to empower and asks us to look at our own motivations for engagement in community organizing (and,
indeed, in the helping professions generally) and our attitudes toward our clientele. Look deeply into your own
beliefs and motivations. Do you see community members as your equals, each with something positive to
contribute to the community organizing enterprise? Do you see yourself as having something unique and
irreplaceable to offer and implicitly believe that the effort would be helpless without your expertise? What kinds of
people do you tend to “write off” as unlikely to make a valuable contribution? How do you differentiate internally
between the self-assurance needed to provide leadership and undue pride? What changes are you prepared to make
after this introspection?
Assess your comprehension of Recent Ethical Frameworks by completing this quiz.
The Ethics of Non-violence
It is May 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, in the southern United States. Picture a group of black children as
young as eight or nine years old marching, singing, and bravely facing fire hoses, police dogs, and boot-clad, beer-
gutted sheriff’s deputies in the American South in support of civil rights, and you have a prototype of non-violent
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resistance.
Non-violence is both a strategy for bringing about social change and an ethical stance. Here non-violence is
approached as an ethical model primarily through an examination of the lives and thought of M. K. Gandhi and
Martin Luther King Jr.
M. K. Gandhi, called Mahatma or “great soul,” was known as the liberator of India who worked tirelessly to end
British domination of the sub-continent. Gandhi was known for both an ethical philosophy and for non-violent
action. His major ethical principles were as follows:
Ahimsa (ahim̩sā) is complete non-violence in thought, word, and deed and was discussed in Chapter 11 as a
necessary component of “soul power.”
Satyagraha (satyāgraha) is respect for the others’ points of view and a willingness to take their perspective
and search for the “inclusive truth.”
Sarvodaya (Hindi, no English pronunciation equivalent) means caring for the neediest of the needy and
implies service to others beyond self and one’s family.
Swadeshi (Hindi, no English pronunciation equivalent) describes the ethical responsibility one has for the
immediate local environment and community.
Simplicity and detachment from material things. Gandhi believed that ownership of anything more than the
bare essentials needed for life is an act of violence, tantamount to stealing.
Non-violence is a way of life. Gandhi was extremely clear that non-violence is a way of life, not simply a
strategy used when one lacks resources for violent action.
Although first formulated in the early to mid-twentieth century in India, Gandhi’s ethical framework and practical
models for non-violent social action are still an important part of social movements and community organizing.
They have influenced tactics used by “Occupy Wall Street” and related efforts in 2011, have supported mutual
economic aid efforts in locales around the world, and form the basis of large parts of the sustainability
movement.33
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a well-known leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, created his own
uniquely American version of non-violence adapted from Gandhi’s practices, the social gospel of theologian
Reinhold Niebuhr, his own upbringing in the black church, and his own astute mind and heart. Most of the
tactics associated with the Civil Rights Movement came from King Jr.’s non-violent ethics, including the
Montgomery Bus Boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, peaceful marches, and quiet acceptance of punishment for
breaking unjust laws.34 For both Gandhi and King, non-violence was first and foremost a way of life and
secondarily a social action tactic that solidified movement participants, shamed perpetrators, garnered support
from on-lookers, and built moral pressure for justice.
Explore Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy for a better understanding. In what ways is non-violence a useful
ethical tool for social change?
The question of whether non-violence works either as an ethical stance or as a social change strategy is important
for community organizers. The answer seems to be both “yes” and “no.” Although Gandhi and King both died at
the hands of assassins, both would probably say that they died as they had lived: with integrity and a sense of inner
peace. Although each had his personal quirks, both lived deeply and richly and left an indelible mark on their
families, their countries, and the world—deepening spiritually as they “walked the walk” and “talked the talk.” In
that profound personal sense, their non-violent ethics were successful. Their impact on the rough-and-tumble
world of politics and the depths of human hatred is less clear. India was freed from Great Britain to become the
largest democracy in the world, but its history since independence has been marred by internal conflict and
ongoing tension with Pakistan: two nations standing with nuclear weapons pointed at each other. The income gap
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within India is increasing dramatically. Jim Crow laws no longer rule the American South. African Americans sit
anywhere they like on public buses, eat at restaurants, and stay at hotels. Many television shows and commercials
show an integrated America. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday has become a national holiday and a day of
community service. His story and that of Rosa Parks (who practiced non-violent resistance which sparked the
Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to move to the back of the bus) are shared with schoolchildren of all
races as examples of wisdom and courage. We have had a mixed racial President who identifies himself as African
American. On the other hand, there is growing evidence that racism and classism are largely ignored by the media,
public, and decision makers. Violence is rampant from gang warfare in the inner cities to incessant warfare in the
Middle East, and many state governments appear to be reinstituting barriers to voting for the poor and minorities.
Clearly there is much work still to be done.
Assess your comprehension of the Ethics of Non-Violence by completing this quiz.
An Ethics of Care
In snowy Smithville, a priest lived in a comfortable rectory while homeless men shivered in the cold, so in spite of
his housekeeper’s grumbling, he opened the house and shared meals and friendship.35 The priest was operating
from an ethics of care.
Love is probably both the most profound and confounding word in the English language. While ethical practices
built on love are foundational to most, if not all, of the world’s great religions, philosopher Nel Noddings has
reconceptualized love and caring for application to education and human services. For Noddings, love or caring is
both a virtue and a description of warm reciprocal relationships, a way of being with others based on the primal
experience of being cared for and caring in return. While she does not deny that caring exists as a virtue or
character trait—and that one can be a caring teacher, a caring physician, a caring social worker, or a caring
community organizer, her theories are based primarily on caring as a reciprocal relationship.36 In Noddings’
ethical framework, care receivers must perceive that they are the recipients of care and accept it. For instance, she
uses the example of a middle school in which the children frequently lament that “nobody cares,” but where the
teachers are doing their best and feel that they care deeply for their students. Noddings suggests that in such a
situation the ethics of care is not working, that a sense of reciprocity is needed for caring to exist. This sense of
reciprocity does not necessarily mean that the receivers of care must thank their care givers verbally. The thanks
can come with a gentle smile, a touch, excitement generated from learning something new, or the connection felt
with others in the completion of a mutually satisfying project.37 An analogy can be drawn in community
organizing. If people on the street feel that nobody cares, something is wrong even if those in charge believe that
they care very deeply.
Genuine caring is based on action and reciprocity. Years ago a doctor and his nurse wife moved into the Smithville
neighborhood because they felt they were being called to care for the people there. They bought a modest home
and set up a medical practice in their living room. They charged only what people could pay and sometimes
accepted barter for their services. Their children played with the neighborhood children and attended the local
public schools, but they really did not become an accepted part of the community until the doctor himself became
ill. Neighbors brought food to the family, provided babysitting so his wife could visit him at the hospital, and
prayed for them in their churches. When he recovered, the family found that they had a whole new relationship
with their neighbors. Everyone relaxed. Where once they felt lonely and as if they were somehow being held at
arms’ length, they now felt accepted. They were invited to people’s homes for get-togethers, neighbors offered
their skills such as car repair or a ride to the store, the doctor was included in neighborhood horseshoe games, and
his wife was invited on shopping trips. They were gently teased, greeted with warm smiles, and occasionally patted
on the back or shoulder. They belonged within a community of care. As these relationships grew the doctor and
his family blossomed, and so did the community as his wife and he were able to make gentle suggestions and
informally influence health habits and practices. This kind of reciprocity is the essence of an ethic of care.
A true ethics of care requires reciprocity or mutuality. Think of times in your life when you really knew that
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someone cared. What was going on? Who was involved? How did you know that you were being cared for? Now
think of times when someone let you know that they appreciated your care for them. What did you do that earned
their appreciation? Was there reciprocity in the experience? If so, how it show itself? If not, is it possible to have
caring without reciprocity? How can you show an ethics of care in your work as a community organizer?
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Conscious use of self
Critical Thinking Question
What actions can you and your leadership team take to make reciprocal caring a natural part of
organizational and community life?
The Classical Tradition: Ethical Behavior as a Rational
Choice
For millennia, ethics was broadly divided into ethical constructs based on rational choices. Beginning with the
ancient Greeks multiple frameworks were developed to enable people to assess the likely consequences of their
behavior, cultivate a sense of duty, and live a virtuous life. Here we will explore a few of those frameworks.
Those who use a utilitarian approach, focus on consequences and aim for actions that will do the most good with
the least harm. John Locke in seventeenth-century England and John Rawls in the twentieth century both applied
this utilitarian approach to social justice. John Locke was an English philosopher who invented the idea of the
“social contract” in which people agree to abide by decisions based on consensus and a balance of rights and
privileges determined by a basic sense of justice (fair play). Locke’s ideas were the basis of the U.S. Declaration of
Independence and Constitution.38 Although his theories of land use and property do not leave room for other
cultural forms such as those of Native Americans,39 Locke’s idea of the social contract is central to both
community organization and social action because it encourages public examination of the unwritten rules of
social contracts and allows for protest if those rules are unjust.
John Rawls, a theorist who wrote in the early 1970s, developed his thinking from Locke in the context of social
contract theory. Social contract theorists believe that government is based on rationality and mutual consent, to
which Rawls added the dimension of justice. Rawls’ basic contention was that the social contract should be fair to
everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, or personal characteristics, but he asserted that this is unlikely to
happen in real life because everyone participates in society from a particular social position. Rawls’ solution was to
recommend that everyone adopt what he called the “veil of ignorance,” a stepping back from our own social
positions and preconceived notions to design social contracts that maximize liberty and opportunity for all.40
Rawls’ position makes a great deal of rational sense, but it is hard to actualize because people do not really sit
down to draw up formal social contracts. Social contracts are implied rather than explicit and are created by
ongoing processes of interaction. Participants in social contracting have unequal power, a fact that is nearly
impossible to ignore. Finally, although it may be desirable for each of us to put on a veil of ignorance and attempt
to view the world from outside ourselves, we are all influenced by unconscious values. This can be seen in the
Rawls’ own framework that values individual liberty above all, a value that is far from universal. In spite of their
weaknesses, though, Rawls’ ideas are useful. It is always good to stand back from your own position and interests
and to encourage others to do the same as you work together to design actions that will promote positive
outcomes for everyone involved.
Philosophers like Immanuel Kant—who operate from an ethics of duty—believe that there are moral laws that
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can be discerned and acted upon through rational decision making.41 Kant is especially known for his concept of
the “categorical imperative,” in which you should (1) consider the principles on which you are basing your action
and (2) examine them to see if they are self-contradictory or irrational. If they make rational sense, then ask
whether you would choose to live in a world where everyone followed your principles. If so, your contemplated
action is probably acceptable; if not, you shouldn’t do it. In some organizing contexts, the categorical imperative
can be challenging, such as when communities organize against pollution and other threats according to the
“nimby” (not-in-my-backyard) concept. Kant raises the questions: “If not here, then where?” “If it is bad for our
families and us, why is it being done at all?” You have an ethical responsibility to see that those involved in your
efforts ask these hard questions.
Those who operate from an ethics of virtue aim to be people of good character. They define good character based
on an amalgam of religious principles, cultural expectations, family values, and personal reflection. The ethics of
virtue originated with the Greek philosophers Plato42 and Aristotle.43 Plato felt that the ultimate goal of life was
justice. He believed that the human being (soul) was composed of body, mind, and spirit and that the virtuous life
was one of balance and control. Physical appetites of all kinds were to be controlled by temperance or moderation
in all things. Anger and fear were controlled by courage, while decision making was controlled by wisdom or
reason. In proper balance, temperance, courage, and wisdom lead to justice in the individual and in the
community. Thus, for Plato, ethical living in society begins with individual self-control. Aristotle, on the other
hand, defined the ultimate goal as eudaimonia or the rational happiness of a balanced life. Aristotle seems to have
been more aware of the realities of daily life than Plato. For Aristotle, happiness not only depended on wisdom
and virtue but also on life circumstances, health, wealth, and personality. He developed a long list of virtues, but
probably his major contribution to ethics was the idea of the golden mean. According to Aristotle, there are many
virtues, and each is a kind of fulcrum or balance point between two equally unethical actions. For instance,
courage is the balance between cowardice and rashness. Generosity is the balance point between stinginess and
wastefulness. Justified anger, for the right amount of time for the right reasons, is the balance point between
indifference to wrong and uncontrolled rage. The golden mean is not an absolute but depends on the individual,
his or her status in life, and the circumstances. For instance, the courage needed to go into battle is different than
the courage needed to stand up for your beliefs in a public forum. The courage needed to fight for selfish ends is
different from the courage needed to fight for the rights and needs of those who are unable to repay you. The
amount of money needed for a rich person to be considered generous is greater than that needed by a poor person.
Virtues are the inner characteristics that make it possible for you to serve others fairly and kindly. They are
developed through action and reflection on the results of action, as well as through listening to your conscience.
Interpersonal Communication
Understanding and Mastery: Developing and sustaining behaviors that are congruent with the values and ethics of the
profession
Critical Thinking Question
Think about what you have learned about the activities required of community organizers. Which of these
classic theories speaks to your own values and what you know of the values of your profession? Under what
circumstances could each of these views be applied?
Assess your comprehension of Ethics as a Rational Choice by completing this quiz.
An Ethics of Joyful Sharing
One of life’s greatest miracles is that there is something rather than nothing. According to the physical principle of
entropy, systems tend to move from order to disorder, and so the universe should be a gray haze. Instead, systems
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often move from simplicity to greater complexity, wounds heal, seeds grow, children are born, and communities
flourish. No one knows exactly why this happens, but most of us find this growth very deeply satisfying—
especially when we share the experience with others. There are many ways of sharing the life-giving principle.
Most are so simple that they are easily overlooked, and many begin in childhood.
Creativity, joy, and sharing life are all important components of ethical practice. At least four components are
involved: an intentional focus on the positive, celebration in the midst of despair and external threats, creative
sharing as participation in building a high-quality life, and taking care of one another. Through joyful creativity
and fun, participants in your organizing efforts will gain a whole new perspective on life and sustain long, tedious,
and often frustrating efforts. Celebration not only builds community spirit but can be an effective antidote to
destruction and decay.
The ethic of joyful sharing is a way of life rather than a formal philosophy. It has many facets, including
community kitchens, community playground raisings, installation art, community murals, street dances and block
parties, community choirs and bands, community theaters, school sports, and children’s recitals. Not only does
sharing build the enjoyable side of community life, it engenders cooperation on even more serious activities, such
as filling sandbags to prevent floods, participating in volunteer fire departments, and raising money for families
devastated by disaster or disease. An ethic of sharing sounds easy, but it involves risk. Not everyone will want to
share, and adults, as well as children, will encounter bullies in their lives. In the long run, though, an ongoing
ethic of joyful sharing weaves a strong, resilient social fabric that can withstand disaster. We are meant to meet the
difficulties of life together with courage and joy. Successful community organizing activities are often built on this
ethical foundation.44
Practicing Cultural Humility
Cultural humility builds on an earlier idea of cultural competence. Cultural competence is the knowledge of
how other’s cultural heritage may affect their perceptions, responses, and behavior; it is the ability to understand
how your own culture affects your values, thoughts, feelings, and behavior and to analyze how cultural perceptions
affect interaction and to use this knowledge to act in non-judgmental ways. Cultural humility takes this a step
further. It is the willingness to listen to and learn from others, the admission that your ways are not necessarily
right in all times and all places, and an understanding that simply knowing about another culture does not mean
that you understand everything about everyone who shares that culture. The opposite of cultural humility is cultural
arrogance.
