Swk1048 Community organising theory


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A thumbnail sketch of the Roots to Power book

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Swk1048 Community organising theory

  1. 1. Roots to Power Staples Lee (2004) - A Manual for Grass Roots Organizing Clinical Professor of Social Work, Boston University 1
  2. 2. grassroots community organizing • collective action by community members drawing on – the strength of numbers, – participatory processes, and – indigenous leadership • to decrease power disparities and achieve shared goals for social change. • Organizing is a bottom-up philosophical approach to social change, not simply a method to achieve it 2
  3. 3. principles • Community members make their own decisions about social change • Community members take collective action that employs “people power” to achieve shared goals, resolve common problems, and gain a greater measure of control over the circumstances of their lives • The community provides its own leadership for the change effort. • developing ongoing organizations as a power base through which community members can take collective action over time 3
  4. 4. Four arenas • turf • issue • identity, or • workplace 4
  5. 5. Types of approach Community Development v Social Action 5
  6. 6. Community Development • involves participants in constructive activities and processes to • produce improvements, opportunities, structures, goods, and services that • increase the quality of life, build individual and collective capacities, and enhance social solidarity. • approach is developmental & integrative. • The goal is internal development • of the community’s capacity to make improvements, solve problems, generate its own leadership, strengthen social relationships, and function more effectively • does not attempt to redistribute resources or to reduce power dis- parities • “power holders could be organized to effect change” (Beck and Eichler, 2000 6
  7. 7. CD has three goals • problem resolution – (e.g., creating a community garden, organizing a neighbourhood crime watch, producing afford- able housing, or generating employment opportunities), • capacity building – through the establishment of effective GCOs, • and the development of social solidarity – “the ties that bind.” 7
  8. 8. Social Action • brings people together to – convince, – pressure, or – coerce • external decision-makers to meet collective goals either to act in a specified manner or to modify or stop certain activities. • less powerful groups to transform themselves from objects of oppression to subjects able to act in unison to challenge dominant elites (Freire, 1973) • Is redistributive in nature 8
  9. 9. SA has 3 goals • problem resolution – (e.g., obtaining curve cuts, modifying the Informed Consent Policy, or eliminating illegal dumping), • building a power base – Through the development of a strong GCO, and • decreasing power disparities – Between community members and external groups 9
  10. 10. Picture • a vacant lot in a multiracial low-income neighbourhood. The land—owned by the city—has become a dumping ground with old mattresses, furniture, appliances, and car parts littered across the full expanse. Weeds, broken glass, and patches of briars fill out the scene. • CD= cleanup day, and perhaps there might be an effort to persuade the city to provide some equipment, as well as a truck to remove the debris. But the actual work would be done by residents themselves • SA=begin with door-to-door recruitment, “rubbing raw the sores of discontent” (Alinsky, 1969)by engaging residents in agitational conversations about the city’s fail-ure to provide adequate management of this parcel of land 10
  11. 11. • The most basic goal of grassroots community organizing is to bring about social change. • CD is limited because it fails to • “deal with underlying issues that are caused by polarized interest, such as banks that redline the community, corporations that abandon it, absentee landlords who run it down, or private/public policy that undermines it at almost every turn” (Fisher and Shragge 2000 pp.8–9) 11
  12. 12. Goals of Community Development • Problem Resolution • Capacity Building • Social Solidarity Goals of Social Action • Problem Resolution • Building a Power Base • Decreasing Power Disparities 12
  13. 13. Miller’s 1971 3T’s of power • taming – Elimination of the worst abuses, such as police brutality, racial profiling, predatory lending, or unfair evictions • transfer – To replace some decision-makers with “their own people.” • transformation – Restructuring of relationships such as the passage of a mental patients’ rights bill, creation of a housing trust fund (cf housing benefit and private rents, establishment of a Living wage (London Living Wages and the Olympics) 13
  14. 14. 10 tools for taking power • Doing It Yourself • Developing Persuasive Arguments • Raising Awareness and Consciousness • Using Existing Laws, Policies, and Processes • Creating or Changing Laws, Policies, and Processes • Generating Publicity • Exercising Electoral Power • Affecting Appointments • Exercising Consumer Power • Disrupting “Business As Usual” Tim’s advice: its easier to ask forgiveness than permission! 14
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  16. 16. Role of the Organiser Locate and Relate. Motivate and Integrate. Facilitate and Educate. ACTIVATE! 16
  17. 17. Organisers • Organiser is not (always) the community leader • organizer’s job to get other people to take the lead, • “Coaching is the essence of the organizer role” (Moshe ben Asher 1984) • Organizers facilitate the process through which community members begin to analyze the circumstances of their lives and then think about making changes in institutions and power relationships 17
