Principles of Community Organizing

The concept of individualism is a significant principle which fundamentally intertwines organizing and education. Questions about forms of leadership and their impacts on individualism must be analyzed. What form of leadership, if any, leads to a better result and fostering of a community conscious?

Individualism profits from being observed in relation to different types of leadership. Ella Baker believed that individualism would be the most empowering development in furthering progress in a movement. Individualism surrounds the contrasting theories of “group-centered leadership” and “leader-centered groups” (Payne, 1989, p. 892). Group-centered leadership is established through people’s struggles for common or collective goals. On the other hand, an organization led by a leader influenced by their own inclinations demonstrates characteristics of a leader-centered group with no interest for the collective good.

Power dynamics of a group offer further insight to a leader’s intentions. The dichotomy of a good or bad leader represents contrasting power relations. Power focused towards the leader’s own “social and personal goals, the organization is not representative of the collective group” differs from a good organizer’s approach to the “creation of power for other to use” (Alinsky, 1971, p. 80). By producing power for others, the organizer establishes the opportunity and space for an empowering community atmosphere. This structural foundation of power focused on the community highlights the individual within the greater context of the group.

Concerning the concepts of organizing and education, questions about the balance between providing educational tools and imposing ideas arise. Is it possible to not impose one’s ideas when taking on the position of a leader? What does it mean to provide the educational tools while not imposing ideas? Equipping an organization with the educational tools to advance within their movement promotes the individual humanity found in the collective group. A leader can serve as a facilitator instead of an intervening force.

At the core of organizing, it should be embedded in the roots of the people. A leader must go back to those closely influenced by the problem. It is essential to meet the people where they are and not where you want them to be. Envisioning people where you desire them to be, will lead to obstacles capable of hindering the process for productive and meaningful change.

It is crucial to ensure that individual humanity is conserved within collective consciousness. Individualism’s foundation is based on the leader’s approach to the group’s goals and is dependent on their underlying motivations. With the assistance of an organizer, the group must learn to assess a situation and build the movement themselves. It is here where society can begin to be transformed by the development of a community embodying empowerment and support.