This paper is presented as part of the Working 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. http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers.htm.
Community Organizing, Building and
Their Relationship to Comprehensive Community Initiatives
Douglas R. Hess
June 1999 Version
comments and enquiries welcomed
© Douglas R. Hess 1999
All rights reserved
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Classifying Approaches to Change
Chapter 3: Community Development, Organizing and Building
Brief Background of Community Organizing
Comparing Community Organizing Against the Bases
Brief Background of Community Building
Comparing Community Building Against the Bases
Brief Background of Community Development
Comparing Community Development Against the Bases
Do these Differences Matter?
Community Building and Community Organizing
Community Building and Community Developing
Community Organizing and Community Developing
Chapter 4: Comprehensive Community Initiatives
Chapter 5: Recommendations and Conclusion
Abstract to the table of contents
Community organizing, community development and community building are just a few of the names applied to the various attempts to spur participatory community change at the local level in distressed communities. Despite several decades of well documented and conscientious field work with various forms of community intervention, there remains much confusion over the distinguishing features of these various approaches to community change and, hence, confusion over the varying outcomes these approaches engender.
As concern over the persistence of poverty continues, foundations, local governments and other entities are launching a new set of interventions collectively called Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCI). Adherents of the CCI model contend that coordinating several service and development approaches while adding a more participatory process for planning this coordination and its content will tackle what appears to be the nearly intractable problems of poverty. However, without a firmer grasp of the characteristic features and outcomes of the various forms of community practice, these new initiatives do not appear to be as comprehensive as supporters claim. Without an appreciation of the differences between approaches to community change, a truly holistic approach to tackling poverty will elude practitioners and communities.
Preface to the table of contents
"People tend to work with three different models in this field, and they tend to think their model is the only one that works. One is the collaborative model, where you bring all the different stakeholders together under the assumption that they all have some common interest at heart, and they all want to do the right thing, and they’ll come together and do it and everybody will be happy. Then there’s the professional planners model, where you bring together experts and planners to analyze the problem and come up with solutions. And because it’s all so logical and rational, everybody is going to agree to it and march off to do what’s right. Then you’ve got the conflict model, where the assumption is that the haves and the have-nots possess diametrically opposed interests, and if the have-nots are ever going to get anything from the haves, it will only be through conflict and struggle.
"But very few people realize you need all three models to make change. And if I could go back and start over . . . I’d have been much clearer up front about the importance of using all three models, and reconciling them."
I would like thank those teachers, colleagues and others who have taught me, formally and informally, over the past three decades: from Iowa to Haiti to Brooklyn, Little Rock, the District of Columbia, Baltimore and all the places in between. I am sure I was a difficult student and apprentice so I appreciate their commitment. In particular, thanks to my parents for their loving support and for their life long commitment to teaching as a way of bettering the world. Special thanks to my classmates at the Institute for Policy Studies at the Johns Hopkins University (particularly Barbara Dannhausen), my instructors and directors (especially Drs. Stefan Toepler, Helmut Anheier, and Lester Salamon). Finally, thanks to the fellowship of community change activists, organizers and innovators I have worked with and for over the past decade.
Author's Biography to the table of contents
Douglas R. Hess was born in Oceola, Iowa in 1968. Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology conferred from Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa in 1991. Master of Arts degree in policy studies from Institute of Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins University in 1999. Employment includes work as field organizer, campaign research assistant, and project director with numerous community organizing, organized labor and civil rights advocacy organizations including: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Project Vote, New Party, Washington Office on Haiti, International Liaison Office of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, and Human Rights Campaign. Working and living in Haiti included supervising a home for 30 street children (1988-89), working with local community organizers and leading several delegations of journalists, refugee lawyers and human rights advocates to Haiti including an official election observer delegation for the nation’s first free elections in 1990.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Introduction to The Problem back to table of contents
Local, or community-based, initiatives to alleviate poverty in distressed communities are certainly as old as civilization itself. Nonetheless, only during the past several decades have a wide variety of approaches to community change come under the scrutiny of professional practitioners, academics, governments and philanthropists.
Over time various types of local initiatives have developed into forms of "community practice." To a greater or lesser degree, these various approaches to community change have each developed their own techniques, as well as professional networks, trade literature, training programs, and vocabulary. One of the most recent developments in the field is a complex set of projects commonly known as comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs).
In brief, CCIs are attempts by a variety of local actors to coordinate the work of community-based and government agency-based services and projects to offer more comprehensive treatments to social problems than the fragmented programs of the past. Furthermore, CCIs strive to increase the capacity of service and development providers by increasing the linkages between programs within a community to external actors and thus raising the number of opportunities local projects have for taking action. In addition, CCIs aim to increase the social capital within distressed communities including developing a strong resident vision for and participation in these various projects.
Despite years of experience with various forms of local initiatives — such as those defined here as community organizing, development and building — there remains much confusion on the part of many observers and practitioners over the differences in the nature of these various strategies. Furthermore, the dependence of the outcomes of interventions on the approach undertaken is often not recognized or expressed by those who support or engage in these efforts at community change. Finally, little discussion has occurred regarding the way these strategies can relate to each other.
Practitioners, such as David Beckwith of the Center for Community Change, note that confusion over the differences between social change methods is common, especially when community members and staff rely on what worked for one project (such as community organizing) to do another (such as community development):
In this paper I will, first, explore some bases upon which to differentiate various community intervention strategies. Second, I will explore the history of three approaches most relevant to CCIs and explore what the varying features of these different approaches might mean for a community project. This will include an examination of why it each of the elements that the various practices offer a community are valuable.
Third, I will review comprehensive community initiatives as a social change model. Through reviewing existing literature, exploring examples of CCIs and other practices and interviews with practitioners, I examine the ability of the CCI movement to provide a comprehensive means to tackling persistent poverty. Avoiding a definitional debate over what "comprehensive" means in services or community development, CCIs will instead be critiqued based on their ability to address and incorporate the achievements and features of other, earlier practices. Thus, a lack of comprehensiveness would mean that many CCIs are not integrating important elements of various prior practices.
Finally, I will make some recommendations on relationships between approaches
to community-based change to suggest improved ways at developing a comprehensive
approach to alleviating poverty in distressed communities.
Past Attempts at Classifying Community Change Practices back to table of contents
Many authors and practitioners have attempted to categorize various models of community practice.
Marshall Ganz, a former organizing director with over 30 years of experience and currently at the Kennedy School at Harvard, has developed a method for distinguishing four categories of interventions which appear over and over again in the practitioner literature: service delivery, community development, professional advocacy and community organizing (Ganz, 1998).Ganz uses two bases, each with two dimensions, about change practices to create these four categories. The first basis regards the location of control of the program: internal to the community or external to the community. The second basis regards the product the program creates: a tangible benefit or service or an advocacy role whereby some claim for change is made on others.
A two-by-two box helps explicate this division:
Figure 1: Traditional Model1
In box A are local service and development programs controlled by the community, such as community development corporations (CDCs), service centers and cultural groups overseen by community boards. In box B we find community organizing: efforts by residents and issue groups to influence institutions or decision making bodies which have an impact on the lives of the groups’ members. Social service programs are located in box C, distinguished from box A because they are controlled by external actors (the government or non-resident boards). Finally, professional advocacy or reform campaigns which are not controlled by community participation are located in box D (e.g., legal defense funds).
Similarly, David Beckwith and Christina Lopez of the Center for Community Change identify "four fundamental strategies available to neighborhood groups to address community problems: community organizing, advocacy, service delivery or development" (Beckwith and Lopez, 1997). Like Ganz, they note that
Rothman, meanwhile, identifies a category of community practice which he calls social action. Similar to what the other previous authors identify as community organizing or political action, the most salient feature of social action is that it organizes groups of people to influence political processes. These actions are designed to change the balance of power between one group and their opposition.
However, Fisher and Rothman also develop categories of practice which are not comparable to those in the previous typologies. Fisher includes a method of social change, neighborhood maintenance, most commonly used by middle- and upper-income home owners who seek to increase the values of their property and maintain the identity of their community through preservation campaigns, changing zoning ordinances and improving local services. In fact, although Fisher separates this out from other organizing projects as a separate category, it is really just a variation on organizing which has been adopted by members of what are not traditionally seen as disempowered social groups.
Likewise, Rothman develops two categories that do not line up with the prior typologies. The first category is social planning. This category is actually a description of the role that policy planners and analysts play in social change. As employees of an institution they marshal facts and develop plans to solve the problems placed in front of them. As such, it does not really represent a method of change, but rather a task-specific function which many organizations all employ at various times. It is likely that Rothman included this profession as a model for social change because he first developed this typology based on his observations of the career paths of his students.
Finally, Rothman introduces the category "locality development." While he states that this is synonymous with community development, it is really a broader category than the attempt by residents to develop and manage social and physical service delivery within their own community, the definition used by Ganz and Beckwith and Lopez. For Rothman, locality development also includes the repair of social relations and the development of consensus-building decision making processes. By being so broad Rothman merges what I believe should be identified as two distinct practices: community development (which focuses on delivering physical products and services) and community building (which focuses on creating social relations and improving community social assets).
The problem with the typologies reviewed so far is that their bases are either too simple or too complex. In the case of the traditional two by two division, community controlled projects which are neither service nor advocacy oriented (which describes the practice I will define latter as community building) are not included. On the other hand, Fisher limits his categorical system by only focusing on social work and what are really two forms of activist organizing (the kind used by grassroots social change agents in low-income and minority neighborhoods and the more conservative kind used by associations of property owners). 2 Finally, Rothmans’ typology is too complex (using 11 variables). The result is a list of categories that could be collapsed on a typology made from fewer variables with more specific dimensions. It appears that Rothman overextends the breadth of activities which fall under at least one category in his attempt to flesh out such a large number of variables.
Selecting Community Change Practices to Examine back to table of contents
In the next section I will outline which variables, and which dimensions along these variables, I will use for highlighting differences between the various community change practices. In this section, however, I mention which community change practices will be reviewed in this paper. The selection criteria are: which practices existed prior to CCIs and which are most relevant to the work of CCIs. By relevant I mean those practices which are most consistent with the goals of community participation and control over local development. Thus, since they are either externally controlled or not focused on low-income communities, I will remove from the discussion the neighborhood maintenance, social service delivery, social planning and advocacy models identified in the typologies discussed above. From the previous author’s writings this leaves community organizing and community development. Furthermore, I will add in one model absent in the previous typologies: community building.
Community building ventures, popularized in part by the writings of Kretzman and McKnight mentioned in the next chapter, are often used in CCIs.3 Indeed, as will be discussed later, many CCIs use community building projects as a substitute for what is defined in this paper as community organizing. Thus, understanding the differences between community building and community organizing will be important for evaluating CCIs. In brief, community building emphasizes a change process which begins with community residents identifying assets and relationships in their locale which, if further developed, will bring about significant change without a reliance on social service interventions. Community building often involves mapping out the resources in a community and meeting needs through strengthening those resources through local action. More specifics on community building and how it differs from the other models can be found in the next chapter.
Table 1 names the categories each author uses, shows where I believe
some are synonymous (or are not) and then shows which three I select.
Table 1: How Categories
Line Up Across Typologies
|Ganz, Beckwith and Lopez||
Bases for Distinguishing Among Community Change Practices back to table of contents
To help distinguish among these community practices (organizing, building, developing), I will use the following five bases: primary values of the practice, conception of public interest, power, nature of social capital and nature of civic engagement.
Primary value of the practice. Of the various values or principles a practice can uphold, which are paramount in a particular practices’ relationship towards solving community problems?
Gilbert, Specht and Terrell (1993) note that:
Expertise is defined as a value
Conception of Public Interest. Additionally, Gilbert et al identify three competing views of the public interest. First, a community’s public interests can be viewed as belonging to a single organism. As a unitary body, the community’s interests can be identified and treated with expert knowledge. Alternatively, communities can be seen as a set individuals who voluntarily work together on interests common to those concerned. This communal view of the public interest envisions individuals identifying and working on the public interests as they (those involved) define them. Finally, interests can be conceived as conflicting. Subsets of the community may hold interests in conflict with other subsets (pp. 220-223).
Power. Steven Lukes and John Gaventa identify three faces, or dimensions, of power in society (Gaventa, 1980; Lukes, 1974;). The first dimension is a simple form of pluralism where various forums exist for the expression of concerns which are then discussed and hammered out by the actors and players involved in the community. At this level of power equal access to the decision making table is assumed.
However, Lukes and Gaventa find this presentation of political action insufficient because it fails to explain why people do not act when the status quo is glaringly not in their favor. The second dimension of power realizes that to benefit from the pluralist level you have to have enough power to get your items on the agenda. Following on Schattschneider (1960) and Bachrach and Baratz (1970), Lukes observes that the rules within any decision making system inherently bias the mobilization of resources for competing for agenda formation against some individuals and groups versus others. Furthermore, because only a few issues can be handled on any agenda at a time, many items simply never make it on the agenda.4
In brief, the "resource mobilization bias" of decision making systems may consistently weaken the agenda formation position of certain communities and thus limit the number of items they can have addressed in public forums. Thus, if some issues are not addressed, it is not because there is no public for them or that the public for that issue is irrational or politically "inefficient." Instead, the issue is not raised because
Instead of first, second and third, these three dimensions of power will be labeled for simplicity’s sake in this paper as pluralist, agenda setting and agenda planning. The distinction between setting and planning is the ability to place items on the agenda (agenda setting) versus the ability to generate from one’s culture items for an agenda (agenda planning). Moving items from the agenda plan on to society’s agenda requires the second form of power.
Social Capital. This final dimension of power, creating items for an agenda through developing culture, brings us close to the currently popular discussions of social capital. Change activists who believe that social relations in distressed communities are damaged and if repaired could help communities to solve their problems are asking how to rebuild social capital. However, some observers and practitioners believe there may be several different features of social capital which if confused or ignored, can lead to unintended consequences.
Xavier de Souza Briggs’ (1997) warning to social capital discussants is to make sure they recognize that different features of social capital networks exist and that some of the features of social capital may solve problems others cannot or raise new problems. For instance, de Souza Briggs notes that the impact of the development of the social capital of one group can be undesirable to another group. In a brief case study, he relates the story of a successful community development corporation which opened up its board to a neighborhood election in compliance with requirements for receiving special government funds. The stronger social capital of white homeowners in the area allowed them to defeat the weaker black community of low-income renters which had run the CDC to date. Under new owners, the CDC significantly altered its services and minority participation in the programs decreased.
Several lessons come out of de Souza Briggs’ warning. First, social capital building within the "fault lines" of race, class and other social cleavages will still be necessary as bridging relationships between groups will not always produce desirable outcomes for the weaker community. Second, social capital building across communities, often referred to as bridging social capital, will nonetheless be necessary in order for diverse communities to cooperate in a pluralist society and for the aggregate community to improve. Finally, social capital is not just used to increase the ability of individuals in a social network to rely on each other for coping with adversity or building trust, thus facilitating the development and completion of projects, social capital also can be used against others. As de Souza Briggs notes, there are some groups whose social capital would be harmed if another group’s social capital increased. In other words, social capital can have a nature that could be deemed political (see also Wallis 1998 for a discussion between community organizers and Robert Putnam on these issues).
Thus, we will ask which of the various "social capitals" a practice most frequently influences:
Table 2 below summarizes the dimensions I have discussed within each basis.
