A COMM-ORG Working Paper, revised November 1997



Susan Stall
Department of Sociology
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 N. St. Louis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Randy Stoecker
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
University of Toledo
Toledo, OH 43606


This paper is adapted from presentations at the annual meetings of the Midwest Sociological Society, and the American Sociological Association, and COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing and Development.



This paper looks at two strains of urban community organizing, distinguished by philosophy and often by gender, and influenced by the historical division of American society into public and private spheres. We compare the well-known Alinsky model, which focuses on communities organizing for power, and what we call the women-centered model, which focuses on organizing relationships to build community. These models are rooted in somewhat distinct traditions and vary along several dimensions, including conceptions of human nature and conflict, power and politics, leadership, and the organizing process. We conclude by examining the implications of each model in the current socioeconomic context and the potential for their integration.


Despite a rich and proud heritage of female organizers and movement leaders, the field of community organization, in both its teaching models and its major exponents, has been a male-dominated preserve, where, even though values are expressed in terms of participatory democracy, much of the focus within the dominant practice methods has been nonsupportive or antithetical to feminism. Strategies have largely been based on "macho-power" models, manipulativeness, and zero- sum gamesmanship (Weil l986, 192).

The WOMAN in woman organizer is important....It stands for a growing awareness of different tactics and techniques, and maybe even a growing awareness of unique goals (Education Center for Community Organizing [ECCO] 1989, 15).

Behind every successful social movement is a community, or a network of communities. The community behind the movement provides many things. It sustains the movement during the hard times, when the movement itself is in abeyance (Taylor, 1989). It provides for the social reproduction needs of movement participants, providing things as basic as childcare so parents can participate in movement events (Stoecker, 1992). It provides a free space (Evans and Boyte, 1986) where members can practice "prefigurative politics" (Breines, 1989), attempting to create on a small scale the type of world they are struggling for.

These communities do not just happen. They must be organized. Someone has to build strong enough relationships between people so they can support each other through long and sometimes dangerous social change struggles. Or, if the community already exists, someone has to help transform it to support political action. Sometimes that requires reorganizing the community (Alinsky, 1971) by identifying individuals who can move the community to action.

This process of building a mobilizable community is called "community organizing." It involves "the craft" of building an enduring network of people, who identify with common ideals, and who can engage in social action on the basis of those ideals. In practice, it is much more than micromobilization or framing strategy (Snow et al., 1986.). Community organizing can in fact refer to the entire process of organizing relationships, identifying issues, mobilizing around those issues, and maintaining an enduring organization. The distinction between community organizing and social movement is that community organizing is localized, often "pre-political" action, while social movements are multi-local. Consider, for a moment that we speak of the Civil Rights "Movement," or even the "sit-in movement," but not the "Montgomery Bus Boycott movement" (whose community was organized long before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat).

The distinction is subtle but important. One of the most common definitions of social movement, by Charles Tilly (1984) says that a social movement is a "sustained series of actions between power holders and persons successfully claiming to speak on behalf of a constituency lacking formal representation, in the course of which those persons make publicly visible demands for changes in the distribution of exercise of power, and back those with public demonstrations of support." A general definition of community organizing, on the other hand, says that "community organizing is the process of building power that includes people with a problem in defining their community, defining the problems that they wish to address, the solutions they wish to pursue, and the methods they will use to accomplish their solutions. The organization will identify the people and structures that need to be part of these solutions, and, by persuasion or confrontation, negotiate with them to accomplish the goals of the community. In the process, organizations will build a democratically controlled community institution - the organization - that can take on further problems and embody the will and power of that community over time." (Beckwith, Stoecker, and McNeely, 1997) In general, Community organizing is the work that occurs in local settings to empower individuals, build relationships, and create action for social change (Bobo et al, 1991; Kahn, 1991, Beckwith and Lopez, 1997).

Both of these definitions emphasize the action part of making change. Both talk about moving people to put pressure on authorities to make that change. But in community organizing the focus is on the community, while in social movements the focus is on the movement. These are different levels of action. Community organization is the process that builds a constituency that can go on to create a movement, and it occurs at a level between the micro-mobilization of individuals (Snow et al, 1986) and the "political process" of the broader social system (McAdam, 1982). It is the formation of local movement centers like the Montgomery Improvement Association, which helped lead the famed Montgomery Bus Boycott (Morris, 1984) and ultimately provided the impetus for a national Civil Rights Movement.

The community is more than just the informal backstage relationships between movement members (Buechler, 1990; 1993), or the foundation for social movement action. The community relationships which sustain movement activists may, in fact, include many people who are not involved in the movement at all (Stoecker, 1995). In community organizing, the focus is on broadening the convergence between the social movement and the community. This is also why community organizing occurs much more as local phenomena--since it has historically focused on building a "localized social movement" in places as small as a single neighborhood (Stoecker, 1993). Viewing social movements as the outcome of community organizing processes can stand social movement analysis on its head, showing how "leaders are often mobilized by the masses they will eventually come to lead" (Robnett l996,1664).

Community organizing has scantly been studied by scholars until very recently (see COMM-ORG, 1997) and even then not by social movement scholars. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is the most cited example--and it has rarely, until quite recently, been covered as community organizing (Payne,1989; Robnett 1996). Rather, social movement concepts such as micromobilization and frame analysis have been used to dissect community organizing, fragmenting it. The community organizing done by the famous Saul Alinsky is barely mentioned in the social movements literature, and when it is, there are only weak connections to broader social movement theories (Reitzes and Reitzes, 1987; 1987b). As a consequence, we know very little about whether the concepts and theories developed to study large scale social movements apply to community organizing or whether we need new concepts altogether (Stoecker, 1993).

Added to the neglect within the social movements literature of community organizing is our lack of understanding of the role that gender structures and identities play in social movements. Gender as a variable in social movements has only recently received much attention (Bookman and Morgen l988; Barnett l993, 1995; Caldwell 1994; McAdam 1989; Stoecker, 1992; Robnett l996; Thompson l994; Tracy l994; Wekerle l996; West and Blumberg l990). Yet, the organizational structure and practices of social movement organizations and actors are not gender neutral. Due to the social consequences of sex-category membership--the differential allocation of power and resources-- "doing gender is unavoidable"(West and Zimmerman l987, 126). Gender, as a social product of everyday actions and interactional work, is also produced and reproduced through social movement activities. Within social movements, doing gender legitimates differences and inequities in the sexual division of labor and creates and sustains the differential evaluation of leadership and organizing activities. Gender also effects problem identification and tactical choices (Brandwein l987, 122). The male-dominated world of sports and the military provide images and metaphors for building teamwork, and for igniting competition and antagonism against opponents "to win" a particular movement campaign (Acker, l990). The rhythm and timing of social movement work often does not take into account the rhythms of life of caring work outside of organizing meetings and campaigns (Stoecker, 1992). Or when it does, the result is that women's movement involvement is restricted. In the New York Tenants movement, women were restricted to the most grass-roots organizing activities, while men did the negotiating (Lawson and Barton, 1980). In the 1960s Freedom Summer campaign, organizers worried about the consequences of white women recruits developing relationships with Black men in the South (McAdam, 1986).

As a consequence, the community organizing work that women do in social movements is also neglected. Payne (1989), Barnett (1993, 1995) and Robnett (l996) have challenged accounts of the civil rights movement that neglect the central contributions of women activists. Barnett (l993, 165) challenges research on modern social movement leadership that presents "the erroneous image that `all of the women are white, all of the Blacks are men'" She argues against the narrow definition of social movement leadership that elevates the movement spokesperson, while neglecting the "leaders", often women, who serve as grassroots organizers. Robnett (l996) analyzes how the "gendered organization" of the civil rights movement defined the social location of African-American women in the movement, creating a particular substructure of leadership.

It is possible that community organizing is neglected for the same reason that women's work in social movements has been neglected. Women's work and community organizing are both, to an extent, invisible labor. What people see is the flashy demonstration, not knowing the many hours of preparation building relationships and providing for participants' basic needs that made the demonstration possible. Indeed, community organizing is the part of social movements that occurs closest to the grassroots and is in fact more often done by women (Robnett, 1996; Lawson and Barton, 1980). Even when men, such as Saul Alinsky, do it, it receives short shrift. And social movement analysis, with some exception (Taylor, 1989; Taylor and Rupp, 1993; Taylor and Whittier, 1992; Robnett, 1996; Stoecker, 1992) has scarcely developed concepts which would even allow us to see this grassroots labor, far less understand it.