The concepts of cultural competence and cultural humility both evolved as a response to the cultural arrogance of
the northern European, rationalist, largely white male colonial culture that has dominated the world since at least
the Age of Exploration in the late fifteenth century. It should come as no surprise that not everyone shares the self-
centered individualism that is a hallmark of the dominant culture. Cultural competency and cultural humility are
in essence social movements that oppose the dominant paradigm.
Cultural humility puts respect for individual and cultural differences at the core of effective practice with
individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. In order to begin practicing cultural humility you
should:
Examine your own cultural history, prejudices, and assumptions without blaming yourself but with a
determination to change if necessary.
Remember that everyone has multiple identities such as race, class, ethnic identity, gender, age, and even
size—and everyone prioritizes these identities differently. Be very careful of even unintentional
stereotyping.45
Examine and confront your own prejudices, those of people in the target community, and those who are
considered adversaries.
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If you are a member of a historically privileged group, be especially conscious of how the privileges you take
for granted may be out of reach to others.
Decide how you will confront prejudice in yourself and in others.
Act courageously and wisely in response to blatant or implied “-isms” that you encounter.46
Doman Lum, an Asian American, wrote an excellent book for everyone who works with members of diverse
populations, especially people of color, but that is relevant to lighter skinned, working class people as well.47 Lum
has found that members of a wide range of ethnic groups, philosophies, and religions esteem collective values,
family interdependence and obligation, metaphysical harmony in nature or religion, ethnic group identity, and
loyalty to family and community above self. Since this is the case you should be aware of (and cultivate) these
values within your leadership team, your organization, your focal community system, and yourself. Everyone
should:
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: The worth and uniqueness of individuals including: ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual
orientation, and other expressions of diversity
Critical Thinking Question
Reflect on your own cultural heritage and how it will impact your work in communities. What might you
do to ensure that you constantly practice cultural humility as you participate in community organizing and
throughout your life with others?
Assess your comprehension of Cultural Humility by completing this quiz.
Value family unification, parental leadership, respect for the elderly, and collective family decision making.
Encourage the healthy application of religious and spiritual beliefs and practices which join the individual to
collective institutions and forces in the universe, resulting in harmony, unity, and wholeness.
Seek to use family kinship and community networks as support for persons (and communities) who can
benefit from collective helping.
Value the rediscovery of ethnic language and cultural identity which strengthens individuals’ and
communities’ relationships to their heritage.
Promote the harmony or sense of congruity and agreement in feelings, actions, ideas, and interest within
and between persons. Harmony is essential to the balance of the person in relationship to others, society, the
universe, and community life.
Foster cooperation that brings families and groups together in a common sense of purpose, which may
include pooling resources for survival, coping with problem situations, meeting a common crisis, and
working with the extended family as part of an ethnic community.
Acknowledge the reality of historical trauma in the lives of multi-cultural members and strive to understand
the impact of such trauma in the present.48
Be aware of the micro-aggressions which people of color experience daily and be careful with phrases and
behaviors that may cause unintentional hurt.49
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Spirituality, Religious Beliefs, and Practice
In our secular world, many would argue that religious faith is not necessary for effective community organizing.
Yet many organizers have found it so helpful that it would be remiss to leave out religious beliefs and practices as a
frequently used basis for ethical decision making. At the risk of leaving someone out, here are a few individuals for
whom religious faith informed and sustained their organizing practice. Mahatma (the “great soul”) Gandhi was a
member of the Jain sect of Hinduism who had a great respect for the sanctity of life. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
an ordained Christian minister who never forgot his roots in the social gospel, began his organizing practice as
pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama. The Dalai Lama challenges us to develop habits of
peace within the context of our own lives and vocations. These habits include movement away from self and
toward others, cultivating contentment, being honest and just, acting against injustice, and working together for a
better world right where we are. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr., was
known both for his scholarly focus on the Jewish prophetic vision of social justice and also on his active
participation in the Civil Rights Movement. Heschel is known for saying “My legs were praying” during the
March on Selma in which he bravely marched at King’s side as they faced vicious dogs and riot police. The list
goes on: Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her dedication to the dying; Archbishop Oscar Romero, a quiet scholar
who became a martyr for the poor of El Salvador; Episcopal Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa who—along
with Nelson Mandela—was a powerful voice that helped end apartheid and who facilitated reconciliation in that
hate-filled country; Ingrid Mattson, a president of the Islamic Society of North America (a diverse body of North
American Muslims who stands for orthodox Islamic values and has advocated understanding in spite of the hatred
Muslims have faced since 9/11); and dozens of others sustained by faith. Each of these people has shown
consistent dedication to others and to a high quality of life for all people, especially the poor and disenfranchised.
Some have lived long lives; others were assassinated. Some lived lives of voluntary poverty; others were privileged.
Some were tortured; some were honored. Many experienced both disdain and acclaim. They come from different
religious traditions and different parts of the world. Together, however, they provide insight into values and
spiritual practices that can sustain you over the long haul.
Common spiritual factors among them include:
Acknowledging that there are many legitimate paths to Truth.
Embracing a religious tradition and its spiritual disciplines.
Practicing one or more spiritual disciplines such as prayer, contemplation, meditation, journaling, spiritual
reading, or good works.
Participating in a community of like-minded people.
Practicing compassion, empathy, and non-violence.
Being willing to speak the truth in love, no matter what the personal consequences.
Taking time daily for spiritual reflection.
Listening to others to discern the inclusive truth when there is controversy.
Self-Development
Understanding and Mastery: Clarification of personal and professional values
Critical Thinking Question
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Consider the role (or lack of it) that spirituality or religious beliefs and practices play in your life. How will
they influence your community organizing practice? How might they affect your work with others of
differing beliefs and practices?
The lives of these leaders make it clear that an active spirituality was necessary for them to survive and thrive in the
rough-and-tumble world of community organizing.
Professional Ethical Standards and Codes of Ethics
For our purposes, a profession is defined as a group of people who share an occupation with a recognized body of
scholarly knowledge and sophisticated skills. A professional association or professional organization is defined as
a voluntary group of self-defined professionals which oversees the legitimate practice of the occupation, safeguards
the public interest, represents the interest of practitioners, maintains their privileged position, and ensures that
regulation remains within the profession, not outside it. Codes of ethics are an intrinsic part of this self-regulatory
process.50
The functions of professional associations are somewhat self-contradictory. On the one hand, they exist to ensure
that services to the public meet high standards of quality and ethical practice so their codes of ethics define
acceptable behaviors, provide benchmarks for self-evaluation, and establish a framework for professional behavior
and responsibilities. They are a vehicle for professional identity and are a mark of occupational maturity. On the
other hand, they protect professional privilege including access to educational programs, licensure, public
accountability, and reasonable pay. The privileges of professionalism can be seen everywhere including social
work, human services, and community organizing where those who do direct services have the least education, do
the hardest hands-on work, are paid the least, and are often part of the target population.51 As you examine
professional ethical standards, keep these tensions and contradictions in mind. When codes of ethics are used in
mechanical ways, they can substitute for the hard thinking and intuitive discernment that sensitive life in
community demands. However, when combined with reflection—particularly on challenging examples—codes of
ethics can help frame daily decision making.
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: Integration of the ethical standards outlined by the National Organization for Human
Services and Council for Standards in Human Service Education
Critical Thinking Question
Some people have expressed concern that the code of ethics in its present form may encourage white, middle
class privilege and bias and encourage stereotyping of people of color and those of low socio-economic
status. What steps will you take to avoid such bias in your community organizing practice?
Community organizing touches many professions including planning, community development, community
education, community health care, community psychology, and rural sociology. It is an intrinsic component of
macro-level human services and social work. All of these professions adhere broadly to the axiom: “First of all, do
no harm.” Harm can come in somewhat surprising forms and has broad ethical implications for community
organizing. For instance, it may be tempting to seek available grant funding for a time-limited opportunity, but
you must ask yourself and potential recipients whether things are likely to be worse once the funding is lost. At
other times, it may be tempting to impose strict rules to protect the weak from exploitation, but you must always
look for unexpected (latent or dysfunctional) consequences.
Review the Ethical Standards for Human Services and the National Association of Social Workers Code of
Ethics. Consider what you have learned about community organizing thus far. Which of the standards will be
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most relevant to your community organizing efforts? What do you intend to do to put them into practice?
In addition to the formal values and principles of practice that are intrinsic to both social work and human
services, each profession emphasizes the importance of culturally competent practice or the ability of workers to
assist persons from a variety of backgrounds and diverse viewpoints. However, you must be careful with these
codes, especially when working in diverse communities. Most, if not all, of the values and practice principles in
these professional codes are built on the ethical standards of the white, male rationalists of northern
Enlightenment Europe. This is especially true of the emphasis on individual self-determination, sometimes
without consideration of extended family or community contexts. In fact, the implicit values orientation toward
individuality can often be “heard” in the goals set for treatment or even for community organizing. In such an
individualistic world, the community becomes a stage for individual actors rather than the web of mutually
satisfying relationships that are the basis for a high quality of life for everyone.
Assess your comprehension of the Codes of Ethics of Human Services and Social Work by taking this short
quiz.
Summary
In this chapter you had the opportunity to compare and contrast the modernist paradigm with the quality of life
paradigm that is the core value of this text. In addition, you were introduced to several major ethical models and
encouraged to use them to guide your practice:
Post-modernism introduced the idea that social reality is constructed through dialogue and consensus. You
were encouraged to examine your own assumptions and guide others to do the same.
Critical theory encouraged you to look for ways that you and those you serve have developed a false
consciousness that led you to believe that the way life is—with all its injustice—is the way life should be.
You were encouraged to think critically about the social world and have the courage to take the actions
needed for positive change.
In discursive ethics you learned about the importance of making sure that all participants are able to make
themselves heard and were shown a few ways of structuring conversations to enable this to happen.
Ethical use of power encouraged you to critically examine the ways your own attitudes and actions may
undercut participants.
The discussion of non-violence centered on the ethical roots for the social movements led by Gandhi and
Martin Luther King Jr. and examined non-violence as an ethical stance as well as a social action strategy.
The ethics of care emphasized the importance of warm, loving relationships in community building.
Ethical behavior as a rational choice emphasized the philosophers and philosophies that have traditionally
been associated with ethics as an intellectual discipline and the applications of their work to community
organizing.
An ethic of joyful sharing introduced the idea that enjoyment of life can be an ethical imperative and that
life with others can and should be seen as a creative, rewarding adventure.
Cultural humility provided some concrete suggestions for respecting and celebrating diversity.
Religion and spirituality highlighted some notable people of various cultures and faiths, the religious
practices they share, and some of the ways a strong spiritual foundation can sustain engagement in
community organizing over the long haul.
Professional ethical standards examined the role such standards play in ethical practice. No attempt was
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made to cover specific standards because they frequently change and because community organizing touches
on many different professions, each of which has its own ethical code.
As you read this chapter carefully, think about how the ethical concepts affect you and apply them to your
community organizing practice. You can be reasonably sure that your decisions—and those of your organizing
team—will positively impact the communities you serve and our society.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of the chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 14 Community Organizing with Web-based
Tools
VLADGRIN/Shutterstock
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Chapter Outline
1. Impact of the Internet and Social Networking on Community Organizing 255
2. Horizontal Community Organizing 263
3. Connectivism and Community Organizing 264
4. Strengths of Using the Web for Community Organizing 266
5. Weaknesses, Dangers, and Threats of the Internet or to the Internet 267
1. Summary 268
Learning Objectives
In this chapter, you will examine some of the principles and issues regarding the use of the Internet in community
organizing activities.
The Impact of the Internet and Social Networking on
Community Organizing
Beginning with its first widespread use in the mid-1990s, the Internet has resulted in many changes in community
organizing. Its full impact is yet to be seen, but here are five major changes the internet has brought so far: (1)
speed, (2) extent of reach,(3) expansion of means of communication, (4) connectivity, and (5) access to vast
quantities of information. Major areas to consider as you incorporate Web-based tools into your organizing efforts
are:
The use of your Web presence.
Principles of digital storytelling.
The proper mix of communication tools to keep your constituents involved and to decrease the virtual
distance among them.
The use of Web-based tools in advocacy.
The role of increased connectivity in the creation of self-organizing, multi-dimensional, blended virtual–real
communities.
Major weaknesses of Web and digitally based organizing efforts and possible threats to its free use.
Broad Impact of the Internet on Community
Organizing
There is a debate in the community organizing world about whether the Internet has created a revolution in the
way we experience community life—especially in the way we do community organizing—or whether it is simply a
set of tools that accelerate existing organizing processes. Certainly, there are things that have not changed. If you
are organizing advocacy or social movements, you still need to increase supporters’, observers’, and adversaries’
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perceptions of your WUNC (Worthiness, Unity, Numbers, and Commitment). In any kind of organizing, you
still have to understand and use the concepts and skills explored in this text including systems thinking,
community dynamics, varieties of organizing, the community organizing cycle, engagement of leaders and
participants, organizational structures, power, and political realities. You still have to behave ethically. These are
basic to community organizing in any time and in any place. On the other hand, the Web makes it possible to
Assess your comprehension of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Web-Based Tools in Community Organizing
by completing this quiz.
Do all of these things faster.
Reach vastly more people.
Offer a wide variety of communication tools.
Provide simultaneous global connections that once would have been impossible.
Allow access to huge quantities of information and opinion.
Table 14.1 examines the strengths and weaknesses of each of these dimensions.
Table 14.1 Strengths and Weaknesses of Web
Use in Community Organizing
Characteristic Strength Weakness Considerations
Speed Initiate action quickly.
May not give enough
thought to actions.
Is this the best move at this
time? Is it worthy? Is it ethical?
Reach
Gain access to large
numbers of people.
Large numbers of
people may be able to
reach you, but some of
your major
constituents may have
limited Web access.
Who do we want to reach and
why? Are different levels of
access needed? In what ways
might our adversaries be able
to use our technologies to hurt
us?
Wide variety of
communication
tools
Offers many ways to reach
supporters. If you miss them
through one channel, you
will probably reach them
through another.
It is hard to manage
multiple
communication tools
and keep them up to
date.
How will we manage our
communications? What
technological and human
resources do we need? What
technologies are available to
our primary constituents?
Connectivity
Provides many
opportunities to develop
personal and professional
relationships with people
around the world; aids in
building global
communities.
Some of these
connections can be
bogus, misleading, or
downright dangerous.
There are few cues to
discern the difference.
Which of the many
opportunities will be the best
match for our organizational
mission? What criteria will we
use for trustworthiness?
Access to
information
Affords many opportunities
for research and exploration
of best practices.
May contain
inaccurate, misleading,
or malicious
information.
What information do we need
and why? How are we going to
check its accuracy?
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Internal Communication Goals and Web-based Tools
In many ways community organizing is about communication. Within your focal community system you must
build and maintain your base of support, develop a solid leadership team, and facilitate effective two-way
communication between your leadership team and your stakeholders.
Your objective in building an internal communication network and base of support is to ensure that your
organizing effort has the ongoing human, financial, and material resources necessary to accomplish its outcome
goals in light of your vision, mission, and values. Although the analogy is imperfect, you can learn from the
marketing insights of business and industry: product, promotion, placement/platform, and price. Your product
is the desired outcome of your organizing effort. The community organizing cycle that you explored in Chapters 5
to 9 is about creating the best product possible. You should give some thought to whether and how Web-based
communications and services have a role in bringing about your desired outcomes. Promotion is about getting
people to believe that your organization, the needs you have identified, and your proposed solutions are worth
investment of their limited time, money, and personal reputation. For many years, promotion in community
organizing was done through conventional means: articles in local newspapers, radio and television coverage, face-
to-face community meetings, target mailings to potential supporters, billboards, church bulletins, individual
conversations, and flyers distributed throughout the focal community system. These are still good ways to
promote your community organizing efforts. The digital world has added others—such as organizational websites,
sharing on broad-based social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and “pooled advertising” between
organizations with similar missions. However, the digital world has also changed some promotional realities
because it has added a whole new dimension of interactivity and receiver choice.1 Even in the community
organizing world, the wide variety of communication channels and opportunities for engagement has exposed
people to a constant deluge of similar information. This, in turn, has led to a backlash. Many people now put a
premium on privacy and personal control of the messages they acknowledge. They are no longer passive receivers.