  18. 18. Time & Location • Bulk of an organizer’s time is spent working either with individuals – In their kitchens, on their front doorstops, and over the phone • Or with small groups – In an endless array of meetings for recruitment, action research, community education, leadership training, executive decisions, grassroots fundraising, strategic analysis, action planning, negotiating, lobbying, and evaluating organizational actions and activities 18
  19. 19. Don’t be dragged in… • it’s easier to do things for people, – saving time and – getting personal ego satisfaction in the process. • Yet such shortcuts only reduce organizational growth by robbing the members of ownership and control • do their work without creating relationships of dependence and overreliance. • Decision-making power must remain with the full membership. • Much of the work can be done through the skilful use of Socratic questioning, which helps focus discussion 19
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  21. 21. Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? Organizing Models and Methods Ten dimensions membership, leadership, staffing, structure, goals, target systems, strategy & tactics employed, finances, allies, and communications. 21
  22. 22. WHO: membership, leadership, staffing & structure • direct membership – primary recruitment – loyalty to cause • organization of organizations (O of O) – Team of teams (ashoka) – congregation model – loyalty to primary organisation – Active, not paper, participation is essential – No, FB ‘likes’ don’t count…. – But…. Alinsky (1971) “the illusion of a group’s power often is more important than its actual strength” 22
  23. 23. leaders • 1st line leaders – core activists—regular participants in the group’s meetings, activities, and events. • 2nd line leaders – links between the 1st line & rank-and-file members, – energy, creativity, and fresh perspectives. – Slow down “The Iron Law of Oligarchy” as 1st line leaders become more powerful – "Bureaucracy happens. If bureaucracy happens, power rises. Power corrupts”- iron law 23
  24. 24. Conscientization • (Freire, 1973) enables organizational leaders • to actively reflect about their personal life experience, • to recognize similar experiences shared by others, • to develop a political critique of systemic oppression and • to prepare to act collectively to challenge and change the conditions of their lives. 24
  25. 25. “WHAT” • its purpose, mission, history, track record, opportunities, and challenges are. • Long-Range Goals-aspirational • Middle-Range Goals- concrete • Objectives are measurable outcomes within a specified time period 25
  26. 26. ‘Target System’ or Stakeholders • Internal: establish a positive reputation and credibility among its own constituency • External: either – (CD) efforts to enlist the assistance of external institutions, or – (SA) mobilization within the community with pressure directed at external decision-makers • Allies? 26
  27. 27. “HOW” • a GCO goes about attempting to achieve its mission and goals— strategy and tactics, finances, allies, and communications 27
  28. 28. • internal • strategies to engage and motivate community members to take collective action, as well as • external • ones designed to convince or coerce organizational targets to act as the group wishes. • Cf Ten Tools for Taking Power 28
  29. 29. Challenges • Does the organization understand the dynamics of community development versus social action, as well as the appropriate strategic continuum from collaboration to confrontation? • How often have the various types of strategies been used, and with what results? • Have errors been made using strategies and tactics that either were too weak or too militant? • What new strategic and tactical abilities and skills have organizational members, leaders, and staff developed? • Is the GCO able to mix, match, and modify its tactics as needed? • Has the group learned to overcome common counter tactics from resistant targets? 29
  30. 30. Finance • “Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.” • internally – from sources such as dues, door-to-door canvassing for contributions, and a variety of grassroots fundraising projects (such as raffles, banquets, dances, carnivals, bake sales, ad books, or potluck suppers) – Externally • Grants, funds, trading 30
  31. 31. 4 phases of organising • Groundwork: – gather basic information about the community and begin analyzing the power dynamics at work within it – Door knocking, questionnaires, meetings – use face-to-face recruitment methods in natural settings where potential members are accessible and feel comfortable interacting. – Who else is active in the field? • Developing an Organizing Committee (OC): – initial core group is needed to provide leadership and direction for the organizing effort. • General Recruitment Drive: – Systematic recruitment is launched with the active support and participation of the Organizing Committee members. • Formation Meeting: – The organizing drive culminates with a formation meeting where temporary leadership is elected and organizational action is planned 31
  32. 32. groundwork • Turf • Demographics • Key Institutions. • Community-based Organizations and Agencies • Powerful Actors. • Existing Issues • Potential Issues • Political Trends. • Gatekeepers- who controls access? • Opinion Leaders. • Credentialing – who can vouch for you? • Discovery- where does their self interest lie? • Visioning-what’s in it for me • Commitment- big favour first • Building Momentum 32
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  34. 34. Analyze, Strategize, and Catalyze Issues and Strategy 34
