Power or Programs? Two Paths to Community Development(*)
Keynote Address Delivered to the International Association for Community Development Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand, 2001
There are two basic approaches to community development. The power
approach emphasizes poor communities organizing themselves and using confrontational
strategies to demand the removal of barriers and biases so they can receive
the same opportunities as more affluent communities. The programs approach
emphasizes poor communities cooperating with resource providers such as
government or corporations to develop programs focused on helping individuals
in poor communities. These two approaches are rooted in two different theories
of society. The power approach sees society as divided between haves and
have nots, requiring the have nots to organize their people power to counter
the greater political economic power of the haves . The programs approach
emphasizes the common interests of all people. Among the former British
settler colonies--Canada, the United States, Australia, and Aotearoa/New
Zealand--the United States stands out as having a much stronger history
of power-based community development, called community organizing. In contrast,
Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have historically had much
stronger government and much more of a programs approach to community development.
But the present and future holds questions. Are the two approaches both
necessary for successful community development? Are they necessary in the
same ways across nations? Have the Australian, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and
Canadian governments come to look more like the United States government-leaner
and meaner? If so, does that mean people across those nations will need
to shift to more of a power-based community development model?
I feel deeply humbled to be invited here to Aotearoa/New Zealand, and especially to this space, which I am still only beginning to understand the significance of. I have learned much during the last few days--just enough to realize how little I know.
So what I'd like to offer today is what I think I know based on my experience with social action groups in the United States, what I suspect based on my more recent experience with Australia and Canada, and what I wonder based on my very recent experience in Aotearoa/New Zealand. My focus, then is the former British settler colonies--those colonies designed to populate far away places with European settlers.1 In the context of these four nations--Australia, Canada, Aotearoa/Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the United States--I want to discuss two paths to community development.
And perhaps it is because of where I come from that I want to talk today about two paths to community development. These two paths are much more clearly separated in the United States than in the rest of the former British empire, but as Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand have all gone through their version of government self-destruction, the circumstances that led to the separation in the United States are increasingly apparent for you also. At the same time, the United States has always been different. Consequently, parts of what I say may seem irrelevant, or disconnected form your experience. Because I come from the place that is different, please understand that I do not wish anything I say to be taken as truth. Only as perspective.
What are these two paths? In the United States we call them community development and community organizing. Community development, quite differently from how most of you use the word, is defined as nonprofit organizations called community development corporations -- CDCs -- doing physical development of impoverished communities. CDCs are supposed to be "community-based," having some connection with the residents who live there. They are also expected to do "comprehensive development," creating jobs, housing, safety and other changes (though most emphasize housing). And they are supposed to accomplish all this within the existing political economic system (Stoecker, 1997). This is the programs approach.
Community organizing, the second path, works in local settings to empower individuals, build relationships and organizations, and create action for social change. It is often confrontational, involving protest and even disruption (Beckwith & Lopez, 1997, Bobo, Kendall & Max, 1991, Kahn, 1991; Alinsky, 1969; 1971). Community organizers have historically focused on building localized social movements in places as small as a single neighborhood. Consequently, the bulk of community organizing occurs "backstage" (Goffman, 1959), building relationships and networks in the quasi-private setting of the neighborhood community (Stall and Stoecker, 1998) that can create a larger social movement. This is the power approach.
Community organizing has a much longer history than community development, dating from at least the early 20th century (Stall and Stoecker, 1998), and some might even say the revolutionary war. The most well-known influence was Saul Alinsky (1969; 1971) who, in the 1930s, created a community organizing model in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood that was rowdy, bawdy, and confrontational (Finks, 1984). The Civil Rights Movement is the other crucial source of community organizing, though its influence on community organizing practice has been as profound as Alinsky's but has been historically neglected. The accepted founding event of the movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was coordinated through local African American networks and organizations and created a model that would be used in locality-based actions throughout the south (Morris, 1984). Out of these efforts grew the Welfare Rights Movement (Piven and Cloward, 1979) and eventually the famous Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) (Delgado, 1986; Russell, 2000).
But in the 1980s, community development ascended onto the stage, with growth mushrooming from the hundreds into the thousands. But then increasingly vocal critics of the CDC model pointed out how CDCs often failed at projects that left their host neighborhoods in as bad or worse shape than when they started; folded under funding shortages that allow elites to both prevent real redevelopment and blame CDCs for failure; or disrupted neighborhood empowerment by purporting to speak on behalf of a community who they barely know (and who barely knows them) (Stoecker, 1994; 1997). These critics led a call to bring back community organizing.