What are some of the gender dimensions that would help us understand community organizing and its relationship to movement building? Our analysis begins with the historical division of American culture into public and private whperes that split the "public work done mostly by men in the formal economy and government from the "private" work done mostly by women in the community and home (Tilly and Scott, 1978). These spheres have always influenced each other (through routes such as the economic impact of women's unpaid domestic labor or the impact of economic policy changes on family quality of life), but have historically been organized around different logics with different cultures and, we argue, have produced two distinct models of community organizing. These two community organizing modeld--one developed by Saul Alinsky and the other developed by a wide variety or women--in fact begin from opposite ends of the public-private split. The Alinsky model begins with "community organizing"--the public sphere battles between the haves and have-nots. The women-centered model begins with "organizing community"--building relationships and empowering individuals through those relationships.

The Alinsky model, which we name after its most famous practitioner, is based in a conception of separate public and private spheres. Community organizing was not a job for family types, a position he reinforced by his own marital conflicts, by his demands on his trainees, and by his own poverty. In fact, if anything, the main role of the private sphere was to support the organizer's public sphere work. In his Rules for Radicals, Alinsky (1971) remarked:

The marriage record of organizers is with rare exception disastrous. Further, the tension, the hours, the home situation, and the opportunities, do not argue for fidelity. Also, with rare exception, I have not known really competent organizers who were concerned about celibacy. Here and there are wives and husbands or those in love relationships who understand and are committed to the work, and are real sources of strength to the organizer (p. 65).

His attitude toward which issues were important also illustrates his emphasis on the public sphere. While problems began in the private sphere, it was important to move the community to understand how those problems were connected to larger issues outside of the community. Thus, problems could not be solved within the community but by the community being represented better in the public sphere (Reitzes and Reitzes, 1987, pp.27-28). This is not to say that Alinsky avoided a focus on private sphere issues. His first successful organizing attempt, in Back of the Yards, produced a well-baby clinic, a credit union, and a hot lunch program (Finks, 1984, p. 21). But these programs were accomplished through public sphere strategizing, not private relationships. In establishing and maintaining the hot lunch program, Alinsky pushed the BYNC to understand its relationship to the national hot lunch program and "In order to fight for their own Hot Lunch project they would have to fight for every Hot Lunch project in every part of the United States." (Alinsky, 1969, p. 168).

The women-centered model, though it has a long history, has only recently received much attention as some feminist researchers and organizers began arguing for a theory of organizing that is feminist or "women-centered" (Ackelsberg l988; Barnett l995; ECCO 1989; Gutierrez and Lewis 1992; Haywoode l991; Weil l986; West and Blumberg l990). For the women-centered model, while organizing efforts are rooted in private sphere issues or relationships, the organizing process problematizes the split between public and private, since its "activities which do not fall smoothly into either category" (Tiano, l984, p. 21). Women's emotional attachments to their families affect their everyday community commitments and their priorities about what are appropriate targets for local social change efforts (Colfer and Colfer, 1978; Genovese, 1980; Stoneall, 1981). But women-centered organizing extends "the boundaries of the household to include the neighborhood" and, as its efforts move ever further out, ultimately "dissolve[s] the boundaries between public and private life, between household and civil society" (Haywoode, l991, p. 175). Organizing to secure tenant rights, local daycares, and youth programs "define a sphere which is public, yet closer to home" (Haywoode, l991, p. 175) and demonstrates the importance of the interconnections between the spheres (Ackelsberg, l988; Petchesky, l979). Women-centered organizing utilizes "feminist" values, practices, and goals. Within this type of organizing there is an emphasis on community building, collectivism, caring, mutual respect, and self-transformation (Barnett l995). As we will discuss, women-centered organizing is defined as much by the historical placement of women in the home and neighborhood as the Alinsky model is defined by the historical placement of men in public governing and commerce.

In this paper, then, we address two neglected issues in one question: How do gender structures and identities play out in community organizing? It would be nice if we could just say that community organizing is the backstage women's work of movement building. But the most famous of the community organizers, Saul Alinsky, was a man, and one who was particularly fond of his masculine style of community organizing (see below).

This paper attempts to understand the not-quite-social-movement world of community organizing. We draw on U.S. examples across five decades utilizing secondary sources and our own community-based research to compare the Alinsky model and the women-centered model--which we see as two of the most important strands of community organizing in the United States. Our purpose is not to systematically test theories or evaluate the models. Rather, using a heuristic approach, we want to begin exploring the possible dimensions across which these two organizing models can be compared. Some authors have examined and critiqued the Alinsky style of organizing (Lancourt 1979; Sherrard and Murray 1965; Stein 1986), and a few authors have argued that there is a distinct way of women's organizing (ECCO l989; Haywoode l991; Oppenheim l991; Weil l986), but no one has compared these two approaches.

These "models" are ideal type constructs and, we suspect, do not occur as mutually exclusive in the real world. Indeed, many Alinsky organizations have been reluctant to engage in public conflict (Lancourt l979; Bailey 1972), and Alinsky followers such as Fred Ross, Cesar Chavez, and Ed Chambers increasingly emphasized private sphere issues and family and community relationship building (Reitzes and Reitzes l987a; Industrial Areas Foundation l978). We also focus on the more traditional Alinsky-style organizing rather than recent adaptations by groups like the IAF. Likewise, the women-centered model has to-date not been portrayed as a model and thus its practitioners, many of whom are trained in Alinsky-style organizing, are very diverse. Instead, our purpose is to show two strains of influence on community organizing.

We first examine the historical roots and some basic traits of each tradition. Next, we explore some key differences between the two approaches. We then discuss the implications of each model and the potential for integrating them.


The very term "community organizing" is inextricably linked with the late Saul Alinsky, whose community organizing career began in the late 1930s. As part of his field research job as a graduate student in criminology at the University of Chicago he was to develop a juvenile delinquency program in Chicago's "Back of the Yards," neighborhood downwind of the Chicago Stockyards--a foul-smelling and crime-ridden slum of poor Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks. When Alinsky arrived, the Congress of Industrial Organizations was organizing the stockyard workers living there. Expanding the CIO model beyond workplace issues, Alinsky organized the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) from local neighborhood groups, ethnic clubs, union locals, bowling leagues, and an American Legion Post. The success of BYNC in getting expanded city services and political power started Alinsky off on a long career of organizing poor urban communities around the country (Finks 1984; Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a).

Alinsky's targets shot at him, threw him in jail, and linked him to Communists, organized crime, and other "undesirables." He saw how the "haves" blatantly took from the "have nots" and unashamedly manipulated the consciousness of the "have a little, want mores." Alinsky had little patience for the version of community organizing practiced by social workers, saying "they organize to get rid of four-legged rats and stop there; we organize to get rid of four-legged rats so we can get on to removing two-legged rats" (Alinsky 1971, 68).

Alinsky often argued that a career as a community organizer had to come before all else, including family, and to enforce this he would keep his trainees up all hours of the night at meetings and discussions (Reitzes and Reitzes, 1987, p. 10). Though he did not publicly discourage women from engaging in the work (Alinsky, 1971), he was skeptical of women doing his kind of community organizing, fearing they were too delicate (Finks, 1984).1 Heather Booth, who went on to help found the Midwest Academy and Citizen Action, quit the Community Action Program of Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), believing that women received inadequate training from IAF and the IAF wasn't sensitive to women's issues.

Alinsky's approach has influenced an entire generation of organizers who adapted his principles, but retained a core of practices and assumptions we will explore later. The practice of the Alinsky model has built powerful organizations and produced visible victories across the country: Back of the Yards and TWO in Chicago, SECO in Baltimore, FIGHT in Rochester, MACO in Detroit, ACORN in Little Rock, ETCO in Toledo, and COPS in San Antonio, among others. These organizations have in some cases saved entire communities from destruction and produced influential leaders who have gone on to change the face of the public sphere.

Unlike the Alinsky model, the women-centered model of community organizing cannot be attributed to a single person or movement. Indeed, a wide diversity of women have mobilized around many different issues using many different methods. We are most interested in those mobilizations which fit the community organizing definition of being locale-based.

This model can be traced back to African-American women's efforts to sustain home and community under slavery. Bell hooks (l990; also see Davis l981) notes the historic importance for African-Americans of "homeplace" as a site to recognize and resist domination. Hooks argues,

Historically, African-American people believed that the construction of a homeplace, however fragile and tenuous (the slave hut, the wooden shack), had a radical political dimension...it was about the construction of a safe place where black people could affrim one another and by so doing heal many of the wouunds inflicted by racist domination" (l990 42).