Table 2: Bases and Dimensions
||Nature of Social Capital
For understanding and comparing the three practices examined in this paper the question are: which of these values, interpretations of community interests and power dominate which practice? What aspect of social capital and which kind of civic engagement does each practice nurture? For instance, Gilbert et al observe that each value or conception of interests when taken to the extreme of excluding the others can be the undoing of an enterprise. Hence, finding which community practices serve which values and which interests can be key to meeting social needs comprehensively. Without being able to manage these various issues, the orientation of any community change venture can not claim to be comprehensive.
The next chapter introduces each of the three community practices which were identified earlier in this chapter with a brief history and then compares each of them against these bases. In addition, the next chapter will discuss what weaknesses each method raises, and might resolve, about the others. Later this will be important for discussing CCIs’ ability to comprehensively address community change in distressed areas.
Chapter 3: Community Development, Organizing and Building
Community Organizing back to table of contents
Brief Background of Community Organizing
The most famous figure in modern community organizing is Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was a community organizer who worked around the nation from the 1930s to the 1970s. Alinsky’s writings serve as a bible for many direct action community organizers (for instance, Alinsky, 1971). Direct and indirect descendents of Alinsky include such famous figures as Caesar Chavez, Fred Ross Sr. and the current staff of the IAF and several similar organizing networks. Alinsky plays such a dominant role in discussions of organizing that the irreverent, aggressive and arrogant personality he interjects into his writings have become a stereotype for community organizers. Indeed, community change strategies which use public confrontation are often referred to as "Alinsky-style" models.
Despite Alinsky’s ties to many modern organizing efforts, his fame overshadows an older tradition in community organizing in America than is commonly recognized. The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, for instance, recognizes the heritage of its organizing practice as including nineteenth century populist movements such as the Southern Tenant Farmworker Union and the Non-partisan League (Adamson and Borgos, 1987; Betten and Austin, 1990; Kest and Rathke, 1979).
Although there are many styles of community organizing and many organizational structures which arise out of organizing drives, the emphasis for those practices which I place under community organizing is the same: organizing community members to take on powerful institutions in their community through direct public confrontation and action. Sometimes this even includes political work such as voter registration, endorsement of candidates or even running candidates for office (Alinsky, 1971; Delgado, 1986, 1994; Khan, 1991).
Although all of the categorical systems mentioned in the previous chapter identified community organizing as distinct from other categories the authors used, it is hard to find a working definition of it in any literature outside of the writings of practitioners. When reviewing funding of community organizing for the Woods Fund of Chicago, Sandy O’Donnell and Ellen Schumer (1996) noticed "few funders understand organizing: few even know it exists as a field of philanthropic endeavor, and those who do tend to view it as insurrectionist" (n.p.). However, for analytical, much less managerial, purposes it is important to have a grasp of organizing beyond the "I know it when I see it" description (or suspicion) which many professionals carry about in their heads. Through interviews with organizers, foundation staff experienced in funding community organizing and a review of the literature, I developed the characteristic features of organizing outlined in Table 3.5
Table 3: Defining Community Organizing
|Local, democratic control. Direct constituency
involvement in the organization is a central and even defining feature
of the organization. The constituency is clearly defined and the growth
and participation of membership is seen as fundamental. Members’ agenda
for their community, as expressed through felt needs, is the starting point
for campaigns that meet needs as well as inspire participation.
Power is based on participation of mass-based constituency. As opposed to mobilizing resources to generate influence through expert staff, research information or money, the power of organizing to influence other institutions is mainly derived from the direct involvement of membership. Most, although not all, organizing projects are multi-issue and seek to constantly expand their membership base beyond their present constituency. Boards are usually elected and members often pay dues.
Leadership development is central. The development of leadership is a program goal related to the two criteria above. Leaders are necessary for constituency control over the organization and for the ability of the organization to move large numbers of people to participate. Leadership development also entails expanding member-cum-leaders’ understanding and analysis of social problems, opening up their definition of interest to include the wider community and solidarity with other movement organizations.
Permanence and growth of the organization is paramount. Capacity to do work over time is suggested not only because policy and institutional changes are significant goals, but also because groups are expected to grow and relate to other organizing ventures or simply continue to organize the "unorganized." Compared to professional advocacy or activist networks, organizing does not exist to win a certain issue. While some issue or principle is the reason-for-being for activists and advocates, issues are selected in organizing based on their ability to further the organization’s drive to include more members, develop new leaders and build more power for the group. Issues are often chosen to expose who does and does not represent the interests of the public the organizing is focused on moving. Furthermore, organizing seeks to advance what some call "group efficacy." The goal, in other words, is not just to win a change, but to win it as an organized group — in short, an organized community.
Contestation at the institutional level. As opposed to making changes at the level of the self or physical structure, organizing works to change institutions and norms in the society at-large. While organizing might fight for paving the streets, funding a school or ending discrimination in banks, these are just the outward signs of what it really wants to accomplish: changing how decisions are made. Furthermore, putting new groups of people into community institutions and decision making processes almost always means some degree of confrontation. In addition, since organizing is about developing broad involvement, organizing campaigns often make this confrontation public (uncomfortably so for some). Organizing often has as its goal the control of the institutions it targets. Finally, organizing ventures often spawn new institutions (e.g., CDCs, charter schools, etc.) or decision making systems (e.g., reforming election laws) which future organizing will seek to use to the members’ advantage.
Comparing Community Organizing Against the Bases
Table 4 compares community organizing and the other practices against
the dimensions of the bases outlined in Chapter 2. The rest of this section
notes several important features from that comparison.
Table 4: Comparing Community
Organizing, Building and Developing Against the Bases
|Conception of Public Interest in a Community||Conflicting||Communal||Singular|
|Power||Agenda setting||Agenda planning||Pluralist|
|Nature of Social Capital||Political||Internal||Collaboration|
|Nature of Civic Engagement||Political Activism||Engaged Citizenry||Policy Making|
Primary Value. In community organizing the goal is to control the future of the community through a permanent, politically powerful, organized body of resident participants. Quoting Heather Booth, formerly of Citizen Action, Beckwith and Lopez (1997) point to a simple mnemonic for a community organizers’ job description: "OOO = Organizers Organize Organizations." Organizers explicitly do not see their primary role as that of maintaining expertise in solving social problems (other than that of building the "people’s organization"). Indeed, as several seasoned practitioners point out, organizing is often best served if the programs it fights for are implemented by others (Beckwith and Lopez, 1997; Bharagava, 1998a; Dailey, 1998; Shea, 1998).
Additionally, because organizing places much emphasis on bringing new voices to the table and on building power through numbers it has a strong focus on developing new membership and leadership. In order to develop a constantly expanding and democratic organization, organizing must rely on new leadership and new constituencies, not just existing leadership (von Hoffman undated; Trapp, 1976). Hence, in Gilbert et al’s terms, community organizing holds participation as its major value with a secondary focus on leadership.
Conception of Public Interest. Another feature of community organizing is essential to highlight and is probably the most salient to its critics: community organizing engages in conflict. Because organizing engages in public affairs those people who are least involved in community decision making processes, current relationships in the larger community are shaken. Constituents engaged in organizing are demanding a greater say in both government policy making and the impacts which market forces have on their community. This feature of organizing is perhaps the hardest for some funders, practitioners and government officials to come to terms with (Bhargava, 1998a; Marris and Rein, 1973; Walsh, 1997a).
Power. Following Luke and Gaventa’s model, community organizing engages power at the second level: attempting to mobilize resources to increase control over agendas. Additionally, organizing strives to change the "rules" of decision making so the resource mobilization bias in the agenda setting process favors their community. A common example of this is the passing of election law reforms to strengthen the voice of each neighborhood at the city council. Many organizations, for example, have done this through eliminating or reducing the number of at-large seats on their city council and strengthening the ward election system as a way of increasing resident control over what become more highly visible local races. (Adjusting election laws was also a common campaign of the Populist and agrarian social movements in the last century.)
