This paper is presented as part of the Papers series for COMM-ORG: The On-line Conference on Community Organizing and Development. Copyright is held by the author. To cite, use: [author] [date] [title], paper presented on COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing and Development. 

Organizing for Change: Stories of Success

Judy Hertz

March 2002

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1. Keeping Jobs in the Neighborhood

  Cotter & Co. decides to leave
  Just stopping something is not good  enough
  Getting the city to help
  Negotiating a more acceptable proposal
  Nailing down the details
  Developing the organization

3. Setting the Housing Agenda

  The decision to organize
  Building the base
  Developing the strategy
  Putting the coalition together
  Action in the neighborhoods
  Approaching the mayor at last
  The long-term impact

2. Saving the Heart of Hammond

  A city by a lake
  Rebuilding the base
  The largest meeting anyone had seen
  The first test
  Getting started with the facts
  Finding allies
  Round One: Demanding a fair and objective process
  Round Two: "Hammond has a mess on its hands."
  Round Three: Pressing on to victory
  "The ordinary people won this victory."

4. Stopping Predatory Lending

  How predatory lending came to the community's attention
  Community research
  NTIC and the Loan Shark Task Force
  SWOP holds a Posada
  ACORN goes after the financial institutions
  Helping the victims
  The first attempt at passing a state law
  The city takes action
  The state law, part two: Regulation
  The work is never done

20 Additional Victories


One year ago, the sponsors of the Community Organizing Award were presented with a unique opportunity. Judy Hertz, an experienced community organizer and writer, proposed to us a documentation project that would tell--in some detail--the stories of several recent campaigns, executed by varied community organizations, that have had substantial and lasting effects upon their neighborhoods or on a city as a whole. As individual foundations, we fund community organizing for many reasons. We fund it because it contributes to progress in many distinct issue areas, because it can prevent or remedy injustice, because it strengthens the social fabric in individual communities, because it holds public officials and private entities accountable for their actions, because it can bring needed resources into challenged communities, and because it provides a training ground for citizens and leaders who go on to other issues, other organizations, and other arenas. But, most of all, we fund community organizing because it lights the flame of civic participation in a way that no other funded activity can do.

The reality of that participation, however, is not always easy to see through the lens of the kind of press coverage that community organizations typically get. It is not even easy to see in the format of the usual funding proposal. The intense self-education, relationship building, and development of decision-making processes that form a large part of community organizing are hard to capture on paper. When these sorts of activities occur in middle-income and upper-income communities, they don't need foundation funding, since the many civic organizations found in such communities can contribute the resources needed to make them happen. Civic involvement in resource-poor lower-income communities, on the other hand, needs to be supported with funding specifically aimed towards the development of broad participation.

We agreed to support Judy's idea with a great deal of enthusiasm, because we think that these four stories illuminate the way that community organizing creates a broader and more inclusive public conversation. As with every movement to extend and increase participation in public life, those who have to give up some of their dominance resist and complain, and much of what you will read here is about that resisting and complaining. While the interpretation of events that you will find in the following stories is Judy's, and while we as individual funders might differ with particular emphases, we are unanimous in our support of the constant thread that Judy weaves through these accounts: that community organizing is a sophisticated, thoughtful, long-term, and needed contribution to the democracy that we all cherish.

--The Sponsors

Sponsors of the Community Organizing Award:

Wieboldt Foundation
53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 838
Chicago, IL 60604
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
140 S. Dearborn, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60603
Chicago Community Trust
222 N. LaSalle St., Suite 1400
Chicago, IL 60601
Woods Fund of Chicago
360 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
New Prospect Foundation
1420 Sheridan Rd., #9A
Wilmette, IL 60091
Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation
1780 Green Bay Rd., Suite 205
Highland Park, IL 60035


COMM-ORG gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Jim McGowan, Desktop Edit Shop, Inc., 7830 Kolmar Ave., Skokie, IL 60076,, who produced the PDF version of this booklet; and the Neighborhood Funders Group,, for allowing the paper to be posted on COMM-ORG. A printed version of this booklet is available by request from Jane Beckett, at