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Community Organizing Principles
Community Organizing Principles or, Getting Practical
1] The organizers should insure that the community organization is significant in size and composed primarily, if not completely, of those people "with the fewest alternatives".
2] The organizers should insure that active and potential community leadership is developed in such a fashion that the organization is led primarily, if not completely, by those people with the fewest alternatives.
3] The organizers should insure that the organization functions democratically, and not in an authoritarian fashion and that, among other things, formal rules of democratic procedure are established and followed and that widespread grassroots participation and decision-making in the affairs of the community organization is a continuing fact; and that there is ever developing local leadership. The executive and public meetings should be well attended and organizers must insure that an atmosphere exists in which the individual at the grassroots feels -- as is genuinely the case --that he/she is an individual; that his/her active participation in the organization is needed and welcomed; that right from the very beginning, he/she can make their voice and presence felt within the organization; and that, as the group's endeavors advance, winning victories, his/her power and ability to affect those forces out in the problematic/crisis environment and beyond, which have been affecting his/her life, will be steadily and proportionately increased.
4] The organizers should insure that the youth are involved in the affairs of the community organization -- either within it and with leadership participation, or in a parallel and cooperative youth group of their own.
5] The organizers should insure that the community organization, right from the beginning, is characterized by maximum autonomy.
6] Although the initial formation of the community organization may be around one paramount and pressing local issue, the organizers -- not through rigid superimposition but through diplomatic and effective teaching -- should insure that, in the interests of the community organization's longevity and effectiveness, the leaders and membership of the group become aware of all issues directly and indirectly affecting them. The organizers should insure, therefore, that the community organization functions on a multi-issue basis whenever possible.
7] The organizers should insure that, prior to reaching a decision on a particular course of action, the community organization is aware of all relevant tactical approaches and the various ramifications of each.
8] The organizers should insure that the leaders of the community organization can effectively handle the matter of publicity.
9] The organizers should insure that the community organization can effectively handle the raising and administration of funds -- including, when applicable, the preparation of funding proposals, the negotiation of such, and the effective administration of the money received.
10] The organizers should insure that the community organization becomes connected with various relevant public and private agencies and is able to negotiate and secure the necessary services from those agencies without surrendering its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.
11] The organizers should insure that the community organization is able to function politically in a realistic and sophisticated fashion without surrendering its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.
12] The organizers should insure that the community organization can utilize the services of professionals without becoming dominated by such.
13] The organizers should insure that the community organization is able to enter into functional alliances with other groups without surrendering its autonomy or compromising its basic principles.
14] The organizers should insure that the community organization is aware of the use of effective and rational protest demonstrations and, further, that it is fully cognizant of the merits of tactical nonviolence.
15] The organizers should insure that the community organization is aware of the effective use of legal action approaches and is aware of public and private legal resources.
16] The organizers should build a sense of the oft-visionary and just world of a full measure of bread-and butter and a full measure of freedom -- and how all of this relates to the shorter term steps.
17] The organizers, who at the outset may well play a very key role in the function and affairs of the community organization, must, on a step-by-step and essentially pragmatic basis, shift increasing responsibility to the leaders and membership of the group, to eventually:
A] First, insure that the community organization can function effectively with only occasional involvement by organizers.
B] And then, that the community organization can function effectively with no involvement by organizers to the point that, in addition to conducting its regular affairs, the group can "organize on its own" --bringing in new constituents and/or assisting other grassroots people in adjoining areas in setting up and conducting their own community organizations. I'm an organizer -- a working social justice agitator. I've been one since the mid-1950s and I'll always be one. In many respects, it's one of the toughest trails anyone could ever blaze. An effective organizer seeks to get grassroots people together -- and does; develops on-going and genuinely democratic local leadership; deals effectively with grievances and individual/family concerns; works with the people to achieve basic organizational goals and develop new ones; and builds a sense of the New World To Come Over The Mountains Yonder -- and how all of that relates to the shorter term steps. An effective organizer has to be a person of integrity, courage, commitment. And a person of solidarity and sacrifice. The satisfactions are enormous.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk
Late December 2003
It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.
Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation