Community Organization and Change
Professor: Randy Stoecker
...to Community Organization and Change. This course will focus on the rich history and contemporary practices of the craft called community organizing. This is the work of the famous Saul Alinsky, the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and people such as Barack Obama. It is, fundamentally, about oppression and inequality and the struggles for social change that come from them.
This year also marks what would have been Saul Alinsky's 100th birthday, and there will be a number of events commemorating that anniversary in the region.
Interestingly, those most associated with the craft of community organizing, Jane Addams, Saul Alinsky, Myles Horton, and Martin Luther King Jr., all have either academic sociology training or affiliations with sociology. But none of them pursued a full graduate degree in sociology, not seeing enough practical commitment in the discipline to make it worth their while. Consequently, there has always been a gap between the theories of power and inequality in sociology and the strategic models of community organizers. In this course we will try to bridge some of that gap. That leads to the two goals of the course:
1. to understand community organizing in a theoretical context.
2. to learn basic community organizing skills.
SPECIAL LEARNING NEEDS
Please inform me if you have special learning needs so I can adjust the course to meet those needs.
MY PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
When teachers realize they still have things to learn and students realize they have things to teach, and when everyone is in an atmosphere where teachers are encouraged to learn and students are encouraged to teach, everyone benefits.
My job is to create and maintain a classroom atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable taking intellectual and interpersonal risks, and to support others in doing so as well. I welcome challenges to ideas, especially my own. But please practice respect for each other as people while you question and criticize each others' ideas.
Because of this philosophy, you will only learn as much from this course as you seek. If you are not seeking to learn anything, then you will not learn anything. In order to learn you need to bring your questions, experiences, and analyses into the classroom. Seeking means listening as much as speaking. Seeking also means wanting to challenge your own perspective more than defend it.
Please consult with me whenever you have a question about course assignments, lectures, discussions, or readings. I will gladly discuss questions you have about the course material. You should also consult with me whenever you may find yourself interested in the issues raised in the course and you want to discuss further or get more information. Community organizing is the most exciting topic in my academic life (and, actually, my real life too) and please do not feel like you are imposing on me by wanting to discuss it outside of class.
Community organizing, as a practice, has been until recently unique to the United States. That doesn't mean people in other nations are not doing grassroots social action, only that the particular practice that we call community organizing is a U.S. practice. Thus, most of this course will have a U.S. focus, though I will include German, Australian, and Canadian perspectives with which I am familiar. I welcome those of you with other international experiences to make those part of the course, particular in the final weeks, which will be student led.
I want to begin the course by studying two important sources of contemporary community organizing in the United States: Saul Alinsky, often considered the founder of community organizing; and Ella Baker, a much less recognized but no less important Civil Rights movement organizer. We will thus spend the first couple of weeks thinking about the lessons we can learn from these two organizers. We will build on this history by exploring philosophies of community organizing, addressing issues such as the role of ideology in organizing.
The middle of the course will look at the actual process of community organizing, analyzing how community organizers actually do their work.
The final section of the course will be student led, with volunteers organizing class sessions on topics about which I lack expertise and experience, or simply didn't have time to include.
Because my involvement with community organizers has led me to see lectures as a disempowering form of education, I will do only a little lecturing. Most of the time, then, we will be engaged in small group or large group discussion and workshops. These discussions will require you to provide information you obtained from the readings so, if you don't do the required readings each week, you will be lost and we will lose your participation. You will also then do badly on the assignments. We will also be doing a number of workshops during the course that will involve discussion and interaction. I always welcome your participation, comments, and questions since I think student participation contributes to a much more interesting class.
You will find a mix of readings in this course, including books, journal articles, professional publications, and gray literature. The academic literature has been quite neglectful of community organizing, and sociology in particular has virtually ignored it as an area of study. I have included sociological works where I thought they may be at least tangentially applicable. One of our tasks in this course will be to evaluate the extent to which the sociological literature is relevant to community organizing.
Since this is a community organizing course, the books for the course will be available at a locally-owned and community-based bookstore:
Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative
426 W Gilman St
Madison, WI 53703-1009
The following books are required:
Get one of these two books, or both if you are into it:
Lee Staples. 2004. Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 2e, Praeger, ISBN 0-275-96998-3
Rinku Sen. 2003. Stir it Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy, Jossey-Bass, ISBN 0-7879-6533-2
Purchase all three of these:
Saul Alinsky. 1971. Rules for Radicals, Vintage, ISBN 0-679-72113-4
Barbara Ransby. 2003. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, New edition, University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 978-0-8078-5616-1
Kristin Layng Szakos and Joe Szakos. 2007. We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk about What They Do--and Why, Vanderbilt University Press, ISBN 978-0-8265-1555-1
Important: there are readings due the first day of class. Please note the course calendar below.
