Topic 1: What is Organizing?

Organizers identify, recruit and develop leadership; build community around leadership; and build power out of community. Organizers bring people together, challenging them to act on behalf of their shared values and interests. They develop the relationships, motivate the participation, strategize the pathways, and take the action that enable people to gain new appreciation of their values, the resources to which they have access, their interests, and a new capacity to use their resources on behalf of their interests. Organizers work through "dialogues" in relationships, motivation, strategy and action carried out as campaigns.

Organizers interweave relationships, motivation, strategy and action so that each contributes to the other. One result is new networks of relationship wide and deep enough to provide a foundation for a new community in action. Another result is a new story about who this community is, where it has been, where it is going – and how it will get there. A third result is a strategy envisioning how a community can turn the resources it has into the power it needs to get what it wants. A final result is action, as the community mobilizes and deploys its resources on behalf of its interests – as collaboration, claims making, or both.

Organizers develop new relationships out of old ones – sometimes by linking one person to another and sometimes by linking whole networks of people together. Relationships grow out of exchanges of interests and resources, the commitment to sustain them, and the creation of a shared story.

Organizers engage people in discerning why they should act to change their world – their values – and how they can act to change it – their strategy.

Organizers motivate action by deepening people’s understanding of who they are, what they want, and why they want it: their values. Mobilizing feelings of urgency, hope, anger, self-worth, and solidarity that facilitate action, they challenge feelings of inertia, fear, apathy, self-doubt, and isolation that inhibit action. Organizers engage people in articulating this call to action as a shared story of the challenges they must face, the choices they must make, and the hope that can inspires to courage the make these choices now – a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.

Organizers engage people in deliberating about they can turn what they have (resources), into what they need (power) to get what they want (their interests): strategy. Power is the influence our resources can have on the interests of others who hold resources that can influence our interests. Organizing often requires using our resources to mobilize power interdependently with others whose interests we share to challenge the power exercised over us by others whose interest conflict with our own.

Organizers challenge people to take the responsibility to act. For an individual, empowerment begins with accepting responsibility. For an organization, empowerment begins with commitment, the responsibility its members take for it. Responsibility begins with choosing to act. Organizers challenge people to commit, to act, and to act effectively.

Organizers work through campaigns. Campaigns are highly energized, intensely focused, concentrated streams of activity with specific goals and deadlines. People are recruited, programs launched, battles fought and organizations built through campaigns. Campaigns polarize by bringing out those ordinarily submerged conflicts contrary to the interests of the constituency. One dilemma is how to depolarize in order to negotiate resolution of these conflicts. Another dilemma is how to balance campaigns with the ongoing work of organizational growth and development.

Organizers build community by developing leadership. They develop leaders by enhancing their skills, values and commitments. They build strong communities through which people gain new understanding of their interests as well as the power to act on them -- communities which are bounded yet inclusive, communal yet diverse, solidaristic yet tolerant. They develop a relationship between a constituency and its leaders based on mutual responsibility and accountability.

Introduction: Chart 1

Introduction: Chart 2

Introduction: Chart 3