Community and Environmental Soci ? Community and Environmental Soci

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

Professor: Randy Stoecker
Office:  Ag Hall 340d
Office Hours: by appointment
Phone:  890-0764

Spring, 2015
F 1:15-3:45
10 Ag Hall

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--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 for the semester).  So you need to come prepared to engage in a process that involves real work.

Principles to Guide Our Course

    (to be developed in class)

Resources for Constructing the Course

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


Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos, Tools for Radical Democracy

The two books should be available soon at Rainbow Books, 426 West Gilman Street.  Rainbow is a community-owned cooperative. 


We are using a flexible points system. You can mostly decide what grade you want and will have flexibility on how to achieve it. That also means you are responsible for tracking your own points. Also note that, because we have developed these activities collaborativly, I will be reluctant to grant individual exceptions. You will need to organize the class to devote class time to re-negotiating these requirements.

1.  Introductory essay (due at the beginning of class on January 23, see week 1 in course calendar for details) -- 10 points (half points off for every day late)

2.  Reflections (due 11:59pm Fridays) -- 6 points each, -1 point for each day late

Reflections should be about 400 words, reflecting forward on the readings for the upcoming week. You can reflect on the readings in any variety of ways, including from past or current events, theoretical or personal standpoints, class discussion, etc. You can submit your reflections to the class forum or the dropbox. Your reflections on the forum can also include a response to someone else's reflection. I will only give private feedback, regardless of where you submit.

3.  Something else-- up to 30 points

By February 13, please submit to the dropbox a proposal if you choose to do "something else" for course credit. In your proposal describe the scope and "size" of what you will do, as well as the number of points you want for it. If you want to facilitate a class session, include which session (it needs to be on the topic for that day). You will need to meet with me at least once outside of class, usually two weeks ahead of time, to prepare for facilitating a class session.

4.  Attendance-- you can miss one class without consequence. If you miss more, you will need to spend 2.5 hours writing about the extra readings of the day you missed or lose 6 points.

4.  Graduate students-- you will do a major project will be averaged in as 25% of the final grade.  You will meet with me to develop a proposal for the project, which might be an intensive literature review, a research proposal, the development of a publishable article from previous research, an original paper, or other possible projects of similar scope and depth. You will submit a rough draft and a final draft that addresses my comments on the rough draft, following a mutually agreeable schedule.

You can choose the grading scale you want. The ABCDF system is a simple 10% curve: 90 and up = A, 80-89 = B, etc. For the A, AB, B, BC, C, D F system, 93 and up = A, 88-92 = AB, 83-87 = B, 78-82 = BC, 70-78 = C, 60-69 = D, <60 = F

To calculate your points and choose your grading strategy, use the following. There is the 10 point essay from the first day of class. There are 14 possible reflections (6 points each) for a total of 94 points. You can count a "something else" project for anything up to 30 points (grad students, remember that your something else needs to be bigger). So there is a grand total of 124 points. Then subtract 6 points for each absence beyond the first one unless you have done the extra reading and writing.


Week 1, Jan. 23:  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 January 23.  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:

Randy Stoecker.  2010.  Has the Fight Gone out of Organizing?  Shelterforce, spring. (read all four pages) .

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.

Writing Assignment:

Due no later than the beginning of class on January 23, 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, upload it at Learn@UW, or bring it with you to class.  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 to a class on community organizing.  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 at the end of the syllabus.


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.

Week 2, January 30--The starting point: Saul Alinsky

Reading Assignment:

Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (read entire book)

OR choose about 100 pages from the following articles (but Alinsky's book is a lot more fun and provocative and it's not expensive):

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

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

Three Alinskys? by Peter Szynka, 2002,

Donald Rietzes and Dietrich Rietzes.  1982.   Saul D. Alinsky:  A Neglected Source but Promising Resource. American Sociologist, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p47-56.

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)

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 undergraduate thesis on Saul ALinsky 1969 or try

Interview with Saul ALinsky 1972 (originally in Playboy but now provided on independent sites) or

Week 3, February 6:  The Less Visible Historical Origins of Community Organizing

Reading Assignment:

Ella Baker and Models of Social Change. Charles Payne. 1989. Signs, Vol. 14, No. 4.

