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 Congregation-Based Community Organizing

What is Congregation Based Community Organizing (CBCO)?

Congregation-based community organizing is a deliberate process of bringing religious congregations together around shared concerns and values to challenge the economic, political and social systems to act justly.

The organizing process includes:

  1. Establishing relationship between organizer and clergy/leaders
  2. Trained leaders conducting a series of one-on-one or small community meetings to surface problems and build internal networks of relationships
  3. Voting to select 1-3 community problems on which the organization will focus
  4. Researching problems and determining long-term solutions
  5. Mobilizing networks for large public meetings to challenge appropriate officials around common issue(s)
  6. Winning issue(s) and repeating the process with even greater power and skill

Congregation-based Community Organizations will:

Congregation-based Community Organizations will not:

Seek justice by calling for long-term, systemic solutions to problems. Examples include holding city and transit authorities accountable to improve public bus service and increase accessibility to higher paying jobs; holding public school officials accountable to train teachers to use improved reading curricula in low-performing public schools and increase literacy; holding housing authority officials accountable to establish a publicly financed trust fund where returns on investment may be used to build low-income housing

Provide direct service to meet immediate needs like the Red Cross, that provides food and supplies in the aftermath of hurricane; Teach for America, that sends teachers into low-performing public schools for a limited time to provide supplemental support; Habitat for Humanity, that builds several affordable homes using volunteer labor and donations

Break down ethnic and cultural barriers by bringing together people from diverse ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds

Define membership by one particular ethnic, religious, or racial constituency

Encourage dialogue and action among religious congregations to do justice

Actively recruit secular organizations for membership (though they may join)

Seek to improve communities by calling for whatever best practices are proven most effective, no matter which political or economic leaders may be responsible

Align itself with a partisan agenda or political party

Meet and discuss issues with public officials face-to-face in a large public setting

Rely on protests such as marches, picketing, lobbying, or letter writing to gain support

Pursue multiple issues simultaneously and retire old issues when there is a clear cut victory

Define their mission around one issue like the Sierra Club (environment) or National Rifle Association (right to bear arms)

Seek financial sustainability and independence by raising funds internally through dues and member-supported fundraising drives

Accept government funding or become dependent on one or two primary supporters

Select issues locally by having members vote to determine the problems they wish to resolve

Engage the community around a pre-determined set of issues defined by outside experts

Collect dues from member congregations such as churches, synagogues, mosques

Canvass door-to-door to recruit individual members

Deliberately seek to build a powerful organization for the long haul, not simply win issues

Develop around a temporary crisis and then dissolve when the issue is resolved

Rely on broad-based, collective leadership among many people

Build organizations centered around one or two high-profile, charismatic people/spokespeople

Develop leaders to speak and act on behalf of the organization in the public

Function as an advocacy organization where staff speak and act in the public on behalf of the organization

Note: This page come from the Direct Action Research Training (DART) website.

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  CSCO, P.O. Box 60123, Dayton, OH 45406; email:cscocbco@aol.com phone:508-799-7726