query: teaching organizing in little time

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Dec 10 10:23:39 CST 2007

[ed:  thanks to Mindy, Michael, John, and David for replying to Aaron's 

From: "Melinda Chateauvert" <mchateau at aasp.umd.edu>

I think teaching by example/case study, especially in a short amount of
time, is the most useful. The goal is to get participants to apply lessons
from the example to their own situations, and/or teach an analytical
framework that helps them interpret other organizing tales ("stories of
struggle") and learn from them as well.

I've been collecting these stories for quite awhile. 2 recent case studies
I've used that students (in a semester long course) really liked and
responded well to were:

Sam J. Miller, "Homeless Revolution" ShelterForce Online Issue #151, Fall
http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/151/organize.html (although would require
reading ahead of time). 

NOW with David Brancaccio "The Coalition of Immolakee Workers v. Taco Bell,"
from originally broadcast on PBS, May 27, 2005
http://www.pbs.org/now/society/ciw.html - which can be downloaded as DVD.
This is about 25 minutes in length, leaving time for dissecting, analysis
and discussion. Focuses on "iron triangle" strategies,
community-worker-student-church partnerships. Can be used to discuss how
race and racism configures media responses and movement leadership.

Mindy Chateauvert


From: MBrown7387 at aol.com

Aaron, Great questions, I have done a basic community organizing 
workshop for many years that in very little time that covers what you 
mention.  It  goes over the differences between service, advocacy, 
mobilizing and organizing -- and I often add: education, community 
development and electoral politics.  I use a basic training  picture 
which I draw with stick figures on flip charts with the "service 
provider", "advocate" etc, and who s/he serves, advocates on behalf of 
etc.   I have the "service provider" giving a "fish" to the "client".  I 
ask for examples:  "Who does this?"  People get it pretty quickly.   I 
focus on organizing by drawing a big box (with the organizer's stick 
figure back to the group), depicting the boundaries and qualities of a 
long-lasting organization (including money, members, leadership group, 
rules, by-laws, legal status, issues, guidelines, values, groundrules, 
etc) to show the differnces.  I cover this subject in my book, Building 
Powerful Community Organizations, p. 279-298 which is not too much to 
read and is in pretty simple terms, I think.  Hope that helps.  You can 
call me as well, my number is 781 648 1508, and also in the book, Email: 
MBrown7387 at aol.com   Michael Jacoby Brown, www.LongHaulPress.com


From: Joatlas at aol.com

I don't have any good ideas, but it's a great project. keep us informed.

John Atlas

National Housing Institute/Shelterforce Magazine
74 Clinton Ave.
Montclair,NJ 07042


From:  "David Koppisch" <DavidK at RHD.ORG>

Aaron - it looks like you are in Milwaukee. I would contact Milwaukee 
Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH). They are doing citywide 
and regional organizing there. And should be able to help you.

David Koppisch
Community Organizer
Philadelphia, PA

> [ed: please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Aaron's query.]
> From: Aaron Schutz <schutz at uwm.edu>
> Most people in my city don’t know much about organizing, and they mostly 
> don’t know that they don’t know. They feel somewhat hopeless about the 
> huge problems facing the city, and I think often sense the limitations 
> of efforts focused on service to the needy, but don’t really know what 
> else to do.
> One Solution:
> I would like to come up with a short workshop for small groups of 
> non-profit workers, teachers, residents, and others that would introduce 
> them to the tradition of community organizing. The goal is NOT to teach 
> them concrete skills, but instead to give them entrée into what is an 
> alien perspective about community change.
> The best approach would probably be to bring this workshop to where 
> these leaders already meet. But in these cases you would likely be given 
> very limited time: from 1-3 hours at most.
> The Problem:
> In my experience most people continually reinterpret what one tells them 
> about organizing into frameworks that make sense to them. The community 
> development/social service perspective is deeply engrained. If you ask 
> them to pick a target and imagine a possible issue, even after 
> explaining basic concepts, for example, they often choose neighborhood 
> residents as targets and seek internal cultural change or community 
> building as a goal. The idea of wresting power from the powerful or 
> resisting outside structural oppression is difficult for them to 
> coherently grasp.
> On the other hand, there is something uniquely compelling about the 
> community organizing approach, especially to those who work in 
> traditional social service occupations.
> I just did an hour-and-a-half presentation to a group of early career 
> non-profit workers, and I think I started to reach some of them (and 
> pissed a number of them off), but I am not very happy with my current 
> approach.
> Why Do This?
> The goal would be to increase the number of people in the community who 
> at least have heard of organizing, focusing on key leaders. At the 
> minimum, we need more people who have some sense of what organizing 
> entails, who can engage coherently and usefully with organizers, and 
> who, once they learn about organizing, may have interest in pursuing 
> these ideas further and supporting more “organizing like” activities. 
> This isn’t all we need, but I think it might help.
> I would love to hear others ideas about how one might approach this 
> problem. Or even whether you agree that it’s worth addressing.
> What would you focus on in terms of the few concepts you could try to 
> get across in such a short time?
> What kinds of activities would you try if people only had 15-20 minutes 
> to collaborate?
> Aaron Schutz
> Associate Professor &amp; Chair
> Dept. of Ed. Policy &amp; Comm. Studies
> University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
> P.O. Box 413
> Milwaukee, WI 53201
> Office: (414) 229-4150
> Fax: (414) 229-3700
> Website: educationaction.org
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