Principles of Organizing

Community organizing can look different across groups attempting to organize for a cause. But, people choose to participate in organizing for a common purpose: “To create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment, health, and the chance to live by values that give meaning to life” (Alinsky, 1971). Organizers will rally around a problem occurring in a community and attempt to mobilize members through their voices and actions in the community. There is no clear method for a successful organizing campaign, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Saul Alinky is a life long organizer that has outlined many characteristics for a successful organizer. Communication is a key requirement, perhaps the most essential requirement, to organizing people and keeping them engaged throughout the process of a campaign. For an organizer to begin their movement, they must have the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds and understand their experiences living in their community. Through understanding different backgrounds an organizer is able to reach many groups of people to convince them to join their organizing campaign. Next, the organizer must have true passion for the issue their fighting against. Having curiosity about an issue and solutions to that issue keeps the drive and fight going for the organizer and people will rally around this passion. Anyone in a community can make a change through these characteristics if they truly want to see and make a change to the status quo.

Ella Baker places the importance of successful organizing on the people involved in the campaign. Taking the ego out of leaders in organizing is important to giving power to the people. When people in organizing feel they have power to make a difference they will be more invested in finding a solution and reaching out to community members to join their cause. She showed this method through creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC’s goal was to have “activists going into a community and staying there for a period of time, trying to identify local leadership, strengthen it, and find ways to create organizations and programs” (Payne, 1989). Strengthening leaders on the local level have the ability to make the campaign more successful because they are the ones actually living in that neighborhood experiencing the issue first hand rather than having a national organization completely run the show that might be out-of-the-loop and lack context.

All organizing stems from a problem that needs to be addressed. This can take shape on the local level in neighborhoods or across the nation. No matter the cause, it’s important to have strong leaders that can reach many backgrounds of people and make them feel empowered to make a change in their community. Organizing inevitably educates members about issues all are facing in their community whether that individual is experiencing them or not. Dialogue between members of a community helps spread the cause and ultimately makes the community stronger as a whole. Organizing not only can attack a problem a group is facing but it can also bring community members together and have a sense of community.