They appreciate interaction, the ability to have their questions answered in real time or on their schedule,
opportunities for engagement, and the option to give feedback even if it is only clicking a button to sign a petition
or the chance to answer a quick survey. They enjoy a game-like atmosphere so, for instance, a survey of priorities
which allows them to arrange the answers is appealing. Even if it is only for a few seconds, they want their
investment of time and energy to matter.2
In the initial phases of community organizing, placement is about getting the news about your community
organizing effort and ways to engage in it out to the people who are most likely to respond positively. In the face-
to-face world, placement in the initial phase meant holding meetings or providing services in places and times that
were most likely to attract target participants. Placement still means these things. However, the digital world has
added new opportunities. Organizational meetings can now be held via real-time collaborative sites that enable
participants to communicate simultaneously across many miles, continents, oceans, and time zones.3 Several sites
offer remarkable simultaneous opportunities to communicate via written chat, audio teleconferencing, video
linkages, desk-top sharing of websites, online whiteboard spaces for brainstorming, capacities for shared document
creation, platforms for visual presentations, and links to videos. They have the capacity to record interactions for
future viewing and analysis by participants or those unable to attend in real time. Effective online conferencing is
available through open educational resources so it is quite possible to keep costs low and quality high. In general,
it is best to find a platform (technological support system) that is free, globally accessible, and allows for written
chat, oral chat, whiteboard, slide presentations, desktop sharing, and recording. (Note of caution: While video
capabilities can add a certain amount of glamour, they are often unnecessary because they can be unreliable and
expensive, eat up bandwidth, and do not substantially add to the experience. If you have a choice between video
capabilities and reliable simultaneous audio, choose the audio).
In the implementation phase, placement is about connecting those who would benefit from your services to your
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organization. Here the Web offers asynchronous opportunities (available any place at any time) including
discussion forums blogs, and wikis, and synchronous opportunities (available in real time) such as the meeting
areas mentioned above and microblogging applications such as Twitter. You can design such modalities to be
accessed by password through your organizational website. Accessibility is the key to online services. Be sure that
your service areas are easily available to those with minimum access to technology. One promising avenue for
service delivery is the use of cell phones and text messaging because even the poorest of the poor frequently have
access to them.4
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
Locate and explore the Web-based tools used by several different charities or advocacy efforts. (Hint: just go
to Google and type in the name of the charity.) Note their design and the opportunities they give for
interaction and engagement. What aspects of each appeal to you and why? What aspects do you find off-
putting? What elements would you probably incorporate into your community organizing efforts?
Price does not really have a direct analogy in community organizing but could refer to the amount of time,
energy, and financial resources expended through participation in your organizing effort. You should offer many
opportunities for both online as well as face-to-face engagement. For instance, many social movements have online
alert systems that apprise people of a need for action and offer the recipient several choices:
A button to click to send a pre-written message to a target individual or organization
A space under the pre-written message to include a personalized message along with the pre-written message
Several places to click and share the message on large social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter
A place to make a protected financial contribution to the particular action
Links to video presentations, especially YouTube
Often such alerts give additional options for engagement such as access to telephone numbers of political
representatives and bureaucratic decision makers and announcements of social action activities, such as rallies and
legislative action days. A few have provision for setting priorities. For instance, some political organizations
periodically ask members to prioritize their action agenda or to select which candidates to support through moving
and organizing items in a list. These interactive techniques allow the message recipient to consistently feel like a
part of the organizing effort.
The Web is especially useful for facilitating distributed leadership and management activities through simple
conference calls or the sophisticated conferencing capabilities that were discussed earlier. Before the advent of
Web-based technologies, geographically dispersed leaders were forced to spend significant time and money to
participate in face-to-face meetings. While there are definite emotional and informational advantages with face-to-
face meetings—especially through the sharing and relationship building that goes on during breaks, lunch, and
evening relaxation—there are definite disadvantages as well. Face-to-face meetings can reduce productivity because
time on the road and recovery from travel take time away from other duties and may sap the energy needed to
make good decisions. Online meetings help eliminate such stresses. Experience shows that leadership efforts seem
to flourish when both face-to-face and online meetings are used.5 Face-to-face meetings solidify trust and clarify
nuances of meaning. Online meetings or telephone conferences build on that established trust; facilitate mental
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clarity; and save time, money, and physical energy. Some organizations effectively use blended meetings or
conferences, holding small face-to-face gatherings in several locations which are linked to sophisticated distance
conferencing technologies, thus simultaneously taking advantage of the strengths of both face-to-face and Net-
based communications.
Ongoing communication between leadership and constituents was addressed earlier from the participants’
viewpoint. From the leadership viewpoint, Web-based tools can facilitate top-down communication through
action alerts, blogs, and newsletters that can be sent directly from the organization to its constituents. Effective
communication from leadership to participants depends on timeliness, provision for interaction, and an accurate
database of constituents that is constantly updated. It is especially important to keep members apprised of major
leadership decisions and to engage participation from those who indicate an interest in some aspect of your work.
All of these tasks can be facilitated by a well-designed database management system based on your organization’s
needs, but database management is both time consuming and jargon filled. Some community organizing
movements (and social service agencies) engage students of community informatics (an interdisciplinary academic
field) in service learning projects that involve the development and management of such databases. You should
check with the information technology (IT) department of a local college or university for such assistance.
Assess your comprehension of the Use of Web-Based Tools in Constituency Building by completing this quiz.
Web Presence
Externally, you must make sure that important individuals and organizations within your micro-, mezzo-, and
macro-systems understand your outcome goals, support your methods, and are willing to accept the legitimacy of
your efforts. Unfortunately, you may also have to defend your effort against attack. Digital tools help enable your
organization to meet these communication goals.
Web presence refers to the many ways your organization presents itself publicly in the digital world.6 Its elements
are constantly changing and include your website, any links that your organization has through social networks
such as Facebook and Twitter, Web search engines (i.e., Google), as well as Web-based references to your
organizing effort from other sources. Of these, your website is crucial because it is often the first glimpse people
have of your organization. There are many free or inexpensive services available to help you and your leadership
team create an excellent website. But before you can talk intelligently with a Web designer, your leadership team
should make some decisions so that your website is
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
What specific things will you take into account as you build a Web presence for your organization?
Readily accessible to anyone who has Internet access. Beware of “bells and whistles” that exclude potential
participants.
Simple and easy to navigate. It should have an internal search capacity that uses terms that are useful to
everyone.
Clear so that anyone conducting a search can easily find the legal name of your organization on the
homepage and understand your mission and outcomes. Avoid using unique jargon and meaningless
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acronyms.
Easily updated with as few sections as possible that need regular  updating. An infrequently updated
website can make your organization look incompetent and may cause searchers to ask if it still exists. But
because many community organizing efforts are small and volunteer-based, updating the website tends to
become a low priority.
Simple and engaging design attracts viewers. Crowded websites may intrigue Web designers, but they confuse
busy searchers and break down easily.
Clearly linked to relevant resources that are periodically checked for their functionality. These resources may
include outside links and relevant literature produced by members of your organization. As much as
possible, these resources should be available under Creative Commons licensing (a way of ensuring that
users can freely use materials).
Designed with different levels of access. Carefully assess which information is needed by whom. Your first
(public) page should give the facts and inspire interest and support; other public pages should enhance your
service mission; and private pages should be designed for enhancing the mission of the organization and
conducting the business of the organization and its teams and committees.
Equipped with links for memberships and protected donations. Your website should double as a communication
center for your organizing effort and should offer searchers the opportunity to join and support your cause.
Clearly dated with attribution for its creation. This information should be on the bottom of the first page and
updated each time changes are made. It gives your site legitimacy and emphasizes the timeliness of the
information.
Have a clear means of unsubscribing or changing contact information. People’s interests change easily these
days. They respect organizations that allow them to easily join and withdraw just as easily.
The leadership team should remember that your website is your space in the virtual world and your organization
owns it in much the same way it owns a building or other real property. Since you own it, you have the right and
responsibility to care for it so make sure you know what you want it to accomplish and require your Web designer
to meet your needs, not vice versa.
Assess your comprehension of Building Your Web-Presence by completing this quiz.
Social Networking
Effective community organizing efforts have effective plans for building participation and engaging their members
that blend the best of the old with the tools and techniques of the new to develop social networks.7 The Free
Management Library mentioned earlier in this text is a great resource for management information8 and has many
articles on the use of social networking. There is an emerging consensus in these articles that social networking
works best when you target existing online communities who may be interested in your organizing effort and find
ways to reach them. Lisa Chapman, the library’s guru on social networking, has several suggestions that have been
adapted here. Your social networking (and other online marketing strategies) should flow consistently from your
mission, values, and outcome goals.9 You should:
Find and listen to conversations that may already be taking place online about your general area of interest,
your efforts so far, your competitors, and your competitors’ strategies.
Find and listen to online expressions of your ideal participants’ needs (presumably you have first done this
in real time with real people).
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Choose key social media sites that are likely to attract people like those you would like to reach.10
Link the sites you have chosen into your own website.
Engage in conversations and provide useful information. (Note: Do not be surprised if you do not have
many interactive conversations. Many people use social networking sites such as Facebook for information
rather than dialogue.)
Use blogs connected to your website to build a following. Collect useful information on your participants
that will provide clues to their interests and their likely level of engagement. Add this information to your
databases.
Use microblogs such as Twitter judiciously.
Track and monitor your activities and their results.
Tweak for continuous improvement.
Systematically repeat these steps.
Chapman also recommends that you find ways to engage your online audience in building your social networking
capabilities. The following ideas are adapted from her suggestions:
Gather a team to strategize social media marketing. For community organizing ventures, this should
primarily include key participants on your leadership team, representatives from your focal community, and
someone with expertise in social networking or community informatics. (If you don’t have such a person on
your leadership team, try recruiting a service learning student from a local college or university.)
Convene this group for a minimum of four hours. Bring the current marketing plan (from the planning and
implementation phases of the community organizing cycle). Review its main points. If you do not have a
marketing plan or if your marketing plan does not match what you are actually doing or intend to do, go
back to the planning and implementation phases of the community organizing cycle and integrate social
networking strategies with other approaches. Do not tack social networking onto a dysfunctional existing
plan. (A note on process: It is probably better if this first meeting is face to face and rather lengthy to build
momentum, develop mutual trust, and build informal working relationships. Make the event as pleasant as
possible with good food, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and frequent breaks. Provide child care if
members of the community are involved. Provide travel reimbursement or a small stipend if low-income
participants are involved. Later meetings can be held by conference call or in an online communication
room like those discussed earlier.)
Discuss your marketing and advertising goals and how they fit into your organizing mission. Do your
current marketing and advertising efforts achieve your goals? If so, challenge the team to set higher goals,
and brainstorm ways that social media marketing can be implemented to improve results.
Identify online communities where your ideal participant congregates or searches. For example, if you are an
emerging local organization, log onto your search engine and enter the keywords “(your city) directories” to
find local directories in which your organization should be listed.
Remember that search engines work through key words and phrases typed in by potential users. Make sure
that you have searched and decided on specific keywords and keyword phrases that you use consistently in
all of your online content that will help potential contacts to find you.
Make sure your organization is listed in a minimum of two to six online “properties” or sites (all optimized
for your keywords) that include at least one website, blog, social network site, and directory. The more
places you exist online, the greater your chances of being found!
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Brainstorm online campaigns that will help you achieve your goals. Remember, social media are effective
only if you have an end in mind. Otherwise, they are fun but can be a waste of time and precious resources.
Assign specific individuals or teams and time frames for actualizing your plans.
Create clear ways for planning participants to communicate between meetings of the whole social
networking team.
Set a time to re-gather in person, synchronously online, or in a blending of the two to review progress and
make needed changes.
Have fun and be creative!
Assess your comprehension of Social Networking as an Organizing Tool by completing this quiz.
Using Digital Storytelling
Earlier in this text we discussed the importance of storytelling and narratives as ways of building support for
community organizing efforts and increasing participants’ identification with your efforts. Try using digital
storytelling—the use of Web-based tools to create short video-based art forms—that can enhance the ancient art
of the storytelling task by enabling creators to combine visual images, music, oral narratives, still photographs, and
interactive activities into an aesthetic and compelling whole.11
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Constituency building and other advocacy techniques such as lobbying, grassroots
movements, and community development and organizing
Critical Thinking Question
How might digital storytelling and other Web-based tools be used to effectively tell your organization’s story
to potential supporters?
You will find that digital storytelling can be used in community organizing to
Use as a marketing tool to tell the story of your organization.
Make community needs real to potential supporters and to community members.
Empower individuals by enabling them to reflect on the relationship between their lives and social reality.
Learn new, relevant skills. When done collaboratively, digital storytelling is a way to build mutual support
and trust. Several Web-based organizations that introduce digital storytelling can easily be found through a
standard search engine. One that seems very helpful is the Center for Digital Storytelling located in
Berkeley, California.12 Some colleges or universities offer credit-bearing classes in the field.
Explore the Center for Digital Storytelling. Consider the ways digital storytelling might be included in the tools
your organizing effort uses to promote its cause.
Horizontal Community Organizing
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The Internet has not only expanded the speed of making connections but has also made it possible to gather
information quickly and has enabled horizontal organizing, in which similar events and projects can be actualized
simultaneously while still being tailored to specific communities’ needs. One example of horizontal organizing is
the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 which grew from just a few protesters in New York City to a
nationwide movement with “occupations” in dozens of cities in less than two months, mostly through the use of
social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The Occupy movement worked on the concept of a trope—a
stereotypical image, process, or concept passed along through social media—that catches people’s imaginations
across ethnicities and vocations and becomes part of our common worldview. The Occupy movement used
images, such as those of peaceful protesters being pepper sprayed at a University of California campus, and phrases
such as “We are the 99%” (that is, those who all together have less of the country’s resources than the 1% who are
most wealthy), to unite very different people and symbolize many different struggles and fears. From September to
November 2011, the Occupy movement spread like a contagion with thousands literally camping out in public
parks.
Horizontal Web-based organizing is not so very different from the “radical” days of the late 1960s except that it is
much faster. Like the protests of that time, it is an effective means of expressing disillusionment with the current
system—but it is unclear whether it is equally effective in supporting positive actions, such as the sustainability
movement and rebuilding local economies. While such protests may encourage the change process by exciting and
engaging masses of people, the real work of shifting from the current failing growth model to the Quality of Life
model will take calm common sense, experimentation, and sharing good ideas in a process that is not as
exhilarating as mass protests but is far more important in the long haul.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: An understanding of capacities, limitations, and resiliency of human systems
Critical Thinking Question
Since the so-called Arab Spring in January 2011 and the massive Occupy movement that same year, social
movements seem to be emerging ever more rapidly. In what ways did the speed and connectivity of the
Internet provide an impetus to their initial success? In what ways might it have contributed to their eventual
fragmentation? What does this tell you about the judicious use of Internet tools for community organizing?
Have Web-based tools fundamentally changed the nature of community organizing, or have they simply
increased its speed?
