query: hiring organizers--what is organizing
colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Thu Nov 16 11:28:47 CST 2000
[ed: Don is reponding directly to Margo, and her original message is
included below Don's. A thought from me at the very end.]
From: Genedebs1 at aol.com
Randy, I wanted to respond to Margo's comments because they speak to my own
experience when I was first trained as an organizer.
I really appreciate your comments. I can remember feeling very similarly when
I was first trained many years ago. I am of two minds on this issue. First, I
thing its important for organizers with less formal training and experience
to have some structure. Sometimes this is overdone. Setting numbers of
contacts and membership goals to many may not be what is considered
"organizing" but it is the work of organizers to sustain the movement and the
effort. At first I blanched at such work but I soon began to realize that my
work had value and in order for it to continue needed to be supported.
Organizing in my mind can't be thought of too narrowly. Yes it's about
discussing the issues, helping groups to identify strategies to advance their
interests and about leadership development but there is also a part that
needs to be fairly focused. Campaigns are about beginnings and
endings..setting goals (like contacts and memberships numbers) is a way of
keeping a focus and understanding that an organizing effort has many pieces
to it..some of which we like and some which we don't. It has been my
experience that if organizers are left to just do those things they like,
much of what is difficult (because its not easy!!!) is not done...
When you say: "To me it is more important to build up understanding, get
people to discuss and study the issues, develop a deeper commitment to
involvement, etc., than immediately getting numbers. Am I off base?"
I don't think your'e off base but maybe it speaks to a different role that you
wish to play. I think that in such an organizing effort, there are often many
roles that are needed to be filled...but I'm of the mind that organizers must
be disciplined and have to have outcomes and take on an array of tasks..some
of them that they like and others that they may not..(membership
The actually reporting I think sometimes is a way for lead organizers to
discern whether someone is cutting it in the field. Is this a fair
mechanism..probably not but it is one way to tell whether someone is going
to be able to produce some concrete results.
I should add that this response is a very general answer (and maybe not as
thoughful) as many would like but it does happen this way in the field..it
may be a "right of passage" issue..but I found myself in that same place many
times with many of the same thoughts you expressed.
>From: "MARGO MENCONI" <malyme at hotmail.com>
>This is a very pertinent topic for me. I am interested in grassroots adult
>education, including folk, popular, social movement and development
>education. I was hired by a grassroots community organization and quickly
>felt very out of place. The thing was that success was defined as getting 2
>new members a day, organizing one action per week with at least 50
>neighborhood residents, and reaching a monthly quota of so much in
>neighborhood membership and donations from upper class areas of the city.
>This was totally out of sync with my adult education perspective, which
>considers the use of popular education, leadership development, etc. and is
>more qualitative than quantitative. I felt, in short, like I was supposed
>to be a sales person! Is this typical for organizing positions to be given
>these kinds of quotas?
>To me it is more important to build up understanding, get people to discuss
>and study the issues, develop a deeper commitment to involvement, etc., than
>immediately getting numbers. Am I off base?
>I think there was misunderstanding by both the organization that hired me
>and myself. I didn't realize that everything would boil down to numbers
>like that. We literally reported in every evening on our statistics for the
[ed: Sorry, had a spare hour this morning so I'm running off at the
mouth. When Don talks about the multiple roles in a social change effort I
very much agree. When I talk with academics about getting involved in
social change efforts through action research, I talk about the roles of
organizer, leader (also called animator), researcher, and popular educator.
These roles can sometimes all be accomplished by one person, but are often
shared or distributed. I ask academics to evaluate themselves in terms of
these roles to determine how they might fit with a social change effort.
And I find that my involvement is always limited to researcher and/or
popular educator roles because I'm a lousy organizer and don't think middle
class white guy academics should be leaders--not that anyone would let me
anyway :-) . I find organizers and leaders to be the most important roles
in this model because they can figure out where the research and popular
education fits in the overall social change effort. But they also often
lack the time, or the interest in dealing with tedium, to do the research
part that I can help provide.]
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