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Concept of Community Organizer (Conceito)
Community organizing is a long-term approach where the people affected by an issue are supported in identifying problems and taking collective action to achieve solutions. Community organizing looks at collective solutions — large numbers of people who engage in solutions that impact even more people. These people usually live in the same neighborhood, town or block. (COAP)
Community organizing embodies the value of democratic participation both internally, within the organization itself, and by engaging the organization with the broader community and decision-making processes. The organization’s members are systematically listened to and actively engaged in the selection, research, and solving of community problems. (COinEUA)
Complementary topic: Community Development
The "ten elements"
- A sense of humor: humor is defined as 'The mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating ludicrous or absurdly incongruous elements in ideas, situations, happenings, or acts' ...
- A blurred vision of a better world... What keeps him going is a blurred vision of a great mural where other artists - organizers - are painting their bits, and each piece is essential to the total
- An organized personality: The organizer must be well organized himself so he can be comfortable in a disorganized situation...
- A well-integrated political schizoid... the organizer must be able to split himself into two parts - one part in the arena of action where he polarizes the issue... while the other part knows that... the time comes for negotiation...
- Ego... Ego is unreserved confidence in one's ability to do what he believes must be done...But also: Strong ego/sense of oneself: capable of suggesting strong direction but without needing to be front-and-center
- A free and open mind, and political relativity... Because of these qualities he is unlikely to disintegrate into cynicism and disillusionment...
- Ability to create the new out of the old
- passion for fairness and democratic processes
- willingness to work hard to undo the injustices of a community
- good listener, carefully discovering the visions and passions of the people
- willing to take calculated risks
- be able to give and receive criticism
- be curious about people, institutions, and the political process
- communicate clearly and well
- have some sort of altruistic ideology
- have a genuinely powerful and enduring commitment
- Assess the community
- overcome suspicion and establish credibility
- task of agitating: rubbing resentments, fanning hostilities, and searching out controversy
- build relationships
- bring people together
- get people to participate
- Create an action team
- train leaders
- Develop an action plan
- include funding raising
- Mobilize to action
- Open Source Community Simplified (OSCS)
- Community Organizing Action Pack (COAP)
- Community Organzing as Practiced in the United States-A Desciption With Examples (COinEUA)
- What Makes a Good Community Organizer? (GCO)
Below, you will find note from interviews Carolina is conducting with some american based organizations. The quotes are as verbatim as possible.
Charlie Brown (GreenxChange and Ashoka)
Open Source and Free Software
- Growing and maintaining an open-source community depends essentially on three things:
- Getting people interested in contributing
- Removing the barriers to entering the project and contributing
- Make a list of easy starting projects.
- Create and document communication channels.
- Excellent, complete, and simple documentation describing exactly how a contribution should be done.
- Make all this documentation easy to fin
- Retaining contributors so that they keep contributing
- So if it community members are definitely going to be leaving, the only way to consistently expand the community is to figure out how to retain new contributors.If you don’t get new members to stick around, then the community will continuously shrink as old contributors leave, no matter what else you do.
- Respond to contributions immediately and have a fast review process
- Be extremely kind and visibly appreciative: the amount they feel appreciated, and the amount they feel assaulted, are actually the most important aspects of retaining community members. When people contribute on a volunteer basis, they aren’t getting paid in money, they are getting paid in admiration, appreciation, the sense of a job well done, and the knowledge that they are helping create a product that affects millions of people. What this does mean is that in addition to telling people what’s wrong with their contribution, it’s important to appreciate what’s right about their contribution, even if it’s simply the fact that they took the time to contribute. And you have to actually tell the contributor that you appreciate the contribution. The more frequently and genuinely that you do this, the more likely you are to retain the contributor.
- Encourage a total absence of personal negativity.
- Source: http://www.codesimplicity.com/post/open-source-community-simplified/#more-572
Below, notes from the chat with Nicole Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Campaign Director for Make Textbooks Affordable.(Date: 02/08/2011)
- Pirg Started back in the 70s (Vietnam War movement) – you can actually “train” people to be organized, and better more, to train possible trainers. So PIRGs decided also to be funded by students, and this funding would be used to sustain the logistics of the movement. These students would be then part of a chapter, and would have vote rights.
- Chapter organization: The chapter is governed by a student board, and they hire professional staff that carry the projects the student decide on. Each chapter has a campus organizer, but this is professional grass roots organizer…and this person is responsible to recruit students to execute programs. They assist in project development, fund raising, training strategies. Each chapter is part of the state organization (state board), and these are part of a national organization that has a national board.
- Include as many people has possible…have mailing lists and outreach strategies. Campaigns through website to provide opportunities of self-identification, and have older volunteers help them…and provide support to these new volunteers to organize events, run projects, offer internships, etc
- Support: PIRGS just give training, materials, and “how to guides”. They do not provide funding. (in general the actions do not require lots of money)
- Overall principle: provide lots of opportunities for people to do small things that are easy and work with those people to work slightly bigger things….and step by step, until we identify leaders and these can actually be the leader of a local chapter.
- Internships: semester long for credit or a four week internship for specific projects. The point is to train the student in the process and train in some specific topics (ex. Copyrights) and at the end they are given a “campaign” that they can focus on.
- The most important skill is how to recruit and how to train them to become a leader on the issue. “you are training me to do what you did to me!”
- Material: http://www.studentpirgs.org/activist-toolkit - The Student PIRGs' Activist Toolkit: A Crash Course in Effective Citizenship
- The key part of being a community organizer is that you have to be a member of the community. Nicole was a campus organizer when she was fresh of the college…Who is not a member of the community will not be able to do what a person coming from the community is able to do…due to identity issue. The community needs to “expect” the person….If you have somebody “way above” it is not going to work.