Connectivism and Community Organizing
Connectivism is a learning theory created primarily by Professor George Siemens of Athabasca University that
brings us back to Chapter 2 and its emphasis on the importance of the number and quality of connections among
individuals, quasi-groups, associations, and formal organizations as well as adding the dimension of online
networking.13 Siemens’ theory is somewhat complex and tied to other complicated theories of learning, but its
essence is as follows:
Learning (and presumably effectiveness in community organizing) depends on the ability to make
connections among ideas and people that would not ordinarily be connected.
The insights gained from these connections can be applied to a wide variety of topics and issues.
Connectivity, according to Siemens, is the number, speed, and consistency of connections you or your
organization can make and is characterized by multiple relationships and a lack of hierarchy.
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Explore Connectivism Slides to learn more about George Siemens’ Connectivism theory. How is Connectivism a
useful tool to encourage sharing among community organizers around the world?
The Internet and especially social networking has greatly increased our ability to communicate quickly and easily
with people we do not know personally but who share our interests and concerns. Broadly stated, the more
connections members of your organization are able to make—combined with careful listening, building on good
ideas in your own setting, reflecting on results, and reciprocal sharing with others in your network—the greater
the likelihood of wise decision making everywhere. One of your many goals as a locally based community
organizer should be to increase the connectivity of your organization through social networking. Conversely, one
of your personal goals as someone who is committed to positive engagement of people in improving their quality
of life should be to encourage global, non-hierarchical sharing.
The Internet gives you many tools to make connectivity a reality. As in many aspects of community organizing,
connectivity starts with a Web search using key words that give you access to organizations and social networking
sites relevant to your organizing interests. Spend time investigating these sites, identify links to other sites of
interest, jump into ongoing conversations, prioritize those you want to continue to follow, and keep alert for other
interesting related links. You should do this as an engaged individual but should also encourage it among your
leadership team and key participants. While you should use due diligence to avoid allegiance to spurious efforts,
you should be unafraid to participate and contribute ideas and questions. If you intentionally practice
connectivism and encourage those involved in your organizing effort to do the same, you will be surprised at the
number of ties you have in common with the people you encounter, including those directly relevant to your
organizing practice and others that are relevant to your other interests. If you intentionally tie people you know
with others who share common interests and concerns, you will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of exchange,
knowledge, and even soul power that can be generated—as well as the fun of feeling engaged.
Assess your comprehension of Connectivism by completing this quiz.
Connectivity, Asset-building, and Sustainability
There are a number of Web-based, connected organizations emerging that are based on social networking and that
are important supports of sustainability and the asset-based approach. All are versions of the Web-based,
connected, horizontal organizing that has become the new norm for community organizing. These organizations
are each intentionally designed to facilitate social networking specifically around the topic of sustainability. You
will find each to be helpful places to begin your exploration of social networking, particularly for the kind of
community organizing advocated here. Each of the websites has its own strengths and weaknesses which give you
and your leadership team insights into developing your own Web presence.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Processes to effect social change through advocacy (e.g., community development,
community and grassroots organizing, local and global activism)
Critical Thinking Activity
The Internet has made it possible to build supportive networks for a variety of organizing efforts. Some of
these are listed below. Others that are more specific to your organizing mission may have an Internet
presence. Identify one or more organizations whose missions support your own. Explore ways they could be
helpful to your leadership team.
Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Communities and Neighborhoods. This is the private website
of John McKnight and Peter Block. John McKnight (along with John Kretzman) founded the Asset-based
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approach to community organizing. This organization simultaneously provides an interactive, constantly
updated link to McKnight’s and Block’s book (also titled The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of
Families and Neighborhoods) and a membership-based social network that connects community organizers
who use the asset-based approach with one another. Membership is free and entitles you to a bi-weekly
online newsletter, access to online and face-to-face workshops, online opportunities to chat with fellow
locally based organizers, and access to places for you to post your experiences with community organizing.
The website is well designed, easy to navigate, and exudes a warm, welcoming style that embraces the spirit
of connectivity. It also provides a multitude of resources from a myriad of sources that include individuals,
community outreach efforts, and other community building social networking sites. The site itself would
qualify as social entrepreneurship. Its main weakness is its dependence on its creators, without whom it
seems that the site would cease to exist. However, the connectivity it has generated among likeminded
community organizers would probably remain. Because it has so many opportunities to connect, the
Abundant Community site is a good place to plug in to the asset-based approach to community building.
The New Economy Working Group. The New Economy Working Group describes itself as an informal
alliance among several core partner organizations, each of which is itself a node in the sustainability and new
economics network. According to its website, “NEWGroup functions as an informal alliance of the Institute
for Policy Studies (IPS) as an initial policy think tank partner; YES! magazine as an initial media partner; the
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) (as an initial business network partner); and the
Living Economies Forum as an initial system design partner.” Each of these alliance member organizations
is, in turn, a node in the social network surrounding economic change and what founder economist David
Korten calls “the necessary change from Wall Street to Main Street.” Its business model is interesting
because while it is somewhat dependent on Korten, its structure as an alliance of several organizations is
likely to give it stability if there were a transition in leadership (an important consideration since Korten is of
retirement age). The Alliance continues to expand and is a good example of the kind of connectivity it
advocates. Its website is a good place to start an exploration of the sustainability network.
The Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont has developed a collaborative
network based on the development of international sustainability indicators. Its website contains many links
to the latest work in the field.
The New Economics Institute. The New Economics Institute (formerly the E. F. Schumacher Society) is
primarily a collaborative network built on the ground-breaking work of economist E. F. Schumacher,
author of Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered, first published in 1973 and still a classic for the
sustainability movement. The network supports a sustainability effort in the Berkshire region of
Massachusetts where it coordinates the BerkShares local currency initiative. The Institute has a very
professional website, as well as a physical campus, that gives the impression of an established organization
that has added a networking component. It adeptly explains the important concepts of alternative
economics. Although it is not as warm and user-friendly as the Abundant Community site, its intent is
different: it primarily serves to link formal institutions working on sustainability issues.
Data Center: Research for Justice. The Data Center located in Oakland, California (the San Francisco Bay
area), has been providing data and guidance to popular education–type organizing efforts for more than 30
years. Although it began as a kind of alternative library where community activists could go to access data
and information that was not readily available through conventional libraries, it now uses the connectivity of
the Internet to provide activists with access to Web-based resources, offer guidance on participatory
community organizing approaches, and link organizing efforts with one another. Their website is a good
example of how the Web has transformed the organizing process. It gives an excellent, although somewhat
jargon-filled overview of participatory organizing and provides ways your community advocacy or social
movement effort can link with other organizations that share similar goals.
Remember that connectivity is essentially a self-directed activity. In addition to creatively and playfully exploring
these websites, you will want to enter and explore other social networks related to your own interests and to the
focus of your community organizing efforts. Make a note of possible connections and share them with your
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organizing team, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances on other social networks. The whole process of
connectivity works best when everyone is on the lookout for ways to connect with other people and to link them
with still other individuals, associations, and organizations of interest. Community organizing has always been
about building the world together, and the Web just makes it easier.
Strengths of Using the Web for Community
Organizing
The Internet has many positive characteristics that you can use to strengthen your organizing mission. Some of
them are as follows:
Connectivity. Your ability to connect with people who have similar interests and concerns now flows at the
speed of light.
Closeness. Dr. Michael G. Moore, one of the pioneer theorists in distance education, asserts that learning
(and by extension effective community organizing) is the product of a cross among individual freedom,
initiative, and a sense of interactional closeness to others from whom one learns.14 Interactional closeness is
emotionally satisfying, personally motivating, and eases loneliness as you establish relationships with
likeminded people. The Web and Web-based communities provide interactional closeness across the world
at a minimal cost.
Free Information. Almost any information in the world is at your fingertips with just a few key strokes. The
Internet research skills covered in Chapter 7 and its related Appendix A provide directions on safely using
this time-saving research tool.
Scope of audience. From a social movement point of view, it is possible to reach millions of people quickly
with minimum censorship (at least so far).
Speed. Speed can be both an advantage and a threat, but it clearly is an advantage in keeping a movement
going. The peace movement and other radical efforts of the late 1960s and early 1970s died in part because
the Kent State shootings showed young radicals that marches and demonstrations can have serious
consequences. But another factor was that participants in the student strikes and campus unrest returned
home from college to summer jobs and were largely separated from one another, except for costly, long-
distance telephone calls. There was no Internet, no cell phones, and no unlimited long-distance service. The
widespread activism seen in the Occupy movement would have been difficult in 1970.
Low cost. It is possible to set up Internet infrastructures very inexpensively and to run large outreach efforts
with minimum numbers of paid staff.
Web-based communication can be done outside the mainstream media and around the edges so it is hard to stifle.
Rapid feedback from constituents. The Internet and related technologies allow organizations to obtain
feedback from their members and to decide on goals, strategies, and tactics that are likely to engage them.
Weaknesses, Dangers, and Threats of the Internet or
to the Internet
The Internet also has a down side, starting with the fact that it has so much information that is difficult to
separate the useful from the inaccurate. Thus, critical thinking skills and shared reasoning are important. Here are
some factors to consider when using the Internet:
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The Web is currently free and open, but there are constant direct threats by corporations and government to
take it over or shut it down. There are more subtle threats of cooption by global economic interests,
increased advertising, and the “industrialization” of sites like Facebook that were once free and fun but are
becoming more complex and difficult to use. Even reliable search engines like Google are being redesigned
to emphasize commercial sites and commercial interests, so it is harder to locate and network with non-
commercial organizations.
It is hard for small organizations to keep websites current, and loss of currency can quickly lead to a loss of
reputation.
It is often difficult for “ordinary” people to communicate with “techies” (technological experts) because
Web-based technologies have a language that is all their own and constantly changing. Your organization
will need members who can bridge this communication gap.
Local groups that serve the poor still find a digital divide: some constituents have access to computers, others
lack home telephones or permanent addresses, and still others have cell phones and other electronic devices.
But it is very important to include everyone. It is likely that, over time, the use of cell phones and texting
may bridge this digital divide. However, formerly free and open sites often close or shift to a commercial
model, which leaves networks and organizing activities based on these platforms in the lurch.
On balance you will find that the Web and the interactive possibilities that are often referred to as Web 2.0 make
community organizing faster and easier especially for research, internal and external communication, marketing
your organization, fund-raising, advocacy, and a myriad of other uses. Your challenge will be to use its many
components well to support and strengthen your organizing mission.
Summary
In this chapter, you reviewed the current state of the digital world, applications of Web-based technologies to
community organizing, and principles that you and your organizing team can use in your own efforts. The chapter
also provided an overview of the dimensions that Web-based technologies add to community organizing and
addressed issues related to internal and external communications, social networking, digital storytelling, and
connectivity. It concluded with an examination of the strengths and weakness of Web-based technologies in the
practice of community organizing.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Chapter 15 Organizations That Support Community
Organizing
Michael D Brown/Shutterstock
Learning Objectives
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Chapter Outline
1. The Community Development Model 270
2. The Social Action Model 278
3. Supports for Participatory Research and Popular Education 281
4. Volunteer Efforts and Movements 286
5. Faith-based Communities Working For and Modeling Social Change 287
6. Service Organizations 291
1. Summary 292
This chapter focuses on infrastructures that currently support community organizing efforts, which are broadly
categorized into five major areas. Not incidentally, these infrastructures also provide employment for community
organizers. You may find their histories and activities relevant to your own community organizing efforts, and this
review may help you in your investigation of other supportive organizations in your focal community system and
beyond.
1. Community and economic development: Organizations that are maintained and supported by established
structures, such as governments and research-based universities.
2. Social action: Organizations that have operated largely outside of traditional power structures and support
social change.
3. Popular Education and Participatory Research: This textchapter is based on an emerging global movement
that focuses on the involvement of people themselves.
4. Intentional faith-based communities: Organizations based primarily in one of the world’s great religious
traditions, living communally, sharing possessions, and working toward peace and social justice.
5. Service organizations: These organizations exist in almost every community in the United States and in
many locations abroad. Most were founded in the early twentieth century and serve a dual purpose:
cooperation in projects that benefit local communities, and networking for their members. They are so
ubiquitous that it is easy to ignore them, but they do many helpful things, particularly at the local level.
The Community Development Model
The community development model (also referred to in the literature as the economic development model or the
locality development model) has historically emphasized the desirability of continual growth, globalization,
modernization, and the use of science and technology, as well as the industrial model of production, to improve
the material quality of life. It has used a top-down approach in which outside experts enter a focal community
system to share their knowledge and technical skills. It is still the major mode of community organizing, although
some recent efforts have been made to meld traditional economic development practices with sustainability and
participatory approaches.1 The community development model is supported by a variety of formal institutions
that are connected with the established world power structure. This section focuses on those that are related to the
United Nations, government structures, and universities.
Economic and community development usually refer to community organizing efforts that focus on improving
material well-being through business and industrial development efforts and value chains (links between local
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producers and global distributors). These efforts are intended to lead to job creation. The economic development
model is the main approach used by many of the world’s best funded community organizing efforts and probably
the largest source of living-wage employment for university-educated planners and organizers. Many organizations
and global networks support the community development model, and often projects are the product of
collaboration between educational institutions, especially the land grant institutions, and business interests. Here
we will critically examine several community and economic development models.
The United Nations: International Economic
Development
This text is primarily designed for community organizers who will be working at the local level to improve the
quality of life and therefore localities have been the primary focal systems explored. However, localities are
embedded in mezzo- and macro-systems must work within them, so you should be conversant with the major
international bodies that are responsible for social and economic development. This section provides a brief
overview of international economic development and its links to national and, eventually, to local communities.
The United Nations is the primary international organization coordinating global social and economic
development, an almost impossible task given the worldwide environmental and financial crises of the last decade.
The fifty-four-member Economic and Social Council is the UN organ charged with development activities
throughout the world. For many years, the Economic and Social Council seems to have been primarily advisory in
nature with little real authority, but at the beginning of the millennium it was given broader powers and more
authority through the “Millennium Declaration” of the United Nations General Assembly.2 The Millennium
Declaration increased the responsibilities of the Economic and Social Council, outlined specific Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) for the year 2015, and created structures and reporting mechanisms to ensure that
progress toward the MDGs was monitored on a regular basis using tested evaluation techniques. An annual
ministerial review is conducted to measure progress toward the MDGs, and a high level biannual meeting of a
Development Cooperation Forum brings together government and business leaders from the rich countries of the
world (often referred to as the North) and the poor countries of the world (often referred to as the South) to create
broad agreements on social and economic development issues.3 The MDGs provide a broad framework for these
global efforts; its eight areas and their specific measurable outcomes are as follows:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day.
Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young
people.
Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.
3. Promote gender equity and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by
2015.
4. Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.
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5. Improve maternal health
Reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio.
Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.
Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of
environmental resources.
Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic
sanitation.
Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.
8. Develop a global partnership for development
Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable, and non-
discriminatory, which includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty
reduction both nationally and internationally.
Address the least developed countries’ special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for
their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral
debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty
reduction.
Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states.
Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt problems through national and international
measures to make debt sustainable in the long term.
In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth.
In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in
developing countries.
In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies—especially
information and communications technologies.
Although in some instances the 2015 target goal for implementation seems unrealistic, these goals are remarkable
because they represent a consensus of the world’s leaders, most are measurable, and mechanisms have been set in
place to gather the necessary data and do the statistical analysis necessary to measure progress toward results. From
a community organizing perspective, it is interesting to note the frequent use of the phrase “in cooperation with, .
