Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Three Models of Youth Organizing

1) Independent Groups
These are groups that are organized exclusively by youth for youth with little to no adult supervision. They tend to be organic and grassroots in nature.

2) Multi-Generational Groups
These are youth groups that are apart of larger multi-generational groups where youth may be mixed in with young adults, middle aged adults, or the elderly.

3) Youth Groups Apart of Larger Institutions
These are groups such as the YMCA or Girl Scouts of America where adults are largely responsible for the operations of the group and act as service providers for the youth recipients.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

National Service Bill to Become Law

Today President Obama will sign into law the National Service Bill. This bill will triple the size of the AmeriCorps over the next 8 years and provide college money credits for people who volunteer. This bill also includes up to $1,000 school credits that people over 55 can earn and transfer to a child, grandchild, or even someone who he/she mentors.

You can find out more about this bill at

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meet a Commuity Organization: the Center for Third World Organizing

Today we will take a look at the Center for Third World Organizing. You can find them in the cyber world at

The Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO) is "a racial-justice organization dedicated to building a social-justice movement led by people of color. CTWO is a 25-year-old training and resource center that promotes and sustains direct-action organizing in communities of color in the United States." They have programs including the training of new and experienced organizers, creating model multi-racial communities, and aggressively building networks activists of color to achieve racial justice.

Some of their formal programs include Community Action Trainings (CAT), Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program (MAAP), California Lead Organizers Institute (CLOI), and they provide custom consultation services.

You can contact CTWO by calling
(510) 533-7583.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

National People's Action and the Fight Against Redlining

Today we remember a great moment in organizing history: the National People's Action's victory against redlining.

Before the NPA came into existence, it was influenced by Saul Alinsky in Chicago through the Northwest Community Organization. Tom Gaudette and Shel Trapp worked on the organizing efforts that addressed issues such as panic peddling by real estate companies, and FHA abuse of new homeowners, who were mostly minorities. This grew into a larger campaign against redlining of low income areas by banks and insurance companies.

In 1972, this fledging organizing effort decided to attempt the incredible: cajole Congress into passing federal anti-redlining legislation. So before the 1972 presidential election, they called a national meeting on the issue and formed what is now the National People's Action. They held their first convention and invited the presidential candidates to come (only the democrats showed up). This served as a critical action to gain more support within organizing circles.

As momentum grew, the NPA and other groups planned a strategy to pass CRA (the Community Re-investment Act) and FHA Payback (reimburse homeowners who had been sold substandard homes). This effort led to the passing of the CRA in 1977 (At the end of 2006, $1.2 trillion had been invested in low income communities throughout the country) and in the process FHA passed as well.

This remarkable moment in community organizing history illustrates the impact a few determined and well organized groups can do to bring substantial change at the national level.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Community Organizing's Moment?

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for community organizing. Organizing has entered the national spotlight in a big way led by the new President himself. The question is whether we will capitalize on this rare opportunity.

Unfortunately for organizing, we are fragmented and rarely collaborate on larger issues. Organizing groups generally work in small bubbles around the country although their may be dozens of other organizing groups addressing the same issues in the same city. This can be due to turf battles over funding from foundations, media attention, low profiles, etc.

We will need to overcome these petty turf battles and stubborn isolationist thinking if we are going to fully seize the moment. Opportunities to galvanize a generation around organizing do not come around often. Therefore, we have to act now!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Good Inside Outside Game

I'm a huge basketball fan, and in basketball one of the most important facets of a winning team is a strong inside outside game. I also believe the same is true in winning community organizing campaigns.

A strong inside outside game in basketball translates to having a good pivot player who is a threat to score near the basket while having good sharpshooters who can put it in the hole on the perimeter. In organizing, a strong inside game is having key legislators and important officials lobby hard in favor of your issues while allowing the strong outside game of protests, civil disobedience, rallies, etc. galvanize the public and place pressure on officials.

It is in mastering this key aspect of the game that an organizing effort can truly wreak havoc on the opposition.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Meet a Commuity Organization: the DART Center

Today we continue Meet a Community Organization with a look at the DART Center. You can find out more about the DART Center at

Based in Miami, Florida, the Direct Action and Research Training Center is "committed to building powerful, diverse, congregation-based, and democratically run organizations capable of winning justice on issues facing the community. Since 1982, DART has built and strengthened over twenty local affiliated organizations in six states and trained over 10,000 community leaders and 150 professional community organizers."

This proud organization has won powerful victories in the areas of reading instruction and fair school suspension policies in public schools, new pre-school programming for children from at-risk families, clean-up of drugs and crime, multi-million dollar investments in an affordable housing, reinvestment by banks in previously redlined communities, expansion of effective community-oriented policing, massive multi-million dollar expansions of public transportation, accessible health care reform in several major metropolitan cities, investment in job training for those coming off public assistance, fair immigration policies, and dozens of other issues important to low-income communities.

You can contact the DART Center at 305-576-8020 or

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't Forget the Church!

As community organizing continues to develop and become a greater fixture in American public life, many groups are drifting from the church as a base. I think that community organizing ignores religious communities at its peril.

The church has been the cornerstone of organizing efforts dating back to the Catholics support of labor unions and the Christian and Jewish communities support of the Civil Rights movement. The church provides several key elements essential to the well being of good organizing: a readily available constituency for turn out purposes, strong foundation of many communities, and a moral imperative to do good works above self interest.

When organizing groups leave this critical group on the sidelines, they expose themselves to potentially fickle coalitions of groups seeking to only address their narrow interests. This can make long organizing campaigns especially difficult since some of the toughest issues requires enduring long suffering. Although non religious groups can do this, religious organizations are uniquely positioned to carry out the role of being the soul of a campaign.

Therefore, I encourage community organizations to re-engage the church as a primary partner in the fight to improve communities through organizing.