query: Community Organizing, CDCs

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Wed Jul 21 17:03:16 CDT 2004

[ed:  Peter forward's Andrew's query (at the bottom of this message) 
with permission.  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with your 

From:           	"Peter Dreier" <dreier at oxy.edu>


Andrew Crespo, a Harvard undergraduate and a student of Marshall
Ganz, emailed me awhile ago, seeking sources for his senior
thesis about CDCs, community organizing, and inter-racial
cooperation. (See his initial email at the end of this message).
I sent him the email below, and suggested he join the CommOrg
listserve to ask for additional info. But I thought it might be
helpful if I circulated my response to him and asked others to
respond to him with other suggestions. I know I left out a lot of
good sources that I didn't have the time to identify.  

Peter Dreier
Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX:    (323) 259-2734

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Dreier 
Sent: Monday, July 19, 2004 1:15 PM
To: 'Andrew Manuel Crespo'
Cc: Marshall Ganz
Subject: Community Organizing, CDCs, etc.


I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I was on
vacation for 3 weeks and just returned. 

It looks like you've bitten off a huge topic for the senior
thesis. It isn't clear to me if you're primarily interested in
community organizing or in the role of community organizing as
part of the work of CDCs. Most CDCs do not employ organizers or
try to engage in grassroots mobilization. Many CDCs are gun shy
about engaging in more than mild advocacy work, because they are
worried about offending city officials or bank lenders whom they
rely on to get projects done. There are, however, exceptions.

I would particularly encourage you to look on the Community
Organization and Development website 
(http://comm-org.utoledo.edu), which has published quite a few
papers on some aspects of the tension and relationship between
CDCs and Community Organizing. (It also has a setion of course
syllabi on community organizing and development which might give
you some additional sources). The website has some good papers by
Randy Stoecker and others on this topic, and, as I recall, one of
the key urban journals (I think it was Journal of Urban Affairs)
several years ago published a symposium about this topic, with an
article by Randy and responses from Rachel Bratt and others. You
could also join the Comm-0rg listserve and send an email to the
entire list asking for the suggestions of the other organizers
and academics who are on the list. The magazine Shelterforce,
published by the National Housing Institute, has regularly
published articles on these topics.

An excellent article about this issue is the one by Margaret Weir
in the book Urban Problems and Community Development, edited by
Ferguson and Dickens, published by Brookings Institution a few
years ago. I wrote a reaction to her piece that appears in the
same book. Her piece is very thoughtful and covers a lot of
territory. I wrote a report for HUD (when Cisneros was Secretary)
on what HUD could do to encourage community organizing, that
outlined some of the differences and parallels between organizing
and development. It is called "Community Empowerment Strategies"
and it appeared in HUD's journal, Cityscape. Here's the link:

There are a growing number of books and reports about CDCs, some
dealing with questions of empowerment, sometimes under the vague
rubric of "social capital."  I'd suggest looking at Susan
Saegert, J. Phillip Thompson and Mark Warren, eds., Social
Capital and Poor Communities; Robert Silverman, ed., Community
Based Organizations: The Intersetion of Social Capital and Local
Context in Contemporary Urban Society; Herbert Rubin, Renewing
Hope Within Neighborhoods of Dispair: The Community-Based
Development Model; and Randy Stoecker's Defending Community. Two
other books on this topic, which I haven't read yet, are:
Building Community Capacity by Robert Chaskin, and three other
authors; and Organizing for Community Controlled Development by
Patricia Murphy and James Cunningham.  Christopher Walker at the
Urban Institute has written some very useful reports on the
status of CDCs in the U.S.; you can find them at the Urban
Institute's website. The journal Housing Policy Debate has also
published quite a few article

