[COMM-ORG] query: relational versus action organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Wed Aug 11 09:31:10 CDT 2010

  [ed:  thanks to Tom, Donna, Bob, and Peter for continuing the discussion.]

From: "Tom Wolff" <tom at tomwolff.com>

Randy & Co

I agree that this is a great question.
I put out a tip sheet years ago on this issue which I think is still timely-
please ignore the email at the end of it

I updated my thinking somewhat in my new book The Power of Collaborative
Would love to be part of ongoing discussions on this issue
Thanks for raising it

Tom Wolff & Associates
Author of The Power of Collaborative Solutions
Jossey Bass/John Wiley  published February 2010

Available at www.tomwolff.com


Donna Hardina <donnah at csufresno.edu>
Tue, 10 Aug 2010 08:05:20 -0700 (PDT)
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu

Randy - I'm currently working on explicating a curriculum model for 
community practice that can integrate content on inter-personal skills 
into the community organizing courses in schools of social work. Some of 
the dialogue within community practice circles in social work is that 
only community development/consensus organizing models focus on 
relationship building.  As a conflict theorist, I don't think this is 
true. We need to build relationships in social action organizing in 
order to recruit participants, maintain members, and facilitate group 
consensus around tactical decisions, taking action, and evaluating what 
we do.  The social work reference point in terms of models is Rothman's 
work on explicating social action, community development, and social 
planning models. Staples does a good job of explicating one type of 
social action model in Roots to Power - there is an updated 2004 edition.

I'd really like to be part of this discussion.

Donna Hardina
Department of Social Work Education
Fresno State


From: "Fisher, Robert" <robert.fisher at uconn.edu>

i've been interested in these questions as well, especially but not 
solely related to my work on ACORN.  heidi swartz's book compares the 
two.  so does recent book on education organizing in south bronx by 
celina su, which sees dualism as alinsky vs freire models.  ellen ryan 
in latest social policy issue sees tension as organizing vs mobilizing 
models.  point is there's more at play than tension over tactics, 
although that's one significant factor.  my conclusion in The People 
Shall Rule tries to get at some of these issues, as do other chapters in 
that edited collection.  so does a recent book, with James DeFilippis 
and Eric Shragge, Contesting Community (Rutgers).  if memory serves some 
of this argument was framed early in piece by you and stahl on 
tensions/difference between alinsky and feminist models.  i've never 
been a fan of redefinition of organizing as about relationships or 
narratives.    of course both are important, but in past decades 
organizing has seemed to be disproportionately influenced by 
communitarian and post-modern theory, not to mention other influences 
which have moderated organizing models.

--  bob


Peter Dreier <dreier at oxy.edu>
Tue, 10 Aug 2010 07:47:35 -0700
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu

Later today there is an action (a public confrontation) at the offices of
Chase bank in downtown LA. It is sponsored by a coalition of groups
working on bank reform, including SEIU, National Peoples Action, and PICO.
SEIU is a union; NPA is an Alinsky-style group; PICO is a
congregational-based community organization.  My experience is that all
good organizing involves (a) building relationships on a one-on-one basis,
and (b) using public confrontation as a tactic when it is useful, not as
an end in itself.

Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis
remain neutral" - Dante

On 8/10/2010 9:25 AM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
>    Hi COMM-ORG,
>    A colleague, Brian Christens, and I have been having a very
> interesting conversation about the differences between community
> organizing models that are more relational compared to those that are
> more confrontational.  His experience is more with congregation-based
> organizing, and mine has been more with ACORN and unaffiliated
> Alinsky-style neighborhood organizing groups.  We thought it would be
> interesting to engage others in this conversation.  First, we are
> looking for recent (2002 or later) examples of each model.  That may
> lead to a broader research project if there are organizers and/or
> organizing groups out there interested in exploring these questions with
> us.  Second, we are interested in your perceptions of the two models.
> How different do you think they really are?  What do you see as the
> strengths and weaknesses of each?
> Please feel very welcomed to reply to the list.
> Thanks,
> Randy Stoecker
> moderator/editor, COMM-ORG
> rstoecker at wisc.edu
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