Later, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African-American women involved in the Black Women's Clubs organized day-care centers, orphanages, and nursing homes. Others, such as Ida B. Wells, organized campaigns around such issues as lynching and rape (Duster 1970; Giddings l984; Gutierrez and Lewis l992).

Also important in understanding the historical roots of current women-centered organizing efforts are Anglo women's "municipal housekeeping" activities of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "Then public spirited women, in attempting to overcome disapproval of their public role...explain[ed] that they were only protecting their homes and families by extending their activities from the home into the public arena. Women claimed the right to be guardians of the neighborhood, just as they were acknowledged to be guardians of the family"(Haywoode l991, l80). Since then, women have created numerous voluntary and benevolent associations to campaign for concrete reforms in local neighborhoods and broader reforms in municipal services, education, labor, housing, health care, and childrens' rights (Berg 1978; Haywoode l991; Tax 1980).

Perhaps the most famous of these activities were the settlement houses, founded primarily by college-educated white middle-class women who believed they should live in the neighborhood wherethey worked (Bryan and Davis l990, 5). The most well-known settlement house organizer was Jane Addams, who with Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House on Chicago's west side in 1889. Their goal was to improve the social networks, social services, and community life in poverty-stricken immigrant slums. They succeeded in developing parks, playgrounds, expanded community services, and neighborhood plans. They were also involved in social reform movements promoting labor legislation for women and children, care of delinquents, and women's suffrage. But community organizers often saw them as engaging in charity work rather than adversarial social action (Brandwein l981, l987; Finks 1984, 96-7), and clinical social workers saw them as violating the detached casework method that emphasized individual treatment over social reform and community development (Drew l983; Lee l937; Specht and Courtney l994).

The women-centered model also carries a history of success different from the Alinsky model. The activism of women in the early settlement movement, the civil rights movement, and the consciousness-raising groups of the radical branch of the 1970s women's movement allowed women to challenge both private and public arrangements in ways that would forever effect their relationships, housework, parenting practices, and career paths. The consequent changes in women's health care and women's knowledge of their own bodies, in cultural practices around dating and relationships, and the relationship between work and family are still reverberating through society. That these successes have not been better documented owes to the fact that struggles focused on the private sphere have been neither defined nor valued as important. Today, women of color, low-income, and working class women create and sustain numerous protest efforts and organizations to alter living conditions or policies that threaten their families and communities (Bookman and Morgen l988; Feldman and Stall, 1994; Garland l988; Gilkes l988; Gutierrez and Lewis l992; Hamilton l991; Haywoode l991; Leavitt 1993; McCourt l977; Rabrenovic l995). These include, but are not limited to tenant organizing (Lawson and Barton l990), low income housing (Breitbart and Pader l995; Feldman and Stall, 1994), welfare rights (Naples l991), and environmental issues (Pardo l990).


The Alinsky model and the women-centered model begin from different starting points--the rough and tumble world of aggressive public sphere confrontation; and the cooperative nurturant world of private sphere personal and community development. Consequently, they have very different views of what human nature is and its role in human conflict.

Among all the tenets of the Alinsky model, the assumption of self-interest has the strongest continuing influence (Beckwith n.d.) and is strongly influenced by the centrality of the public shpere in the Alinsky model.. Modern society, from Alinsky's perspective, is created out of compromise between self-interested individuals operating in the public sphere. Thus, organizing people requires appealing to their self-interest. People become involved because they think there is something in it for themselves (Alinsky 1969, 94-98; 1971, 53-9). Alinsky's emphasis on self-interest was connected to his wariness of ideology. From his perspective, organizing people around abstract ideology leads to boredom at best and ideological disputes at worst. Alinsky also feared ideology becoming dogma and was adamant that building a pragmatic organization should come before promoting any ideology. He did hope that, as the community became organized, the process would bring out "innate altruism" and "affective commitment." But even that level of commitment was based on building victories through conflict with targets (Lancourt 1979, 51; Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a, 56; 1987b). Alinsky relates the story of one organizer's effort to start a "people's organization" and how he used self-interest to achieve the desired result:

Mr. David was a businessman who...had avoided participation in any kind of social-betterment program or community group....His whole manner let me know that in his opinion I was just another `do-gooder' and as soon as I finished my song and dance he would give me a dollar or two and wish me well. I suddenly shifted from my talk on the children and began to point out indirectly the implications of his joining our organization....I could almost hear Mr. David thinking..."And where could I get better business relations than at this meeting." Then David turned to me and said "I'll be at that meeting tonight." Immediately after I left David I went across the street to Roger, who is in the same business, and I talked to him the same way. Roger had a doubled-barreled incentive for coming. First there was David's purpose and secondly Roger wanted to make sure that David would not take away any part of his business (Alinsky 1969, 95-97).

Since Alinsky saw society as a compromise between competing self-interested individuals, conflict was inevitable, and a pluralist polity was the means by which compromise was reached. Since poor people are at an initial disadvantage in that polity, the organizer's job is to prepare citizens to engage in the level of public conflict necessary for them to be included in the compromise process (Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a). Alinsky contended that the only way to overcome the inertia that exists in most communities (Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a, 70) was to "rub raw the resentments of the people in the community" (Alinsky 1971, 116). In order to engage in the level of battle necessary to win, "the rank and file and the smaller leaders of the organizations must be whipped up to a fighting pitch" (Alinsky 1969, 151). Alinsky would engage small-scale conflicts within communities against unscrupulous merchants, realtors, and even entrenched community organizations, to build victories and a sense of power (Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a, 54, 65), treating even the relatively private sphere of the neighborhood as a public sphere arena. Alinsky's involvement in 1960s Rochester with FIGHT, pressing for Kodak to support an affirmative hiring and jobs program, is illustrative. FIGHT began with a drawn-out negotiation process, and then Alinsky escalated to confrontational rhetoric and pickets. When Kodak reneged on a signed agreement, Alinsky and FIGHT organized a proxy campaign for Kodak's annual meeting. Forty members of FIGHT and Friends of FIGHT attended the meeting, demanded that Kodak reinstate its original agreement by 2 pm, and then walked out to 800 supporters in the street. They came back at 2 pm and were told Kodak would not reverse its position. The FIGHT leadership came out and told the crowd: "Racial War has been declared on black communities by Kodak. If it's war they want, war they'll get." Threats of a major demonstration in July and further escalation of the conflict produced a behind the scenes agreement at the eleventh hour (Finks 1984, 213-221).

Unlike the Alinsky model, women-centered organizing involvement does not emanate from self-interest but from an ethic of care maintained by relationships built on years of local volunteer work in the expanded private sphere, particularly community associations (Stall, 1991). Rather than a morality of individual rights, women learn a morality of responsibility that is connected to relationships and is based on the "universality of the need for compassion and care" (Gilligan l977: 509). Women-centered organizers grasp the meaning of justice not as a compromise between self-interested individuals, but as a practical reciprocity in the network of relationships that make up the community (Ackelsberg l988; Haywoode 1991; Stall, 1991). Leavitt (l993) describes how concern for their children's welfare led a group of African-American women in Los Angeles in the late l980s to focus on rehabbing the existing tot lots in their public housing development. In Nickerson Gardens, as in public housing across the country, women make up the overwhelming majority of grassroots organizers. The campaign of this all-women tot-lot committee ignited them to testify at housing authority hearings, conduct a community survey, and eventually secure funds and participate in the design and the construction of two play areas in their low-income community. They did not manipulate self-interest but instead built a cooperative consensus.

Within the women-centered model, the maintenance and development of social cohesion--personal connections with others that provide a safe environment for people to develop, change and grow--is more immediately important than conflict to gain institutional power (Kaplan l982). For women, community relationships include the social fabric created through routine activities related to the private sphere, such as childcare, housekeeping, and shopping (DeVault l991), as well as through social arrangements they make to protect, enhance, and preserve the cultural experience of community members (Bernard l981, Stoneall l983). Historically, women have relied on community networks to feed, clothe, and shelter their families (Sacks 1988a, 21; also see Hill Collins l990). Particularly for women, communal structures can serve as "free spaces" offering arenas outside of the family where women can develop a "growing sense that they [have] the right to work -- first in behalf of others, then in behalf of themselves" (Evans and Boyte l981, 61; l986).