. .” This phrase is used to indicate that the UN knows that it cannot accomplish these goals alone and that its
major role will be to facilitate collaboration and networking among governments and private organizations.
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The MDGs (the UN loves to use letters for its organizations, meetings, and projects) provide a blueprint for
member nations, regions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Their implementation is
overseen by the UN Economic and Social Council in cooperation with other international organizations such as
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and subsidiaries of the World Bank, such as the
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association
(IDA), and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).4
Human Services Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: International and global influences on services delivery
Critical Thinking Question
What role should the UN and its affiliated organizations play in community organizing and community
development? What should the UN be doing to support locally based participatory initiatives like the ones
discussed here?
The MDGs and their implementation plans, especially those that address economic issues, are hopeful signs that
international development may have made a turn toward sustainability and improved quality of life for everyone.
However, trends toward globalization and the continuing centralization of wealth in the hands of the few have
continued to block achievement of key goals. Decisions made at IMF or World Bank headquarters have
repercussions in cities, towns, and villages around the world.
Explore the UN Millennium Development Goals to learn more about their goals to end poverty. What is the
purpose of such far-reaching international goals? In what ways are they helpful? In what ways might they be
discouraging? What relationship (if any) do such international goals have to community organizing at the
grassroots level?
Internationally, the community development model does not work very well for a variety of reasons. Too often the
technologies used are appropriate for developed countries but overwhelm the developing world. Often new
agricultural innovations have required extensive use of fertilizers, have stripped the land, and have destroyed
genetic diversity.5 Often, well-paid development specialists who do not even speak the native language have been
given authority over respected native leaders, which has reproduced a system of colonial subservience and
inequality. However, in spite of resistance from a plethora of development specialists with practical, on-the-
ground experience, the community development model is still used by international agencies, governments at all
levels, and business interests.6 Its goals are admirable and, in some cases, its methods have led to short-term
improvement in living conditions or solutions to particular problems. It is based on the modern or industrial
notion that globalization and constantly expanding growth are prerequisites for a high quality of life. It is
supported by the hegemony of powerful, like-minded people and organizations throughout the world that largely
control the financial and human resources needed for local economic health. There is no escaping its reach or its
power. Events since the turn of the millennium have shown that these premises may be fatally flawed, but as yet
no comprehensive approaches have replaced them. Therefore, the best local solutions would be to use the
resources of the economic hegemony but, as much as possible, retain local control over the economic
development.7
Assess your comprehension of International Community Development by completing this quiz.
Local Comprehensive Planning
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Comprehensive planning and zoning began in the nineteenth century in the United States (although it is now
done in Canada and other developed countries) as an established part of municipal government efforts to manage
population growth, land use, and economic development. Since its beginning it has been in the hands of
established power brokers such as realtors, elected officials, bankers, investors, and industrialists. All of these
qualify as a power elite.8 Comprehensive planning usually operates from the growth machine paradigm in which
economic development takes precedence over other issues.9 Many community organizers are employed by various
levels of government or by consulting firms who provide contracting services to government. They usually work
with or for departments of community planning or community development and frequently move back and forth
between the public and the private sector. These government departments and private organizations provide
technical assistance to local, county, and state governments through assistance in the creation of comprehensive
plans. Comprehensive planning, in turn, provides a basis for sub-plans for zoning, transportation, infrastructure,
parks, and neighborhoods.
Community planning in the United States is most frequently the primary responsibility of planning commissions
composed of community leaders with knowledge of various aspects of the planning process, who are often
representatives of local stakeholders. Commission members are generally appointed by the local government but
occasionally are elected directly.10
Explore the American Planning Association website to learn more about traditional planning and comprehensive
planning. How can traditional planning (which is usually done from the top down) be reconciled with
participatory planning and organizing, which arises from local community engagement?
The five major purposes of planning commissions are to (1) establish a planning process, (2) draft a community
plan for future private and public development, (3) draft regulations on land use zones and the sub-division of
land use into new lots, (4) draft a land use map showing the location, permitted uses, and densities of land uses
within the community, and (5) rule on new development proposals according to the community plan, the land
use map, and the zoning and sub-division regulations. In most instances, planning commissions act as advisory
bodies to elected officials who are responsible for enacting the ordinances and other enabling legislation that put
the planning commission’s recommendations into effect.11 Usually the planning commission’s work is a team
effort between the commissioners who are volunteers and paid staff members or consultants who collect and
organize technical data into useful information. Paid staff or consultants may be directly accountable to the
planning commission or to the executive branch of local government. Formal planning commission meetings are
generally open to the public. Meeting schedules are usually set months in advance, but agenda items may be
introduced by support staff, elected officials, the commissioners, or by the general public. In a typical process,
professional staff members prepare an agenda and summaries of topics to be discussed in consultation with the
commission chairperson. These are made available to commissioners for review before the formal meeting. In
reality, though, most planning commission work is actually done between formal meetings behind the scenes
through informal meetings, closed committee sessions, and telephone calls. Often the formal meetings are rather
pro forma as many of the critical decisions will have already been agreed upon ahead of time.
Planning commissions wield a good deal of power in local governments and greatly impact the future of
geographic communities of all kinds including neighborhoods, cities, villages, and towns or townships. Members
of geographically based organizing efforts should become familiar with the planning commission process,
understand the composition of their local planning commission, and seek to influence commission decision
making directly through securing appointment or indirectly through the development of positive working
relationships with commissioners and planning staff. Planning meetings are often lengthy, boring, full of jargon,
and puzzling to the ordinary citizen, but they are very important because comprehensive planning and zoning
make a great deal of difference in land use and what can and cannot be done in local neighborhoods. If you are
actively engaged in planning processes, you are likely to have a voice in what happens within your focal
community system. If you do not pay attention to the process, you will find that important decisions are made for
you, often by those who do not have your best interests at heart.
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Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Economic and social class systems including systemic causes of poverty
Critical Thinking Question
Traditional comprehensive planning processes often seem to support those who are already well-off and have
sometimes devastated poor communities. What can you as a community organizer do to make sure that any
comprehensive planning that affects your focal community provides for adequate community input?
Community Development Corporations
While planning commissions are intrinsic parts of local governments, Community Development Corporations
(CDCs) are quasi-governmental bodies. Although legally organized as private, non-profit corporations, they
typically work very closely with local governments and planning commissions. Development corporations and
governments make good partners because each enjoys certain legal rights not available to the other.
CDCs emerged during the federal government’s War on Poverty in the 1960s. At that time the industrial
paradigm was at its apex. The basic assumption of CDCs was (and is) that a high quality of community life
depends on a strong industrial base. Some of the assumptions of CDCs are local control of the development
process, a holistic approach to quality of life issues, and a focus on business and economic development. In almost
all cases, business and economic development is given priority over the other two.12
CDCs were originally intended to give a voice to the poor as well as to more established members of the
community, but over the years most have formed and maintained strong connections to government, business,
and banking while their connection to the needs of the general public has been allowed to atrophy. Today many
CDCs think of the public as a potential labor force and the natural environment as a source of raw materials for
economic development. However, some CDCs take a more sustainable approach and look at community
development in more than simply economic terms.
CDCs have been wielding increasing power over the last few decades as direct government intervention has
decreased. As non-profit organizations, CDCs have more flexibility than either government or the profit-making
sector. For instance, CDCs can broker funding packages that include government grants, foundation or other
private non-profit funding, and private investment to fund economic packages that would not otherwise be
possible. Well-organized CDCs not only serve a useful role as financial brokers but can also hold developers and
other special interest groups accountable to a holistic view of community needs. The challenge is to assure that
CDCs truly represent everyone, including those who are not part of any elite.
If your focal community does not already have a CDC, you may want to start one. Local community development
efforts, at least in the United States and Canada, often begin with the municipal government, organizations such
as a CDC or Chamber of Commerce, or a combination of community leaders who have identified a local need
and have decided to meet that need through a formal planning and implementation process. Often CDCs are
generated as a result of legally required comprehensive planning, but they can be initiated by local demand. There
are three primary ways to approach community development projects: do the necessary research and planning
yourselves, use government or university resources, or hire a private consulting firm.13 Each of these has strengths
and weaknesses as is shown in Table 15.1.
There is no right answer for every community or for every project, but there are some intuitive guidelines that
help. In general, it is wise to hire a trustworthy, knowledgeable consultant when
The project is complex.
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Many agencies and regulations are involved.
The project is important to the long-term welfare of the community.
Time is of the essence.
Similar projects have been successfully implemented in other communities.
On the other hand, local efforts or local efforts augmented with assistance from government, university, or
community college resources are usually in order if
The project is relatively simple.
Few outside agencies and regulations are involved.
The project affects only a small sector of the community.
There is no real hurry for implementation.
The need or probable solution is unique to the target locale.
The local community should do as much internally as it can to save taxpayers money in the long run and develop
local capacity. The program truly belongs to the community when it is not dependent on outside funding or
technical resources. Although community-controlled initiatives take longer, they last.
Assess your comprehension of Local Comprehensive Planning by completing this quiz.
Land Grant Universities: Cooperative Extension
In the mid-nineteenth century, the Morrill Act created land grant universities for every U.S. state with the goal of
ensuring an educated rural populace.14 Shortly thereafter, Cooperative Extension Divisions were created to bring
university research to rural communities. In fact, Cooperative Extension is the oldest link between rural
communities and the land-grant colleges, and this model has been copied all around the world, leading to a large,
rather loosely structured cooperative effort among governments, public universities, agri-business, and rural
communities that has both positive and negative aspects.15 Almost every county in the United States has a
Cooperative Extension office. Some offices are very helpful and engaged in participatory community organizing
processes while others are supportive of powerful local, national, and international
Table 15.1 Processes for Planning and
Implementing Community Projects
Pros Cons Keys to Decision Making
Do it
yourselves
Saves money.
Gives people
experience.
Takes time.
Limits
networking
and
connections.
May lack
credibility
Planning and implementing even a simple project
takes time, energy, and expertise. Does the
community have these?
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Tailored to your own
community needs.
either from
outside
funding
sources or
from the
community.
Use
public or
quasi-
public
resources
Tax dollars are already
paying for these
services.
Connections have
already been made.
Credibility has already
been built.
Established awareness
of benchmarks and
model programs that
may be useful.
Awareness of
regulations affecting
projects.
Because consultants are
usually “insiders,” they
may be able to work
around unreasonable
regulations.
Consulting firms’ staff
members, including
professional planners
and support personnel,
are usually friendly,
knowledgeable, and
willing to help with
your questions
It is often
hard to find
the right
one(s); they
are often
buried on
websites, etc.
Often
stretched too
thin to
provide in-
depth
assistance.
Often change
configurations
as funding
and regimes
shift.
Staff turnover
makes it hard
to work with
the same
person.
Takes a lot of
time and
phone calls.
Regulations
may make it
difficult to get
needed help.
Because
services are
free, there is
no real
accountability.
These resources can be very helpful but rarely can
they coordinate a project. They seem to work best
when someone locally can dedicate a substantial
amount of time to overseeing the work and
collating the data. Beware of depending too much
on these resources because they are usually
stretched too thin. Control of the project and its
momentum must remain local.
Costs money
that may be
needed
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Source: Copyright © by Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Hire paid
consultant
Has expertise in field.
Has connections to
resources.
Provides staff to do the
work.
Has incentive to do
well.
Offers presentation
and writing skills.
Usually will be quicker
than either of the
above alternatives.
More credibility than
local work.
elsewhere.
Depends a
great deal on
integrity of
firm.
Danger of
getting “boiler
plate.”
Danger of not
getting
community
buy-in.
Elitist; often
does not
involve all
sectors of the
community.
May not
develop
community
capacity to do
similar
projects.
Mostly a cost–benefit balance. Do the benefits of
saving time and having established expertise
outweigh the costs of hiring a consultant?
interests. A knowledge of the history and struggles within Cooperative Extension coupled with direct contacts
with extension personnel in your area will enable your organizing team to decide what role if any Cooperative
Extension will play.
Historically, Cooperative Extension has played two major organizing roles: techno-centric organizing and
educational organizing.16 Initially, techno-centric organizing was innovative in that research in farm and home
economics at the state university was shared with poor, undereducated farm families. The dissemination of
research findings helped increase food production and benefited both the farmers and the nation.17 The goal of
educational organizing was to support techno-centric organizing and also to use participatory, community-based
methods to ensure that farmers and farm communities had a voice in economic development. Although the two
missions were intended to be complementary, at times they have been contradictory. Techno-centric organizing
has tended to support existing power structures and agri-business, while educational organizing has tended to
support the interests of small farmers and local communities.18 Each worked well when they functioned in
balance.
However, over the last quarter century the role of the land grant universities and the Cooperative Extension in
rural community economic development has become more and more complicated. On the one hand, many local
extension agents and other staff members are quite active in their communities and often are community leaders
in their own right. They donate their organizing skills and provide important links to the land grant university. At
the international level, Cooperative Extension professionals from such institutions as Cornell University have
assisted in the development of mutual aid organizations for the poor in developing nations around the world and
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have been leaders in the worldwide sustainability movement. However, there is some question about whether
university researchers, agri-business, and community political and economic leaders may be engaged in a quest for
short-range profits that may, in the end, be destructive to communities, ordinary citizens, and the natural
environment.19 The problem is that the university research that was originally funded by state and national
government is now funded primarily by huge industrial firms producing fertilizer, farm equipment, pesticides, and
hybrid genetically modified seeds.20 Therefore, some people are concerned that the techno-centric approach to
Cooperative Extension has become a taxpayer-supported marketing tool for agri-business. Research at the
university’s experimental farms produces new products for their industrial funders. Cooperative Extension experts
are then sent to rural areas to disseminate the latest research findings and encourage farmers to try the new
products. Early adopters (those that try the new technologies first) are given assistance in purchasing and applying
the new products or techniques. Often these new products or processes result in increased production, at least in
the short run. When others within the community see that production has increased, they adopt the new product
or process. Soon, everyone in the community is using the product to remain competitive, providing supporting
industries with a new set of customers.21
The tight collaboration between land grant universities, Cooperative Extension, and agri-business have raised
concerns about
Loss of effective traditional farming methods
Unnecessary debt for technical innovations
Increased dependence on chemical fertilizer, with the associated loss of natural means of soil replenishment
(such as crop rotation)
Use of genetically modified seeds that are infertile, which then guarantee dependence on seed companies
Application of pesticides that have decimated helpful, as well as harmful, insects
Reliance on mechanized equipment that has compacted and ruined the soil
Industrialized production of living organisms such as poultry, hogs, cattle, bees, and frogs, leading to the
spread of disease and massive die-offs in both domesticated and wild varieties
Sale of highly hybridized seeds that have led to the loss of genetic variability, which make food crops
vulnerable to being wiped out by disease and pestilence.
The spread of harmful chemicals within the food chain.
The overuse of antibiotics and growth hormones in meat production.
The unknown effects of genetic modification on food crops.
This industrialization of farming and the rise of agribusiness appear to have led to the demise of family farms and
may eventually allow agribusiness to monopolize the food industry the way that that oil companies have
monopolized the energy industry, so the ethics of the first goal of educational organizing (i.e., sharing new
technologies) have come into question.22
Human Service Delivery Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Economic and social class systems including systemic causes of poverty
Critical Thinking Question
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Loss of direct government funding for agricultural research has compelled many university based researchers
as well as Cooperative Extension professionals to seek financing from large multi-national food companies.
What are the ethical implications of these financially driven decisions? What can local people do to “take
back” the original vision of the Cooperative Extension movement?
