Community and Environmental Soci

Community and Environmental Sociology 573
The web address for this syllabus is :

Professor: Randy Stoecker
Office:  Ag Hall 340d
Office Hours: M 1-2:00pm, and by appointment
Phone:  890-0764
Fax: 263 - 4999

Fall, 2011
M 2:25-5:25
2104 Chamberlain

WELCOME... 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 more recently people such as Barack Obama.  It is, fundamentally, about oppression and inequality and the struggles for social change that come from them. 

The Syllabus Process

Because this is a course in community organizing, much of the course will be experiential.   That includes the construction of the course itself.  This is only the initial syllabus.  During the first course meeting we will have our own "community" meeting where we will develop learning goals and strategies.  We will focus on three topics:

  1. what everyone wants from the course:  our learning goals will come from this
  2. what each person can bring to the course:  our learning strategies will come partly from this
  3. what principles and ethics will govern our interactions as a group:  our learning strategies will come partly from this

We will then together produce a full written syllabus. Please note that this will not be a free for all.  The focus of the course will be strictly community organizing, which focuses on how people who are historically excluded from power by discriminatory economic, political, social, and cultural systems can develop their collective abilities to get power.   I will also demand significant reading and writing (typically 60-100 pages a week of reading and 30-50 pages of writing).  So you need to come prepared to engage in a process that involves real work.

Principles to Guide Our Course (developed in class, Sept. 12, 2011)

1. respectful conflict
2. rational thoughts and ideas
3. kind
4. don't interrupt
5. can go back to an earlier topic
6. put yourself in others shoes "why do you think that?"
7. ask "what can I learn here?"
8. find commonalities
9. keep an open mind
10. step-up, step-back, engage in your own way
11. read
12. stay focused (rosebud-thorn, checkin)
13. take breaks and stretches
14. desks are optional
15. use "when you say _____, I feel _____"
16. you are welcomed to reveal parts of yourself if you wish
17. keep confidential what people reveal about themselves

Resources for Constructing the Course

Besides my own past syllabi, there are a variety of syllabi at


Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos, Tools for Radical Democracy

and one of the following:

 Joe Szakos and Kristin Layng Szakos, Lessons from the Field: Organizing in Rural Communities.  AISJ/ Social Policy Press; 1ST edition (2008) (9780979921506):

Kristin Layng Szakos and Joe Szakos,  We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do--and Why. Vanderbilt University Press (2007) (9780826515551)

The first two books are now available at Rainbow Books, 426 West Gilman Street.  Rainbow is a community-owned cooperative.  I have just ordered the two Szakos books, so they will take a week or two to arrive.


(NOTE:  comment on these requirements and topics at the class policies--syllabus discussion forum at Learn@UW )

1.  Introductory essay (see week 1 in course calendar for details) -- 10 points

2.  Design and help facilitate one class session -- 16 points

Credit will be given based on timely completion of tasks.  Except for the first four weeks of class, readings should be chosen by two weeks before the class and a draft outline should be available by Sunday evening before the class.  1 point deduction for each day late for each part of the process.  Sign up at Learn@UW on the class facilitation discussion forum for the appropriate date.  A maximum of four people can sign up for one day, first come, first serve.  Those who sign up for weeks three and four will have extra assistance from me and less work to do.

3.  Readings questions/comments/reflections --  3 points each x 11 weeks

Cite three specific passages in readings (please provide author and page numbers when possible) and offer comments/questions/reflections. Total length will probably be half a page to a page. Clear writing and accurate interpretation of the readings will be grading criteria.  Due before class.  50% reduction in points for each day late. You can choose either of two submission strategies:

a.  post a private journal reflection to the appropriate dropbox on Learn@UW

b.  post comments and/or questions to the appropriate discussion forum where other students can read them.  Post comments/questions to appropriate section of Learn@UW forum. If you choose this method, try to post in groups of three.  Here is the process:  The first person to post will write their comments using a clear subject heading that allows to quickly know what the topic and reading is.  Then others thinking about the same issue in the same reading can post as a "reply" to the original post.  You don't have to strictly limit yourself to three posts in a cluster--if your post fits as a reply to something that already has multiple replies, you should include it.  