Women residents of the Wentworth Gardens Chicago public housing development in Chicago, in 1968, created and now continue to manage their own laundromat which provides both on-site laundry facilities and a community space that serves as a primary recruitment ground for community activists. The ongoing volunteer work of women residents over four decades has assured the laundromat's continued success, and has helped numerous women develop skills and self-confidence to further develop the community through the opening of an on-site grocery store and obtaining other improvements to their housing. A Resident Service Committee, made up of laundromat volunteers, meets monthly to resolve problems and allocate laundromat profits to annual community festivals, scholarship funds, and other activities.

Both models have seemingly inconsistent understandings of power and politics. These inconsistencies are rooted partly in the ways each thinks about human nature, but are also particularly affected by how they deal with the public-private split. The Alinsky model sees power as zero-sum, but the polity as pluralist. The women-centered model sees power as infinitely expanding, but the polity as structurally biased. Understanding both the differences between the models, and their seeming inconsistencies, requires looking at how each deals with the public-private split.

For the Alinsky model, power and politics both occur in the public sphere. When power is zero-sum, the only way to get more is to take it from someone else. Alinsky was adamant that real power could not be given, but only taken. He watched how obsessed elites were with power, even taking it from each other when they could and thus making the very structure of power zero-sum. Thus, the method for a poor community to gain power was through public sphere action--by picking a single elite target, isolating it from other elites, personalizing it, and polarizing it (Alinsky 1971).2 The 1960s Woodlawn Organization (TWO) was one of Alinsky's most famous organizing projects in an African American neighborhood on Chicago's south side. When TWO was shut out of urban renewal planning for their neighborhood, they commissioned their own plan, and threatened to occupy Lake Shore Drive during rush hour unless their plan held sway. Not only did they get agreement on a number of their plan proposals, they also controlled a new committee to approve all future plans for their neighborhood, shifting control of urban planning from city hall to the neighborhood (Finks, l984, 153; Reitzes and Reitzes, 1987)).

In women-centered organizing, power begins in the private sphere of relationships, and thus is not conceptualized as zero-sum, but as limitless and collective. "Co-active power" is based on human interdependence and the development of all within the group or the community through collaboration (Follet l940; see also Hartsock l974). "[I]t belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together" (Arendt l969, 44). The goal of a women-centered organizing process is empowerment (ECCO l989). Empowerment is a developmental process that includes building skills through repetitive cycles of action and reflection which evoke new skills and understandings, which in turn provoke new and more effective actions (Keiffer l984). Empowerment includes the development of a more positive self-concept and self-confidence; a more critical world view; and the cultivation of individual and collective skills and resources for social and political action (Rappaport l986; Van Den Bergh and Cooper l986; Weil l986). In the case of the Cedar Riverside Project Area Committee, an organization dedicated to planning resident-controlled redevelopment of a counter-culture Minneapolis neighborhood, tensions developed in the 1980s between those who emphasized building power as an outcome and empowering residents as a process. One woman organizer compares her approach to that of the lead organizer:

I disagree with Tim, but he's a very empowering person. Tim is more Alinsky. For me, the process, not the outcome, is the most important.... The empowerment of individuals is why I became involved.... I was a single mother looking for income, and was hired as a block worker for the dispute resolution board, and gained a real sense of empowerment.

Power, for this organizer, is gained not through winning a public sphere battle, but by bringing residents together to resolve disputes and build relationships within their own community.

When we shift the focus from more abstract notions of power to more concrete practices of politics, both models are forced to work in the public sphere. But the public sphere-private sphere split still influences how each relates to politics.

The Alinsky model sees itself as already in the public sphere, and as a consequence already part of the political system. The problem was not gaining access--the rules of politics already granted access. Rather, the problem was effectively organizing to make the most of that access. Alinsky believed that poor people could form their own interest group and access the polity just like any other interest group. They may have to make more of a fuss to be recognized initially, but once recognized, their interests would be represented just like anyone else's. Community organizing, for Alinsky, was bringing people together to practice democracy. Consequently, Alinsky did not see a need for dramatic structural adjustments. The system was, in fact, so good that it would protect and support the have-nots in organizing against those elites who had been taking unfair advantage (Alinsky l969; Lancourt l979, 31-35; Reitzes and Reitzes 1987, 17-18). Alinsky organizations support government even while attacking office holders (Bailey 1972, 136). When the IAF-trained Ernesto Cortez returned to San Antonio to help found Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in 1973, he began with the traditional strategy of escalating from negotiations to protests to achieve better city services for Latino communities. Soon after their initial successes, COPS turned to voter mobilization, eventually resulting in a slim win to change San Antonio's council from at-large to district representation. From there they were able to control half of the council's seats, bringing over half of the city's federal Community Development Block Grant funds to COPS projects from 1974-1981. Eventually COPS found that its political lobbying and voter mobilization tactics outpaced the effectiveness of confrontation and protest (Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a, 121-123). Heather Booth's Citizen Action project has taken this pluralist organizing approach to its logical extreme, focusing her energies entirely on voter mobilization in cities and states around the country (Reitzes and Reitzes l987a, 153).

The women-centered model, however, approaches politics from an experience and consciousness of the exclusionary qualities of the public-private sphere split, which becomes embedded in a matrix of domination along structural axes of gender, race, and social class and hides the signficance of women's work in local settings. This matrix has historically excluded women from public sphere politics, and restricted them through the sexual division of labor to social reproduction activities centered in the home (Cockburn l977; Kaplan l982, 545). Increasingly, women have politicized the private sphere as a means to combat exclusion from the public agenda (Kaplan l982). Thus, women have organized around issues that flow from their distinct histories, every day experiences, and perspectives (Ackelsberg 1988; Bookman and Morgen l988; ECCO 1989; Haywoode l991; Stall, 1991; West and Blumberg l990; Wilson l977). Women-centered organizing "dissolve[s] the boundaries between public and private life, between household and civil society" and extends "the boundaries of the household to include the neighborhood" (Haywoode l991, 175). Organizing to secure local daycares, youth programs, tenant rights and a clean environment "define a sphere which is public, yet closer to home" (Haywoode l991, 175) and demonstrates the importance of the interconnections between the spheres (Ackelsberg l988; Petchesky l979). Cynthia Hamilton (l99l), a community organizer in South Central Los Angeles, described a primarily women-directed organizing campaign to stop the solid waste incinerator planned for their community in the late l980s. These low income women, primarily African-American, with no prior political experience, were motivated by the health threat to their homes and children. They built a loose, but effective organization, the Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, and were gradually joined by white, middle-class, and professional women from across the city. The activists began to recognize their shared gender oppression as they confronted the sarcasm and contempt of male political officials and industry representatives--who dismissed their human concerns as "irrational, uninformed, and disruptive" (44)--and restrictions on their organizing created by their family's needs. Eventually they forced incinerator industry representatives to compromise and helped their families accept a new division of labor in the home to accommodate activists' increased public political participation.3

Leadership is another characteristic of these models that shows the influence of the public-private split. The Alinsky model maintains and explicit between public sphere leaders, called "organizers," and private sphere community leaders who occupy decision-making positions in formal community organizations. For the women centered model, leadership begins in the private sphere, but leadership becomes a form of boundary spanning across public and private spheres.

For Alinsky, the organizer is a professional consultant from outside the community whose job is to get people to adopt a delegitimizing frame (Ferree and Miller 1985; Gamson et al. 1982;) that breaks the power structure's hold over them (Bailey 1972, 46-7). Advocates of the Alinsky approach contend that organizing is a very complex task requiring professional-level training and experience (Bailey 1972, 137; Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a, 53). In many cases organizers must "disorganize" or reorganize the community since so many communities are organized for apathy (Alinsky 1971, 116; Bailey 1972, 50). The Alinsky model also maintains a strict role separation between outside organizers and the indigenous leaders that organizers are responsible for locating and supporting (Lancourt 1979; Reitzes and Reitzes 1987b). New leaders have to be developed, often outside of the community's institutionally-appointed leadership structure. The focus is not on those individuals, however, but on building a strong organization and getting material concessions from elites. Organizers have influence, but only through their relationships with indigenous leaders (Lancourt 1979). It may appear curious that Alinsky did not emphasize building indigenous organizers, especially since the lack of indigenous organizing expertise often led to organizational decline after the pros left (Lancourt 1979).4 Tom Gaudette, an Alinsky-trained organizer who helped build the Organization for a Better Austin (OBA) in Chicago, explicitly discouraged his organizers from living in the neighborhood, arguing they had to be able to view the community dispassionately in order to be effective at their job (Bailey 1972, 80). But when viewed through the lens of the public-private split, it is clear that the organizers are leaders who remain in the public sphere, always separate from the expanded private sphere of community. Because the organizers remain in the public sphere, they become the link that pulls private sphere leaders, and their communities, in to public action.