Today, community organizing is experiencing a resurgence in the United States, with an explosion of small efforts and the growth of better-publicized efforts by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) (Tresser, 1999), by ACORN (1999) and the New Party (1997) in their Living Wage efforts, and by many other groups and networks (COMM-ORG, 2001) including the rapidly expanding National Organizers Alliance (2001) which is supporting and connecting independent and network organizers across North America.
Now, historically, there seems to be much less separation between community organizing and community development in Australia, Canada, and it appears Aotearoa/New Zealand (which I am only beginning to know). There also seems to be much less historical separation between government and the community sector than in the United States. Why?
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ACROSS THE SETTLER COLONIES
In order to understand U.S. exceptionalism, we need to remember our different histories.
Most importantly, the United States, in contrast to all the other British settler colonies, was borne of war against the Empire. It was a country formed in opposition to government, taxes and rules. And we have remained that way, so much so that a terms has been coined for us, "normative anti-statism" (Joppke, 1992). While the rest of the industralized world created national health care, social housing, and a managed economy, we kept finding ways to prevent government involvement in anything but prison-construction. With such a weakened federal government, an anti-government culture, and so many hungry, sick, and homeless people, we needed a different "solution," inadequate as it might be. And, in fact, we came up with two.
The first solution supported the "government-do-more" philosophy to an extent. This was the community organizing approach. Through protest, confrontation, and other similar tactics people brought themselves together to demand that government enforce rights, redress wrongs, and provide for those who were historically left out. The two most famous periods of community organizing in U.S. history were during the 1930s--which produced the famous Saul Alinsky--and the 1960s--which saw the rise of the African American Civil Rights Movement.
The second solution, which really came of age during the 1980s, supported the "government-do-less" philosophy, though perhaps unwittingly. This was the community development approach. Through finding their own financing and their own contractors, poor communities were supposed to build their own affordable housing, create their own jobs, and develop their own community networks. It's important to understand, however, while this plays into the hands of the right wing, it is not a right-wing approach. Indeed, even the community organizing approach, while focusing on getting government to do more, treats government as only ever a potential and temporary ally.
Now contrast this to the histories of the other former British settler colonies. And this is not to deny the important differences between Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Canada, but to show their similarities relative to the United States. Still technically considered constitutional monarchies, separation from the British empire is gradual and peaceful. And all have a history, up until at least the mid-1980s, of strong government with heavy involvement in providing social goods. Government housing, nationalized utilities and transportation, national health care, were common to all. And in contrast to the United States, which created a Bill of Rights in 1791 as one of its first orders of business when it was founded, Canada only got their Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Aotearoa/New Zealand just in 1990, and Australia as far as I know is still waiting. It has taken 200 years or more for your distrust of government to drop to original U.S. levels.
For Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada, and Australia, the historical strength of government and, relatively speaking, people's trust in government, is in stark contrast to the United States and has had important consequences for the practice of community development.
First, community development is as often practiced through government rather than against it. Indeed, in many cases the major agents in community development are on the government payroll (see Resource Renewal Institute, 2000). In the United States, the overwhelming degree of community development and community organizing occur through private non-profit non-governmental organizations.2 In addition, there is a highly developed infrastructure of philanthropic foundations that also provide much of the funding for these efforts.
Second, there is much less separation between community organizing, community development, and social work in Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Australia compared to the United States. Though things are beginning to change, U.S. social work since WWII has devolved into an individual treatment model. But in the other three nations community development commonly refers to all three activities: individual, community, and physical development. Witness this statement from the Aotearoa/New Zealand Community Advisory Service of Internal Affairs (n.d.), still being used:
"Community development is
Concerned with change and growth within communities, with giving people more power over the changes that are taking place around them, the policies which affect them and the services they use. Our ultimate concern is to help increase the well being of communities and takes place predominately within those communities that have been most disadvantaged or discriminated against.
We choose to use community development methodologies as an approach to work with communities because these increase opportunities for participation, enable the transfer of skills between people, develop self reliance, build organisational capacity and networks of community groups, ensures local ownership of projects and decisions, utilises local resources to solve local problems and, in the end effectively increases the amount of social capital available within a community.
The communities, and groups within communities, most in need of this capacity building are those which suffer the most disadvantage and discrimination."In fact, an important article by Canadian authors Boothroyd and Davis (1993) was one of the earliest attempts to develop some distinctions in the field they referred to as CED--community economic development. They were the first that I know of, outside of the U.S. to make fine-grained distinctions between emphasizing the community, emphasizing the economic, and emphasizing development. The fact that they had to make the distinction shows how conflated the emphases were.
Now 20 years ago, the two paths I would have written about would be the governmental versus nongovernmental path to community development. And, by the way, just to be clear, I would not be arguing the U.S. model is better. Indeed, in terms of your quality of life, the health of your cities, the provision of public goods such as health care, your distaste for all weapons of mass destruction, and a variety of other measures, you have been enviably advanced compared to the United States. But it's not 20 years ago. It's 20 years later. The choices are no longer between governmental and non-governmental community development. In each of our four nations we have witnessed dramatic governmental downsizing and increasing disenchantment with government. Indeed, Aotearoa/New Zealand provides the most dramatic example of this trend when, in 1984, a Labour government began selling off public industries, ending farm subsidies, and dramatically reducing its payroll, It was a move equally revered and despised. The architect of the program, Roger Douglas, has become the darling of the Alberta and Ontario governments in Canada (Clancy, 1996), which has also gone through a sudden and dramatic dismantling of government. In Australia the plan is called economic rationalism (Whitwell, 1998), but it has the same basic philosophy and consequences.
We are witnessing what I regrettably call Americanization. You're becoming more like us and that's a scary thing. Now there are signs, particularly in Aotearoa/New Zealand with its switch to proportional representation and some welfare state restoration (Burton, 1999), of attempts to reverse Americanization. But as the global economy begins to lose some of its steam, the question is whether you can return to the days of the cradle to grave welfare state. But to the extent that you cannot, you will have to develop a nongovernmental sector for the funding and practice of community development. Indeed, that is already happening in all three nations as communities attempt to meet needs no longer served by government and attempt to protect themselves from vulnerabilities introduced by the dismantling of government. The question is whether these efforts are happening consciously or haphazardly, which means potentially a lot of wasted effort, a lot of duplication, and a lot of stumbling if the efforts are not conscious.
It doesn't have to be that way. Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are in the unique position of being able to learn from the mistakes and perhaps the occasional success of the U.S. in building a non-governmental community development infrastructure. And the models you come up with can inform practice in the U.S. which is too often encumbered by historical, or elite-driven models that may be doing more harm than good.
But where to start? Well, perhaps it is useful to explore, for a moment, the distinction so prominent in the U.S. between community organizing and community development--power and programs. Because to the extent that you are faced with the situation of a government more distant from the people (only 75% of the population voted in the last Aotearoa/New Zealand national election--a historical low for Aotearoa/New Zealand but still remarkably high by U.S. standards--and only 63% showed up at the last Canadian election.) and larger corporations exerting more control over citizens' lives with fewer mechanisms of accountability, building power may be as important as building programs. So let's spend some more time with each of these models.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
The power approach--community organizing is often confused with a generic social movement activism model, but it is importantly different. First, community organizers have historically focused on building a localized social movement in places as small as a single neighborhood. This is quite different from the social movement perspective adopted by many who see broad scale national-level or even global-level change as the starting point rather than the ending point. This is the confusion that is often evident when people discuss the Civil Rights Movement. That "movement" had only one national action--the March on Washington. Much more important to the outcomes of the movement were the locally-organized events--Selma, Montgomery, and others--that took on national significance. Many of these momentous events only became national in impact because of the reaction of the local power structure. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, began with relatively minor demands made upon the bus company for more dignified treatment of Black bus riders. It was only when the authorities' only response was to attempt to destroy the organizing that the case ended up with the Supreme Court outlawing segregation on intra-state buses (*).
Community organizing is the "backstage" (Goffman, 1959) work needed to build a public social movement, in contrast to social movements, which focus on public large-scale action. It is the process of building a constituency that can create a larger social movement, and generally has as its first goal building an enduring community organization. Community Organizing is interesting to note in this regard that most community organizers carefully distinguish themselves from "activists." Organizers, in contrast to activists, most often see themselves not as leaders but as helping to build indigenous community leadership. Organizers also develop issues based on what community members see as important, rather than picking an issue themselves and then trying to recruit people to join based on that issue.
