Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 12:02:36 -0400
Kevin Murray <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
I learned a lot about CDCs in Massachusetts from your paper (it is such a different scene here in Connecticut). The parallels between the situation in Massachusetts and groups in postwar El Salvador make my head spin. I am going to make a few comments that mostly flow from a couple of questions that emerged as I read the paper.
DEVELOPING THE DEVELOPERS (AND THE ORGANIZERS)
1. You are careful to set out a definition of "organizing" early in the paper. I wish you had done the same for "development." I think the definition of development used by CDCs really influences what they are and are not able to do. Given where I come from (all over the place) several statements stopped me dead in your paper. Consider this sentence on page 11 "A CDC can occasionally sacrifice leadership DEVELOPMENT or resident process to meet a DEVELOPMENT deadline, or it can occasionally miss a DEVELOPMENT opportunity because residents are not united on how to seize it." (I wish you had said "because the residents haven't DEVELOPED sufficient unity on how to seize it.")
My question here is not about style. Since that word is at the heart of the mission (and name) of CDCs, it is an important one. While it is used in different ways in your paper, I think that you mostly use it to refer to the expansion of physical assets (economic value) in a community, with some sense of equitable access to those resources. As you know, that wouldn't make it in the international verbiage pool, where even the IMF has adopted the integrated notion of "human development" as its goal.
So what? I think it is more than semantics. Absolutely essential to managing the mission tensions between housing development, economic development, community organizing, community education and organizational continuity/survival is clarity on a goal of community development that is more integral than expanding physical assets or capital stock (or organizing people around class or other interest a la Alinsky). Without that organizational vision, the different "agendas" you mention do develop and any so-called expert in organizational development will tell us that no organization can manage different agendas. Either one agenda will predominate or the organization will fail.
Is it too much to think that CDCs can slowly begin redefine their vision of the prize? I guess that I think that a true commitment to an integral agenda (including organizing) requires such a redefinition. I get a sense (from your paper and other places) that lots of CDCs are thinking about this.
WHAT KIND OF ORGANIZING
In your paper, you define organizing quite broadly in the beginning and are quite clear that you mean something more than building support for the CDC's economic agenda. In your conclusion, however, the vision of organization returns to a narrower concept of participation in institutional decision-making or advocacy in support of the CDC agenda. I find this a troublesome drift. In the very few conversations that I have had with community organizers, one or two have not been happy with the trend toward more organizing in CDCs precisely because community organizing comes to be defined as these activities. Obviously, these are organizing activities, but effective organizing requires lots of other activities that may have nothing to do with involving people in CDC decision-making or mobilizing people to support CDC initiatives. I wish your conclusion argued more clearly for this broader vision of organizing within CDCs.
Lee Winkelman <email@example.com> responds:
Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my paper. Your comments are right on target and have made me rethink both the paper and my work at MACDC. It is always a pleasure to communicate with you on these matters because you are so insightful.
I would like to respond to the two main points your raise:
Definition of community development.
Someone else suggested that I need a definition of community development in the paper, but you are the first to suggest that the lack of definition is a problem because the struggle over what that definition is at the root of the tensions between organizing and development. As someone who comes at this from the organizing end, I am interested in collecting definitions of development. Can you send me any you have, particularly the IMF definition you mention? [That request goes for all the readers of the comm-org list serve]
If asked, some CDCs might include human development in their definition of community development. But if you look at their operational definitions (as opposed to whatever they might say ideologically), their definition is usually more limited--something like what you suggested in your comments: the expansion of physical assets and capital in a community, with some sense of equitable access to those resources. You can see this is the operational definition in two ways: 1) because in most CDCs housing and/or economic development efforts are the primary and most valued activities of the organization--in terms of money spent, time spent by staff and board members, and the way that CDCs talk about their most important accomplishments--and 2) even the CDCs that value organizing make a distinction between "organizing" activities (human development) and "development" activities (usually housing development, home buyer assistance, job creation, and small business lending and assistance).
I am 100% in agreement with you that CDCs should hold and operationalize a vision of community development that includes human development--the primary purpose of the initiative I run is to promote and help CDCs reach that broad vision of community development. In order to reach an audience of CDC practitioners, I think it makes sense to distinguish between organizing activities, which include human development activities, and development activities, which are only concerned about the development of physical assets and capital. It is necessary to make this distinction in order to point ou that without organizing, capital/physical development is limited in what it can accomplish. Our initiative, called the RIcanne Hadrian Initiative for Community Organizing (RHICO), is based on the principles that 1) development activities (narrowly defined) require resources and support that can only be obtained by organizing, 2) development activities (again narrowly defined) and projects will better meet community needs if residents are involved in them, and 3) the problems in our neighborhoods cannot be solved by capital/physical development alone. So even from the point of view of a CDC that wants to solve problems in low income communities through capital/physical development, organizing must be a primary and necessary part of community development.
Definition of Organizing
When we fund CDCs to do organizing, we are asking them to pursue three goals: 1) develop community leaders, 2) increase participation, and 3) build power. By goal #1, we mean human development: increasing empowerment, learning skills, helping residents build supportive relationships with other community residents. By goal #2, we mean building a real, participatory democracy in CDCs so that residents from all the different groups in the neighborhood (racial, gender, ethnic, class, etc.) are involved in leadership and decision making, with a preferential option for the poor, of course. Participation must be broad (involving lots of people), inclusive (from the different groups), and deep (giving people meaningful roles and real influence over the organization and its activities). By goal #3, we mean changing the balance of power in the neighborhood: helping residents to influence policy (of govt and/or private and public organizations), remove barriers toward participation and influence, and set the parameters of public debate (c.f. Steven Lukes, *Power-A Radical View* and the first chapter of John Gaventa, *Power and Participation*). Note that we do not hold a simple view that residents can increase their power only through confrontation or only through consensus-building--rather, we believe in a sophisticated strategy that combines both confrontation and consensus-building at different times and under different circumstances.