There is less separation between organizers and leaders in the women-centered model, as women-centered organizers, rather than being outsiders, are more often rooted in local networks. they are closely linked to those with whom they work and organize and act as mentors or facilitators of the empowerment process.5 Private sphere issues seem paramount with these organizers. They find they need to deal with women's sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem (Miller l986)--before they can effectively involve them in sustained organizing efforts. Mentoring others as they learn the organizing process is premised on the belief that all have the capacity to be leaders /organizers. Rather than focusing on or elevating individual leaders, women-centered organizers seek to model and develop "group centered" leadership (Payne l989) that "embraces the participation of many as opposed to creating competition over the elevation of only a few" (ECCO l989, 16). Instead of moving people and directing events, this is a conception of leadership as teaching (Payne l989).6 Analyses of women-centered organizing and leadership development efforts also underline the importance of "centerwomen," or "bridge leaders," who use existing local networks to develop social groups and activities that create a sense of familial/community consciousness, connecting people with similar concerns and heightening awareness of shared issues (Sacks l988b; Robnett, 1996). These leaders can transform social networks into a political force, and demonstrate how the particular skills that women learn in their families and communities (e.g., interpersonal skills, planning and coordination, conflict mediation) can be translated into effective public sphere leadership. Robnett (l996) provides evidence that, "The activities of African-American women in the civil rights movement provided the bridges necessary to cross boundaries between the personal lives of potential constituents and adherents and the political life of civil rights movement organizations" (1664). Thus, ironically, gender as a "construct of exclusion...helped to develop a strong grassroots tier of leadership…women who served as "bridge leaders" who were central to the "development of identity, collective consciousness, and solidarity within the civil rights movement" (Robnett l996, 1667). Although bridge leaders were not exclusively women, this "intermediate layer" of leadership was the only one available to women at that time (Robnett l996). Mrs. Amey, now seventy years old, has been a key activist and a centerperson in nearly all of the Wentworth Gardens organizing efforts discussed earlier since the mid-l950s. A woman resident's description of Mrs. Hallie Amey provides some insight into the importance of her leadership role:

She's [Mrs. Amey's] the type of person who can bring a lot of good ideas to the community....And she's always there to help. And she's always here; she's always doing things. And she's always pulling you, she's pushing you, and she's calling you, "We've got to do this!" She makes sure you don't forget what you have to do. Early in the morning she's on the phone, "Mrs. Harris, what time you coming out?'' That was to say, "you gonna do it without me having to ask, or you giving me an excuse (Stall, interview, 1991)?

The Organizing Process

Finally, these two models adopt organizing processes that reflect the influence of, and their conceptualization of, the public-private split. The Alinsky model emphasizes farge formal public organizations to manage large visible public events. The women-centered model emphasizes the development of informal small groups that take on less visible issues, in the private sphere, in less visible ways.

Within the Alinsky model the organizing process centers on identifying and confronting public issues to be addressed in the public sphere. Door knocking is the initial strategy for identifying issues. Those issues then become the means of recruitment to the organizing effort. The organization bills itself as the best, if not only, means of resolving those issues. The "mass meeting" is the means for framing issues and celebrating gains. Important to the process of building up to the mass meeting are cumulative victories--beginning with an easily winnable issue, and using the energy generated by that win to build to bigger and bigger issues. The public activities of the mass march, the public rally, the explicit confrontation, the celebrated win, are all part of building a strong organization that can publicly represent the community's interests. The annual public convention is the culmination of the Alinsky organizing process. The first annual convention of the East Toledo Community Organization in 1979 was preceded by flyers emphasizing the neglect of the east side of Toledo by city government, broken promises from officials, the victories of initial organizing, and the unity developing in the community. ETCO mailed packets across East Toledo that produced 500 registrants for the meeting. At the meeting itself the 500-1000 people gathered passed 13 resolutions covering dangerous rail crossings, park maintenance, utility complaints, service shortages, truck traffic, and many other issues (Stoecker, 1995).

In the Alinsky model, the organizer isn't there just to win a few issues, but to build an enduring organization that can continue to claim power and resources for the community--to represent the community in a public sphere pluralist polity. The organizer shouldn't start from scratch but from the community's pre-existing organizational base of churches, service organizations, clubs, etc. In many cases, the community organizations created also spawn community-based services such as credit unions, daycare, etc. This is not a process to be taken lightly or with few resources. Alinsky often insisted that, before he would work with a community, they had to raise $150,000 to cover three years of expenses (Lancourt 1979). When Ed Chambers took over the Industrial Areas Foundation from Alinsky, he required $160,000 just to cover startup costs for a serious organizing project (Industrial Areas Foundation 1978). For Alinsky, the organization itself was part of the tactical repertoire of community organizing. Dave Beckwith, an Alinsky-style organizer with the Center for Community Change, also argues for the centrality of the organization.

If an organization doesn't grow, it will die...People naturally fade in and out of involvement as their own life's rhythms dictate--people move, kids take on baseball for the spring, they get involved with Lamaze classes, whatever. If there are not new people coming in, the shrinkage can be fatal. New issues and continuous outreach are the only protection against this natural process. (Beckwith n.d., 13)

The presence, and partial restriction, of women in the private sphere leads the women-centered organizing model to emphasize a very different organizing process formed around creating an ideal private-sphere-like setting rather than a large public sphere organization. The process begins by creating a safe and nurturing space where women can identify and discuss issues effecting the private sphere (Gutierrez, l990). This model uses the small group to establish trust, and build "informality, respect, [and] tolerance of spontaneity" (Hamilton l991, 44). The civil rights organizer, Ella Baker, was dubious about the long-term value of mass meetings, lobbying and demonstrations. Instead, she advocated organizing people in small groups so that they could understand their potential power and how best to use it, which had a powerful influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (Britton l968; Payne l989).7 Small groups create an atmosphere that affirms each participant's contribution, provides the time for individuals to share, and makes it possible for participants to listen carefully to each other (Stall, 1993). Gutierrez and Lewis (l992 126) affirm that, "The small group provides the ideal environment for exploring the social and political aspects of `personal' problems and for developing strategies for work toward social change". Moreover, smaller group settings create and sustain the relationship building and sense of significance and solidarity so integral to community.8 Women in Organizing (WIO), a 1990s urban-based project, organized twelve low income, African-American teenage mothers to gain self-sufficiency and political empowerment. One of the organizing staff described the effort of this "Young Moms Program":

Our work is about connecting women with each other, about transforming their experience in terms of working with mixed groups of people of different races, about building the confidence of individual women and building the strengths of groups....All of our work is really about leadership development of women, of learning more of how consciousness develops, of how we can collectively change the world.

While WIO did help these women to organize an advocacy meeting with public officials, the meeting was preceded by nearly five months of training sessions that addressed less traditional issues such as personal growth and advocacy in the family, as well as more traditional organizing issues (Stall, 1993).

Because there is less focus on immediate public sphere action in the women-centered model, a continuing organization is not as central in initial organizing. In place of the focus on organization building are "modest struggles" ----"small, fragmented, and sometimes contradictory efforts by people to change their lives" (Krauss l983, 54). These short-lived collective actions (e.g., planting a community garden, opening a daycare, organizing a public meeting) are often begun by loosely organized groups. The organizing efforts of the African-American women in South Central Los Angeles, described earlier, functioned for a year and a half without any formal leadership structure. Their model depended on a rotating chair, stymying the media's hunger for a "spokesperson" (Hamilton, l991, p. 44; see also Ferguson, l984). If empowerment is "a process aimed at consolidating, maintaining, or changing the nature and distribution of power in a particular cultural context" (Bookman and Morgen l988, 4), modest struggles are a significant factor in this process. Engagement in modest resistance allows women to immediately alter their community and gain a sense of control over their lives. Attention to these struggles is necessary in order to understand the more elusive process of resistance that takes place beneath the surface and outside of what have conventionally been defined as community organizing, social protest, or social movements (Feldman and Stall, 1994). Women can achieve significant change in their neighborhoods by building on the domestic sphere and its organization, rather than separating it from their public activities (Clark l994).. Research on New York City co-op apartment tenants in the 1980s, found that the tenant leaders were almost always women, the majority were African-American and were long-time residents of their building and their community (Leavitt and Saegert l990; Clark l994). These women organizers/leaders applied skills they had learned and used to sustain their own families to the larger sphere of the building. They often met around kitchen tables and they made building-wide decisions with the same ethic of personal care that they applied to friends and family. Many of the tenant meetings included food made by different women residents who equated sharing their dish with the recognition of their role. The style and success of organizing was rooted in aspects of the social life within buildings and on a gender-based response to home and community. They discusses rent payment and eviction issues in terms of the situations of each tenant involved, and searched for alternatives that supported residents' overall lives as well as ensured that good decisions were made for the building as a whole (Clark l994:943).