4.  Attendance -- 1 point per day x 12 weeks

You will receive one point per day for attendance. Attendance will normally be taken in small group activities.  If you will be late or need to leave early, you should tell me.  The general expectation is that you have arranged your schedule to be present for the entire class period.

5.  Final Project -- 27 points (6 points for proposal, 6 points for draft/progress report, 15 points for final draft)

Final projects will be proposed by the student.  The main criteria for an accepted proposal will be that the project focuses on community organizing, involves approximately 20 hours of work, and promotes student skill/knowledge development. Possible projects can range from traditional papers (about 15 pages with 15 references for undergrads and 25 pages with 25 references for grads) to multimedia projects to hands-on learning with groups that you already have a relationship with (or opportunities I am organizing).  Initial proposals are due October 10 and should be one-half to one page long, stating what you will do, why it is relevant to community organizing, and a brief outline or workplan. Drafts or progress reports are due Nov. 28 and should provide, for papers, a full rough draft.  For other projects, you should provide a report showing you have stuck to the agreed upon work plan.  Final products are due during the regularly scheduled final exam time.  Submit all materials that have a digital form via the Learn@UW dropbox. 50% reduction in points for each day late for each stage of the process.  NOTE:  capstone students and others with 1-credit add-ons can combine this with the credit add-on to do a single more comprehensive project.  Final drafts are due during the designated finals time.

6.  Extra Points -- the grading scale is set up so that if you attend 12 classes, turn in 11 reflections, and complete the other requirements, you can get 98 points.  If you attend more classes and turn in more reflections, you can get up to 106 points.  That should allow you the flexibility to make your own choices about how you will organize your commitment to the course.

Grading scale

A = 92-106
AB = 87-91
B = 82-86
BC = 77-81
C = 70-76
D = 63-69
F = 0-62


Week 1, Sept. 12:  Introduction and Course Design

In order to have a productive discussion there will be both a reading assignment and a writing assignment due at the beginning of the first class meeting on September 12.  When you do the reading, bring questions, objections, critiques, and reactions to talk about in class.  When you do the writing, do it to contribute to our planning the rest of the course.

Reading Assignment:

Chris Valley.  2008.  Alinsky at 100.  Journal of Community Practice vol:16 iss:4 pg:527 -532.

Mike Miller.  2010.  Alinsky for the Left:  The Politics of Community Organizing.  Dissent

Ellen Ryan.  2010.  Whatever Happened to Community Organizing?  COMM-ORG Papers

Gary Delgado.  2009.  Reflections on Movement Building and Community Organizing.  Social Policy Summer2009, Vol. 39 Issue 2, p6-14.

Randy Stoecker.  2010.  Has the Fight Gone out of Organizing?  Shelterforce, spring. .

Writing Assignment:

Due no later than the beginning of class on September 12, is a minimum 500 word essay on what you want from the course and what you are able and willing to bring to the course.  You are welcomed to e-mail the assignment at any time up to the deadline or bring it with you to class (I prefer e-mail).  The purpose of this assignment is for you to do careful reflection on your interests and your own resources and skills.  It will be worth ten percent of your final grade and will be graded as a serious writing assignment.  So put your best thinking and your best writing into it.  I will expect thoughtfulness and detail equal to my example below.  And it needs to be about community organizing.  You may not have had community organizing experiences, but you have other skills and knowledge you can bring.  And if you don't want to learn anything about community organizing, then this isn't the right course for you.  You can see my example assignment below.


Please also get Saul Alinsky's book, Rules for Radicals.  It is the closest thing to a core text in the field.  We will read and discuss that the second week, which will buy us time to get the other readings in order after our first class planning session. All books will be available at Rainbow Bookstore, a community-owned bookstore at 426 W. Gilman Street.

