To: "COMM-ORG" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: First 1999 Working Paper
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 14:55:23 -0400
Kudos on the first paper of the year. The authors are all friends and colleagues, and the topic is key to my work at the Center for Community Change. A couple of observations. First, the key breakthrough that community developers and community organizers each need to achieve is respect for the work of the Other. Organizers who get it will organize differently, as developers will do their work differently if they value the skills and benefits of an organizing strategy. The concept of Two Oars is a real contribution to the campaign to bridge the gap between the two approaches and get beyond either/or thinking.
Second, the key shortage in both worlds is people. In the cases presented, there were leaders and organizers and experienced developers who had the confidence, the skills and the elightened attitudes to make things happen. If we are to extend the 'both oars' approach, we'll have to figure out how to reach, teach and keep the best people in the field. CCC does very little training, but organizing for community development groups is one of our training programs - see www.communitychange.org for more information. DTI and CCC and other intermediary and traiing organizations have come together to support a Human Resource Consortium, and more focus is needed on how to attract and retain talent to our work.
Finally, there needs to be lots more writing about the work of groups who undertake community transformation with many tools. I'd love to read more about how HART in Hartford does job placement and training, youth leadership, tutoring, recreation, parent involvement in education, economic development, and community organizing under one organizational banner. How is South Suburban Action in Chicago doing massive development deals under the auspices of a corporation owned by the organizing group and run by former organizers? How does the Alameda Corridor Coalition in LA keep a sharp focus on organizing and deliver for the thousands of people who'll get job readiness and training through the hiring agreement they've won? Are there structure issues they've solved that we could learn from? What about the human capital questions? How did these developers and organizers arrive at the respect for other disciplines that made them open up to the possibilities?
Good paper, good issues...great work!
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 09:47:33 -0400
From: Douglas R Hess <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I also enjoyed the "Two Ors" paper. However, I'd love to hear from people in the field about the contradictions and problems they face as well as the benefits when balancing organizing and development.
What specifically did organizing offer development?
What specifcally did development offer organizing?
What was it about each of the two "oars" that was in conflict with the other?
How did they resolve this tension?
My own brief look into this indicates that some separtism between the organizing and development sides of a neighborhood or community effort may be warranted. Managerially, this seems to lead to some overlap between boards and staff, but separate organizations. Is this what others observe?
Doug Hess 306 E. 32nd St., Apt. I Baltimore, MD 21218 phone: 410-366-9679 email: email@example.com
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 13:15:45 -0500
From: Kris Smock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I enjoyed reading comm-org's most recent working paper and want to thank the authors for introducing some thought-provoking examples of creative organizing work. I wholeheartedly agree with their claim that there needs to be a more complementary and productive relationship between project-based and power-based work. SVOC and Childspace offer valuable insights about the possibilities for effectively integrating both approaches.
However, I am very concerned that in their enthusiasm for these examples the authors neglect to point out the many complex issues involved with combining project-based and power-based approaches. This is particularly worrisome since the paper is directed at funders. Statements such as this one -- "From the perspective of a funder, if a community development group does not actively employ both a power-based approach to community development and a timely and effective project-based focus in a strategic fashion to meet common ends, this could raise questions about whether funds are being well deployed in a particular community development project" -- are dangerous since the authors do not include a more detailed discussion of the challenges and nuances of combining organizing and development.
For example, it is often not strategically possible or even desirable for a single organization to combine both power-based and project-based work. Many project-based groups, such as community development corporations and job training and placement agencies rely on government funding and government contracts. As a result, it is often impossible for them to directly engage in power-based organizing without threatening their resource base. This does not mean they shouldn't seek ways to integrate their work with power-based efforts, but it requires creativity. Project-based groups can work in large coalitions of other similar organizations (such as Childspace's worthy wage effort) or they can partner with power-based groups to implement the programs that power-based groups fight for. In light of these complexities, the authors' blanket statement that all development organizations should be evaluated based on their involvement in power-based organizing is overly simplified and needs detailed clarification.
Another example of the complexities of combining power-based and project-based efforts comes from Randy Stoecker's paper about CDCs. He argues that in order to do good housing development work, CDCs should focus on being professional, efficient, and high-capacity. This means they should not necessarily be community based but should be held accountable by community-based organizing groups. Again, this example demonstrates the value of both approaches working in a complementary fashion, but it also indicates some important subtleties which are left out of the authors' argument.
I could give numerous other examples. The point I want to make is that before we make strong statements to funders about where their priorities should lie, a much more detailed discussion needs to take place about the complex relationship between power-based organizing and project-based work. Funders and organizers need to understand all these complexities, and need to know which creative options are most likely to work in a given situation, before making any decisions about how to reshape their funding or organizing priorities.
Kris Smock email@example.com
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 18:16:30 EDT
Subject: Re: First 1999 Working Paper
X-Mailer: AOL 4.0 for Windows 95 sub 4
In a message dated 4/20/99 8:59:15 PM Mountain Daylight Time,
<< Kris Smock firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
...The point I want to make is that before we make strong statements to funders about where their priorities should lie, a much more detailed discussion needs to take place about the complex relationship between power-based organizing and project-based work. Funders and organizers need to understand all these complexities, and need to know which creative options are most likely to work in a given situation, before making any decisions about how to reshape their funding or organizing priorities. >>
As a funder and regular reader of Comm-Org, I feel I should craft a thoughtful comment. However, I have been out of town and haven't yet read the working paper. I will commit to doing so, ASAP, and offering my comments to the group.
One quick thought, though. As a funder, I haven't found the field of philanthropy to be especially open to other's input about how to reshape funding priorities. What has been the experience with working with foundations whose priorities seem to be concern. Can anyone point to any successes in influencing foundations. I know that some years ago, program evaluations of organizing were done by the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Discount Foundation, both ally funders for whom I have the greatest respect. I assume that these studies (one of which is a Comm-Org working paper by Jeannie Appleman) influenced the grantmaking of these two institutions. Can anyone else offer experiences - good and not-so-good - with working with foundations? I'd really like to hear, and realise that people feel exposed if they are too harsh. Perhaps Randy could allow aliases to protect the innocent!
Kathy Partridge, Program Officer, The Needmor Fund