We see the differences in these two models as at least partly the result of the historical split of family and community life into public and private spheres as U.S. industrial capitalism destroyed Colonial-era community-based enterprise and forced men to work outside of the home and away from the community (Tilly and Scott 1978). The competitive, aggressive, distrustful, confrontational culture of the public sphere contrasts starkly with the nurturant, connected, relationship-building and care-taking ideal of the private sphere. Clearly the emphasis on conflict, opposition, separation, and winning in the Alinsky model reflects public sphere culture. And just as clearly the emphasis on nurturance, connectedness, and relationship-building in the women-centered model reflects private sphere culture (Cott l977). The fact that for nearly four decades the Alinsky model was the preserve of male organizers, and training in the Alinsky model was controlled by men for even longer, while the women-centered model developed in settings closer to the domestic sphere often among groups of women, reflects and has influenced the development of these differences (Stall, 1991; ECCO 1989).

In the disinvestment and deindustrialization that has come with global capitalism, each model is as weak by itself as a nuclear family with a full-time male breadwinner and a full-time female homemaker. As corporations either disinvested wholesale from their host communities or downsized their local workforce, they forced women into wage-earning positions to make up for male wage losses, leading to pressures on men to take on more private sphere tasks. In poor communities that disinvestment left devastation--neighborhoods without businesses, services, or safety. Indeed, many urban neighborhoods of the 1980s and 1990s were no longer communities at all, but only collections of medium and high density housing with few sustainable social relationships. In this kind of a setting, gender-segregated organizing models can work no better than gender-segregated family members. Imagine trying to employ the Alinsky model organizing young moms who are socially isolated and exhausted from the daily grind of trying to make ends meet. The masculine confrontational style of the Alinsky model, that must assume prior community bonds so it can move immediately into public sphere action, may be disabling for certain grass-roots organizing efforts, "particularly in domains where women are a necessary constituency" (Lawson and Barton l990, 49). The de-emphasis on relationship building in the Alinsky model will mean that, where neighborhoods are less and less communities, and the people in them are less and less empowered, the community can engage the battle but not sustain it. Large organizations may in fact inhibit empowerment because they are not "likely to offer the kind of nurturing of individual growth that smaller ones can provide, and may be especially off-putting to members of low-income communities, where the predominant style of relating to individuals is still prebureaucratic" (Payne 1989, 894). Consequently, internal power struggles will threaten many Alinsky-style organizations in these settings.

At the same time, the problems that poor communities face today cannot be solved at the private sphere or local levels. The women-centered model, consequently, is also weak by itself. First is the risk that postponing public sphere confrontation with a white patriarchal capitalist elite will maintain the vulnerability of at-risk communities, because white patriarchal capitalists don't play fair. While women-centered organizers are concentrating on personal empowerment--a process which cannot be rushed--the bulldozers could be coming. One criticism of consciousness-raising in the women's movement is that it doesn't translate into action very effectively (Cassell l989, 55; Ferree and Hess 1985, 64-67; Freeman, 1975). Indeed, those risks appeared very pronounced in the Young Moms program described above. When the program was threatened with a staff lay-off, organized resistance was difficult to mobilize. But they also appeared in the Wentworth Gardens case where the maintaining a community-run on-site grocery store became difficult as warehouses refused to deliver to what they saw as a `dangerous' neighborhood. And they appeared in Cedar-Riverside as a community clinic saw its funding cut and had to reduce services. Both communities had shifted away from confrontational, Alinsky-style tactics to meet these issues and were consequently unable to establish effective campaigns against these threats. The creation, nurturance, and maintenance of community in the face of forces which threaten to destroy it--through neglect, disinvestment, or disdain--is an act of resistance. It is a blow against the power structure just to survive (Hill Collins l991; hooks l990). But the women-centered model may not work when outside forces consciously attempt to destroy the community through any means available. There is also a danger that this model may degenerate into a social service program, reducing participants to clients. This tendency is what the settlement house movement, and the subsequent "social work" version of community organizing, has been criticized for.9

Today, global capitalism also creates a new set of challenges for community organizing that requires drawing on both models. With footloose capital that can make broad-reaching decisions, and can hop around at the slightest sign of resistance from a local community, community organizing must build even stronger relationships and interpersonal ties at the local level, and mobilize those communities for even more forceful public sphere actions. You can't do an action at your local bank, because your local bank is owned by a corporation hundreds of miles or more away. Organizing to counteract and control global corporations requires at least national and probably international coalitions. At the same time, you must organize locally or there will not be a strong enough base on which to build anything larger. Building relationships that are rooted in strong local bases, that can then be linked together, requires both models. Julian Rappaport (1981) describes the "paradox of empowerment" as the need to organize simultaneously at the personal and structural levels. True communities (with strong networks, culture, mutual support systems, etc.) under siege from identifiable sources need to engage in confrontational campaigns to defend themselves, and will probably benefit most from emphasizing the Alinsky model. Communities that really are not communities--that lack the networks, culture, support systems and other qualities--require first the foundation that the women-centered model can provide to prevent self-destructive oligarchies. But in both cases the other model cannot be neglected. The tension created by the Alinsky model challenges the strongest community bonds and requires compensating strategies of relationship building and personal empowerment. And as much as a strong community provides the foundation for a strong defense, when a threat presents itself, the community has to be able to respond effectively. This integration of the two models also must be done very carefully. You can't just add together an Alinsky organizing process with a women-centered leadership model, for example. Rather, integration needs to occur across each principle so that the models are combined. Ella Baker's comments that "real organizing" is working in small groups with people so that they can discover their competencies, and then "parlaying those into larger groups" (Britton l968, 67) is an example of bringing together the organizing process components of the Alinsky and women-centered models.

Careful attention to history also shows there are times when one model will be more viable than the other. Robert Fisher (1984) showed a see-sawing between more militant and more community-building periods of community organizing which seem to correspond to progressive and reactionary periods in history. The transformation of Alinsky-style community organizing efforts in the Reagan 1980s into community development efforts, and the "discovery" of women-centered organizing during that same period, may also support the contention that the two types of organizing may be more effective under different conditions. Reactionary periods such as the 1980s force social movements into "abeyance" (Taylor 1989) where the maintenance of community bonds and the provision of emotional support become paramount, since public sphere action seems ineffectual. In these periods, the women-centered model sustains the possibility for future public sphere action. Certainly, in the wake of the deindustrialization and devastation of inner city communities there is a tremendous need to rebuild communities of place. Mary Pardo (1990, 6) notes that "The issues traditionally addressed by women--health, housing, sanitation, and the urban environment--have moved to center stage as capitalist urbanization progresses." Community organizing today faces special challenges, as the targets are no longer visible and local. As we move into the next century, if women-centered organizing succeeds in rebuilding community bonds, aspects of the Alinsky model may again become applicable. Some social workers are trying to resurrect the profession’s community organizing roots (Specht and Courtney, 1994) and are calling for a return to the empowerment model ala Piven and Cloward (1979). And the realization that global economic processes continually threaten local communities may provide for a new round of social movement activity.


1Alinsky, along with Fred Ross, were instrumental in organizing "educationals" in California that used a popular education process to support the organizing process. These educationals produced the first woman organizer hired by Alinsky, and the first organizing effort targeting women specifically (Finks, 1984:68-71).

2This is not to say that Alinsky avoided a focus on private sphere issues. His first successful organizing attempt, in Back of the Yards, produced a well-baby clinic, a credit union, and a hot lunch program (Finks 1984, 21). But these programs were accomplished through public sphere strategizing, not private relationships. In establishing and maintaining the hot lunch program, Alinsky pushed the organization to understand its relationship to the national hot lunch program and "In order to fight for their own Hot Lunch project they would have to fight for every Hot Lunch project in every part of the United States" (Alinsky 1969, 168).

3In Bullard's (1993) study of nine cases of grassroots community groups fighting proposed toxic industrial sites, incinerators, or hazardous waste landfills, seven of these communities were organized by women. These women improved "the environments of day to day life" by utilizing family, ethnic, and community networks, creating a sense of community commitment and connection (Wekerle l996, 141).