In many other respects, however, community organizing uses social movement forms of action. Demonstrations, protests, street theatre, and even disruptions are popular tactics. Many community organizing groups practice strict independence from both government and political parties, as they never know when they may have to target them for some policy change.
The programs approach--community development is in stark contrast to community organizing. Community development corporations, or CDCs, while not for profit, must operate in cooperation with for profit actors--banks, real estate, insurance, contractors. And in contrast to building a community-based organization, community development is about building expert-based organizations that can manage the highly technical aspects of housing construction and management, and job and business development.
This CDC model is very popular with elites, especially government and foundations. The U.S. federal government has set aside special funds for CDCs in Empowerment Zones and other federal housing programs. The Ford Foundation created a monster program to promote CDC-based comprehensive community initiatives (Smock, 1997). Foundations, United Ways, and other elite-connected organizations have been particularly entranced with a version of this model called "asset-based community development" promoted by Kretzmann and McKnight (1993), which they've interpreted as a "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" poverty reduction strategy.
Steve Callahan et al. (1999) argue for combing what they call project-based and power-based community development, something they call "rowing the boat with two oars." For them, project-based community development is focused on delivering services such as "transportation, childcare, social services, housing, jobs, retail services, and micro financing to low-income communities." The organization boards attempt to include local residents, and the staff often have technical expertise in housing, real estate, and business development. On the other hand, these organizations are constantly in danger of becoming disconnected from local interests, and while they try to get resident representation on their boards, they tend to not be very successful at it. In addition, their small size and high skill requirements prevent many of these organizations from producing to scale. They also tend to be politically weak, as their "consensus" approach to change can maintain existing power relationships, which can constrain possibilities for change over time." Consequently, they are often forced to do projects on terms set by public and corporate officials.
Power-based community development, on the other hand, is an important complement. Its strengths almost exactly fit the weaknesses of project-based community development. It emphasizes developing the power of low-income people, and holding officials accountable. It's insistence of the necessity and ability of a group to engage in polarizing and militant tactics is what provides some of this power. The weaknesses of the power-based community development model also almost exactly fit the strengths of the project-based model. For one, the methods of this approach can sometimes "obscure progress toward concrete goals." And when these organizations do not use confrontation strategically they can lose some of their influence. In addition, the emphasis on building an inclusive and democratic organization and lack of strong technical expertise can sometimes limit the impact of an organizing victory.
The challenge is that these models are rooted in fundamentally different theories of how society works, which sociologists refer to as functionalist and conflict models. The functionalist model argues that society tends toward natural equilibrium and its division of labor develops through an almost natural matching of individual talents and societal needs. For functionalists, healthy societies maintain some basic degree of equilibrium and place all of their members into the roles for which they are fit. The implication (though few today admit it) is that the poor and the oppressed are supposed to be poor and oppressed. Of course, those who don't belong there (i.e., those who are willing to work hard) are provided new roles. This theory also assumes that people have common interests even when they have different positions in society. Healthy, persistent societies are in a constant state of gradual equilibrium-seeking improvement. Thus, a group organizing to force change is actually unhealthy, as it can throw off equilibrium, and cooperation to produce gradual change is a better alternative (Eitzen and Baca Zinn, 2000). In this model, poor people only need opportunity, not power, and cooperation between the haves and the have-nots is the best means to provide opportunity. But because the model does not recognize structural barriers to equality, it can only provide opportunities determined by existing power holders.
Conflict theory sees no natural tendency toward anything but conflict over scarce resources. In this model society develops through struggle between groups. To the extent that stability is achieved, it's not because society finds equilibrium but because one group dominates the other groups. Conflict theory sees society as divided, particularly between corporations and workers, men and women, and whites and people of color. The instability inherent in such divided societies prevents elites from achieving absolute domination and provides opportunities for those on the bottom to create change through organizing for collective action and conflict.
The CDC model, rooted in the functionalist ideas of common interest and cooperation between rich and poor, can only work if functionalist theory is correct. In other words, there can be no barriers to poor communities rebuilding themselves. The problem is that, while individuals can lift themselves up and attain greatness, not all poor people can lift themselves up simultaneously because there are not enough better spaces available in society--not enough good jobs, not enough good housing. This problem is multiplied when the focus is trying to lift up poor communities, which can only occur if the people in those communities are simultaneously lifted up. If there's no space for all those individuals in the economy, there's no chance for that community. The simultaneous improvement of poor people everywhere requires a drastic redistribution of wealth, violating the fundamental assumptions of functionalist theory, which argues that trying to create an artificial equality would actually upset equilibrium.