The best book on the history of community development is Robert
Halpern, Rebuilding the Inner City.  Two recent books on this
topic that are bit more upbeat than I think is warranted, but are
nevertheless useful overviews of the role of CDCs in community
development, are Alexander von Hoffman's House by House, Block by
Block, and Paul Gorgan and Tony Proscio's Comeback Cities.  And,
I might humbly suggest that you look at my book, Place Matters,
especially Chapters 4 (about the history of US urban policy) and
5 (about different municipal aproaches to addressing poverty --
conservative, liberal and progressive). (A new edition will be
out at the end of this year, but the 2001 version will still be

About a decade ago, LISC hired Michael Eichler to help train its
CDC affliates in what he called "consensus organizing." This was
to contrast it with the conflict-oriented approach of Alinsky and
his organizing offspring. I never could quite figure out what
Eichler was talking about, about I think it was basically about
building "partnerships" between community groups, government, and
the private business section. I think he's continued to promote
this approach although I don't think he still works with LISC (or
perhaps with CDCs) now. (I could be wrong about this).
Shelterforce published one of his articles about this a few years
ago, linked here:
http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/101/eichler.html. If you use
Google, you can probably find more about Eichler's work and the
various debates it has engendered within the community organizing
and CDC worlds.

There are now dozens of books on the subject of community
organizing. Some are analytic/sociological, some are primarily
ethnographic (ie story telling), and some are "how to" books
(mostly used in social work courses on community organizing).  
My favorite book about community organizing is Mark Warren's Dry
Bones Rattling, a look at the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation's
work. This is one of the few books that looks explicitly at
efforts to address the topic of race within community
organizations, especially efforts to build inter-ethnic
solidarity. Mike Gecan's Going Public and Paul Osterman's
Gathering Power are both good analyses of the IAF model of
organizing, although there's only a bit in each book about
community development, if I recall. Peter Medoff and Holly
Sklar's book, Streets of Hope, describes the work of the Dudley
Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston, which does try to
combine organizing and development. I think the book was written
too soon to really assess DSNI's efforts, but it doe

There are a number of books that deal with issues of race and
racism as part of community organizing, although they don't seem
to address the question of building inter-racial bridges that way
Warren's book does. These include Felix Rivera and John Erlich,
editors, Community Organizing in a Diverse Society; Larry
Salomon's Roots of Justice: Stories of Organizing in Communities
of Color; and Michael Austin and Jane Lowe, eds., Controversial
Issues in Communities and Organizations. John Anner's book,
Beyond Identity Politics: Emerging Social Justice Movements in
Communities of Color, touches on some of the topics you're
interested in. William Julius Wilson's most overlooked book is
called The Bridge Over the Racial Divide, which is a very good
overview of how progressives should address race issues.  When he
gets to practical organizing work toward the end of the book, he
relies mostly on Mark Warren's book on the Texas IAF as the
exemplar of good inter-racial organizing.

One more book is Richard Wood's Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and 
Democratic Organizing in America. Like Mark Warren's book, this book 
specifically addresses the issue of racism and inter-racial organizing.  
Also, Robert Fisher's book, Let the People Decide, is the best one-
volume history of community organizing.

I hope this is helpful and not too late.  Feel free to follow up
via email or phone if you have any further questions.

Peter Dreier
Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX:    (323) 259-2734

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Manuel Crespo [mailto:acrespo at fas.harvard.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2004 7:34 AM
To: Peter Dreier
Cc: Marshall Ganz
Subject: Re: Community Development Corporations

Hello Dr. Dreier,

My name is Andrew Crespo.  I'm an undergraduate at Harvard
gearing up for my senior thesis.  I am studying Community
Development Corporations, specifically focusing on the way
community organizers  empower minority groups while maintaining
positive inter-ethnic relationships at the same time.  I am
currently trying to build a reading list and my thesis advisor,
Marshall Ganz, suggested that you might be able to help point me
in  the right direction.  Your work on urban America comes up
repeatedly on the various syllabi I am using to build my reading
list; if you could let me know what other essential pieces of
American Urban Studies literature I should read I would greatly
appreciate it.

Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back
from you.

Andrew Crespo

------- End of forwarded message -------

More information about the Colist mailing list