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 The Organizer's Job

“Organizers in community organization assist leaders to make, implement, monitor, and evaluate policy and take action necessary to get their policies adopted by decision makers in government and business. …

Listening. Empathic listening elicits the hopes, dreams, problems, and fears of local people. It draws people out, encourages them, builds trust, and forms a relationship between the organizer and the people with whom she or he works.

Challenging or Agitating. An old-style washing machine has a moving piece at the top that goes back and forth. That piece is called an agitator. It gets the dirt out. … An agitator is one who challenges people not to accept an unjust status quo.

Thinking Through. What is often called ‘apathy’ is, in fact, the resignation born of fruitless efforts to change things ‘downtown.’ …There are thought through with people so that their own thinking process incorporates the results. This is particularly true in historically oppressed constituencies where powerlessness is a common experience. If people begin to participate because, in the course of an organizing process, they are challenged to act, organizers and leaders must have specific ideas on what can be done, or what action can be taken. …The best organizers use thought–provoking questions to make people think through the options facing them. Even when he or she makes a direct recommendation and leaders accept it, a good organizer then challenges them to defend it, so that their acceptance is not simply based in their confidence in the organizer. Leaders have to ‘own’ their decisions. …

Training. Having listened to people, challenged them, and thought through with them what a people-power organization could do, the organizer trains them in the skills needed to both effectively participate with one another in an organization and to engage in negotiation or confrontation with adversaries. These skills include formulating action proposals; negotiating and compromising with each other to define ‘lowest significant common denominators’ for action; running effective meetings; negotiating with decision makers from ‘downtown’; planning and implementing action campaigns; and lots more.” (p. 81-2)

A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER'S TALE by Mike Miller, Berkeley:Heyday Books, 2009. CSCO believes this is the best book on organizing. Miller has been with CSCO for many years.

Continuous Job

Knowing the enemy

Educating the People

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