So what happens in the United States community development model is that people's need for a transformed economy providing a wealth of good jobs becomes replaced with training programs for people to compete for an extremely limited good job pool. People's need for affordable housing that is controlled by its occupants becomes replaced by a tradeoff between expensive home ownership and affordable rental housing. People's need for high quality health, daycare, and other services becomes translated into sporadic, overcrowded, and inefficient low quality stop-gap programs. Not only can a model emphasizing cooperation and denying class conflict not work to end poverty and oppression, it's not even supposed to work.
The community organizing model is much better suited for attacking the structural barriers that prevent poor communities from lifting themselves up. In a capitalist society, equal competitors make deals because each either has something to offer or something to take away. But when CDCs attempt to make deals with these power holders, they have nothing with which to bargain. They are in the powerless position of begging--for lower loan rates, reduced construction costs, more open hiring practices, etc. CDCs have little to offer as inducement for power-holders to say yes, and little to withhold if they say no. The community organizing model, however, substitutes the lack of money resources with people resources. The bargaining chip poor communities have is their cooperation. If they can collectively withhold their cooperation or, even more powerfully, can disrupt the activities of power holders, they have something to bargain with (Piven and Cloward 1979).
The community organizing model and its conflict theory underpinnings also has limits, however. When community organizations wrest concessions from corporations or government they often discover that those wins are only as good as the community's ability to implement them. When the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood beat back a government-developer coalition out to displace the neighborhood with massive high-rises, they were faced with the prospect of their existing housing being condemned unless they found resources to fix it up (Stoecker, 1994). When the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative won city approval of their neighborhood redevelopment plan, they had to find funding and eventually even do the development themselves (Medoff and Sklar, 1994). ACORN had to create a community development arm when it began winning housing through squatting and other tactics (Russell, 2000; ACORN, 1997).
Community organizing is necessary to get the power. Community development is necessary to keep it. So what do we do?
WHAT DO WE DO?
In deciding what to do, the question you might consider is whether your historical combination of community organizing and development fits your present circumstances. I wouldn't even pretend to propose an answer, but I will offer some ways that you might ask the question.
ChoosingWhat are the indications that you should choose, or that you can choose? Since the 1960s, we have been learning about the role of militancy and confrontation cross nationally. The basic finding is that the more access a challenging group has to government, and the stronger the ability of government to implement rather than just pass legislation, the less need for militant confrontation (Kitschelt, 1986; Kriesi, 1996; Meyer,1993; Meyer and Staggenborg, 1996). It is no surprise, in Aotearoa/New Zealand, that the most consistently confrontational action comes from Maori struggles for autonomy and self-sufficiency. As Claudia Orange quotes Northern Maori Group Te Kawarike leader Shane Jones as saying "the real issue is sovereignty over our resources." Trying to remove historically oppressive and legislated supported conditions that are institutionalized in land ownership and long-standing power differences will not, at least initially, be achieved through cooperation. The progressive dismantling of Waitangi Day through social action is dramatic testimony to the power of organized protest. Now, to what extent does the potential of proportional representation afford greater access, and thus require less militancy, than in the past? To what extent does the disruption of traditional European Waitangi Day practices provide opportunities to create a new form of multi-cultural national celebration, which some argue, I understand, the Treaty of Waitangi was originally designed for?
So stopping bad things and gaining access to decision-making are two of the most important reasons to choose community organizing over community development.
Starting new things is one of the most important reasons to choose community development. Challenging groups that have achieved access, may consider whether the more cooperative community develompent model is appropriate. Gaining official and substantial representation means, for better or worse, becoming part of the system. In addition, winning on a policy challenge often places a community organizing group in the difficult position of figuring out how to implement that win. To an extent, this involves a group transitioning from outsider to insider status. Implementing a win, or maintaining a victory, requires building organizational stability and expertise over the long haul, and cementing relationships with power holders.