Example Assignment

What I Want and What I Bring

Randy Stoecker

I don't exactly know why I became interested in how oppressed peoples organize to build their own power. But from a teenager on that has been my focus. I have always wanted to find out how people without power can get more control over their own circumstances. As a sociologist, I spent a lot of time studying how bad things are. So I am quite convinced that things are very bad indeed. The social structures of race, class, sex, ability, age, and others produce frightening and unjustifiable inequalities. But I got bored with learning how bad things are, and I don't need any more convincing. What I need to learn is how people successfully fight back against those oppressions and inequalities.

It's actually a lot more exciting for me to study how people fight back. First, even when they don't win, it is a lot more inspiring to study people's resistance than just how they got oppressed. And when they do win it's really inspiring. Thankfully, I had the good luck in graduate school to live smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that fought back against a government-capitalist developer coalition that tried to literally bulldoze them off the map. Not only did they win, but they got to then redevelop their own neighborhood. the folks of the West Bank neighborhood in Minneapolis taught me how to be inspired.

But there are still far too few examples like that neighborhood. So one thing I want is to learn more about more examples, which I know are out there. So I am trying to collect as many examples--both successes and failures, as I can. There are a bunch of newer books that I want to read more carefully: Contesting Community, Tools for Radical Democracy, Creative Community Organizing, Progressive Community Organizing, Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, Organizing Urban America, The Revolution Will not be Funded, Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx, and others.

I can bring a fairly long history of experience in working with such groups. I started learning about community organizing first-hand in that Minneapolis neighborhood in 1983, and formally started doing research with them in 1985. I’ve been working with them from time to time ever since.

I can’t say that I’m an actual community organizer, though I’ve got a couple of successes under my belt (the most fun was organizing against my previous university when they wanted to replace a park with a parking lot in my neighborhood). But I also haven’t just read about and studied what people have done. Instead, I have been involved in supporting community groups’ organizing work. So I’ve mostly provided research support for community organizing groups to help them do their work better, using a method called participatory action research. I’ve worked with ACORN most closely, but also with a number of unaffiliated neighborhood organizing groups. I have helped such groups also by facilitating strategic planning and strategy development. I am also currently working with a southwest Madison community organizing effort.

Perhaps most importantly for this course, I have learned a lot about teaching by hanging out with community organizers. I’ve seen community organizers teach people lots of stuff, and I’ve never once seen them give a lecture. So I’ve also learned to teach by facilitating, mostly by paying close attention to the work of two people—Myles Horton and Paulo Friere—both of whom developed models of community organizing that integrated community education and community organizing.

Week 2, Sept. 19—History: Saul Alinsky

Reading Assignment:

Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (read entire book)

OR about 100 pages from the following articles:

Saul Alinsky. 1965.  "The War on Poverty-Political Pornography"

Robert Fisher, "Neighborhood Organizing: The Importance of Historical Contba"

Three Alinskys? by Peter Szynka, 2002,

Donald Rietzes and Dietrich Rietzes.  1982.  Saul D. Alinsky:  A Neglected Source but Promising Resource.

Wendy Plotkin. 1996. "Alinsky and Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council."

Wendy Plotkin. 1996 "Alinsky's involvement in Woodlawn in Chicago/The Woodlawn Organization."

Understanding Alinsky Conservative Wine in Radical Bottles; CHARLES F LEVINE. The American Behavioral Scientist (pre-1986). Nov/Dec 1973. Vol. 17, Iss. 2; p. 279 (6 pages)

SAUL D. ALINSKY: A NEGLECTED SOURCE BUT PROMISING RESOURCE. By: Reitzes, Donald C.; Reitzes, Dietrich C.. American Sociologist, Feb82, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p47-56

The influence of Saul Alinsky on the campaign for human development.Full Tba Available  By: ENGEL, LAWRENCE J.. Theological Studies, Dec98, Vol. 59 Issue 4, p636

Hillary Clinton's thesis on Saul ALinsky 1969

Interview with Saul ALinsky 1972 (originally in Playboy but now provided on an independent site)

Week 3, Sept. 26—History: Ella Baker

Readings links:

Film:  Fundi

Week 4, Oct. 3—Organizing since Baker and Alinsky (UFW, IAF, ACORN, NPA, PICO, DART, Gamaliel, NOA, others)


Cesar Chavez:  The Organizer's Tale:

Richard A. Garcia, Dolores Huerta: Woman, Organizer, and Symbol.

