New COMM-ORG paper: A Collective Recruitment Plan is Needed for Community Organizers

colist at colist at
Wed Dec 28 11:23:46 CST 2005

[ed:  thanks to Kathy for continuing the discussion on Joe's paper.]

From: Kathy Partridge <interfaithfunders at>

I apppreciate Joe Szakos' thoughtful article, just what you would expect 
from such a seasoned and experienced practitioner of community organizing.
  As a funder of CO (years with Needmor, now coordinator of Interfaith 
Funders) I observed the problem of organizer recruitment and retention 
over and over.  In addition to the burnout of organizers and other 
problematic results listed by Joe, I saw over and over the financial 
devastation to organizations when new organizers didn't work out.  
Often, the significant resources sunk into an unsuccessful hire would 
stagger an organization, especially those with the smallest staffs and 
  Therefore, I favor those training programs where the cost is spread 
around the field.  An example that comes to mind is the VISTA program of 
the late 70s, with training run by the Midwest Academy.  I often run 
into other folks from that cohort, who made organizing and related 
fields their life's work.  While a publicly-supported organizer training 
ground like that era of VISTA seems a fantasy in the new political 
climate, perhaps some visionary efforts to recreate such a pool of 
trained labor. 
  For instance, in the last election efforts like the New Voter Project 
hired hundreds of young people to do voter registration.  I know -- this 
included my own daughter, who was a top recruiter here in Colorado.  
These kids worked hard, and got jazzed.  However, if anyone attempted to 
recruit them for organizing careers, I missed it.  They certainly didn't 
call my daughter!
  I look forward to hearing other comments and experiences related to 
Joe's paper -- and send him my congratulations for a timely and 
important publication.
  Kathy Partridge
  interfaithfunders at

colist at wrote:
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> [ed:  thanks to Benjamin for initiating discussion on Joe's paper.]
> From: Benjamin Shepard <benshepard at>
> Great paper...
> its tough.  for years, i've heard critiques of the calls for 
> "professionals" to become organizers.
> few of these succeed seem to come from a "professional" perspective. 
> rather, these are grassroots people already involved in campaigns, who 
> get involved and hired.
> when hired the work becomes all consuming.
> in all too many other cases, all volunteer organizations, doing the
> vital work, wear thin at the seems.
> the question remains, can you have a life and be an organizer?
>> I am very pleased to announce the availability of:
>> "A Collective Recruitment Plan is Needed for Community Organizers"
>>     by Joe Szakos
>> Having worked with both national organizing networks and local 
>> community organizing groups, I know how difficult it is to recruit 
>> organizers for this vey difficult work.  Joe's paper takes on this 
>> difficult issue, exploring both the problem of organizer recruitment 
>> and some options for confronting it.
>> You can find Joe's work at the COMM-ORG "Papers" page, in the 2005 
>> section:
>> I hope that this work inspires some discussion.  Authors contribute 
>> writing to COMM-ORG in the hopes of getting comments, so please feel 
>> welcomed to contact Joe directly, or discuss his work through the list.
>> Thanks so much to Joe for contributing this work.
>> Randy Stoecker
>> moderator/editor, COMM-ORG
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