Another thing to consider in choosing is the cultural context. There is some antipathy outside of the U.S. to conflict-based organizing. Some Canadians are opposed to the model both on the grounds that it seems to be conflict for conflict's sake, and that it is in fact a conservative approach to just getting a piece of the pie rather than changing how the pie is made (Roussopoulos, 1982; Muller, 1990). And when Melbourne erupted in protest last September during the World Economic Forum meetings, the West Australian Premier Richard Court, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard all called the protests "un-Australian" (Cahill, n.d.; Dwyer, 2001; Rule et al., 2000). The previous year, when similar protests erupted in Seattle, no one called the protests un-American (though Seattle elites did complain they were un-Seattle). Additionally, with governments that are more open to dialogue from the beginning--which the stronger welfare states of Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand seem to be--protest and confrontation is less needed to gain access.
Culture may also include community culture. How is conflict viewed within the community? Can conflict be integrated without disrupting other cultural beliefs or creating divisions within the community? Are there existing organizations or leaders who would support or oppose conflict-based organizing?3
Now, it is often the case that choosing one or the other models is difficult, impractical, or not strategic. when that is the case, it's imperative to consider combining them.
CombiningThe African American Civil Rights movement in the United States has seen many of its victories whither away, such as affirmative action, voting rights protection, integration. Neighborhood organizations have also experienced problems moving from a successful community organizing phase to a community development phase. Because of the incompatibilities of the theories on which they are based, many community organizing groups make the transition to development gagging and retching. Some of them destroy themselves in the process (Stoecker, 1995).
Of course, the fights between practitioners of the two models often prevent collaboration, especially when each sees its position as "right" and the other as "wrong" and Callahan et al's boat can sometimes get rowed in circles. And as much as everyone in the United States says "it's not the '60s anymore", we continue to act like it is. The conflict between the community organizing folks and the community development folks is so much like the conflict between the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which eventually led to the split between African-American Civil Rights activists and Black Power activists. It is so much like the split between the radical and mainstream branches of the women's movement. It is so much like the split between the militant and mainstream branches of the environmental movement. It is so much like the split between the groups engaging in conflict against the power structure and those cooperating with it on any contemporary issue today, whether it is AIDS, poverty, education, or community empowerment.
Like for those other movements, if handled strategically this split has some advantages. Those 1960s movement splits produced a tremendous body of literature, some of which focused on social movement structure. These analysts, when taking a big picture view of the action, found many movements composed of groups confronting the target and groups attempting to work cooperatively with it. The advantage of such a model, they discovered, is that the conflict groups were needed to create access to power holders. Conflict groups, if they are good, have the bargaining chip of being able to create enough social instability to force the target to the table. But they have a difficult time actually negotiating, because of their militancy. Moderate groups are much more successful in negotiations, but achieve very little without the threat of social disturbance from more militant groups (Gerlach and Hine, 1970).
This model of multiple, complementary organizations may work well in situations where there are lots of resources and lots of potential members. But in smaller communities, it is impractical. Even these communities, however, can have some of the advantages of this model through using front organizations. Perhaps the best example of this "front" organization structure was in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis Minnesota in the United States. This neighborhood, threatened with total destruction from a developer-state coalition that wanted to replace their homes with high-rises, waged a very sophisticated battle. They created a cafe they used as a meeting place. They created a Project Area Committee that had official government status. They created a tenants union as the developer had bought up all their existing housing. They created an environmental defense fund to raise money for legal battles. They created a community development corporation to create alternative redevelopment plans. These organizations were all active in the struggle at the same time, and they all took on a different piece of the problem. They eventually drove the developer from their neighborhood, took over all their housing, and turned the neighborhood housing into community-owned cooperatives (Stoecker, 1994). But there were not enough people to separately staff the organizations, so everybody got involved in everything.
There are other possible multiple organization combinations. One is to have a multi-local community organizing group that can partner with local community development organizations, which seems to be increasingly common in the United States. The Sacramento Valley Organizing Community (SVOC), an organization of nearly 30 predominantly Latino Catholic and African-American Protestant churches across a three-county area in Northern California, is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing network founded by Saul Alinsky. In one instance SVOC brought 1,800 members to a meeting with area health system officials, successfully demanding 200 jobs. To implement the win, SVOC partnered with the Private Industry Council (PIC), the county welfare department, and a community college to do job training and preparation (Callahan et al., 1999). The famous Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio practiced a similar model, and ended up directing a large proportion of San Antonio's CDBG budget over a number of year to COPS-defined project. But COPS refused to do any of the development themselves to preserve their organizing focus (Cortes, 1995; Warren, 1995). Perhaps the most famous case is the NorthWest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. The NWBCCC, with a 25-year history, organizes with ten neighborhoods and approximately twenty local religious communities in the Northwest Bronx area of New York City and has spawned a number of CDCs. Because NWBCCC is an affiliate of groups, different sub-coalitions can work on issues they have in common. They consciously put organizing first, understanding the technical constraints placed on development. Consequently, they came up with the idea of "Neighborhood Improvement Plans ... as opposed to fitting into existing programs, leaders were asked to think about what they wanted to see in the area and then we would try to figure out how to get there." (Buckley, n.d.). Two of the CDCs formed through NWBCCC--Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and Mount Hope Housing Company--are highly capitalized, multi-local CDCs with hundreds of employees and thousands of housing units. The NWBCCC's housing committee, or neighborhood groups, determine projects and then negotiate with one of the CDCs about how to implement it (Dailey, 2000).