Social Capital and Civic Engagement. While organizing often begins with those interests which are very close and visible to potential members (the "felt needs"), organizing’s longer-term goal is to expand the interest of members to include broader issues (Rubin and Rubin, 1992; Trapp, 1976). This allows the group to move on to issues which are inclusive of new members’ interests and are more sophisticated than the easy, early "wins" with which membership based organizing drives start (the perennial examples being stop signs and rats). As Trapp (1976) notes, it would be hard to build any substantial amount of power at all if organizing could not get renters to work on home-owner issues and visa-versa.
However, while building social capital among members and bridging relations across interest groups is important in organizing, the emphasis is still on the political nature of social capital. While it would be hard to develop the political power of any organization without developing a significant amount of internal social capital within some of the "fault lines" of society (place, gender, class, race, etc.) and across others, those relationships which are chosen in an organizing venture are those that will build the most power for the organization.
Civic Engagement. This is clearly the political activist form of civic engagement defined by Sviridoff and Ryan. Organizing is less concerned about involving residents in specific policy roles (often viewed as a drain on an organization’s leadership by organizers) than their general political activism which will allow them to keep decision makers accountable. Furthermore, while organizing is concerned about developing an engaged citizenry, the relationship building which this entails is internal to the organization (members, leaders, staff) and not external or highly varied (generally increasing or improving civic relations). In contrast, community building, the next practice we will examine, places an emphasis on a more generalized set of broad relations.
Community Building back to table of contents
Brief Background of Community Building
Community building is defined here as those 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. Significantly, community building focuses on utilizing the existing assets within a community and not the provision of services for resolving deficits within a community. The community building model has its genesis in three sources: the self-help movement’s reformist critique of the service delivery and advocacy models of change, Kretzman and McKnights’ asset-based community development model and the feminist response to traditional community organizing. Each of these influences is briefly reviewed below.
Critics of the social service model felt that its fundamental assumptions were misdirected as evidenced by a perceived lack of success. Thomas Dewar (1978), writing from a pro-self-help vantage, critiques the advocacy and service delivery practices mentioned in the chapter 2:
Despite growing claims of importance by professionals and rising expectations of many of their clients, more and more professional services offer no clear-cut definition of success. Instead, the clients are urged to try to understand the situation or predicament as their helpers do (p.4).
The third influence on the strain of community practices which I am calling community building is feminism. Feminist organizers have responded to the conflict and confrontation nature of traditional community organizing by focusing on the development of power through building relations among community members (Bradshaw, Soifer and Guiterrez, 1994; O’Donnell and Schumer, 1996; Stall and Stoecker, 1997). Whereas traditional community organizing focuses on building mass-based, permanent organizations which confront state and market institutions, feminist organizing focuses on smaller, less formal groups.
The emphasis in feminist organizing is on changing members’ consciousness about private problems as a means toward developing voluntary, communal responses. These responses might include public action spanning from activism to cultural activities, but are also likely to include self-help and betterment programs or support networks. Furthermore, as with the other influences on community building, feminist organizing seeks to demystify expertise and place experts in the role of a co-learner with participants. Finally, power in feminist organizing is not "seen as a finite resource that must be gained" at the expense of others (Bradshaw, Soifer and Gutierrez, 1994, p.31). Instead, community power is believed to be rooted in relationships. Therefore, power is limitless and increases as relationships, including collaborations with other groups, are expanded and improved.
Comparing Community Building Against the Bases
Primary Value. Clearly community building places, as does community organizing, great emphasis on participation. However, because community building focuses so intensely on the development of relationships, participation has a focus on smaller groups with a very large commitment of time from each participant (Bradshaw, Soifer and Gutierrez, 1994). Because of this more intense focus on small task-groups (such as community surveying), group processes and relationships, I identify community building with the leadership dimension. Community building values change through participants "doing for themselves."
Conception of Public Interest. Defining the public interest in community building is oriented around finding a public good which community members desire and agree upon. Because improved relationships and conciliation are emphasized, community building avoids conflict and stresses voluntary action. Thus, a communal definition of the public interest is stressed in community building projects.6
Power. Of the three faces of power identified, community building specializes in agenda planning. By focusing on participants’ (re)discovery of local assets, new relations and opportunities, participants in community building develop a new vision for their community, one that external actors would not have been able to discover without them. Kretzman and McKnights’ (1993) 370 page training manual is almost completely silent about how a community with its new found vision (or agenda) relates to external actors and resources, much less the political process. This is a substantially different vision of power than that used in community organizing which is very conscious about mobilizing resources to target external actors and institutions for assistance.
SocialCapital. In his general discussion of what a rebuilding process might look like, McKnight (1994) stresses elements such as story telling, celebration and even tragedy. Wallis (1998) observed in a workshop where community activists discussed social capital with Robert Putnam that projects to build social capital often begin with a process which echoes McKnight’s depiction:
Civic Engagement. Just as community building seems almost synonymous
with internal social capital, so it does with Sviridoff and Ryan’s engaged
citizenry. A community with an engaged citizenry is one where many dense
and different social ties facilitate planning and the supervision of public
Community Development back to table of contents
Brief Background of Community Development
The early history of the community-based development movement in the 1960s is a well documented example of the complex tensions involved in the political history of community organizations. Minority nationalist and self-determination movements, community organizing by New Left radicals, urban riots, the war in Vietnam and the rise of social policy planning within the federal government and national philanthropic foundations all influenced the rapid development and demise of various participatory and social change programs in the 1960s and 1970s (Moynihan, 1969; Peirce and Steinbach, 1987). The philanthropic world’s interest in community development, most significantly the Ford Foundation’s early support, was sparked by many of these same social factors (Peirce and Steinbach, 1987).
Daniel Moynihan, in his book Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding (1969), lays out the now familiar tale of how federal funding of Community Action Programs quickly came under fire from local officials resentful of the outside funding for local activism which was often very political. Nonetheless, several programs — including community development corporations (CDCs), Youth Corps and Head Start — survived the collapse of CAP (Moynihan, 1969). To simplify the discussion about the community development model somewhat, I will focus on the case of CDCs, which now number in the thousands (Peirce and Steinbach, 1987; Zdenek, 1987).
Typically, CDCs are non-profit corporations with community boards and, often, members of institutions external to the community, such as banks, government officials or foundations who provide expertise, political clout and/or financial assistance. While many CDCs found initial support from various federal, state and local programs or foundations, others grew out of churches and other non-profits. In Chicago, for instance, O’Donnell and Schumer (1996) noted that
Comparing Community Development Against the Bases
Primary Value. The primary value community development embodies is expertise. As collaborative projects between residents of a community and external funders, community development projects exist to provide services and products to a community based upon their ability to manage tight budgets, assess the need for and feasibility of community projects and adroitly assemble a "complex combinations of resources to make projects work" (Rohe, 1998, p.185). Compared to community organizing and building, community development is less focused on participation and leadership, although it is under significant pressure from critics to improve its record in these areas.
Conception of Community Interests. Expertise in a community development venture is used to diagnose the opportunities and ills of a community and respond based on its capacity to turn its resources (from foundations, governments and fees) into programs. When it does engage in politics over conflicting interests at the local or national level, CDCs tend to use advocacy and research (professional skills emphasizing expertise), instead of community organizing (Dreier, 1998, p.120). Furthermore, while the community may have input as to where the expertise is directed, many CDCs, out of necessity for survival, select communities in which to base projects based on financial considerations (Levavi, 1996). Hence, community developoment tends to conceive of public interest as singular, meaning it finds what is needed for the public interest and sets to work implementing it.
Power. Because of its collaborative nature with other agents in the larger community, the community development practice represents a pluralist arrangement with power. Although it is subject to the resource mobilization bias problems the second face of power confronts, the partnering between various communities sometimes prevents cooperative projects from attempting to shift the agenda.