Interview with Ella Baker, September 4, 1974.

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


Ella Baker: Free Agent in the Civil Rights Movement. Aprele Elliott. 1996. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 26, No. 5.

"Neither Bedecked Nor Bebosomed": Lucy Mason, Ella Baker and Women's Leadership and Organizing Strategies in the Struggle for Freedom. Susan Glisson.

Ella Baker. By Lisa Y. Sullivan, Social Policy, Vol.30 no.2, Winter 1999.

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement. Barbara Ransby. 2003

A Dolores Huerta Reader. Mario T. García. UNM Press.

Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962 to 1980. Margaret Rose. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, Las Chicanas (1990), pp. 26-32

Cesar Chavez: The Organizer's Tale:

United Farm Workers. The Story of Cesar Chavez.

A Way of Thinking about the History of Community Organizing,

An Internet Guide to Community Organizing,


Week 4 February 13:  The current state of the Field


Moshe ben Asher and Khulda bat Sarah. 2014. Public Powers for the Commonweal: A Challenge to Faith-Based Organizing. COMM-ORG papers collection. Available at

Brian Christens and Paul Speer. 2015. Community Organizing: Practice, Research, and Policy Implications. Social Issues and Policy Review. Available on Learn@UW under "Materials -> Content"

Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. (Read "Foreward through "About Community Voices Heard").


Community Organizing Network Websites

Website Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Website Direct Action and Research Training Center

Website Gamaliel

Website Industrial Areas Foundation

Website National People's Action

Website PICO National Network

Other readings

Aaron A. Wagner. 2014. Organizing with SOUL (GEM, The Grassroots Collaborative, IIRON, NPA, Social Media and Occupy): Collaborative Action and Local to Global Implications for Community Organizing in the 21st Century. COMM-ORG papers collection. Available at

Richard L. Wood, Brad Fulton, and Kathryn Partridge. 2013. Building Bridges, Building Power: Developments in Institution-based Community Organizing: Executive Summary. Available at

WWeek 5, February 20: Popular Education and Community Research


Drick Boyd. Under the Radar: Popular Education in North America A White Paper. Available at

Lisa VeneKlasen & Darshana Patel. Citizen Action, Knowledge and Global Economic Power: Intersections of Popular Education, Organizing, and Advocacy.

Stoecker, Randy. 2012. "CBR and the Two Forms of Social Change." Journal of Rural Social Sciences. 27:83-98.

Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. Chapter 8.


John McNutt. 2000. Organizing Cyberspace: Strategies for Teaching About Community Practice and Technology.  Journal of Community Practice.

On Popular Education by John Hurst.

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

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

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, 


Week 6, February 27: Context and stages of an organizing effort


Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. Chapters 1, 2 and 8 and Resource H.


10 Basic Steps in Community Organizing.

"Community Organizing: People Power from the Grassroots" - Dave Beckwith, with Cristina Lopez (

Community Power Map Guide:

Power Mapping:

Tarrow S. 1998 . Power in Movement . New York : Cambridge University Press . 2nd ed.

Eisinger P . 1973 . The conditions of protest behavior in American cities . American Political Science Review. 81 : 11 – 28


Week 7, March 6: Recruiting members and developing leadership


Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. Chapters 3, 4, and 5.


Fight the Right Action Kit by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Go to link on "Walking the Talk"  at

Lesbian Avengers' Civil Rights Organizing Project. Out Against The Right:  An Organizing Handbook.  See link to Recruitment

Robert D. Benford and David A. Snow. 2000. Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26 pp. 611-639.

Montserrat Baras, Patricia Correa Vila, Juan Rodríguez Teruel. 2013. Comparing Incentives and Party Activism in US and Europe: PSOE, PP and the California Democratic Party. American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting

 Lindsey P. Walker-Estrada. 2004. The Education and Liberation of the Poor in Community Organizing: The Personal Growth and Transformation of Leaders in the Anti-Displacement Project. COMM-ORG papers,

Moshe ben Asher. 2010. Staff Development and Leadership.  COMM-ORG papers.

Community Toolbox, Chapters 13 and 14, Toolkit 6.

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

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

Citizen Participation in Neighborhood Organizations and Its Relationship to Volunteers' Self- and Collective Efficacy and Sense of Community by Ohmer, Mary L.

Overcoming Oligarchy: Culture and Agency in Social Movement Organizations by Paul Osterman


WWeek 8, March 13: Managing organization structure and group process in organizing, allyship, conflict resolution


Community Toolbox.  Chapter 9: Developing an Organizational Structure. and Chapter 16: Group Facilitation.

Viraj S. Patel. Moving Toward an Inclusive Model of Allyship for Racial Justice.

Community Toolbox.  Training for Conflict Resolution.


Marlene Rebori. How to organize and run effective meetings.

Mind Tools.  Conflict Resolution.

Jo Freeman.  The Tyranny of Structurelessness.

Overcoming Oligarchy: Culture and Agency in Social Movement Organizations by Paul Osterman 

Black Southern Student Sit-in Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organization by Aldon Morris 

"Community, Movement, Organization: The Problem of Identity Convergence in Collective Action" Randy Stoecker. 

"Organizational Structure, Authority and Protest: The Case of Union Organizing in the United States, 1990-2001" Andrew W. Martin.

"Leader-Member Conflict in Protest Organizations: The Case of the Southern Farmers' Alliance" Michael Schwartz; Naomi Rosenthal; Laura Schwartz.

"Neighborhood Strengthening through Community Building" Suzanne M. Singh 

Week 9, March 20: Culture--the arts and creative expression in organizing

Readings:[note there are two sets of readings]

Graphic Art

Green, J. (2003). When political art mattered. New York Times.

Bordowitz, G. (1987). Picture a coalition. October 74 (pp. 182-196).

Carlomusto, J. (1988). Doctors, Liars, and Women: AIDS Activists Say No To Cosmo. To view this 22 minute video, access your UW-Madison Google Apps account (if you have another Google account you’ll need to log out of that one) at You can access the file at It may stream in your browser or download (it may give a warning if you download). The filmmaker has given permission for viewing by our class.


"The Emotional and Intellectual Aspects of Protest Music: Implications for Community Organizing Education" by Lawrence M. Berger

"Where Have All the Protest Songs Gone?" by Dan Goniprow  


Jim Hubbard’s “United in Anger: A History of Act Up” The film is available online through Amazon, Google Play and Apple Store. It isn’t free, but it is well worth the money.

Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism”

Browse art at the fierce pussy website:

Just do a Google search for “ACT UP ART” and browse artwork.

Moya-Raggio, E. (1984). Arpilleras: Chilean culture of resistance. Feminist Studies, 10, 277–282. See also Agosín, M. (1996). Tapestries of hope, threads of love: The Arpillera movement in Chile, 1974–1994. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Groundswell Community Mural Project. (2000). Retrieved March 8, 2011, from .

Vicki Carter.  1994. The Singing Heart of Highlander. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development

Garofalo, Reebee, ed. Rockin'the boat: Mass music and mass movements. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992.


Week 10, March 27: Strategy, tactics, and technology in organizing


Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. Chapters 6-7, 9-13.


ACT UP Civil Disobedience Training.

Tactics of Targets, by ACORN.

Education Policy Blog.  2006. Community Organizing and Urban Education V: “Cutting an Issue” (Clarity and Passion).

Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization: March, 6, 2007.  USING A FEDERAL ISSUE TO DEVELOP LOCAL POWER.  Contra Costa County, CA Leaders Resist Immigration Raids in their Communiti

The Organizers Forum.  2005.  Bringing Framing to Organizing.

Virginia Organizing Project.  n.d.  Turn Problems into Issues.

Shel Trapp, Basics Of Organizing, links to: Identifying IssuesPublic Meeting, Check List for the Public Meeting, Organizing a Demonstration.

Janna Moseley, Online Organizing at ACORN.  COMM-ORG papers, 2010.

Stoecker, Randy.  2005. Is Community Informatics good for communities?  Questions confronting an emerging field. Journal of Community Informatics.

Stoecker, Randy.  "Cyberspace vs. Face to face: Community Organizing in the New Millennium."  2002.  Perspectives on Global Development and Technology. 1:143-164.