United Farm Workers.  The Story of Cesar Chavez.

A Way of Thinking about the History of Community Organizing,

An Internet Guide to Community Organizing,

Tools for Radical Democracy:  "The Story of Community Voices Heard", p. xxxi

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Week 5, Oct. 10--Social theory and community organizing (structures and contexts)

Due:  Final Project Proposal


James DeFilippis, The Myth of Social Capital in Community Development.

Jorn Bramann, Marx:  Capitalism and Alienation.

Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

Stephanie Kotin and others, Immigration and integration: religious and political activism for/with immigrants in Los Angeles.

C. Wright Mills.  The Sociological Imagination.

Theories and Ideas for the Progressive Organizer. Chapter 3 in, Pyles, Loretta. New York: Progressive Community Organizing, 2009. pp. 27-41 (on e-reserve)

Part 1 from Tools for Radical Democracy

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Week 6, Oct. 17--organizing in diverse racial/ethnic/cultural contexts


Gutierrez et al.  1996.  Multicultural community organizing: a strategy for change. Social Work, Vo. 41.

Berryhill, Joseph C and Linney, Jean Ann.  2006.  On the Edge of Diversity: Bringing African Americans and Latinos Together in a Neighborhood Group . American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 37.

Ch. 4 from Tools for Radical Democracy

Szakos and Szakos book, We Make Change,  the personal profile on page 110, "Bridging Cultures", and  the quotations about what makes a good organizer on pages 93-110.

Week 7, Oct. 24--organizing, mobilizing, movements

Required Readings:

J. Craig Jenkins.  1979.  What is to be Done: Movement or Organization? Contemporary Sociology,

Fred Block.  2003. Review: Organizing versus Mobilizing: Poor People's Movements after 25 Years.  Perspectives on Politics.

Chs. 14 and 15 from Tools for Radical Democracy.


Explore the "Occupy USA" site to learn about everything that is happening around Occupy Wall Street:

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.


Week 8, Oct. 31--organizing strategy:  starting out, building organizations and memberships

Required Readings:

Chapter 3 of Tools for Radical Democracy - Focus on pages 37-49

Chapter 4 of Tools for Radical Democracy - Focus on page 62-71

Dave Beckwith, with Cristina Lopez, Community Organizing: People Power from the Grassroots.

Public relationship building in grassroots community organizing: relational intervention for individual and systems change, by Brian Christens.

Case Studies  (you can read these to apply the readings to):

Lee H. Staples PhD (2001): Insider/Outsider Upsides and Downsides, Social Work With Groups, 23:2, 19-35 (

Ohmer, M. L. (2007). Citizen Participation in Neighborhood Organizations and Its Relationship to Volunteers' Self- and Collective Efficacy and Sense of Community. Social Work Research, 31(2), 109-120. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. (

Christens, Brian D., and Dolan, Tom. (2011). Interweaving Youth Development, Community Development, and Social Change Through Youth Organizing.  Youth and Society, 43(2), 528-548.  (


Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

(2011)  Community Organizing Training. Organizing Apprenticeship Program.  Retrieved from:

ROSC. Starting A Group. Community Organizer's Guide.  Retrieved from: 

ROSC. Building A Group. Community Organizer's Guide.

Week 9, Nov. 7--organizing strategy:  choosing issues and targets


Chs. 7 and 8 from Tools for Radical Democracy

Moshe ben Asher. 2002. Conflict and cooperation in Macro Theory and Practice

ACORN.  Tactics of Targets

Francesca Polletta and James M. Jasper.  2001.  Collective Identity and Social Movements. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 27 , pp. 283-305


Ganz Marshall. The Hauser Center for Non Profit Organizing at Harvard University. "Organizing". Website.