Another is to have a multi-local community development corporation that can partner with local community organizing groups, which I argued (1997) was preferable since CDCs, to be successful, needed technically-skilled (and thus expensive) staff and enough capitalization to do development in higher risk situations. Larger CDCs would be more likely to have those qualities. But because those characteristics would also increase the separation of the CDC from the community, small neighborhood-based community organizing groups were necessary to maintain community control of development. I have had great difficulty finding examples of this model. This "Stoecker model" has yet to make me famous, however. :-)
InnovatingOddly enough, in this time when Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand seem to have become more U.S. like, the innovations in the United States seem to look more like you. There are an increasing number of attempts to create single programs that integrate a mild non-conflict form of community organizing, bricks and mortar community development, and individual treatment forms of social work. The four most popular innovations are community building, consensus organizing, women-centered organizing, and CDC-based organizing.
Community building is defined as "projects which seek to build new relationships among members in a community and develop change out of the connections these relationships provide for solving member-defined problems." (Hess 1999). Linked to Kretzmann and McKnight's (1993) asset-based community development model, and to communitarianism, the emphasis in community building is creating and restoring relationships between community residents. The focus is internal, finding and building the community's own "assets" or "social capital" rather than confronting or negotiating with external power and resource holders (Smock, 1997).
Consensus organizing includes relationship-building but also focuses on moving people from welfare to work, improving school achievement, promoting inner-city reinvestment, and developing housing and businesses, among other things. This model specifically opposes the "us vs. them" model of community organizing (Eichler 1998). The purpose of consensus organizing, consistent with functionalist theory, is to build cooperative relationships between community leaders and business and government to improve poor communities (Consensus Organizing Institute, 2000).
The women-centered organizing model emphasizes relationship building that is not rooted in self-interest but in an understanding of mutual responsibility. And while it does see a structural division in society that holds women back, it also emphasizes that power is infinitely expandable rather than zero-sum, thus reducing the need for conflict. Like the community building model, women-centered organizing emphasizes small group development and has more of an internal problem-solving focus. The goal is as much the development of individuals as it is the development of communities (Stoecker, and Stall, 1998).
CDC-based organizing is the most intriguing of all. While the other models have for the most part eliminated confrontational community organizing from their practice, CDC-based organizing is trying to preserve it. Thus, they are trying to bring a conflict-based model of organizing into a functional-based model of development. It is very interesting. The largest and most well-known effort to help CDCs do community organizing is the $1.5 million Ricanne Hadrian Initiative for Community Organizing (RHICO), sponsored through the Massachusetts Association of CDCs and the Neighborhood Development Support Collaborative. The program supports and trains CDCs throughout Massachusetts to do community organizing (Winkelman, 1998, 1998b). A similar project to promote community organizing through CDCs was the Toledo Community Organizing Training and Technical Assistance Program sponsored through the Toledo Community Foundation. Over a two year period, ACORN provided training and technical assistance to three CDCs, though one dropped out due to a lack of fit. The Organized Neighbors Yielding Excellence (ONYX) CDC adopted a combined organizing and development group model, where leadership and authority over the organizing effort remained vested in the CDC board of directors, though they gave tacit approval to developing an informal community organizing leadership structure. Conversely, the Lagrange Development Corporation established a relatively autonomous community organizing group, adopting a written code of principles to prevent the CDC from interfering in the organizing effort even while it paid the organizer's salary. The Lagrange Village Council, the relatively autonomous community organizing group, practices a more traditional Alinsky-style community organizing model, using actions and pressure tactics to close problem businesses in the community, improve trash collection, and manage a long drawn-out campaign against a predatory property speculator. ONYX has practiced a much more subdued approach consistent with the community development model, and with fewer subsequent victories.