Social Capital. Through their partnerships with other institutions and their human capital programs which frequently connect residents with employment and other external relations, community development projects develop bridging social capital. Development projects, more so than organizing and building, present opportunities for external forces to engage the community in a cooperative spirit. Development projects which train residents in local governance (public housing councils, for instance) also develop internal social capital. Furthermore, as development projects are forced to increase the community’s role in and acceptance of its programs, some seem able to expand their involvement into community building projects (Kingsley, McNeely and Gibson, 1997). However, for the time being, this is often for very specific projects, for limited numbers of residents. Often these involve the community in annual planning workshops where the agenda revolves around ongoing projects of the CDC (Murray, 1998; Tobin, 1998).
Civic Engagement. Few residents are likely to be involved in political projects through a development project. When community development corporations do engage in political affairs, it is a function of their own development-policy concerns regarding specific resources. Furthermore, as Dreier (1998) notes, political work by CDCs and their networks is much more likely to involve research and advocacy than political mobilizations of residents. Thus, the form of civic engagement that community development utilizes most often is resident participation in policy making.
Do these Differences Matter? back to table of contents
Do the differences between the community practices matter? If differences between community organizing, building and developing have important implications for a community, are there weakness in each practice which the other practices can address?
Community Building and Community Organizing
The conflict-oriented political activism of organizing, and the focus on what external agents can do to further the community’s interest, lend themselves to several criticisms from the community building corner. First, local government officials, even if sympathetic, may not have the resources to do what is needed or demanded by residents. As a result, confrontational tactics will have fewer results in times of government rollback (Fisher, 1995; Smock, 1997). Second, organizing often demands more government services in a neighborhood which is the antithesis of community building’s focus on a local web of family and neighborly supports. For instance, whereas a community building project might focus on a neighborhood cleanup of a deteriorating park, community organizing will rally residents to pressure the city to do it for them (an example of using the internal versus political nature of social capital).
Third, because the relationships between members and professional staff are designed to be separate and the membership base is meant to be large in community organizing, it is often subject to the charge that it manipulates members (Stall and Stoecker, 1997; Bradshaw, Soifer and Gutierrez, 1994). In addition, community organizing networks often have national goals which require that campaigns be implemented in many of its chapters without origination at the grassroots. Furthermore, selecting where to operate or place resources can be an issue of national strategy for larger organizing efforts. This can lead to turf battles with other organizations, especially local ones which view themselves as more authentically "grassroots" than national organizations (Delgado, 1986; Medoff and Sklar, 1994, pp. 74-75). Community building, with its focus on relationships, local opportunities and members’ accountability to one another is often touted as less manipulative.
For its part, community building also has several flaws which the community organizing traidition would point out. As Smock (1997) observes, highly local, voluntaristic projects have the following weaknesses:
For instance, Mary Dailey of the North West Community and Clergy Coalition in the Bronx (a community organizing project with ties to ACORN and a background with the IAF) provides and example of how a community building self-reliance project with technical help from a CDC provides community organizers with a way to keep potential members tied to organizing. In a neighborhood where Dailey’s organization was conducting a membership drive, the Coalition found some new members who wanted to develop a neighborhood garden. "[The organizers] couldn’t give [two cents] about a garden, but with the CDC helping to develop it for us, it meets the CDC’s needs, keeps some people involved and allows us to look successful" (Dailey, 1998). However, staff working on building and organizing would still have to decide which projects should become "politicized" (i.e., seek intervention of government). In other words, mass-based mobilization for political action is easier when there are bustling cafes and lively churches in a community. An area where residents report not knowing any of their neighbors will prove slow going for recruiting members in a community organizing campaign.
For its part, community organizing can provide community building with the power necessary to confront imbalances between members’ and external actors. Asset-based development lays down as its final step the recruitment of external support for its projects but is silent about the sort of conflicts and struggles over power which may occur when communities collaborate. Furthermore, without some development of agenda-setting power, observers note that community building ventures can not fight against government cuts. Additionally, community building is not always honest about how agenda’s within their own organization are influenced (Bradshaw, Soifer and Gutierrez, 1994; Stall and Stoecker1997). Perhaps through using the more formal staff position of a professional organizer the roles between members, leaders and staff can be more overtly discussed and negotiated in communities. Finally, national organizing networks can also provide members with involvement in issues larger than, and perhaps vital to, residents’ own neighborhoods.
Community Building and Community Developing
For the community builder, the services flowing from a community development corporation’s professionals may appear little different than government services. Indeed, foreshadowing the development of the CCI, McKnight (1994) even refers to
Community Organizing and Community Developing
Many critics of reliance on the CDC model for community change see the success of CDCs as a sign of moderation in the community organizing movement (Drieir, 1998; Fisher, 1994; Rubin and Rubin, 1992; Stoecker, 1996a; Stoecker, 1996b). They criticize CDCs for being too parochial, service oriented or co-opted by political or business authorities to demand greater change in the political economy. For instance, banks involved in a CDC are not going to support an aggressive campaign against redlining by area banks. Likewise, CDCs with political operatives or elected officials on their board may not be happy to hear that the CDC is joining the fight against a sports arena tax or for an increase in the minimum wage
However, others see CDCs as a sign of successful community empowerment. In this interpretation, CDCs are the resulting wins from compromises between the more and the less powerful. Their argument is that even radical community organizing is meant to build power for weak communities up to the point where compromises with powerful institutions bring about new services and programs. Hence, if community organizing leads to the formation of CDCs connecting poorer communities to economic and political interests in a development coalition, so much the better. In other words, the development of thousand of CDCs across the nation could be seen as the result of successful organizing (Robinson, 1996).
Certainly, the idea that CDCs can play a politically representative and socially reparative role in the community has some truth to it: many CDCs do engage the citizenry in planning for their community with values that differ from, and often conflict with, those of the market place or the government (Robinson, 1996). Furthermore, many CDCs do belong to national organizations which lobby on federal housing work. Nonetheless, many observers note that CDCs’ attention to producing services and products tends to "bend" the community organizing and political work it engages in away from the mass mobilization and broad political-structural goals of traditional community organizing (Dreier, 1998; Murray, 1998; Tobin, 1998).
Furthermore, echoes of the fall of CAP still seem to resound across the community development landscape (Smock, 1997). Groups with government funding which engage in lawful political activity can come under additional unwanted scrutiny (Shea, 1998). This lack of engagement in the legitimate political opportunities that do exist because of collaborative ties, combined with a fear of oversight which some political activity might bring, undermines the theory that CDCs are themselves signs of successful political action. While the birth of the CDC movement may be rooted in the self-determination social movements of the 1960s, the narrowly focused CDCs of today appear as the "responsible militants" Jenkins (1987) sees elite networks anointing as solutions to community aspirations too radical to support more thoroughly.
There is also the concern that because CDCs are at the table with partners in the communities, they can be "set up to fail." If CDCs are given insufficient resources or support by a government, the failure of the CDC can be used to demonstrate that local residents are incapable or a community unsalvageable (Stoecker, 1996a). As with community building projects, community development organizations can also be used to justify a "bootstrap" political agenda. That is to say, an argument that voluntary action through non-governmental organizations is sufficient for resolving the crisis in the cities (Dreier, 1998; Smock, 1997).
Community organizing can provide community development with the political clout when needed to hold collaborating partners accountable and push to increase the size of the pie with which the collaboration operates. Furthermore, organizing networks are in a better position to mobilize a movement around state and national issues which networks of community development corporations have yet to do or are unable to do.
In return, organizing efforts can gain resources when working on development and outreach projects (e.g., a computer purchased for a housing program staff to be used during the day can also be used by organizers to manage memberships at night). Development programs (such as home buying) may also attract members into an affiliated community organizing project. Finally, community development corporations may help with the management of the independent institutions which organizing drives want to develop. In short, community development projects are the collaborations which many community organizing drives seek to win after building power.