Attention to community engagement in local decision making (the second goal of educational organizing in
Cooperative Extension) has had its ups and downs. The greatest problems have been a lack of community
awareness of extension community development services, coupled with the overemphasis on the techno-centric
aspects of extension work. However, in the early years of the twenty-first century, there has been a rebirth of
interest in educational organizing and local community input as an important component of Cooperative
Extension practice. Since February 2002, the National Association of Community Development Extension
Professionals has represented extension professionals with an interest in community development. The
organization sponsors an annual conference, newsletters, and forums for its members.23 Hopefully, this rebirth of
interest in the educational role of Cooperative Extension will provide a much needed balance to the techno-
centric, agri-business–driven model.
Community organizers tend to hold conflicting views of Cooperative Extension and the relationship between
research universities and local communities. Visit the website of your local Cooperative Extension office or visit its
offices in person. In what ways does your local office show a commitment to sustainable, locally based agriculture
and community self-determination? In what ways does it seem to be a mouthpiece of agri-business? What role, if
any, do you see Cooperative Extension playing in your community organizing activities?
Assess your comprehension of Cooperative Extension in Community Development by completing this quiz.
The Social Action Model
While the community development model is based primarily on the consensus view of society and is organized
primarily by those in power, the social action model is based on the belief that the poor must work together to
build an effective power base and must insist on having a voice in their own lives. There are two primary social
action models that have been used in the United States since the 1930s. The first emphasizes the importance of
organizing organizations within neighborhoods. The second solicits individual memberships. Both use a
combination of mildly coercive tactics and negotiation with powerful interests.
We will look first at the organization-based “Alinsky model.” Saul Alinsky, who has been named the father of the
“organization of organizations” model, was a radical organizer dedicated to enabling “have nots” to gain power.24
In the late 1930s, Alinsky became a participant observer researching the causes of juvenile delinquency in the
tough “Back of the Yards” neighborhood in Chicago. At the time, the Back of the Yards was a vast, mostly white
slum located near the Union Stockyards, one of the largest industrial complexes in America at the time. Through
his participation in neighborhood life, Alinsky realized that many “deviant activities” were actually a logical result
of stressful social conditions. He began to feel that only widespread participation in the democratic process would
prevent violent revolution or fascism, and thus conceived of an organization of organizations that would unite
various interest groups on behalf of the entire neighborhood’s needs. This was particularly difficult because the
Back of the Yards was characterized by conflict among a wide variety of Southern European and Eastern European
ethnic groups. The neighborhood also had a well-established German population and a very strong Irish presence.
Alinsky was able to engage the help of the powerful Roman Catholic Church to enable the warring groups to
understand their common interests and common enemies. On July 14, 1939, he convened the first Back-of-the-
Yards Council meeting, which was the first time a whole community had been organized in the United States, and
possibly in the world.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Alinsky shifted his work from the predominately white Back of the Yards area to the
predominately African-American Woodlawn area, where he co-founded The Woodlawn Organization (TWO).
TWO managed to force the first Mayor Richard J. Daley’s regime to provide basic services, such as garbage
collection and police protection.
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Alinsky was known for his unique confrontational strategies. For instance, he once encouraged African-American
leaders in Rochester, New York, to literally “raise a stink” by holding a bean supper before attending the opulent
symphony with its snobbish, affluent white audience. The “stink” was to be a protest against poverty and
discrimination at a time when Rochester was known for its wealth, sophistication, and wide gap between rich
whites and poor African Americans. There is no indication that his suggestion was taken seriously, but it is
indicative of his creative tactics.25
Alinsky’s reputation grew as he consolidated his understanding of community organization and developed
systematic strategies and tactics. He was encouraged to systematize his training approach and broaden his outreach
by CIO President John L. Lewis. This led to the founding of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) that trains
radical community organizers mostly through coalitions of churches and other religious organizations.26
The Gamaliel Foundation, where President Obama was trained in community organizing, is similar to the IAF in
that it also is composed of regional affiliates, mostly coalitions of religious organizations. Many of these affiliates
focus on what might be called mid-range issues rather than strictly neighborhood concerns. Gamaliel follows the
Alinsky model in its development of organizations mostly in urban areas. These neighborhood groups primarily
develop petitions and proposals that are presented to municipal decision makers through formal political processes
and community meetings.27 PICO, the National Network—Unlocking the Power of People,28 is a similar faith-
based organization that uses an Alinsky-type approach to organize mostly faith-based organizations to represent
the broad needs of local communities.29
The Alinsky approach has both strengths and weaknesses. The organization- of-organizations model works very
well in large neighborhoods, such as the Back of the Yards or Woodlawn, where there are many well-organized
groups. It is less effective in smaller neighborhoods and transitional areas where few such groups exist. Those seem
to benefit more from thean asset-based approach described in Chapter 7, the development of block club–type
organizations, or from a combination of approaches. While there is some indication that the
Alinsky/Gamaliel/PICO approach can net short-term gains for local neighborhoods, it seems to fail to build the
infrastructure necessary to sustain grassroots initiatives.
Review the Industrial Areas Foundation, PICO National Network, and Gamaliel Foundation websites that
present the Alinsky model. Locate branches near you. Consider what ideas or organizing skills could contribute to
your organizing efforts.
Until 2009, when it fell apart from internal malfeasance and external scandal, the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was the largest social action organization of the poor in the United
States. While the IAF, Gamaliel, and PICO are examples of organizations of organizations, ACORN was based on
individual memberships solicited by paid organizers who made door-to-door visits in poor communities.
ACORN’s political actions were then initiated and supported by its local members with extensive input from
ACORN staff who were supported by the portion of the local dues paid to the national organization.30
ACORN began as an offshoot of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) founded by George Wiley
in the 1960s. Although NWRO had support among welfare recipients, it was always a marginalized organization
of a marginalized constituency. By 1966 it became clear to Wiley that a broader base of support was needed, so he
sent a young organizer named Wade Rathke to Little Rock, Arkansas.31 In 1966, Arkansas was deeply divided
racially, fundamentally conservative, and run by a wealthy political elite. Rathke faced the difficult task of
convincing low and moderate income white Southerners (most of whom had never organized anything more
radical than a church social) that political organization could bring about positive change and, moreover, that they
shared more in common with their poor black neighbors than with the elite white upper class. Rathke
accomplished this task through carefully chosen political issues that resonated across racial and class lines. In Little
Rock, for instance, the issues were free school lunches, unemployed workers’ concerns, Vietnam veterans’ rights,
and hospital emergency room care. Small successes in these areas led to growing support for ACORN’s efforts.
Over the years, ACORN grew in the south and in rural communities. Sometimes, as in the case of Little Rock,
ACORN organizers targeted a particular town or issue. Often, they were approached by natural community
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leaders for help. The basic social action strategy, using established political means to bring about change, remained
the same throughout ACORN’s history as was the policy of choosing issues that unified rather than divided the
poor. Local or focused ACORN groups set local agendas and selected volunteer leaders guided by modestly paid
organizers from the national organization. ACORN organizers were supposed to act only as consultants to these
local constituencies.
By 2009, ACORN had 350,000 member families in 850 chapters in over 100 cities in the United States,
Argentina, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Canada—but the roots of its destruction were at hand. In
2008, Wade Rathke’s brother Dale was found to have embezzled nearly one million dollars from the organization,
a major betrayal that led to the dismissal of both brothers.32 Then in late 2009, ACORN became the center of an
attack from conservative Republicans who conducted a sting operation at one of ACORN’s Baltimore offices. In a
“doctored” video, ACORN employees were shown allegedly assisting a purported prostitute and her pimp in
developing a prostitution ring involving underage illegal immigrant girls. Although the tape was later proved to be
a fabrication, the prostitution scandal resulted in a bill specifically denying any federal funding to ACORN, in
clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids legislation singling out a single
individual or organization for special legislation. Although the law has since been declared unconstitutional and
ACORN has been cleared of all accusations of voter registration fraud, the damage was done. ACORN was
disbanded as a national organization in 2010. The fall of the Rathke brothers and its tragic effect on ACORN act
as a warning against personal greed and dishonesty, but the ACORN story is also a cautionary tale about the
dangers of confronting powerful interests as there is compelling evidence that the real motivation for defunding
ACORN was its success in registering millions of poor people in the 2008 presidential election and the likelihood
that it would be able to reach many poor people for the U.S. Census in 2010, thus demonstrating the extent of
poverty in the United States.33 Greed and selfishness coupled with lack of oversight and accountability have led
many originally fine people (and their organizations) to disaster, and powerful interests can be dangerous
adversaries, but ACORN’s use of individual, rather than organization, memberships as well as its use of
confrontational tactics is intriguing despite its tragic end.
Client-Related Values and Attitudes
Understanding and Mastery: Integration of the ethical standards outlined by the National Organization for Human
Services and Council for Standards in Human Service Education
Critical Thinking Question
Imagine that you were a national board member at the time the financial scandal broke; what ethical issues
would you have faced? How would you have responded? What could have been done to prevent the
malfeasance in the first place? What, if anything, could have been done to rebuild the organization’s
credibility and the credibility of secular social action organizing generally?
Assess your comprehension of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Organizations that Support Social Action by
completing this quiz.
Supports for Participatory Research and Popular
Education
Participatory research and popular Education have been important themes within this text. Although they have
their roots in the work of critical adult educators such as Myles Horton and Paulo Freire in the mid-twentieth
century, their legacy has continued into the twenty-first century in many of the organizations and social networks
that you read about in Chapter 14. Here we will look at some individuals and institutions who initiated these
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practices and their descendants today.
Facilitating Popular Education: The Highlander
Approach
Often community organizers need a time and place to reflect on their work and share ideas with others.
Highlander Research and Education Center (formerly the Highlander Folk School) has been such a major
resource in Appalachia, especially for poor residents. Highlander began with labor organizing, moved to civil
rights, and now concentrates on land preservation and immigration issues.34 Highlander celebrated its seventy-
fifth anniversary in 2007, a testimony to its perseverance and dedication.
The heart of the Highlander method has been workshops where representatives of organizations that are dealing
with major social issues come together to focus on an issue, learn to listen to others, and build solutions together.
Highlander staff members do not do community organizing themselves. Highlander provides the space, and
participants themselves do the work. As Myles Horton said of Highlander’s work with the labor and civil rights
movements:
The Highlander workshop is part of a continuum of identifying a problem and finding other people who are
trying to deal with it. The people who come to the workshops have a lot of knowledge that they don’t know
they have. Highlander gives them a chance to explore what they know and what some people we bring in as
resources can share with them. Then they go back home and test what they learn in action. If they have
learned anything useful, they can teach others because it is now part of their knowledge and not something
merely handed to them. …35
The equality and wisdom of all participants is assumed at Highlander. Likewise community participants are
discouraged from leaning too much on the Highlander staff or resource persons. As Horton explained:
I think of a workshop as a circle of learners. “Circle” is not an accidental term, for there is no head of the
table… The job of the staff members is to create a relaxed atmosphere in which the participants feel free to
share their experiences. Then they are encouraged to analyze, learn from, and build on these experiences. Like
other participants in the workshops, staff members are expected to share experiences that relate to the
discussions and sources of information and alternative suggestions. They have to provide more information
(in preparation for the session) than they will be able to work into the thinking process of the group and
often they must discard prepared suggestions that become inappropriate to the turn a workshop has taken…
Each session had to take its own form and develop according to the students’ needs.36
Students at Highlander learn to live what they are learning through the workshops and the living arrangements
where people of all races and classes live under the same roof and share meals, bathrooms, and fun. For many this
is transformative. After her first visit to Highlander, Rosa Parks said that Highlander was the first place in her
adult life that she had ever encountered a true sense of peace and unity among people of different races. She was
very reluctant to leave and often credited her time at Highlander as a source of courage and strength for her later
work.37 Highlander still offers excellent training for community organizers. Here are some Highlander-based
principles assembled by adult educator Jane Vella38 that you can apply to community organizing:
1. Needs assessment must be done with the learners, not for the learners. If learners’ needs do not match
facilitators’ expectations, the facilitators should adapt the learning experience to fit them.
2. The environment should be safe so everyone can feel they can be heard without reprisal or ridicule.
3. There should be time “around the edges” to build friendships and have fun.
4. Learners should participate in workshop design—for instance, early in the labor movement groups kept
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notebooks on what worked and what did not work which they passed on to subsequent workshop leaders,
creating a “labor movement curriculum” created completely by participants.
5. The emphasis should be on praxis or action, reflection, more action, and more reflection in a spiraling
process. Participants are welcome to talk with Highlander staff about their experiences and are encouraged
to keep in touch with one another, a practice that has been greatly enhanced by the Internet.
6. Respect for learners is one of Highlander’s main principles that Horton learned early in his career through
speaking with parents of children attending summer Bible school in rural Ozone, Tennessee. The Ozone
experiences were very significant in Horton’s life. Many times during his long life he found himself asking,
“Would this ‘play’ in Ozone?” If the answer was “no,” then he didn’t proceed.39
7. Highlander’s whole educational program is built around having a safe place to explore ideas, express even
negative feelings, and then take action.40 Horton and the other staff members allow group members to work
through storm periods themselves. Both individuals and groups become stronger for it.
8. Highlander workshops always generated ideas and strategies that participants could take back to their
sponsoring organizations, adapt to their local situations, and use immediately.
9. Highlander staff members are facilitators and resource persons, not information givers, which sometimes
angers people who want “expert answers” rather than the responsibility of deciding for themselves. At one
point in the union-organizing days Horton’s life was threatened by a frustrated union officer because he
refused to tell others what to do41)—exhibiting true commitment to learner self-direction!
10. Horton believed that learning is circular—we all teach and learn from one another in a circle of equals.
11. Highlander staff believe that workshops are incomplete without engagement back at home after the
workshops are over.
12. At Highlander each workshop is designed in light of the participants’ needs, outside resources are provided
when information or expertise is needed, but the final accountability occurs when participants apply what
they have learned in their own communities to problems that they have identified.
The Vella principles, especially as they are used at Highlander provide an excellent guide for community
organizers and/or grassroots groups to use in designing learning and research events. A primary role of community
organizing should be popular education, enabling people to have the knowledge and skills needed to organize
themselves. To learn more about the ongoing work of Highlander go to the website for the Highlander Research
Center.42
Literacy for Social Justice: Paulo Freire
Thomas Jefferson believed that only a literate people can succeed at democracy. Over many years, slave owners,
tyrants, and oppressors have been able to succeed in maintaining the status quo by keeping the powerless from
reading and writing.43 Literacy that facilitates communication about key issues and encourages problem posing
(problem analysis) is a powerful tool for social justice. Paulo Freire was something of a guru for adult educators
and social workers who are interested in empowerment through literacy.44 His techniques for combining adult
literacy initiatives with consciousness raising and action have been widely emulated throughout the world. Freire’s
intent was primarily transformative learning. His goal was to enable Brazilian peasants not only to learn to read
and write but to understand their world and the ways that they were oppressed and to begin to work together
toward change. For instance, Brazilian cities, like many in the developing world, consist of a core of prosperity
surrounded by a ring of crowded, miserable shantytowns, called favillas in Portuguese. Freire brought pictures of
life in the favilla to his literacy classes and asked, “What is this?” When someone inevitably answered “It’s the
favilla.” Freire led learners in a discussion of what life is like in the slum, a process he called problem posing. He
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then wrote the word favilla on a blackboard and encouraged learners to generate a list of words describing the
favilla using its own syllables. For instance favilla is composed of the syllables “fa” and “villa.” They generated
other words with the syllable “fa” and then “villa” and so on with other syllables from the new words. At the end
of these literacy sessions the adult students had generated a long list of vocabulary words that pointed to their real-
life experiences and, not incidentally, they had had the opportunity to share their life experiences. This was very
freeing for the peasants, who not only learned to read and link written symbols to real-life people, things, and
experiences but also learned to think about the ways they were being mistreated. These discussions, in turn, led to
plans for action and demands for social change. Freire’s tactics were so successful in beginning to change the
balance of power in Brazil that they were eventually repressed by military dictatorship. Freire was arrested and kept
in a cage-like metal box for several days in the sun. Freire, toward the end of his life, was able to resume his work,
which has been emulated around the world. Although Freire died in 1997, popular educators and participatory
researchers throughout the world still make use of his methods and have adapted them to many settings. To learn
more about how Freire’s work has been continued by others since his death, go to the Freire Project on the
Web.45
Use of the Theater and Other Arts
Imagine yourself in the downtown area of a major city. Suddenly there is a commotion: a man grabs a woman by
her hair, drags her to the middle of the street, and begins to beat her. All activity on the street comes to a halt.