What are the outcomes of this combined model? CDCs in the RHICO initiative have seen are more community involvement in CDC decision-making, less funder-driven project development, and more effective CDC advocacy efforts. (Winkelman, 1998). This also appears to be the case with the Lagrange Development Corporation and Lagrange Village Council in Toledo, which has gotten a number of problem businesses to shape up or leave, can turn out dozens of people for a demonstration, and has hundreds attend its annual meetings. There are also important problems. The first problem is the potential restriction on militancy. One of the RHICO CDCs lost government funding when they moved to organizing. However, this CDC continued down the organizing path, weathering the cut and actually freeing itself from restrictive funding (Winkelman, 1998). Other groups are less able to make such bold moves. In Toledo, ONYX's organizing effort has been hindered by the fear of funding loss, as the organization has been threatened with government funding reductions, and they eventually dropped their community organizing effort.
If I have done my job I am leaving you with more questions than answers. What I beseech of you inside and outside of government is to take on the task that government used to be so good at--thinking ahead. One of the most important infrastructures which has existed in the U.S for over half a century is the popular education infrastructure, most embodied in the Highlander Research and Education Center, which was so instrumental in the United States union and Civil Rights movements. For consciously dealing with the tensions and potentials of community organizing and community development takes some reflection, planning, and infrastructure building. One of the most encouraging signs in Australia, Canada, and Aotearoa/New Zealand is the new and growing popular education infrastructure than can further those community-based planning, research, and education efforts. Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand I have learned about the Kotare Trust in Auckland. In Canada there is the Institutes in Management and Community Development. In Australia there is the Centre for Popular Education at the University of Technology in Sydney, among others. Those are a starting place for beginning to sort out these questions further.
These are some beginning places to sort out these issues where people can gather to study and reflect and begin to act on their own growing understandings of the power and programs approaches. I look forward to learning of your progress. Thank you.
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*This paper is part of a larger project studying the relationship between community organizing and community development, supported by a grant from the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center. The author also gratefully acknowledges travel support from the Foy D. and Phyllis Penn Kohler Fund and the governments of New Zealand, Western Australia, and Victoria (Australia) during the course of this project. Many thanks to Tony Rea, Larry Stillman, Linda Briskman, and Anna Vakil for information, wisdom, and insights during this project.
1Settler colonies are established to replace the native population with the migrating population. See Stasiulis and Yuval-Davis, 1995; Osterhammel, 1997.
2There is debate over the size and extent of Aotearoa/New Zealand's nonprofit sector, with Leavitt (1997) arguing it is quite undeveloped especially in the area of housing, and Robinson (1999) arguing it is quite extensive.
3 Attempts to
address these questions in the U.S. are increasing organized around two
issues. First, it is important to assess what exists in the
neighborhood already. If there is an organizing group and a CDC, it is
probably counterproductive for the CDC to also do organizing. Instead, they
should find ways to partner with the organizing group. If there is a CDC
but no organizing group in the neighborhood, it is important to assess the
CDC's readiness and capacity to do community organizing. How knowledgeable
is the executive director about organizing in general and different
organizing models? Is there anyone else highly skilled in organizing on
staff? Is there an organizer in place and, if so, what do they know about
organizing in general and which organizing model do they prefer? Who is or
would be responsible for supervising the organizer? How are leaders (board
members) identified/recruited? Are leaders elected or appointed (elected is
better for organizing)? What do leaders know about organizing in general
and different organizing models? How do organization leaders and director
respond to a series of organizing vs. development dilemmas (such as doing
an action against a bank that also gives loans to the CDC projects)? What
procedures are in place for replacing staff and leadership without losing
internal organizing culture? Does the CDC have a broad mission statement
that could easily include community organizing? In general, the more skill,
knowledge, and support for community organizing, the more successfully a
CDC will be able to develop its organizing capacity. Second, it is
important to assess what exists beyond the neighborhood. If the
neighborhood has neither a CDC nor an organizing group, are there
high-capacity CDCs or culti-local organizing networks working in the area?
If there are both, what are their histories of working cooperatively across
the organizing-development divide? If there is a neighborhood CDC, but it
is not structured to support organizing, what is its history of working
cooperatively with other organizations? Also, what is its level of power?
Numerous neighborhoods have small CDCs which do little or nothing, and
would be better replaced with a combination of community organizing and
high-capacity community development.