  35. 35. Choosing campaigns • Is the issue consistent with the long- and middle-range goals of the organization? • Will the issue be unifying or divisive? • What is the GCO’s capacity to undertake this issue campaign at the present time? • Will the campaign help the GCO grow? • Will the campaign provide a good educational experience for leaders and members, developing their consciousness, independence, and skills? • Will the GCO receive credit for a victory on the issue, improve its credibility, and increase its overall visibility? • How will the campaign affect organizational resources? • Will the campaign develop new allies and/or enemies? • Will the campaign emphasize collective action, producing new strategies, tactics, or issues? • Will the campaign produce a significant victory 35
  36. 36. Tactics (alinsky) • Power isn’t only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. • Never go outside the experience of your people. This will produce confusion, fear, a collapse of communication, and a lack of ownership of the tactic. Keep things simple and logical. • Wherever possible, go outside of the experience of the enemy. Keep them off balance by doing the unexpected. Don’t become predictable in your actions. • Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. • Ridicule is one of our most important weapons. • A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. Have fun! • A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. • Keep the pressure on with a variety of tactics and actions. • The threat can be more terrifying than the thing itself. 36
  37. 37. Tactics (alinsky) • Develop operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition. The pressure produces a reaction from the target, setting the stage for further organizational action and subsequent oppositional reaction. • If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through to its counterside. The real action is in the enemy’s reaction. The enemy, properly goaded and guided in its reaction, will be your major strength. • The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Be prepared to offer an organizational solution to the issue if called upon. • Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. • Tactics, like organization and like life, require that you move with the action. Be flexible and imaginative. Have contingency plans for a variety of responses by the opposition 37
  38. 38. Innovative direction action • squatting, street blocking, citizen’s arrests,, pledges, subpoenaing opponents, • creative use of e-mail and the Internet, • “people’s hearings,” • buying mainstream advertising, • “billing” the city for services done by the organization 38
  39. 39. What the target will do • The Seven D’s of Defense” – Deflect, – Delay, – Deceive, – Divide, – Deny, – Discredit, and – Destroy 39
  40. 40. The best defense • solid research methodology and a good media strategy to carry your message to the general public. • number of people actively involved in the campaign and the track record of legitimacy it has established over time • strong allies, solid legal assistance, a stepped-up media campaign, and aggressive direct action can add up to an effective counteroffensive 40
  41. 41. Preparation for Action • Research on Target • Logistical Plans • Action Planning Meetings • Formulate Demands • Prioritize Demands • Divide up Roles • Role Play and Practice 41
  42. 42. Assessment • What happened? • Why did this happen? • What did we do well? • What might we have done differently? • Where do we go from here? 42
  43. 43. Speaking truth to power • Quaker Milton Mayer 1955 • mainstream approach to community involvement usually is predisposed toward limited input—such as reactions to predetermined institutional decisions 43
  44. 44. Decision-making structures • self-appointed “grasstips” leaders—recognized by outside authorities but neither respected nor trusted within their own communities— are designated to speak for a particular group. • handpicked as “window dressing.” 44
  45. 45. Representation in power • Grassroots Community Organisations should be given precedence over unattached individuals when various types of institutional decision- making structures are constituted • such representatives should comprise a large enough portion of the total seats/votes to form a critical mass • representatives from GCOs should be given the requisite orientation and training, so that they can function as knowledgeable and active participants. 45
  46. 46. Operating Policies and Procedures • a relatively decentralized management system is most consistent with bottom-up empowerment approach. • multiple access points for community groups to have influence on truly significant institutional decisions and behaviors. • policy of long-range planning that incorporates a central role for community stakeholders 46
  47. 47. So • Community obligated institutions (Coins) like local authorities or hospitals that show the following features: – Centralised power and decision-making – Single points of ‘customer relations’ or ‘complaints depts’, or – Short-term reactive planning • Are usually ‘playing at’ community involvement 47
  48. 48. Programming • Key programmatic stages of: – assessment, – design, – implementation, and – evaluation • In COINS are essential points of involvement – assessing needs as well as assets – community buy-in and ownership – close monitoring and active evaluation of institutional programs by GCOs 48
  49. 49. Making public policy • Elected decision-makers make different decisions when watched by the affected constituents • Get the right information to the right person at the right time. • Public policy-makers weigh opinion as equal to fact 49
  50. 50. So what… of community research • When panning for gold, don’t discard the diamonds • ‘Spin’ning makes the world go round. • Follow the money. • Who is connected to whom ? • Only believe what you see with your own two eyes • have your eyes examined regularly. • If you can’t find an insider, make one. • Know the rules/laws for access to (public) information 50
  51. 51. After Words, Take Action For the powerless, there’s only one course to follow. Organize! Struggle! Become powerful! 51