Before anyone can call the police, though, an authoritative person shouts “Stop the action!” and proceeds to
engage you and other bystanders in a discussion of domestic violence, public responsibility and other topics. You
have just experienced a bit of street theater designed for consciousness raising. You are in a mall. Suddenly
someone bursts into song, followed by others in groups of twos and threes until eventually a whole chorus is
singing loudly and joyfully. Everyone is smiling and enjoying the show. You have just experienced a bit of
community building (and probably will find yourself on YouTube). You are an illiterate woman in the Kingdom
of Lesotho (a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa). Your village has been decimated by AIDS, but no
one talks about it because it carries a great stigma. A group of dramatists come and talk with you and your friends
about how AIDS has changed your lives and helps you and your friends put together several small but powerful
skits based on your experiences. These skits dramatize things like your husbands’ refusal to wear condoms when
they return from working in South Africa, struggles you have talking with other women about your worries, being
unable to get the medicines you need, and the sadness you feel when your husbands are forced to leave to work in
South Africa. The skits have colorful costumes and some singing. They are designed to open up discussions and
reveal secrets that everyone shares but few talk about. They are performed outside in the common area, and time is
given for discussion. You and your fellow actors make sure that the dialogue continues afterward. You find ways to
support one another and begin to work toward solving some of your common problems.46 All of these are
examples of the use of theater in community organizing.
Participatory researchers and popular educators often use drama as a way of developing dialogue. The original use
of what became known as the Theatre of the Oppressed began serendipitously when its founder Augusto Boals
developed an improvisational production around the topic of domestic violence. An audience member took
exception to the way the “wife-beating” actor was behaving, jumped on stage, and began beating the hapless man
with a broom! Thus began the tradition of encouraging audience members to actively participate in such
improvisations.47 Unlike traditional theater, Theatre of the Oppressed is not value-neutral. It is intended to
provide participants with a relatively safe place to create a drama that expresses their personal experiences, reflect
upon the implications of the drama, and then decide how to respond in real life.48 Variations of Boal’s methods
have been used in a wide variety of situations.
While Boal always used his methods and techniques as a consciousness-raising tool and a non-violent tactic against
oppression, similar techniques have been used for anthropological research,49 to open discussions of emotional
topics such as the experience of struggling with metastatic cancer,50 to facilitate feminist conversation,51 and for
economic development under the guise of “Theatre for Development.”52 For an example of an organization that
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encourages the use of theater in community advocacy, go to the website of Theatre of the Oppressed.
While theater is probably the art form most widely used in participatory research and popular education, other
arts such as dance, music, and visual arts (for example, the creation of community murals and installation art)53
can be used as well. All participatory art forms are rich in symbolic and ontological meaning and generally build
trust among participants.
Internet-based Organizations
The Internet has spawned a new generation of organizations that support popular education and participatory
research in the broadest sense. Several were listed in Chapter 14 and need not be repeated here. Others include
MoveOn.org, which has a political component, a civic action component, and a petitioning component;
Change.org, where dozens of ordinary people have started petitions that have influenced decision makers in
business and government to make changes large and small; and the various branches of the Occupy movement,
which has evolved from a specific cause (Occupy Wall Street) into multiple organizing efforts, including
#occupytogether, a loose network of social action and popular education style organizers who help one another on
particular issues. These organizations change rapidly in true kaleidoscopic fashion but can provide you with
resources and ideas.
Taken together, all of these organizations and movements from the venerable Highlander to the newest Internet
efforts offer support for the type of popular education and participatory research paradigm that has been a major
emphasis of this text.
Volunteer Efforts and Movements
The Corporation for National and Community
Service and Points of Light Foundation
Both the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Foundation have been
partnering for many years to encourage the private sector to assume its fair share of public service through
volunteer efforts. The Corporation for National and Community Service is an umbrella organization founded in
1993 that encompasses several major volunteer programs including Americorps, Senior Corps, Learn and Serve
America, the Nonprofit Capacity Building Fund, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation
Fund. It also leads in coordinating yearly events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service each January,
the yearly National Conference on Volunteering and Service, and rapid response to disaster relief. It is primarily
funded by the federal government. In addition to its national programs, the corporation has state offices and
programs. It is a huge organization, and its site is somewhat difficult to navigate, but once you connect with the
right people it can be helpful in finding “people power” for your programs.54 Americorps, in particular, has had a
very good track record providing positions, health insurance, and college accounts for thousands of people, as well
as accomplishing hundreds of worthwhile community projects.
Administration
Understanding and Mastery: Recruiting and managing volunteers
Critical Thinking Question
What volunteer resources exist at the micro-, focal-, mezzo-, and macro-levels that might provide time,
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http://www.moveon.org

http://www.change.org

http://www.occupytogether.org/

financial assistance, or technical aid to your community organizing effort? What procedures will you put in
place to recruit and manage them?
The Points of Light Institute was originally founded by President George H. W. Bush to encourage private
voluntarism. It has developed a history of collaboration among major industries, powerful politicians in both
parties, leading clergy, large nonprofit organizations, and the Corporation for National and Community Service,
which is a major sponsor of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.55 Some locally initiated
projects have had good success attaining help from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the
Points of Light Foundation where others seem to have trouble making the necessary connections. As in most
things, the success in using these resources depends largely on your ability to make connections with the right
person at the right time. Americorps and other volunteer programs can be quite helpful in filling around the
edges, to accomplish short-term goals, and to work with one-time projects. Once an organization is able to
establish a relationship with an Americorps or Senior Corps group, the relationship is likely to continue—but the
initial connections are hard to achieve.
Service Learning
Historically, institutions of higher education have a three-part mission: teaching, research, and community service.
Within the past twenty years or so, many have combined the three into a movement called service learning, in
which students and faculty are encouraged to engage with their local communities in a variety of service efforts,56
with many high schools and even elementary schools following suit. At the college level, students at the State
University of New York/Empire State College do service learning projects in their own focal communities around
the world and, in 2010, the college won an award from the Obama administration for these efforts. The work of
the ABCD Institute at Northwestern University —with its asset-based approach to community development—has
already been discussed at length in Chapters 7 and 14. These are just two of many examples of partnerships
between communities and higher education. You should investigate resources at your local community college,
college, or university as you develop your community projects. Even elementary and high schools are developing
service learning projects that incorporate academic skills into solving real world problems. Many local schools have
such projects, and they are especially common in Catholic education. Service learning projects that directly impact
the lives of children are particularly appealing at the K–12 level. Ideal projects involve those with concrete results,
such as building a playground and utilizing skills such as planning, measuring, and cooperative hands-on work. If
you have such a project, talk with local school officials about ways to involve teachers and students and to assist
them with the development of both academic and community organizing objectives.
Explore more about service learning as an educational component. Explore your local education community to
determine if they offer service learning opportunities. How could your organization be connected to their efforts?
Assess your comprehension of the Role of Organized Volunteerism in Community Building by completing this
quiz.
Faith-based Communities Working For and Modeling
Social Change
Many community organizers become involved because of their religious faith, especially the call to love one’s
neighbor as oneself. The following four examples are some of the many communities around the world that
support organizing efforts by living and working together with each other and the people they serve. These
examples were chosen because of their diversity,and the author’s familiarity with them, and because they have not
been discussed elsewhere in the book. There are many others that are equally as worthy.
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Hospitality and Radical Politics: The Catholic Worker
Movement
Organizations that support altruistic grassroots community organizing come in many shapes and sizes and have
many motivations. Some, like the Catholic Worker Movement, are loosely organized and depend entirely on faith.
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded in the 1930s by Dorothy Day, a Catholic writer and social
reformer57 and Peter Maurin, a “street philosopher” and poet whom Day often credited as the real inspiration for
the effort.58 The Catholic Worker Movement began as a response to the suffering of unemployed workers who
were often Catholic immigrants from Eastern or Southern Europe.59 Through the years, the movement has had its
ups and downs. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Catholic Worker houses and its newspaper, The
Catholic Worker, provided important material and political support for the unemployed. During the McCarthy
anti-communist witch hunts in the early 1950s, the organization came under close scrutiny and criticism but
survived. Even after the death of its founders, it has continued to serve quietly and without political ties. Catholic
Worker Houses of Hospitality provide direct assistance to the unemployed with food, shelter, and clothing. The
movement gives a voice to the working poor through its newspaper and a website, which is updated daily.60
The Catholic Worker Movement has never sought nonprofit status for fund-raising; it has preferred to remain
autonomous and self-supporting. It has no boards of directors, no sponsors, no system of governance, no
paychecks, and no pension plans. Since the death of founder Dorothy Day in 1980, there has been no central
leader. Throughout its existence, the Catholic Worker Movement has maintained houses and communities in
both urban and rural areas. Anyone who agrees to live in a peaceful community of mutual care and respect can
stay for a day, a week, or a lifetime. Over 200 Catholic Worker communities existed at this writing in 2012,
mostly in the United States.
The Catholic Worker Movement not only provides hospitality, asylum, and the necessities of life to those who
seek assistance but also shows characteristics of a social movement. Many of its volunteers have been jailed for
non-violent protests against racism, unfair labor practices, social injustice, and war. Catholic Worker communities
serve as a haven for those who embrace such philosophies. The Catholic Worker newspaper has been a radical voice
for the rights of labor and the disenfranchised since it was founded in 1933. The paper was first sold at a
Communist Party May Day rally in Union Square, New York City, for a penny a copy. The price and the message
still remain the same in 2013.
Explore the Web to learn more about the Catholic Worker Movement. What is the role of historic social action
movements such as the Catholic Worker Movement in community organizing today?
Institute for Cultural Affairs61
The Institute of Cultural Affairs began life as the Ecumenical Institute: Chicago as a result of a meeting of the
World Council of Churches in Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, which directed the establishment of two lay education
centers or ecumenical institutes, one in Europe and the other in the United States. The Ecumenical Institute:
Evanston was directed by German theologian Dr. Walter Leibrecht, who returned to Germany in 1962 and was
followed by Dr. Joseph Mathews, who at the time was living at the Faith and Life Community at Perkins
Theological Seminary with his wife, children, and seven other families. Their intentional community was modeled
on the early church practice of sharing all resources, so they all moved to Evanston and lived on a single salary.62
The early 1960s was a time of upheaval in U.S. cities, and the group soon realized that they could not accomplish
urban renewal from comfortable Evanston. They decided to move the institute to an abandoned Brethren
seminary in the heart of Chicago’s West Side ghetto. In the early years, the institute was completely self-
supporting. The initial group of families became the Order Ecumenical, an intentional community based loosely
on historic religious orders in which members shared all of their family income and, in turn, were allotted
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“stipends” for personal expenses based on individual and family needs. The average stipend was $100 per couple,
per week, with additional compensation for children. Food costs, utilities, rent, health insurance, and some
transportation costs were borne through the organization. Everyone had assigned tasks. About half were required
to hold paid secular positions; the others were assigned internally to various institute projects and programs,
including child care.
During the early Chicago years, the Institute had three missions: It (1) provided lay education in modern
theology, (2) experimented with life as an intentional religious community (the Order Ecumenical), and (3)
developed models of community organization and renewal, beginning in the old seminary’s immediate
neighborhood. A popular sociological theory in the late 1950s defined cities in terms of four concentric circles,
spreading from the “first city” (the core of economic prosperity) through the poorest “second city” areas and the
working class “third city” to the prosperous white “fourth city” suburbs. Ecumenical Institute staff proclaimed
themselves to be the “Fifth City” of well-educated, white pioneers returning to work with local residents to renew
a blighted area. A section of the West Side of Chicago around Ecumenical Institute headquarters was designated as
“Fifth City.” The intent was for community organizing to take place that would “meet all the needs of all the
people in a delimited geographic area” through identifying potential local community leaders and enabling them
to overcome their crippling “victim image” by creating and revitalizing needed social structures. Fifth City did
indeed become a model. Its preschool was one of the prototypes for Head Start. Its community organizing
methods became a guide for the Community Action Agencies and Economic Opportunity Councils of Lyndon
Johnson’s War on Poverty. In retrospect, participants (including this author)63 were idealistic, naïve, and
unintentionally patronizing. But our African-American neighbors appreciated our efforts in spite of our obvious
ignorance, and so the Institute grounds were one of just a few white-owned structures to escape destruction in the
Chicago riots of 1967 that followed the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
In the decades after its founding, the Fifth City experiment became a prototype for community organizing around
the world. In 1973, Chicago headquarters were moved from Fifth City to the Near North Side when Kemper
Insurance donated its former headquarters to the Institute. Work in Fifth City was turned over to the
neighborhood. At that time, a decision was made to separate Institute functions. The Order Ecumenical remained
the main staffing body, the community organizing arm became the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), and the
religious education mission to local churches and laypeople dwindled as the ICA, especially its founder Joseph
Mathews, became disillusioned with local churches as vehicles for community change.
In 1988, the financial realities of educating children and preparing for retirement caught up with Institute staff
(the average “order stipend” was $100 per week) so the Order Ecumenical was disbanded in favor of a more
traditional non-profit structure. Each international affiliate became an independent non-profit organization.64
Three groups of people have been affected by the Institute and its work:
Explore the Web to learn more about the Institute of Cultural Affairs: International and Institute of Cultural
Affairs: USA. Why do volunteer organizations like the ICA often evolve into traditional bureaucracies? Is this
trend inevitable? In what ways is this trend positive? How might it be negative?
1. The full-time staff that lived communally as families sharing responsibility for self-support, child rearing,
and the work of the Institute were the most profoundly affected. Many now live more conventionally but in
close contact with one another and are still involved in the mission of the Institute.
2. The many volunteer staff members who, like this author, spent part of their lives at the Institute and have
gone on to apply its principles to a myriad of community organizing efforts.