Figure 2 diagrams the ways in which various practices could support each other. What communities need is a way to integrate these three practices. Do comprehensive community initiatives provide the answer? The next chapter explores the background of CCIs, their features when compared against the bases outlined above and their relationship to these past practices.
Figure 2: Cooperation Between Models back to table of contents
Chapter 4: Comprehensive Community Initiatives
Brief History Comprehensive Community Initiatives back to table of contents
Sometimes called comprehensive community building, or even just community building, comprehensive community initiatives are a relatively new trend in community change dating back only about a dozen years.9
CCIs developed out of the perception that poverty problems are intractable without a comprehensive and coordinated approach to rebuilding the institutions within distressed communities. Prior to CCI, its adherents assert, developmental and service approaches to community change were compartmentalized. Certainly, this rings somewhat true as it has long been believed that communities would be better served with coordinated programs (for instance, see Spergel, 1969). Kubisch, of the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives for Children and Families, notes that CCIs are:
In general, there are four features of the programs the CCI movement promotes:
There are several broad groupings of actors participating in CCIs. Figure
3 shows CCIs drawing in different resources from these groups.
Figure 3: Comprehensive Community Initiatives back to table of contents
As noted earlier, these changes were, in part, a response to the criticism that CDCs had lost their community connection due to their focus on managing housing and other physical development programs. This effort to modify the work of CDCs dovetails nicely with the need of many CCIs to find intermediary organizations in communities which can collaborate with outsider institutions and also facilitate some form of community participation. Hence, many CCIs have features similar to the community development and community building practices. Some CCIs, such as the Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program of the South Bronx, are focused entirely on CDCs (Spilka and Burns, 1998). In Figure 3, these actors are represented by the community development and community building boxes.
Second, the involvement of foundations in the development of CCIs should also be highlighted. Although local governments are involved in many CCIs, some observers note that this interest would not exist without the contribution private foundations bring to the table. Foundations not only provide large, multi-year grants, they often provide technical assistance, fund evaluations of CCIs and support national discussions and research on CCIs. Finally, foundations are also able to play a convening role in a community which is important for the early collaborative work between agency officials and community-based organizations which often marks the start of a CCI.
In short, the role of foundations in the formation of the CCI movement is similar to the role foundations played in the development of CDCs. As with CDCs, they have funded initial trial projects and networks of CCIs. Plus, most of the large CCIs, like many of the early large CDCs, exist only because of foundation support. As will be discussed in more detail below, this has two important impacts on the nature of CCIs:
Tensions (over control of new resources, publicly rewriting the agendas of agencies, accountability of all players in the collaborative governance, fears of manipulation by other stakeholders, etc.) are obviously going to result from such an arrangement and are frequently mentioned in the literature (Aspen Institute, 1997; Chaskin and Garg, 1997). The next section reviews how CCIs measure up against the bases identified in chapter 2.
Comparing CCIs Against the Bases back to table of contents
Below, I summarize trends in the features of CCIs regarding the bases outlined in chapter 2, with occasional examples of CCIs bucking the trends. Of course, there is variation in the CCI practice and it is a new and evolving field. In fact, as will be shown, it appears as if there are really two different kinds of CCI. This will be addressed in the following section. The comparison which follows, and is summarized in Table 5, is based on a review of the evaluation and planning literature of CCIs. See Table 6 in Appendix A for a review of several significant CCIs compared to the features of organizing, building and developing.
Table 5: CCIs Compared
Against the Bases
|Primary Value||Participation||Leadership||Expertise||Expertise and Leadership|
|Nature of Public Interest in a Community||Conflicting||Communal||Singular||Communal and Singular|
|Power||Agenda Setting||Agenda Planning||Pluralist||Pluralist and Agenda Planning|
|Nature of Social Capital||Political||Internal||Collaborative||Collaborative (weaker on Internal)|
|Nature of Civic Engagement||Political Activism||Engaged Citizenry||Policy Making||Policy Making (weaker on Engaged Citizenry)|
Nonetheless, it is clear from the practitioner and evaluation writings that most CCIs rely on leadership (often at both the government agency level and the level of community-based development and service providers) and expertise (both for managing the CCIs and identifying what social science concludes should work, e.g., reviewing program evaluation literature to find effective and relevant programs) for commencing a CCI.
Participation, in the form of membership ownership, is low in CCIs compared to community organizing. Out of 17 CCIs reviewed, Eisen (1992) found only 6 with majority resident control over the organization’s governing body. Walsh (1997b) found that resident participation in both the Atlanta Project and the Enterprise Foundation’s Community Building Partnership (CBP) in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood dropped off precipitously after management was taken over by experts, agencies or politically appointed leaders.
Walsh (1997b) summarizes her review of community organizing in CBP and 4 other initiatives:
None of the other initiatives [reviewed] has invested heavily in organizing (p.102).
Conception of Public Interest. The tendency of CCIs is to start with collaborative bodies, and less often a single existing organization, and expand this governing body’s capacity for community planning and resident involvement. At the same time, they also wish to increase the number of attachments the CCI’s organization has to external resources and collaborators. Thus, CCIs promote a community organization, or a newly created collaborative body of organizations, to the role of intermediary for the entire community over an important, visible and often expensive set of programs. In other words, the CCI is expanding the activities and relationships of the intermediary both down into the community (through more programs and community planning) and up out of the community (through more collaborative projects with power brokers’ agencies, corporations, etc.).
Clearly, this places CCIs in a delicate position. Agents external and internal to the community may have many interests that are not reconcilable. Surprisingly, however, conflict is only rarely recognized as a healthy part of this process. If conflict is recognized, it is viewed as something that can occasionally be harmlessly tolerated, even though in the end consensus must rule on the most important issues (Connell and Kubisch, 1998, p.30). There appears to be little explicit dedication in CCIs to seeing conflicts between interests as a point where the practice of organizing can advance the community’s agenda — which was identified in the community building process — over constraints or road blocks that other interests may place on the initiative’s success. Instead, conflict is viewed as pathological and interests for the collaborative are identified through consensus (i.e., communal) or through expert research into the community’s needs (i.e., singular).
Outliers in this matter are the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) and a few CCIs in the rural south. DSNI and the rural CCIs are very atypical CCIs, however. The rural projects, funded by the Bert and Mary Meyer foundation, aim to organize residents into membership controlled, sometimes dues-based, democratic organizations which use their numbers to influence school boards and other local government institutions. One such project in a small town in Mississippi "waged a concerted political and legal struggle to be incorporated, elected a mayor and city council and began to press for services from the county and state" (Eisen, 1992, p.13). It is telling about CCIs’ neglect of traditional organizing that projects such as these which use public conflict are never mentioned in the literature beyond this early study by Eisen.
DSNI, for its part, is also very different from other projects considered CCIs. DSNI started at the resident level and rejected the collaborative design which foundations wished to impose on the community in the beginning (Tullos, 1996). The original design of the board, which like many CCIs was to be a mix of various outsiders outnumbering residents, was aggressively rejected by the community. Instead, a board with majority community control was instituted and DSNI began a project of community building (using an asset-based philosophy) and organizing (using door-to-door member recruitment) to gain eminent domain authority of a large part of decaying property in their neighborhood (Medoff and Sklar, 1994).
DSNI has been, I believe, mistakenly called a CCI. In the past it has, like the rural organizing projects, not developed collaboration first and participation second. Instead, DSNI focused on community mobilization to force the city to clean up the streets and provide other services residents identified. However, DSNI’s more recent work with the Casey Foundation to build both stronger social service reform projects and more sophisticated collaborations is a sign that CCIs can be built from identifying public interests from the bottom-up (which may lead to conflict with those institutions who are providing what these interests need) and not just from the identification of communal interests from collaborative relationships or the singular view of community interests on which experts focus.