4Sometimes, indigenous organizers did develop. Fred Ross's work in the Southwest, for example, produced an indigenous organizer by the name of Cesar Chavez (Reitzes and Reitzes 1987a).

5Fish (l986) distinguishes the Hull House mentoring model from the traditional mentor model based on an unequal distribution of power between an older gatekeeper or instructor and an apprentice. The mentor model at Hull House, rather than a dyad, included a larger support system characterized by a network of egalitarian relationships and shared visibility that provided both public and private supports for the women involved.

6The Civil Rights leader, Ella Jo Baker, throughout her life modeled group-centered leadership, stating that, "Strong people don't need strong leaders," (Cantarow and O'Malley l980, 53). At one point Ms. Baker shared, "I have always thought what is needed is the development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership among other people (Baker l973, 352).

7A quote from Payne (l989, 892-893) about Ella Baker's views shows the distinct position of the women-centered model on how the organizing is done, versus the immediate, visible outcome.

How many people show up for a rally may matter less than how much the people who organize the rally learn from doing so. If the attempt to organize the rally taught them anything about the mechanics of organizing, if the mere act of trying caused them to grow in self-confidence, if the organizers developed stronger bonds among themselves from striving together, then the rally may have been a success even if no one showed up for it. As she said, "You're organizing people to be self-sufficient rather than to be dependent upon the charismatic leader.

8Tom Gaudette, in rebuilding the Alinsky-style Organization for a Better Austin, started by creating small groups, but for the purpose of targeting issues and building a larger organization (Bailey l972:66), rather than to empower individuals as the women-centered model does.

 9To the extent that service provision can be organized through indigenous leaders, or "centerwomen", and the goal of empowerment sustained, this tendency can be countered. The Young Moms organizer explains, "I think social service programs for the African American community are really extended families that you are now getting paid to be [part of]. So if you look at it like that, it's really not about the numbers....It's about being there when the people need you." Gilkes (l988) discusses how women social service workers who live and work in Black communities are fashioning new organizational structures and practices and transforming old ones--rebeling against the traditional human service practices (e.g. impersonal, instrumental, bureaucratic) and restructuring their organizational settings to make them "Black-oriented" (56).


Ackelsberg, Martha. 1988. Communities, resistance, and women's activism: Some implications for a democratic policy. In Women and the politics of empowerment, edited by Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender & Society. 4:139-158.

Alinsky, Saul. 1969. Reveille for radicals. New York: Vintage Books.

________. 1971. Rules for radicals. New York: Vintage Books.

Arendt, Hannah. 1969. On violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.

Bailey, Robert Jr. 1972. Radicals in urban politics: The Alinsky approach. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Baker, E. 1973. Developing community leadership. In black women in white America, edited by Gerda Lerner. New York: Vintage.

Barnett, Bernice McNair. l993. Invisible southern Black women leaders in the civil rights movement: The triple constraints of gender, race, and class. Gender & Society 7:162-182.

________, 1995. Black women's collectivist movement organizations: Their struggles duringthe "doldrums." In Feminist organizations: Harvest of the new women's movement, edited by Myra Marx Ferree and Patricia Yancey Martin. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Beckwith, Dave (n.d.). Introduction to organizing. University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center.

Beckwith, David with Cristina Lopez. l997. Community organizing: People power from the grassroots. COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing and Development. http://sasweb.utoledo.edu/comm-org/papers.htm

Berg, Barbara J. 1978. The remembered gate: Origins of American feminism: The women and the city l800-1860. New York: Oxford University Press.

Berkowitz, Rabbi William, ed. 1975. Conversations with... New York: Block Publishers.

Bernard, Jessie. 1981. The female world. New York: Free Press.

Bobo, K., J. Kendall, and S. Max. l991. Organzing for social change: A manual for activists in the l990s. Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press.

Bookman, Ann and Sandra Morgen. l988. Women and the politics of empowerment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Brandwein, Ruth A. 1987. Women and community organization. In The woman client, edited by Dianne S. Burden and Naomi Gottlieb. New York: Tavistock Publications.

________. Toward the feminization of community and organizational practice. 1981. In Community organization for the l980s, edited by A. Lauffer and E. Newman. Special Issue of Social Development Issues ,5 (2-3):180-193.

Breines, Wini. l989. Community and organization in the new left, l962-1968. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Breitbart, M.M. and E.J. Pader. l995. Establishing ground: representing gender and race in a mixed housing development. Gender, Place and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 1: 5-20.

Britton, John. l968. Interview with Ella Baker: June 19, l968. Moorland-Springarn Collection, Howard University, 4.

Bryan, Mary Lunn McCree and Allen F. Davis, eds. 1990. 100 years at Hull-House. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Buechler, Steven M. l990. Women's movements in the United States: Woman suffrage, equal rights, and beyond. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

________l993. Beyond resource mobilization? Emerging trends in social movement theory. The Sociological Quarterly 34:217-236.

Bullard, Robert T. 1993. Confronting environmental racism: Voices from the grassroots. Boston: South End Press.

Caldwell, Agnes. 1994. We are not afraid: The influence of social reproduction on women's mobilization in Northeast Ireland. Paper presented at Annual Meetings of the Midwest Sociological Society, St. Louis.

Cassell, Joan. 1989. A group called women: Sisterhood and symbolism in the feminist movement. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.

Chodorow, Nancy. 1978. The reproduction of mothering. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cockburn, Cynthia. 1977. When women get involved in community action. In Women in the community, edited by Marjorie Mayo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Colfer, Carol J. and Michael L. Colfer. l978. Busher Bay: Lifeways in counterpoint. Rural Sociology 43 (2):204-220.

Collins, Patricia Hill. l990. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.

COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing and Development. l997. http://sasweb.utoledo.edu/docs/comm-org/cohome.htm.

Cott, Nancy F. 1977. The bonds of womanhood: `Woman's sphere' in New England. l780-1835. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Davis, Angela l981. Women, race and class. New York: Random House.

DeVault, Marjorie L. l991. Feeding the family: The social organization of caring as gender work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Drew, Patricia. l983. A longer view: The Mary E. Richard legacy. Baltimore: School of Social Work, University of Maryland.

DuBois, Ellen Carol. l978. Feminism and suffrage: The emergence of an independent women's movement in America, 1848-1869. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Duster, Alfreda. l970. The autobiography of Ida B. Wells. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Education Center for Community Organizing (ECCO). l989. Women on the advance: Highlights of a national conference on women and organizing. Stony Point, NY.

Evans, Sara M. and Harry C. Boyte. l986. Free spaces: The sources of democratic change in America. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

________. l981. Schools for action: Radical uses of social space. Democracy:55-65.

Ferguson, Kathy. l984. The feminist case against bureaucracy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Ferree, Myra Marx, and Beth B. Hess. 1985. Controversy and coalition: The new feminist movement. Boston: G. K. Hall and Company.

Ferree, Myra Marx, and Frederick Miller. 1985. Mobilization and meaning: Toward an integration of social psychological and resource perspectives on social movements. Sociological Inquiry 55:38-61.

Finks, P. David. 1984. The radical vision of Saul Alinsky. New York: Paulist Press.

Fisher, Robert. 1984. Let the people decide: Neighborhood organizing in America. Boston: Twayne.

Flexner, Eleanor. l975. Century of struggle: The women's rights movement in the United States. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Follett, Mary Parker. l940. Dynamic administration. New York: Harper and Row.

Freeman, Jo. 1975. The politics of women’s liberation. New York: David McKay.

Gamson, William A., Bruce Fireman, and Steven Rytina. 1982. Encounters with unjust authority. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.

Garland, Anne White. l988. Women activists: Challenging the abuse of power. New York: The Feminist Press.

Genovese, Rosalie G. l980. A women's self-help network as a response to service needs in the suburbs. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 3 Supplement S248-S256.

Giddings, Paula. l984. Where and when I enter: The impact of Black women on race and sex in America. New York: William Morrow and Company.

Gilkes, Cheryl Townsend. l988. Building in many places: Multiple commitments and ideologies in black women's community work. In Women and the politics of empowerment, edited by Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gilligan, Carol. l977. In a different voice: Women's conceptions of self and morality. Harvard Educational Review 47 (4):481-517.

Gutierrez, Lorraine M. l990. Working with women of color: An empowerment perspective. Social Work 35:149-154.

Gutierrez, Lorraine M. and Edith A. Lewis. l992. A feminist perspective on organizing with women of color. In Community organizing in a diverse society, edited by Felix G. Rivera and John l. Erlich. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hamilton, Cynthia. 1991. Women, home, and community. Women of Power (Spring): 42-45.