3. The many community members throughout the world who have been trained in Institute models and
methods and who have applied them in a wide variety of settings. As of 2013, the Institute of Cultural
Affairs in the United States is still headquartered in the former Kemper Insurance Building on Chicago’s
Near North Side, participates in local organizing in Chicago, and has become part of the sustainability and
service learning movements.65
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Koinonia Farm
While the Catholic Worker Movement and the Institute of Cultural Affairs focused first primarily on urban
needs, in its early days Koinonia Farm focused on the needs of mostly black sharecroppers and tenant farmers in
rural Georgia.66 Koinonia Farm was settled in 1945 by two couples, Clarence and Florence Jordan and Martin
and Mabel England. Clarence Jordan67 had an undergraduate degree in agriculture with a love of the land and a
vision of teaching scientific agriculture to his neighbors. Both men were Southern Baptist Church pastors and
professors of theology. Clarence Jordan was a New Testament scholar with a vision of providing advanced biblical
education to nearby black Baptist preachers.68 In addition to their desire to teach and preach, the community
founders had a radical vision of life where people of all ages, races, and abilities shared life in common and
supported themselves through the pecan crops they produced. Soon other people joined them at the farm as
guests, interns, residents, and workers. Both black and white workers were paid equally, and everyone ate at the
common table, shared the common areas and rest rooms, and attended Bible studies and youth camps. This was
not socially acceptable in Georgia in the 1950s and 1960s. Koinonia Farm was repeatedly fire-bombed, its
products were boycotted, participants were threatened, and it became impossible to insure their property, but they
prevailed, as did the Civil Rights Movement. In the late 1960s, things began to settle down in Sumter County
where Koinonia is located. There were only two families left on the farm, including the Jordans, and Clarence had
settled down to write his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospels and Acts. The Jordans wondered whether Koinonia
Farm had served its purpose when an old friend, Millard Fuller, wrote a note asking “What have you got up your
sleeve?” That simple note led to the founding of the project which became Habitat for Humanity. Although
Clarence Jordan did not live to see the first house completed (he died writing a sermon just before the first house
was dedicated in 1969), Habitat and its many affiliates— including the more recently chartered Fuller Center for
Housing (re-inaugurated at Koinonia as a Christian ministry in 2005)—have collaborated with poor families all
around the world to provide decent, affordable housing one family at a time.69 In recent years, Koinonia Farm
moved from being an intentional religious community to a more traditional nonprofit format, but a new group of
members has once again created a shared lifestyle similar to that of the early Christian church. (A simplified shared
lifestyle can be emotionally and spiritually sustaining in the difficult work of community organizing, but it can be
frustrating when someone steals your soda out of the fridge or leaves the kitchen a mess!)
Explore Koinonia Community to learn more. What is the historic and contemporary significance of Christian
communities like Koinonia in improving life for all?
Shinnyo-en Buddhist Community
The Shinnyo-en Foundation and the Shinnyo-en Buddhist denomination was a sponsor of the 2010 National
Conference on Volunteering and Service in New York City, a joint conference among the private Points of Light
Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service, an impressive event held both in real time
and online.70 Shinnyo-en Buddhism was founded in Japan in 1936 and emphasizes peace, cooperation, and
philanthropy. Its practical and symbolic projects span the world and reach out to Buddhists and non-Buddhists
alike.71 In some places, Shinnyo-en operates like a typical religious denomination where members live in their
own homes, go to a central place for worship, and share in community service projects. In other locations,
members live together in monastic-style communities. Practical projects include a group that regularly cleans up
the local railroad station in the early morning, performing the dirtiest and lowliest tasks. Other projects include
disaster relief from earthquake and tidal tsunami damage in Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist areas. In fact, their
strategy is always to ask community elders what is most needed after a disaster. When the Muslim elders in an
earthquake-stricken Pakistani village said that the people longed to have their mosque restored, Shinnyo-en
provided the money and laborers for the project. This practical yet symbolic service makes them admirable.72 The
Shinnyo-en community is particularly active in Hawaii, a state which seems like paradise but actually has a diverse,
sometimes divided multicultural population that includes Native Hawaiians, mostly Buddhist Japanese and
Chinese farm workers, and a variety of white transplants from the U.S. mainland.73 In honor of unity in diversity,
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Shinnyo-en sponsors a yearly lantern floating event on Memorial Day with hundreds of quiet flames floating in
tiny boats on a peaceful bay to commemorate lost loved ones of all races and faiths. The Nā Lei Aloha
Foundation, which sponsors the lantern event, supports other events throughout the year to celebrate the
multicultural heritage of the islands and unity within diversity.74
Explore Shinnyo-en Buddhist to learn more. What is the role of non-Western, faith-based organizations in
community organizing?
To Heal, Repair, and Transform the World: A Jewish
Community75
Dating back to the times of the Hebrew prophets, Judaism has upheld a tradition that each person has the
responsibility to repair the world. This responsibility is called tikkun and is represented by the Network of
Spiritual Progressives, a mostly Jewish social networking-based organization (such as those described in Chapter
14). While the Network of Spiritual Progressives primarily addresses national and international social justice
issues, they are also an online community that supports people of all faiths who work locally and globally on peace
and justice issues. Their website not only provides insights into some spiritual aspects of community organizing
but is also an excellent example of using Web technologies in service of social justice.
Explore Network of Spiritual Progressives to learn more. What has been the historic role of Judaism in
improving community life for all?
There are dozens of other religious communities large and small—in the real, virtual, and blended worlds—that
could have been included in this section, such as ashrams in India based on Gandhian principles, Islamic
community centers, and various ecumenical endeavors. But the religious communities described here provide
good examples of diversity in their approaches to supporting community organizing efforts. Each effort is
characterized by a single-minded commitment to justice and mercy, to working at the grassroots level, and to
assisting the poor and disenfranchised. Participants often have sacrificed financial gain, have forgone professional
acclaim, and have sometimes faced physical danger to ensure that justice will prevail. Life within these
communities is often intense, energizing, and deeply spiritual but rarely materially enriching.
Assess your comprehension of the Role of Faith-based Organizations in Community Organizing by completing
this quiz.
Service Organizations
Service clubs were originally intended for networking; many worthwhile service organizations are the backbone of
many practical community organizing events and ongoing projects. Lions International is a prototypical example
of an effective service organization composed of a network of local clubs.76 The Lions are best known for their
dedication to providing services to the blind, the sight impaired, and the hearing impaired. However, in Middle
View, they also built and now fund the local food pantry, provide Christmas toys, and invest sweat equity into one
of Paul Newman’s camps for children with life-threatening illnesses. Rotary International,77 whose membership
is composed of an individual from each of the main professions in a community, is known for its good works. Its
founding concept holds that such a structure leads to the cross-fertilization of ideas, and its ongoing goal is the
eradication of polio worldwide. Kiwanis International78 concentrates on the needs of children. All three of these
major service clubs were originally all-male but began including both genders during the 1970s.
Community projects worldwide have originated through networking among service club members locally,
regionally, nationally, and internationally. Service clubs can be a world of their own with local, regional, state,
national, and international affiliations. Unfortunately, all seem to be suffering decline as their existing membership
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grows older, although all emphasize youth through the Lions’ Leo Clubs, the Kiwanis’ Key Clubs, and the
Rotary’s international exchange program, respectively. Recent changes in membership rules allowing for affiliation
without required attendance at weekly or monthly meetings may lead to an upturn in membership so they can
continue their vital role in community life. You will find that their networks can be very helpful in gaining
financial and moral support for local programs. They are certainly worth investigating and maybe even joining.
Human Systems
Understanding and Mastery: Organizational structures of communities
Critical Thinking Question
Identify the service organizations in a geographic focal community. Investigate ways they might be helpful
in your community organizing efforts.
In African-American communities, the service club niche is often filled by the Improved Benevolent Protective
Order of Elks of the World,79 the Prince Hall Masons,80 and the “Divine 9” black sororities. These sororities are a
unique institution, founded in the early twentieth century in historically black colleges. Like all sororities, they
enable college women to make friends and form lifelong bonds but, unlike most white sororities, they have gone
far beyond coordinating college social life and have supported many causes within black communities throughout
the United States.81
Assess your comprehension of the Role of Service Clubs in Community Organizing by completing this quiz.
Summary
While this chapter was not intended to be all-inclusive, it does give you a brief historical review of community
development, social action, volunteer support initiatives, religious communities, and service organizations that will
give you a sense of the kinds of organizations and resources that strongly support community organizing.
Assess your analysis and evaluation of this chapter’s content by completing the Chapter Review.
Notes
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Appendix A Details of Participatory Research
Strategies
This appendix is designed to help you work step by step through several of the major social science research
techniques and analytical frameworks. This appendix, together with its accompanying assignments, will give you
practice in using these research skills.
How to Do Reliable, Valid Web Research
Often the first step in systematic community organizing research is to explore reliable Internet sites for
information on your focal system. To evaluate the validity of such information, you should review and apply
information literacy criteria, such as that provided by the State University of New York/Empire State College
Commons.
You should critically evaluate all Internet sites for:
Accuracy: You can judge the accuracy of the information by assessing the reputation of the sponsoring
organization and the intent of the site. For instance, government sites (.gov), colleges and universities (.edu),
and well-known non-profit organizations (.org) likely strive for accuracy because their reputations depend
on the validity of their claims.
Credibility of the author(s): On a reputable site, you will find the name of an author or authors, the
department responsible for the site, and contact information if you have questions. You can use your general
search engine or an academic search engine to learn more about the author’s experience, areas of expertise,
reputation in the field, and probable biases.
Bias: Unfortunately, many websites are ideologically skewed. Learn to look for words and phrases that
overstate a particular case, appeal to emotions, are not supported by credible sources, or are funded by
individuals or organizations with a clear prejudice or self-interest. You may find it helpful to explore such
sites to understand various viewpoints, but be sure to sift carefully to differentiate fact from fiction.
Currency: How recent is the information? Newer is often, but not necessarily, better. Newer sites are usually
preferable in fields which change rapidly, such as politics, medicine, psychology, the natural sciences,
economics, the Internet, and funding opportunities Accuracy and credibility are more important than
currency if you are exploring areas such as history, examples of model programs, or classics in a field.
Accessibility: Accessibility is determined by the ease of connecting to a website and whether a site is open to
the public or charges a fee. In general, there are enough free sites available that it’s unnecessary to use paid
sites. Be wary of commercial sites that offer some information for free but promise more for a fee or that
require credit card information before providing access Avoid sites that charge for doing Web research
because many use freely available information that you could access yourself. Unless your community
organization is extremely wealthy or you have very little time, it’s usually better to do your own research—
not only because you will save money but because the research process itself will help you perceive creative
connections as you collect and analyze information.
Intent of sponsoring organization: There is a trend toward dual sponsorship of websites that pairs non-profit
organizations, self-help groups, and other social action initiatives with for-profit organizations. While dual
sponsorship benefits the altruistic organization financially, it can also lead to co-option, such as when a
medical self-help or support group implicitly encourages use of a pharmaceutical company’s products. Such
sites are increasingly common and search engines tend to promote them because they appear at the top of
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any search list.
Comparability or generalizability: Comparability or generalizability is how closely a site compares to your
organization’s interests, mission, outcome goals, target population, and location. Usually, the more
comparable the site, the more useful it will be. For example, while a youth center in a rural community will
have some things in common with a youth center in an urban area, it will also have significant differences.
Be prepared to analyze programmatic similarities and differences, take some good ideas, and leave the rest.
Useful links: Helpful websites provide useful links to other resources. You will find it helpful to think of a
Web search as a stroll through a fascinating forest with many by-ways. Follow you intuition and resolve to
enjoy yourself by following any link that intrigues you or seems likely to add to your store of knowledge.
Uniqueness: Once you have studied comparable organizations—but before you make final implementation
plans—look for unique approaches to your focal issue. Unique approaches to old problems can spark
creative thinking and enable innovative solutions.
Mining Data Online
Create a systematic Web-search strategy that provides structure but also allows for flexibility and serendipity. Use
Google or other reliable search engines. Identify various search terms that might apply. If you have difficulty
locating the information on the first try, use different combinations of search terms. Pay attention to recurring
words, phrases, or acronyms as you explore your area of interest because specific areas may develop their own
terms or jargon which you can use as key words for additional searches.
You can use flow charts, such as the one in Figure A.1, to map the steps you plan to take.
Figure A.1 Exploring the Geographic
Community Systems
Uncovering the needs of a specific focal system and understanding how it functions require
researching its demographics, sub-systems, and constituents (such as local government, organizations,
and associations).
Gathering Data for Geographically-based Organizing
If you are focusing on a geographic community, some of your key research questions will be, “How many people
are we talking about?” “What are their ages?” “What is their ethnic origin?” “How much money do they make?”
“What are their living conditions?” Geographic community organizing often begins with gathering these kinds of
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demographic data about the focal community system, its micro-systems, and its mezzo-systems—often including
its municipality, county, region of the state, and state as a whole. The U.S. Census is your primary tool for such
searches, although learning how to use it requires time, a high tolerance for frustration, and a sense of humor. The
U.S. Census (http://www.census.gov/) has a very valuable site for learning about your focal community, micro-,
and mezzo-systems because it has vast information broken down in multiple ways. Go to the site and practice
using the tools to find the ones you feel are most useful. As of July 2012, the simplest way to use the Census is to
(1) go to the main site and click “American Fact Finder” in the list at the bottom of the page or Google “American
Fact Finder” and (2) click the tab titled “Using Fact Finder” and follow its instructions for using the search
options. The site will provide a prioritized list of the census tables that are most likely to contain the information
you need.
However, remember that because the Census depends on the willingness and availability of people to reply to its
questions, it is very accurate for stable, mostly middle or upper income areas like Middle View. It is notoriously
inaccurate for places, like Smithville, that have large numbers of legal and illegal aliens, non-English speakers, and
people who are homeless or who move frequently. Moreover, because the U.S. Census is only updated every ten
years (at the turn of each decade), it becomes less reliable as the decade progresses. As you reach the end of a
decade, you will need to compare census data with observational data, especially in geographic areas experiencing
rapid demographic change. In spite of its weaknesses, most planning efforts depend heavily on U.S. Census data.
Unfortunately, the Census has recently been under attack by congressional cost cutters so some of its services, such
as the Fact Finder, may be cut. Check on their availability, and if you need help, ask a librarian or a representative
from your municipal or county planning department with experience in locating and accessing data.
Gathering Data on Specific Issues
If you are focusing specific issues or concerns in a geographic focal system or a community of interest, you need to
develop strategies for learning as much as you can about the numbers of people affected, policies and programs
already are in place, initiatives that have been suggested, and likely future directions. Developing this knowledge
base should begin with collecting information and then comparing and consolidating data from many different
online sources.
Government sites are excellent for getting an overview of existing programs, policies, and new initiatives at the
international, national, state, regional, and local levels. The best place to start is the USA.gov initiative, a portal
that makes all kinds of national, state, and local government agency sites quickly and easily available. Once you
understand its design, it will help answer many different questions without searching multiple sites and using
multiple search terms.
All U.S. states and territories have websites that are accessible from the USA.gov site, or you can go directly to
your state’s site using your search engine to find the main site. State sites are particularly useful if you are
interested in state-level services provided for a particular group of people, such as the developmentally disabled, or
by a particular government agency. State sites and their sub-categories vary in quality and in ease of navigation;
plan to spend an hour exploring the site to get your bearings.
As of 2013, the USA.gov site enables you to find local government sites in two or three easy steps, or you can use
your search engine to locate sites directly. As with the state sites, local government sites vary greatly in their design,
ease of use, and quality of information. After exploring relevant websites, visit your local government offices in
person and attend a council meeting or other decision-making event. If you can’t make a live event, read meeting
minutes—which are usually posted on local websites—or watch the event on public access television.
The CIA World Factbook is well-designed, updated weekly, and very useful if you want to work outside the
United States. It offers gives a quick overview of the geography, people and society, government, economy,
transportation, military capabilities, and transnational issues affecting hundreds of nations and political entities
around the world and provides links to other sources of information, such as biographies of world leaders and a
link to an electronic reading room to access materials under the Freedom of Information Act.
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http://www.census.gov/

While government sites are good sources of information about focal community strengths, areas of concern, and
government services, they may present a one-sided (and largely positive) view. Therefore, you should explore the
websites of other organizations, associations, and individuals to understand your focal system and/or focal issues
from a variety of perspectives. In geographic communities, this process often starts with a visit to the municipal
website. For example, if you