Week 11, spring break

Week 12, April 10: Collaboration across groups, especially community organizing and development


Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy. Chapters 14 and 15.

Randy Stoecker.  Thinking about Community Organizing and Development (choose something from the list).


 Randy Stoecker. 1993. The Federated Frontstage Structure and Localized Social Movements: A Case Study of the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Movement. Social Science Quarterly Vol. 74 Issue 1, p169-184 

Steve Callahan, Neil Mayer, Kris Palmer, and Larry Ferlazzo. Rowing the Boat with Two Oars. COMM-ORG papers 1999.

Joyce Mandell, CDCs and the Myth of the Organizing-Development Dialectic. COMM-ORG papers 2009.

Joan M. Roberts, A Six-Step Development Framework to Build Successful Alliances, Coalitions and Partnerships. COMM-ORG papers 2005.

Amanda Tattersall, There is Power in Coalition: A Framework for Analysing the Practice of Union-Community Coalitions.  COMM-ORG papers 2006.

Margaret Groarke. Organizing Against Overfinancing: The Northwest Bronx Coalition Campaign Against Freddie Mac. COMM-ORG papers 2003,

Week 13, April 17: Community organizing in international contexts


Xi Zhang, Comparison between American and Chinese Community Building. COMM-ORG papers 2004,

Peter Szynka, Community Organizing and the Alinsky Tradition in Germany. COMM-ORG papers 2002,

Kavitha Mediratta and Clay Smith, Advancing Community Organizing Practice: Lessons from Grassroots Organizations in India. COMM-ORG papers 2001,


Rev. Paul Cromwell, The American Community Organizing Tradition And Its Potential Application To The German Protestant Church and European Context. COMM-ORG papers 2004,

James Whelan, Smogbusters in Queensland. COMM-ORG papers 1999,

Ian "Tay" Landry, The Homeless Men of Halifax: Organizing for Action . COMM-ORG papers 2002,

Also see the COMM-ORG Groups and Networks page at


Week 14, April 24: Environmental Justice, Disability Rights

Readings, Environmental Justice:

Environmental Justice: An Interview with Robert Bullard. Earth First! Journal, July 1999.

Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin: Understanding Emerging Conflicts and Community Organizing. Thomas W. Pearson.

Readings, Disability Rights:

 Jean Flatley McGuire. 1994. Organizing From Diversity in the Name of Community: Lessons From the Disability Civil Rights Movement. Policy Studies Journal. Volume 22, Issue 1, pages 112–122.

Zach Strassburger. 2012. Disability Law and the Disability Rights Movement for Transpeople. Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 24, No. 2,


Principles of Environmental Justice,

Deep Green Resistance, by Aric McBay, Keith Lierre, and Derrick Jensen.

Technoscience and Environmental Justice, by Gwen Ottinger and Benjamin Cohen.

Toxic Communities, by Dorcetta Taylor.

Cox, J. Robert. "Chapter 9." Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2013. 245-81.

Ottinger, Gwen, and Benjamin R. Cohen. "Invisible People, Invisible Risks." Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. 149-77.

Cermak, Michael J. "Hip-Hop, Social Justice, and Environmental Education: Toward a Critical Ecological Literacy." The Journal of Environmental Education 43.3 (2012): 192-203. 

Guha, Ramachandra. "Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Perservation." Ed. Eugene C. Hargrove. Environmental Ethics 11.1 (1989): 71-83. 

White, Monica M. "Shouldering Responsibility for the Delivery of Human Rights: A Case Study of the D-Town Farmers of Detroit." The Ohio State University Office of Minority Affairs/The Kirwan Institute (2010): 189-211.

 Fabricio E. Balcazara, Christopher B. Keysa & Yolanda Suarez-Balcazara. 2001. Empowering Latinos with Disabilities to Address Issues of Independent Living and Disability Rights: A Capacity-Building Approach. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community. Volume 21, Issue 2, 2001, pages 53-70

 H McCarthy. 2003. The Disability Rights Movement Experiences and Perspectives of Selected Leaders in the Disability Community. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin,

Dean Spade.  2014.  Three Videos about Ending Violence.

Dean Space.  What's Wrong with Trans Rights.