This course is supported online, where you will submit your writing and engage in out-of-class discussion. You should be able to go to https://learnuw.wisc.edu/ to login, where you will see the course listed. This will be primarily for you to upload assignments. You can also use the "e-mail" link to contact your fellow classmates.
I also recommend that you sign up for the international community organizing discussion list that I moderate at http://comm-org.wisc.edu. A thoughtful post with useful resources could earn you an extra credit point.
1. Organizer memos (84 points total)
Most larger community organizing groups usually have a lead organizer and then a number of front-line organizers. The lead organizer often acts as a kind of supervisor and mentor, talking through strategy with the front-line organizers, debriefing the outcomes of various strategies, and coaching the front-line organizer through the process of recruiting members, building a base, engaging in tactics, and managing campaigns. Lead organizers don't have time for a lot of writing, but often want reports from the front-line staff. So the first assignment of the course will be four memos to the lead organizer. Each should be a maximum of 500 words.
Doing these memos well will require that you have or develop some familiarity with a constituency community. We will talk about what a "constituency community" is the first day of class, but it typically means a group of people excluded from normal sources of power for some common reason and who can meet face to face. The second and third memos in particular will ask you to outline a strategy for such a community. Now remember that community organizers don't typically work with privileged communities unless they are under threat by those with even more privilege.
The due dates are posted on the course calendar, below. I will be somewhat strict about the late penalty, since you can turn in assignments electronically if you are still infectious. Documentable debilitating illnesses and tragedies/emergencies, of course, will be granted extensions. I will not grade you on the basis of whether I think your proposed strategy will work for a particular community (though I may comment on your strategy). Instead, I will grade each on a 21 point scale based on the following:
- accurate use of at least four readings from the time period covered by that memo--cite author and page number.
- clear writing (short sentences, plain language, simple punctuation).
- within the word limit (going significantly over could cost you points).
- on time (-3 points for every day late).
2. Optional Final Project (20 points total)
Undergraduate students can receive a B in the course if you do very well on all the organizer memos and have good attendance (see below). Those who wish either a higher grade than a B, and who have a special self-motivating interest, are welcomed to do a final project to receive a higher grade. That "self-motivated" part is extremely important.
Some of you like to write papers. Some of you are engaged in community organizing campaigns. You can propose anything relevant to the overall topic of community organizing for your final project. Please note that relevance is crucial. The course is about building the power and capacity of oppressed and excluded communities, and your final project should be also. I welcome and encourage collective work, so feel free to organize groups and develop collaborative projects. Generally, a final project should take about 20 hours. Here are some possibilities:
- You can make a contribution to the COMM-ORG web site (see http://comm-org.wisc.edu/), which I edit. A contribution could include an annotated bibliography on some specialized topic in community organizing, a resource list, a list of organizations, etc. The site also needs significant updating.
- A thesis/dissertation/grant proposal. Feel welcomed to use this course to develop proposals.
- A traditional long paper.
- A non-traditional website or other multimedia product.
- A service learning project (see below on service learning projects).
I am happy to meet with you to to develop and shape your own ideas. I will not, however, assign you a project idea. That is the self-motivated part. Typically, I find that final projects are not very good when they are about my ideas.
The final project requirements are:
- present a written proposal no later than **Oct. 7 (3 points for turning it in on time, -1 point for every day late). I reserve the right to not count final projects submitted without a proposal meeting that deadline. We will jointly negotiate the details of your project after I see your proposal. The proposal should be about one page, and include the following:
- A description of your topic and justification of why it fits the course.
- An outline of your paper or a workplan if not a paper.
- present a full rough draft (complete with references) or project report/journal etc. no later than **Dec. 2 (5 points for turning it in on time, -1 point for every day late).
- submit your final draft no later than the scheduled finals period (12 points, -3 points per day for every day late).
Final Project Options
Research Papers: If you choose to write a research paper you should be thinking in terms of a minimum of 15 pages/15 references if you are an undergrad and 20 pages/20 references if you are a grad student. If you have not written a long paper before, you should talk with me and work with the folks at the university writing center.
Service learning projects: I have done extensive research on service learning, which shows significant problems with the service learning model. Consequently, I will be very strict about counting service learning as a final project. There are two service learning options:
- students who are already engaged with a community organizing effort at prior to the beginning of the semester will be able to count it for a final project. There is not time, in a single semester, to build a relationship with an organization and then bring any acceptable level of service to that organization in the form of community organizing. If you are already engaged with a community organizing effort and wish to count it as your final project, here are the requirements:
- The organization needs to be involved in community organizing. Service work with service organizations or social organizations will not count. There are but a handful of community organizing groups in the Madison area, and even fewer on-campus organizations doing actual community organizing.
- You will need to provide me with a letter (paper or electronic) from the organization director, president, or other leader at the beginning of the semester specifying what you will do with that organization, and what the deadlines will be for your work.