If a CDC is really pursuing each of these three goals--building leaders, participation and power--in a serious way, than they are pursuing a broad vision of community organizing. CDCs created RHICO because they acknowledge that they need to more effectively operationalize this broad vision. But to pursue this broad vision of community organizing requires a significant transformation of the organization, its structure and culture, and its activities. We do not expect organizations to transform themselves overnight--we have a gradualist strategy. We believe that if a CDC makes even small steps toward community organizing and if it is open to addressing the issues that arise, then new pressures will be created within the CDC that push it towards an organizational transformation. An example of this process is the Twin Cities CDC in Fitchburg and Leominster. This CDC was traditional. It was dominated by staff and a small group of residents on a board of directors (most of whom were not representative of the community served by the CDC). The CDC engaged in successful housing development, homeownership assistance, and economic development activities. When the CDC decided to expand from its base in Fitchburg to work in Leominster for the first time, the CDC decided to begin with a year-long grassroots community planning process to build support and relationships in Leominster. For the first time, the CDC hired a community organizer. Thanks to the assistance of Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, the CDC hired a talented, trained organizer with some organizing experience. In her first year, the organizer created new neighborhood committees, educated the staff and board about organizing, held a neighborhood gathering with more than five hundred residents, brought Latino and French Canadian residents together into committees for perhaps the first time, and conducted a grassroots planning process which identified housing and youth jobs and activities as the neighborhood*s two top priorities. The organizing process (and some help from RHICO--our organizing initiative) has led to a transformation of Twin Cities CDC. Their understanding of organizing has changed--from a planning process limited in time and scope to an ongoing process of resident involvement, leadership development and empowerment. The board has changed, with new members and new energy from the residents recruited from the Leominster organizing. The issues the organization works on has changed, to include youth issues. The whole relationship between staff, the board, resident leaders and committees and the community at large has changed and is continuing to change. The power structure in Leominster--elected officials and agencies--are responding to low income residents in a new way. Staff and board members now see organizing as central to the CDCs mission. Each new advance in organizing raises a new set of questions, and as those questions are addressed new advances in organizing are made. Though the transformation of the CDC is not yet complete--a virtuous circle has been created which will lead to further transformation.
Now we know that it will not always work so well. Some groups will respond to the new questions and issues out of fear, defensiveness and a desire to maintain tighter control rather than out of flexibility, self-criticism and openness. But we believe that we have selected the CDCs most likely to succeed in Massachusetts and that with the necessary training and support, these groups are ready to meet the challenge.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Fran Tobin)
1. Organizing and development -- a difficult question
The thoughtful paper and exchange between lee winkleman and kevin murray is an example of what makes comm-org invaluable. My gut reaction was that kevin murray is right on the money and the exchange makes me lean further towards the position that organizing and "development" should operate under separate -- but related -- structures and processes (I am still somewhat torn on this question).
As Lee indicates, many CDCs use language indicating a broad notion of development without acting on it. Even among those who try to incorporate organizing (there are a few), most routinely operationally sacrifice the human/leadership development to projects that yield stats, brochure photos and tours. I know nothing about the Twin Cities example cited, but from the paragraph posted it sounds to me like an organizing process that was still oriented around planning and participation in the CDC's (narrowly defined) development agenda. It sounds like a GOOD example of that kind of community planning and development, but it suggests that even the best-intentioned CDC-sponsored organizing tends toward that mode.
Of course, that drift is not a bad thing in itself -- these are good, important outcomes for a community. The problem (coming from the organizing side) is that CDC-driven activity comes to define both organizing and the community agenda. The CDCs also tend to absorb what few resources are available to organizing, and CDCs tend to have a difficult time challenging some of the power structure that they have to "partner" with on projects.
From: "Jean-Robert Primeau" <email@example.com>
* A comment on Lee Winkelman's working paper entitled "Massachusetts Community Development Corporations and Community Organizing". I find this paper very inspiring and motivating. Since my first reflex is not theory developing but theory transmission to practice, I will be using Lee's paper to question my c.o. team and some community organizations evolving in our community. We have, for example, an economic and community development corporation (CDEC) in our district that has no place for individual citizens on the Board nor in the membership. To their discharge I must admit community organizations, unions, institutions and business delegates compose the Board. But I think this is not enough to empower the community on the economic revitalization front. In Lee's paper, it is clear that most Mass. CDCs are envolved in housing. It shows in the types of organizing and the organizing structures he describes. My question to Lee is: does he think that the effort "to improve their community organizing practices and to raise [their] community organizing standards" could be the same in a CDC where the goals are mainly related to jobs and business (professionnal education to be employed in newly created jobs, support and loans to small and large businesses, job creation, entrepreneurship support, services to job seekers...etc.) and not at all on housing? Thanks to Janice K. Tulloss (see "Transforming Urban Regimes - A Grassroots Approach to Comprehensive Community Development: The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative" in the outstanding Working Papers on COMM-ORG site) I deepened my comprehension of DSNI. But DSNI even if working in the job creation field, endeavors also in housing. Are there examples of CDCs evolving mainly in the economic-job creation field and having developped interesting c.o. practices ? (I must admit I am catching up quite slowly on my readings--I still have Randy's paper on c.o.-development to read and many more !)