Feinberg, Leslie “Transgender Liberation: A moment whose time has come.” Transgender Studies Reader (2006)

Clare, Eli “Body Shame, Body Pride: Lessons from the disability rights movement” Transgender Studies Reader (2013)

Kafer, Alison “Feminist, Queer, Crip” (2013)

Week 15, May 1: Post Civil Rights organizing in African American communities--from Oakland to Ferguson


Sarah Cunningham. From the Front Lines of Ferguson: A Community Organizer Explains How People of Faith Can Help. Huffington Post. April 14, 2015.

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Ferguson October: Youth Organizers Plan Weekend of Resistance 2 Months After Death of Michael Brown. Democracy Now. October 7, 2014.

Tammy Thomas-Miles. Reflection on Ferguson, Missouri. Center for Community Change. September 5, 2014.

 Mo. guardsmen: Ferguson protesters the 'enemy' April 17, 2015.


Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

Human Rights Ferguson. Amnesty International.

Black Lives Matter. Ferguson.

Millenial Activists United.

Hands Up United.


Week 16, May 8: Organizing in Madison


Maggie Ginsberg. Active disruption: A Q&A with Brandi Grayson. Madison Magazine. Mar 19 2015.

Jonathan Gramling. Walking a Thin Cultural Line. Nov. 3, 2011 and Nov. 17, 2011

Lee Sustar. The lessons of Wisconsin. Socialist Worker. June 21, 2012.


Rebecca Kemble. Young, Gifted and Black Coalition Holds Inauguration Rally. The Progressive. January 07, 2015.

Rebecca Greenfield. How Did the Wisconsin Capitol Occupation Begin, Anyway? The Atlantic. Feb 25 2011.

Andy Kroll with Nick Baumann and Siddhartha Mahanta. What's Happening in Wisconsin Explained. Mother Jones. Mar. 17, 2011.



Finals Period--May 12, 4:45pm. We will not meet during this time, but all something else projects and extra reflections are due by this time. The usual late policy (-1 point for each day late) will apply



Example First Class Writing 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 passion. I grew up in a very small and very conservative town in southeast Wisconsin, of rural working class parents.  I watched them scrimp and save and suffer the stress of making ends meet.  There was always food on the table and a roof over our heads, but their lives were preoccupied with the worry of having no job protection, few benefits (not even employer retirement plans), and a consequently uncertain future.  I chafed at the religious and cultural conservatism that surrounded me everywhere except on the TV and an older cousin who was in college just when campus political activism was reaching its nadir in the early 1970s (I didn't graduate high school until 1977).  Why I became so disenchanted with my immediate surroundings and so fascinated with the exciting turmoil beyond I don't know.  But I did.

Since then I have always wanted to find out how people without power can get more control over their own circumstances. That includes poor and working class people, people of color, people of marginalized genders and sexualities, youth, people with disabilities, and others. As a sociologist, I spent a lot of time learning 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 get 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 and build the kind of society we all deserve.

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 about is more examples, which I know are out there. My idea of a good vacation is to visit a city where there is good organizing going on and hang out with the group for a few days.  I also am trying to collect as many written examples--both successes and failures, as I can. There are a bunch of newer books that I want to read again or 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.

Connected to my desire for more examples is to understand what may be a shift in the culture of community organizing away from models that are based on conflict theories of society to what sociologists would cal lfunctionalist theories.  There seems to be a strong conflict-avoidance trend in community organizing, especially among the "faith-based" community organizing networks.  I have questions about this observation that I really need to answer.  First, is this a sea change in community organizing?  Second, if it is, then what explains it?  Third, does a conflict-avoidance model actually fit the needs of community organizing today, or does it in fact limit organizing's potential? 

Something else I want is to have some fun building and being part of a learning community. What I enjoy most about this class is that it has some aspects of community organizing in its own process. At some point in the course during each of the past two semesters it felt like ownership of the class shifted from me to the students, and that made the class a lot more enjoyable for me.

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 the famous 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 and just finished up working with neighborhood groups in Waukesha, WI. And I've worked with many other neighborhoods doing their own organizing in Australia and Canada, and in this country (Chicago and Toledo most notably).

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 reading about 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.