- You will need to write a detailed reflection paper where you discuss your thoughts about the project in relation to the course material (at least 10 pages referencing at least 10 specific readings).
- You will need to provide me with a letter (paper or electronic) at the end of the semester from the organization director, president, or other leader specifying that the work was completed satisfactorily and on time. If I do not receive such a letter, you will receive no credit for the final project.
- Your grade will be based on the satisfaction of the organization you work with, and your accurate use of 10 readings and adequate detail in your reflection paper.I will be happy to meet with you and the organization representative at any point to troubleshoot the partnership. If you run into difficulties along the way, please let me know so we can all sit down together and get the experience on track.
- There is an opportunity to be part of a community-based action research project with the Grassroots Leadership College. The GLC is unique in the leadership training field in focusing its efforts on people normally excluded from a voice in society, such as returning prisoners, immigrants, people who are homeless, and other marginalized peoples. That project will involve carrying out research designed by GLC participants. We will be looking for 6-10 students who have research methods training or interviewer experience, a flexible schedule, and a willingness to work off campus and meet outside of class. Students in this project will also need to take and pass the human subjects research training course within the first two weeks of the semester. Graduate students will be able to count this for their entire final project. Undergraduates will be able to sign up for a 1-credit directed research credit.
- There may be one or two other opportunities I will tell you about when the semester begins.
Group-based final projects: Groupwork can be challenging. Some people join groups so they can get other people to do the work. If you submit a group proposal, I will ask that you specify what each group member will contribute to the final product. Each group member will receive the same grade for the final project unless a group member has alerted me to a problem in the group. In that event, I will ask each group member to grade every other group member. Each group member's project grade will then be computed as follows:
((sum of group member grades / number of group members) + (professor group grade)) / 2
Plagiarism: Being found guilty of plagiarism can include failing the course and even being expelled from the University. The Internet makes it very easy to plagiarize, and to catch plagiarism. The university also has specialized anti-plagiarism software. The first thing you need to do is know what plagiarism is so you don't do it by accident. See http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/QuotingSources.html for that. The second thing to know is what to do if you are stuck on a paper. Best advice--contact your friendly university professor. Now, I also know that some students are committed to cheating even at the risk of being kicked out of school, while some honest students will be terror stricken that they might flunk the class because they forgot a citation. Please rest assured I will not flunk anyone because they forgot a citation. This policy is to catch the flagrant violators, not sloppy referencing. I will help you fix sloppy referencing on your rough drafts.
3. Optional Class Presentation/Facilitation (9 points total):
Because you may have specific interests in community organizing that I do not have, I will welcome volunteers who wish to cover community organizing topics that I have neglected during the final four weeks of class. If you are already doing a final project I welcome you to also volunteer to do a class presentation or facilitation. You should follow the final project deadlines for proposing a class session and developing its content. You can choose either a full class day or a half day (you may be limited to a half day depending on how many students choose to do this), and you can do a presentation or a facilitation. This option works best for students already writing a final paper, as it will require the level of expertise that writing a paper will provide. Extensive on-the-ground experience with a topic is also good preparation.
The requirements are:
- present a written proposal no later than **Oct. 7 (2 points for turning it in on time, -1 point for every day late). I reserve the right to not consider proposals that are late. We will jointly negotiate the details of your class session after I see your proposal. The proposal should be about one-half page, and include an outline of your class session.
- present a full rough draft of your class session at least two weeks before your scheduled class. (2 points for turning it in on time, -1 point for every day late).
- do the class session (up to 5 points)
4. Attendance and Participation
I reserve the right to add points to grades of students who enhance the class through their participation.
Your final grade will be figured as the total points earned from the four organizer memos (maximum = 84) plus the total points from the optional final project (maximum = 20) and the optional class presentation/facilitation (9 points).
Graduate Student Grade Undergraduate Student Grade Points A A 106-113 AB A 101-105 B A 94-100 BC AB 89-93 C B 82-88 D BC 77-81 F C 70-76 F D 63-69 F F 62 or below
**Note: undergrads should read all assigned readings each week; grads should also read at least one "resource" reading.
**Remember to bring the readings with you to class.
**I may add "resource readings" (which are optional) as the semester progresses. You can always find the most up-to-date list on the web version of this syllabus. Please let me know of any broken links.