Power. Discussion about "empowerment" in CCIs often seems to preclude a more detailed discussion of power. Empowerment appears to be defined as efficacy in coping with the factors a community faces, and not about gaining control over these factors. "Systems reform" in CCIs refers to improving agency delivery and design. It does not refer to the larger systems of the local and national political economy which organizing wishes to tackle. In other words, diagnosing ways to improve treatments or encourage voluntary action to cope with factors causing distress, and not directly confronting the origin of the factors, is key.
Although the political needs of residents are recognized as part of the holistic approach of CCIs, rarely can an explicit discussion of power be found in the literature. Exceptions in this matter, which point out the rule, are Yates, O’Donnell and Johnson (Stone, 1996). In the published papers from a symposium on CCIs held by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, these three authors, out of over three dozen, were the only ones who mentioned conflict over race or class issues in the local power structure as something that should be encouraged at key moments in comprehensive change practice. Unlike the other authors, they did not view conflict over the agenda as pathological or simply an obstacle to be overcome in the process of consensus formation.
CCIs focus more on the pluralist and agenda planning levels of power than the agenda setting level. Since most CCIs tend to have an asset-based philosophy of community development they use focus groups, surveys, resident task forces and community meetings to discover relationships and resources present in the neighborhoods which can be further developed. These discoveries, combined with the policy analysis and program evaluation research CCIs use, are brought to the collaborative bodies to be turned into programs. Indeed, one way CCIs bring outsiders into the collaborations is through the presentation of these innovative ideas and research. In other words, of the many actors from which a community needs to draw attention, CCIs focus on developing agendas with external actors through research and researching ideas (pluralism) rather than generating power to set the agenda based on the interests of the community.
Social Capital. Social capital is a major topic of discussion for CCIs, yet the emphasis is mostly on the collaborative (or bridging) and internal natures of social capital discussed in chapter 2. Like community building, CCIs focus on community relationships and local solutions to problems, but they do not do so to the degree that they ignore the need for working with service delivery and outside assistance. Projects with external agents and institutions are a source of opportunity for collaboration and building of relationships across class and race lines. However, due to the paucity of race, class and political power discussions in the CCI literature, it is not surprising that the political problems resulting from collaboration between groups — see the summary of de Souza Briggs comments above — are not discussed.
To review, collaborations between power brokers and weak community can mask with a false consensus important conflicts between communities over which the weaker community will lose out (see also Smock, 1997). Thus, by focusing on internal social capital, which is focused on local solutions, and collaborative social capital, which focuses on partnerships between the community and outside agents, to the exclusion of recognition of the political nature of social capital, communities in CCIs can not always work with their powerful partners to achieve accountability on, or even address, the larger issues in the political economy.
Fishman and Phillips (1993) note that collaborations can have severe problems when they can do nothing about the political changes which influence the actors or institutions with which they work or which constitute part of the collaboration:
Civic Engagement. Increasing civic engagement is to be a hallmark of CCIs. However, it appears that on our dimensions for civic engagement, most CCIs stick largely with prescribing a policy making role for residents (Sviridoff and Ryan, 1996 p.24). Many CCIs, for instance, have a governance structure relying on having powerful actors from agencies at the table, often outnumbering community residents (Eisen, 1992; Jenny, 1993; Walsh, 1997b). Those which do not use such a structure rely on focus groups, surveys or annual neighborhood meetings for another sort of policy making.
The engaged citizenry dimension seems to be such a diffuse cause for CCIs to directly engage in, especially with population sizes that are much larger than those normally used in community building practices, that CCIs can only approximate the practice of community building through a sustained repetition of planning and re-planning. Although CCIs may have very public campaigns and community meetings, these are not the same as developing a vital set of constant and frequently repeated interactions.
Thus, it seems that this engaged citizenry will only secondarily come out CCIs as a result of the relationships developed in specific community-based programs. For instance, an increase in mobilizing volunteers for community cleanups, asset surveys and task forces is something CCIs can, and some do, constantly repeat. However, the increased engagement that might come about as a result of there being more social networks, requires a larger commitment to very many small scale community building exercises, something only a minority of CCIs seem to engage in (often only as a program done with youth). Less apparent still, is how CCIs engage citizens in political affairs. The only brief references to such work are voter registration drives on lists of projects in which CCIs have engaged (Jenny, 1993). Thus, the primary role of the citizen in CCIs is policy making, with a weaker emphasis –– when compared to community building –– on developing an engaged citizenry.
To recapitulate: table 5 summarized this comparison of CCIs against
the bases for distinguishing between community change practices. Generally,
CCIs merge some features of the community development and community building
practice, but most lack the features of community organizing.
How Can Organizing Help CCIs? back to table of contents
It should be noted that there appears to be two different types of CCIs. First, there are those that move from the collaboration between foundations, agencies, corporations, and community-based development and service organizations towards community planning. This type represents the majority of CCIs found in the literature reviewed (see table in Appendix A). Second, there are CCIs which start with community building and organizing and build up to a collaborating role with external actors with the assistance foundations provide. This second type of CCI is what the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its Rebuilding Community Initiatives program is encouraging after using the first type in its earlier New Futures program (Cippalone, 1999).
As shown above, the dimensions of the five bases which are associated with organizing are missing from this first type of CCIs. (The second type is too new to have generated sufficient literature for review.) Below, I discuss problems which exist for CCIs which do not use organizing.
Because CCIs share many features with community development and, to a lesser degree, community building, it is not surprising that they can be critiqued as having the same weaknesses which those practices have:
Insufficient Power. CCIs which focus on collaboration foremost in their evolution will not have the political "leverage" or "authority" to change large systems. The Center for the Study of the Social Policy’s review (1995) of five CCIs in the Annie E. Casey’s Foundation New Futures program found that:
In short, as with community development and building, organizing can provide CCIs with the needed clout to press the communities’ agenda forward and hold actors in the collaborative bodies accountable.
Avoiding Conflict. In their recent book, Ross Gittel and Adis Vidal (1998) follow the application of a consensus organizing model (i.e., one that avoids conflict) in several cities. Consensus organizing, developed by Michael Eichler, focuses on putting groups together across class, race and other divides (a common collaborative feature of CCIs).11 In order to justify using a form of organizing that downplays conflict within communities the authors spend some time attacking more traditional community organizing methods. Both the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) come under fire in the book for focusing too much on conflict:
As Martin and Rein note in their conclusion, it is not enough for experts or advocates to merely have better or new information or services. They must also be able to secure attention to it (p.280). This is what I have been calling here the agenda setting nature of power. For Martin and Reins, the inability of the poor to communicate to the political structure through informal means, forces them to seek redress through also pushing for reform of formal (political) channels (p.279).
Gittell and Vidals’ interpretation of traditional community organizing as counter-productive epitomizes a trend common in writings about change methods: differences between approaches are zero-summed. In other words, the differences between various social change methods are highlighted and used to assert that one method is superior to another. It has been difficult to find commentators who believe that differences between methods do exist, but that different methods must be used if a truly comprehensive approach to community change is to be undertaken. If Martin and Rein are correct, that efforts at significant change require actors to operate in different modes, then finding ways these different modes can function together, or at least simultaneously, is a problem apparently still needing to be solved. As noted above, organizing can shore up the ability of internal social capital to survive the conflict partnering with powerful actors can bring about.
Localism. Finally, organizing networks can provide CCIs with
a solution to their lack of involvement in regional or national affairs.