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Community Power Map Guide:

Power Mapping:

Political Opportunity Structure (In "content" section of Learn@UW)


Week 10, Nov. 14--organizing strategy:  tactics, confrontation, nonviolence, and others


Chs 9-12 from Tools for Radical Democracy

ACORN.  Tactics of Targets


Bonnie Azab Powell, 2003, Framing the Issue, UC Berkeley News,

Robert Benford and David Snow.  2000.  Framing Processes and Social Movements.  Annual Review of Sociology.  Vol. 26, pp. 611-39.

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Week 11, Nov. 21--organizing strategy:  managing resources, getting funding, resisting cooptation


 Paul Kivel. Social Service or Social Change.  In The Revolution Will Not be Funded : beyond the non-profit industrial complex / edited by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. Cambridge, Mass. : South End Press, c2007. pp. 129-149. Listed under library reserves in MyUW for this course.

Pp. 379-389 from Tools for Radical Democracy

Robert O. Bothwell, 2001.  Foundation Funding of Grassroots Organizations.

The Needmor Fund.  2006.  50 Years, 50 Stories.


The Foundation Center.  2011.  Proposal Writing Short Course.

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Week 12, Nov. 28--organizing strategy:  research, information, communication, and technology


Chapters 8 and 13 from Tools for Radical Democracy

On Popular Education by John Hurst.

CBR and the Two Forms of Social Change, Randy Stoecker.

Randy Stoecker. 2005. Research Methods for Community Change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Chapter 3,


Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.  "Editor's Introduction" in We Make the Road by Walking. 

Randy Stoecker and Mary Beckman. 2009. Making Higher Education Civic Engagement Matter in the Community.

Randy Stoecker (ed). 1996. Sociology and Social Action--two special issues of Sociological Imagination,

Anne B. Shlay and Gordon Whitman. 2004. Research for Democracy: Linking Community Organizing and Research to Leverage Blight Policy. COMM-ORG,

Lutz Wessels. 2003. Research! Investigating, Organising and Fighting. COMM-ORG, 

Selections from either Szakos and Szakos book.

Week 13, Dec. 5--reflecting on the movement in Wisconsin:  the capitol occupation, recall campaigns, and others


"Inside the Wisconsin Occupation" 

"Scenes from the Food System" by Catherine Willis (available from Content section of Learn@UW)

Let Us Speak" by Charity Schmidt (available from Content section of Learn@UW)

"Positive Policing From Wisconsin's ‘Original Occupation’"

"The Unbreakable Culture of the Occupied Capitol"


"The Wisconsin Lie Exposed" 

"What's Happening in Wisconsin Explained"

"What We Can Learn From Wisconsin"

"100 Best Protest Signs at the Wisconsin Capitol"

"The Lessons of Wisconsin's Labor Revolt"

Week 14, Dec. 12--ethics and community organizing


Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, chapter on Means and Ends

Donna Hardina. 2004. Guidelines for Ethical Practice in Community Organization. Social Work, Volume 49, Number 4, pp. 595-604.

Tom Walz and Heather Ritchie. 2000.Gandhian Principles in Social Work Practice: Ethics Revisited. Social Work, Volume 45, pp. 213-222


Michael Reisch and Jane Isaacs Lowe. 2000. Of Means and Ends” Revisited: Teaching Ethical Community Organizing in an Unethical Society. Journal of Community Practice, Volume 7, Issue 1 .

Andrew Sabl. 2002. Community Organizing as Tocquevillean Politics: The Art, Practices, and Ethos of Association. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 46, No. 1.

 Meredith Minkler. 1978. Ethical Issues in Community Organization. Health Education and Behavior. Vol. 6, No. 2.

Final Projects due:  10am December 22, 2011