**If you receive permission errors for any online reading link, go to
log in, and try again.
|Sept. 2:||The Community and Community Change|
Stoecker, Randy. 2009. Community Organizing and Social Change. Contexts Magazine, 8:20-25. (on e-reserve)
Brint, Steven. Gemeinschaft Revisited: A Critique and Reconstruction of the Community Concept Sociological Theory, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar., 2001), pp. 1-23.http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/stable/info/223289
|Sept. 9:||Roots of Community Organizing: Saul Alinsky|
|Sept. 14-16:||Roots of Community Organizing: Ella Baker|
|Sept 21-23:||The Contemporary Context|
Susan B. Hyatt. 2008. The Obama Victory, Asset-Based Development and the Re-Politicization of Community Organizing. North American Dialogue, Vol. 11, No. 2, http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/121496050/HTMLSTART
Marc Pilisuk et al. 2005. New Contexts of Organizing: Functions, Challenges, and Solutions. Chapter 6 in Meredith Minkler (ed.) Community Organizing and Community Building for Health, 2e. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Benjamin Heim Shepard and Ronald Hayduk. 2002. From ACT Up to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. New York: Verso.
Ernesto Cortés, Jr., Reweaving the Social Fabric http://bostonreview.net/BR19.3/cortes.html
Thomas J. Lenz, Building a Force for the Common Good--United Power for Action and Justice. In Shelterforce Online http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/101/lenz.html
ACORN, "Detailed History of ACORN." http://acorn.org/index.php?id=51
Gary Delgado, Chapter 4 "The ACORN Model" from Organizing the Movement, Temple University Press, 1986.
Arlene Stein. 1986. "Between Organization and Movement: ACORN and the Alinsky Model of Community Organizing." Berkeley Journal of Sociology 31:93-115.
Our Resistance Must Be As Local As Capitalism: Place, Scale and the Anti-Globalization Protest Movement, James DeFilippis, 2001, http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers2001/defilippis.htm
Local and Global Organizing after 9/11, By Autumn Leonard, Tomás Aguilar, Mike Prokosch, and Dara Silverman, 2001, http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers2001/localglobal.htm
|Sept. 28-30:||Community Organizing Philosophy|
**Note: I will be travelling this week. A guest will facilitate the class on Monday, and we will have a virtual class on Wednesday, using the Learn@UW discussion board
Guest: Brian Christens
|Oct. 5-7:||Basics of Community Organizing: Building a Base|
**Due Oct. 7 (by 11:59pm central time): Final project proposal, class facilitation proposal.
|Oct. 12-14:||Basics of Community Organizing: Leadership and Organizational Development|
|Oct. 19-21:||Basics of Community Organizing: Cutting an Issue|
Staples, Ch. 4 -or- Sen, Ch. 3
|Oct. 26-28:||Basics of Community Organizing: Organizing an Action and Negotiation|
|Nov. 2-4:||Advanced Community Organizing: Action Research|
|Nov. 9-11:||Advanced Community Organizing: Coalitions and Allies|
|Nov. 16-18:||Advanced Community Organizing: Technology and Media|
Student Facilitation: Kim Ukura
**Due Nov. 18 (by 11:59pm central time): Organizer Memo 3--How might action research, coalitions, and technology/media fit into your basic organizing strategy for community "X"? (choose a specific community) (include at least one reading from each week of 11-2 through 11-18)
|Nov. 23-25:||student facilitation|
Marschke, M. and Nong, K. (2003). Adaptive Co-Management: Lessons from Coastal Cambodia. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 24 (3), 369-383. http://www.cc.umanitoba.ca/institutes/natural_resources/canadaresearchchair/Adaptive%20Co-Management%20-%20Lessons%20from%20Coastal%20Cambodia.pdf
Wilmsen, C. (2008). Partnerships for empowerment: Participatory research for community-based natural resource management. London: Earthscan. Chapter 12, "Participation, Relationships and Empowerment". http://courses.forestry.ubc.ca/frst522/Documents08/EmpowermentSummaryChapter.pdf
|Nov. 30-Dec. 2:||student facilitation|
Nov. 30: Kristin Klingman and Ismael Cuevas--Indigenous Community OrganizingRequired:Required:
Carving Out Space from Below: The Zapatista
Autonomy Movement in Chiapas, Mexico
Sixth Declaration of the
Dec. 2: Becky Thompson--Indigenous Community Organizing
|Dec. 7-9:|| student facilitation
Dec. 7: Heather Strutz--Rural Alaskan and Indigenous Community Organizing
Alaska’s Rural Schools Fight Off Extinction. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/us/26alaska.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=alaska&st=cse
Dec. 9: Jennifer Skolaski--Conflict Resolution
Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Resource Development. “What is conflict? Definitions and Assumptions About Conflict” http://www.ohrd.wisc.edu/onlinetraining/resolution/aboutwhatisit.htm#whatisconflict
Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Resource Development. “8
Steps for Conflict Resolution”
http://www.ohrd.wisc.edu/onlinetraining/resolution/step1.htm This is
just the website address for Step 1. Continue to read through the 8 steps.
Dec. 14: Becca Girard--GLC project
DUE--All Final Projects, 10:05 A.M. WED. DEC 23