Smock (1997) notes that inner-city problems are not resolvable with the
resources that city-based actors can provide alone. Specifically, Bhargava
(1998b) notes that only through working on a regional, state and federal
level can inner-cities and inner-suburbs gain enough clout to "counterbalance
weathy, exurban interests" (p.7). As mentioned above, many organizing networks
have, or are developing (see Bhargava 1988b), regional, state-wide and
national ties to politics. These coalition formation projects, which often
includes churches, labor unions and unaffiliated community organizations,
could offer CCIs the opportunity to expand their vision beyond just local
solutions to nationally induced problems.
The final chapter shall discuss some ways that CCIs can incorporate
these practices, particularly the elements of organizing.
Chapter 5: Recommendations and Conclusion
Towards a More Comprehensive Relationship Between CCIs and Other Practices back to table of contents
What can be done to better integrate or support all three community practices in CCIs? I would suggest the following:
Most social movements have developed multiple organizations, so why would not neighborhoods seeking to build a community change movement based on an alternative vision to the status quo in services, a challenging new set of relationships, and accountable governance need multiple organizational models, too?
In this paper I have argued that the complex and varying features of
community organizing, building and development should be recognized and
utilized to produce the most comprehensive efforts. Without both a more
thorough (or profound) understanding of the contributions of and differences
between earlier community practices, and some knowledge about the management
and/or coordination of projects involving them, comprehensive community
initiatives will fall short of the holistic approach to public problems
which distressed communities need.
Appendix A (citations
back to table of contents
Table 6: Comparison of Some CCIs to Community Organizing, Building and Development
|Community Organizing in the Rural South||Multiple sites/
|Strong. Uses organizing methods, including electoral work, "so that the disenfranchised can achieve community decision-making." 12||Strong. Membership controlled organization in small community replaces survey or planning with direct control. Local culture/community awareness events (a form of building) are held.||Moderate. Emphasis is on demanding services from government, although some service provision is conducted to meet "immediate needs."13||Like organizing and unlike most CCIs in its explicit focus on building power for residents to confront government, elect new officials or form new governments.|
|Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative||Boston, MA/
|Strong. "Foundation for community development is community organizing . . . credits organizing for their success in gaining the cooperation and support of downtown power brokers . . . mobilizations gave people the energy and vision to participate in long term planning process." 14 15||Strong. Uses an asset-based model of community development. DSNI developed a comprehensive neighborhood plan which, coupled with political mobilization, lead to their winning eminent domain authority over 15 acres of land.||Moderate. Has spun off several organizations tied to DSNI to handle development projects.||Unlike many CCIs with its roots in organizing residents for improved city services. Like the rural organizing projects, it uses its membership base for clout. DSNI’s community planning and organizing feed off each other. 16 Emphasizes getting other affiliated institutions to do the development work. 17|
|Neighborhood and Family Initiative||Multiple Sites/
|Weak. Collaborative bodies are governed by a majority of non-residents. 18||Moderate. Projects are expected to engage residents in asset identification. Some NFI sites will fund existing community groups agendas, others have incorporated themselves.||Strong. Focus on securing housing, education and employment through collaborating with brokers, local organizations and government on community plans. 19||Relationship with organizing intermediary did not produce authentic community organizing. 20|
|Community Building in Partnership||Baltimore, MD/
|Weak. Organizing turned into simple outreach. Board appointed by Mayor. 21||Moderate. Uses an asset-based model for planning and finding opportunities. E.g., discovering that there are 57 churches in 70 blocks led to discussion of their role in community renewal. However, participation did drop off. 22||Strong. Project has developed numerous housing and other service programs. However, as a result, the organization feels that it needs to "spin off" these projects as they limit its ability to serve as a leader in ideas for change, instead of as a developer.23||Close ties to elected officials raises questions about its independence.|
|The Atlanta Project||Atlanta, Georgia/
|Weak. Started with new cluster organizations as collaboratives of corporate CEOs and neighborhood residents. Little accountability of corporations to join in the employment projects which were later seen as key. 24||Weak, started strong, but was over ambitious. Community planning process for 20 neighborhoods led to most failing because of insufficient roots in the communities and expectations raised too high, too fast. 25 Uses focus groups to identify community needs that policy officials should address. 26||Strong. Neighborhood centers were cluster service providers. TAP assures its neighborhoods are connected to available programs and streamlines these providers’ systems. Major focus of programs is efficiency in planning and coordination. 27|
|New Futures||Multiple Cities/
Annie Casey Foundation
|Weak. Started with collaborative bodies of city agencies and external institutions. 28||Moderate/Weak. Planning was often through the collaborative bodies and not community-owned process.||Unclear. Focus was on reforming services and schools in most sites and not development per se.|
|Rebuilding Community Initiatives||Multiple Cities/
Annie Casey Foundation
|Strong/Moderate. Starts with existing community organizations including politically active ones. 29||Strong. Community organizations use community building methods and expand their role into the community planning.||Strong. Many of the organizations selected for these CCIs have experience in development.||Approaches CCI from an organizing and building background. Most development projects are to be affiliated, but not managed by the organization.30|
Notes (reference to locations are missing????)
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1 Thanks to Marshall Ganz for first suggesting a this sort of representation scheme (1998).
2 Conservative here meaning the organizing by the "neighborhood maintenance" model Fisher outlines is narrower in ideological scope and issue focus.
3 Unfortunately, the term community building is occasionally used as an umbrella term for all local initiatives. In this paper, I will reserve the term for those efforts that fit the definition given later in this chapter.
4 For a commonly cited study on how issues are kept off the agenda and hence become "non-issues", see Crenson (1972).
5 Sources for this review include: Alinksy (1971), Appleman (1996), Beckwith and Lopez (1997), Dailey 1998), Delgado (1986, 1994), Fellner (1998), Ganz (1996), Kest and Rathke (1979), Khan (1991), Shea (1998), Trapp (1976, 1984), Von Hoffman (undated).
6 See Smock (1997) on the close comparison of community building with communitarian thought on solving social problems.
7 In brief, the CRA is a law which community organizations have used to leverage billions of dollars in resources from banks conducting business in their neighborhoods. The law, and other regulations, allow community groups to track data on the banks’ lending practices. This information can be used to accuse lending institutions of discrimination against certain geographic areas, a practice commonly know as redlining. Many of organizing networks use the CRA as a source of pressure for bringing financial institutions to the negotiating table. Almost every year a battle over the act ensues in Congress pitting grassroots organizations and their political allies against bankers, their political action committees and conservative politicians.
8 See also Dreier (1998).
9 In this paper the phrase community building will be reserved for those projects fitting the definition given in chapter 2.
10 See Taub (1996) for a discussion of why working on employment should be the largest concern of CCIs. See also Bhargava (1998), p. 6.
11 While the application of "consensus organizing" in the work of the Ford Foundation’s Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) is not a CCI itself, the use of consensus organizing is common in CCIs and LISC’s efforts can be interpreted as an early form of CCIs.
12 Eisen (1992), p.14.
13 Eisen (1992), p.16.
14 Esien (1992), p.21. See also Tullos (1996) and Medoff and Sklar (1994).
15 See also Tullos (1996).
16 Tullos (1996).
17 Burns and Spilka (1997), p. 12.
18 Eisen (1992), p. 34.
19 Chaskin and Garg (1997), p. 11.
20 Bhargava (1999).
21 Walsh (1997b), pp. 60-79 and p. 102.
22 Walsh (1997b), p. 62.
23 Walsh (1997b), p. 69.
24 Walsh (1997b), pp. 56-57
25 Walsh (1997b), p. 50 and p. 56
26 The Atlanta Project homepage on the internet. Accessed April 3, 1999. Address: http://www.CarterCenter.org/atlanta.html
27 The Atlanta Project homepage on the internet. Accessed April 3, 1999. Address: http://www.CarterCenter.org/atlanta.html
28 Walsh (1997a), Walsh (1997b) and Center for the Study of Social Policy (1995).
29 Burns and Spilka (1997) and Cippalone (1999).
30 Burns and Spilka (1997), pp. 13, 23.
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