Hartsock, Nancy. 1974. Political change: Two perspectives on power. Quest: A Feminist Quarterly 1(1):10-25.

Haywoode, Terry L. l991. Working class feminism: Creating a politics of community, connection, and concern. Ph.D. dissertation, The City University of New York, New York.

hooks, bell. l990. Yearning: race, gender, and cultural politics. Boston: South End Press.

Industrial Areas Foundation. l978. Organizing for family and congregation. Franklin Square, NY: Industrial Areas Foundation.

Jonasdottir, Anna G. l988. On the concept of interest, women's interests, and the limitations of interest theory. In The political interests of gender, edited by Kathleen B. Jones and Anna G. Jonasdottir. London: Sage.

Kahn, Si. l991. Organizing: A guide for grassroots leaders. Silver Springs: MD: NASW Press.

Kaplan, Temma. 1982. Female consciousness and collective action: The case of Barcelona, 1910-1913. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 7(3):545-566.

Kieffer, Charles H. 1984. Citizen empowerment: A developmental perspective. In Studies in empowerment: Steps toward understanding action, edited by Julian Rappaport, C. Swift, and R. Hess. New York: Haworth.

Krauss, Celene. l983. The elusive process of citizen activism. Social Policy (Fall):50-55.

Lancourt, Joan I. l979. Confront or concede: The Alinsky citizen-action organizations. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Lawson, Ronald and Stephen E. Barton. l990. In Women and social protest, edited by Guida West and Rhoda Blumberg. New York: Oxford University Press.

Leavitt, Jacqueline. 1993. Women under fire: Public housing activism in Los Angeles. Frontiers 13(2):109-130.

Leavitt, Jacqueline and Susan Saegert. l990. From abandonment to hope: Community-households in Harlem. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lee, Porter R. l937. Social work as case and function and other papers. NewYork: Columbia University Press.

McAdam, Doug. l982. Political process and the development of Black insurgency. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

________. l986. Recruitment to high risk activism: The case of freedom summer. American Journal of Sociology 92:64-90.

________. 1989. Gender differences as the causes and consequences of activism. Paper presented at Annual Meetings, American Sociological Association.

McCourt, Kathleen. l977. Working class women and grassroots politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Miller, Jean Baker. 1986. Toward a new psychology of women. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Morris, Aldon. l984. The origins of the civil rights movement: Black communities organizing for change. New York: Free Press.

Oppenheim, Lisa. l991. Women's ways of organizing. Labor Research Review 18:45-59.

Pardo, Mary.1990. Mexican American women grassroots community activists: "Mothers of East Los Angeles." Frontiers 11 (1):1-7.

Payne, Charles. l989. Ella Baker and models of social change. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14 (4):885-899.

Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack. l979. Dissolving the hyphen: A report on Marxist-feminist groups 1-5. In Capitalist patriarchy and the case for socialist feminism, edited by Zillah Eisenstein. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Piven, Frances Fox, and Richard Cloward. 1979. Poor people's movements: Why they succeed, how they fail. New York: Vintage.

Rabrenovic, Gordana. l995. Woman and collective action in urban neighborhoods. In Gender in urban research, edited by Judith A. Garber and Robyne S. Turner. Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Rappaport, Julian. 1981. In praise of a paradox: A social policy of empowerment over prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology 9 (1):1-26.

_________. 1986. Terms of empowerment/exemplars of prevention: Toward a theory for community psychology. Paper presented at Annual Meetings, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Reitzes, Donald C. and Dietrich C. Reitzes. 1987a. The Alinsky legacy: Alive and kicking. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

_________. 1987b. Alinsky in the 1980s: Two contemporary community organiza tions. The Sociological Quarterly 27:265-284.

Robnett, Belinda. l996. African-American women in the civil rights movement, l954-l965: gender, leadership, and micromobilization. American Journal of Sociology.101 , NO. 6 (May): 1661-93.

Sacks, Karen Brodkin. l988a. Caring by the hour. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

________. l988b. Gender and grassroots leadership. In Women and the politics of empowerment, edited by Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Sherrard, Thomas D., and Richard C. Murray. 1965. The Church and neighborhood community organization. Social Work 10:3-14.

Snow, David A., E. Burke Rochford, Jr., Steven K. Worden, and Robert D. Benford. l986. Frame alignment processes, micromobilization, and movement participation. American Sociological Review 51:464-481.

Specht, Harry and Mark E. Courtney. l994. Unfaithful angels: How social work has abandoned its mission. New York: The Free Press.

Stein, Arlene. 1986. Between organization and movement: ACORN and the Alinsky model of community organizing. Berkeley Journal of Sociology 31:93-115.

Stoneall, Linda. l981. Cognitive mapping: Gender differences in the perception of community. Sociological Quarterly 51 (2):121-128.

________. 1983. Bringing women into community studies: A rural midwestern case study. Journal of the Community Development Society 14 (1).

Tax, Meredith. l980. The rising of the women: Feminist solidarity and class conflicts, 1880-1917. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Taylor, Verta. l989. Social movement continuity: The women's movement in abeyance. American Sociological Review 54:761-775.

Taylor, Verta and Nancy Whittier. l992. Collective identity in social movement communities: Lesbian feminist mobilization. In Frontiers in social movement theory, edited by Aldon D. Morris and Carol McClurg Mueller. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Taylor, Verta and Leila Rupp. l993. Women's culture and lesbian feminist activism: A reconsideration of cultural feminism. SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 19:32-61.

Tiano, Susan. l984. The public-private dichotomy: Theoretical perspectives on women in development. Social Science Journal 21 (4): 11-28.

Tilly, Charles. l984. Social movements and national politics. In Statemaking and social movements: Essays in history and theory, edited by Charles Bright and Susan Harding. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Tilly, Louise A., and Joan W. Scott. 1978. Women, Work, and Family. New York: Hold,Rinehart, and Winston.

Tracy, Elizabeth. 1994. Discourse, ideology, and ecofeminism. Paper presented at Annual Meetings, Midwest Sociological Association, St. Louis.

Van Den Bergh, Nan and Lynn B. Cooper,edits. l986. Feminist visions for social work. Silver Springs, MD: National Association of Social Workers.

Wekerle, Gerda R. l996. Reframing urban sustainablity: Women's movement organizing and the local state. In Local places in the age of the global city. edited by Roger Keil, Gerda R. Wekerle, David V.J.Bell. Montreal: Black Rose Press.

Weil, Marie. l986. Women, community, and organizing. In Feminist visions forsocial work, edited by Nan Van DenBergh and Lynn B. Cooper. Silver Springs, Maryland: National Association of Social Workers.

West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. l987. Doing gender. Gender & Society. 1:125-151.

West, Guida. l981. The national welfare rights movement: The social protest of poor women. New York: Praeger.

West, Guida and Rhoda L. Blumberg. l990. Women and social protest. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, Elizabeth. l977. Women in the community. In Women in the community, edited by Marjorie Mayo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Beckwith, Dave, Randy Stoecker, and Joe McNeely. 1997. The Soul of Organizing.

Feldman, Roberta M. and Susan Stall. (1994). The Politics of Space Appropriation: A Case Study of Women's Struggles for Homeplace in Chicago Public Housing. In Irwin Altman and Arza Churchman(Eds.), Women and the Environment, Edits., Human Behavior and Environment Series, Vol. 13. pp. 167-199. New York: Plenum Press.

Stall, Susan. (l993). Women in Organizing Project Evaluation. Prepared for Women United for a Better City, unpublished.

________. (l991). ‘The women are just back of everything...:'Power and Politics Revisited in Small Town America. (dissertation), Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Stoecker, Randy. (1995a). Community Organizing and Community-Based Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside and East Toledo: A Comparative Study. Journal of Community Practice, 2, (3), 1-23.

_______. 1995b. "Community, Movement, Organization: The Problem of Identity Convergence in Collective Action." The Sociological Quarterly 36:111-130.

_______. (1994). Defending Community: The Struggle for Alternative Redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

_______. (1993). The Federated Front-Stage Structure and Localized Social Movements: A Case Study of the Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Movement. Social Science Quarterly 74, 169-184.

_______. (1992). Who Takes Out the Garbage? Social Reproduction and Social Movement Research. In Gale Miller and James A. Holstein (Eds.), Perspectives on Social Problems (pp. 239-264). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

_______. (1991). Community Organizing and Community Development: The Life and Times of the East Toledo Community Organization, unpublished manuscript.