- The community organizer job is to empower the community and give them the tools and resources they express they need, so they do what they want. You cannot help a community that does not want to be helped…But you also can help by clarifying what are “good things to do”…so, maybe they can realize they need help and they want to do something. Sometimes people just do not know what they can do…And the most successful communities are there because there is a active membership and not an organizer.
- You should not be able to see the organizer…you should see the community.
- With media, we always give the student as the first contact, and the organizer just appear has a back-up …
The four most important points from my view (in portuguese)
Below, Nevio provide a translation of the four last points of the interview I did with Nicole. He considers those the most relevant for the Brazilian community.
Os quatro mais importantes tópicos, na minha opinião
- A parte fundamental de ser um organizador da comunidade é que você tem que ser um membro da comunidade. Nicole foi um organizador campus quando era recém-formado ... Quem não é um membro da comunidade não será capaz defazer o que uma pessoa vinda da comunidade é capaz de fazer ... devido a questão da identidade. A comunidade precisa "necessitar" dessa pessoa ... Se é alguém "acima" não funciona.
- O trabalho de organizador da comunidade é capacitar a comunidade e dar-lhes as ferramentas e recursos que eles precisam expressar, então eles fazem o que querem. Você não pode ajudar uma comunidade que não quer ser ajudada ...Mas você também pode ajudar a esclarecer o que são "boas coisas a fazer" ...assim, talvez eles possam perceber que eles precisam de ajuda e que queiram fazer alguma coisa. Às vezes as pessoas simplesmente não sabem o que podem fazer ... E as comunidades de maior sucesso estão lá porque há uma participação activa e não um organizador.
- Você não deve ser capaz de ver o organizador ... você deve ver a comunidade.
- Com a mídia, sempre damos o aluno como o primeiro contato, eo organizadoraparecem apenas tem um back-up ...
--Nevinho 22:31, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
- see: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/05/27/understanding-community-leadership-an-interview-with-a-member-of-yelps-elite/
- The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success (> pgs 132)
Universities Allied for Essential Medicine
Ethan Guillen, Executive Director at UAEM. email@example.com (date: 02/08/11)
- The organization of community can happen in many different ways, depends on how much interference the community has into the role of the community organizer. For example, political organizers have a very clear “goal”. For Wikimedia looks more like a “labor organizer”. With labor organizing it is a balance…since the organization has goals, but how to achieve them seems to be led by the community. So the organizer is there to really empower the volunteers (the “workers”)
- Organizers that work with grass roots movements are there to support the community. Many times the “organization” work is really to help the shaping of a goal or an action which original idea come from the community. In this sense, the community organizer helps to structure the decision process, and to make the goals and strategies clear. And also to help the the student/volunteer to use the little time they have in the most efficient way. So, the organizer can focus on logistics while the students focus on policy development, in this sense the organizer try to help the student to use his time the best way, since the time the student have to dedicate to the “cause” is not much.
- At the end, the type of organizer will depend upon the type of camping you need. Sometimes, you will have the organizers has a facilitator, but sometimes you need an organizer more involved in the content of a certain camping and the steps to make that camping happen.
- Hopefully, the organizer can act as a spinal of people aspiration, based on what people want….Many times the volunteers are very intelligent, but sometimes they just do not know how to develop a strategy or how to consolidate a good message to attract more people for the “cause”. So, the organizer can help with that (strategy and message), and many times they are trained on how to solve problems by breaking them into pieces or even to how to build a media campaign.
- There are training schools in the USA and strategy books on community organizing, coming from the civil rights movement. See Americans for Informed Democracy - http://www.aidemocracy.org/.
- The role of UAEM …We have a community organizer in California today. UAEM gave tons of material and this local community organizer and she prepared more digested/user friendly materials to be used by students, and also prepared “pitches” for professors, she is also setting meetings, etc. She is the main point for people to join UAEM. In the rest of US we have other students that actually received training on how to do companying. We do not do much active recruiting, but we do strategic recruiting. If we had a full time organizer, would be in that sort of context of providing material and setting meetings, and in informal meetings with students. She is an expert in organizing, not in access to medicine, so she did not came from the student community.
- I think most of the time we tended to get someone that is a professional organizer …It really depends on the situation. In certain contexts, it helps if the person comes from the community. If the issue is not that specific, you may not need a person from the community…you can have a “professional organizer” …and this person needs to be able to really motivate the volunteers and involve them. Sometimes you have to be careful, because if you bring a person from the community, that person can take over and impose their point of view and not be able to discover and represent the community voice accurately. Unless they really have the skill of being able to put their point of view aside and inspire others to action, this is a real threat…and this is a hard skill to find.
- UAEM provides materials, but a lot is developed by members. So there should be chances to create material collaboratively.
- UAEM does not have a direct strategy to create incentives. But I think there are lots of advantages to get involved, such as be able to learn more a certain topic (access to medicine issues), but we also offer internships and we help volunteers to find internships within UAEM network. We also make easy for people to jump in. We also provide funding for international meetings and training. Sometimes the long-term volunteers also can represent the organization in meetings and conferences. They just feel motivated to be part of a larger movement. But these are not really tangible incentives.
- General comments: There could be some voting structure on how things get decided. And on how the organizer spends their time and funding. In the UAEM case there are chapters and these chapters discuss with UAEM what to do, but there is a board and an executive director within UAEM that the community organizer from California has to follow. In any case, the students still pretty directly involved. The students are the ones that elected the board… the students are also involved in the hiring process…So, even though she is legally hired by UAEM, the whole role and responsibilities are decided by the students. The students even helped to write the job description for this position in CA. So, that can be an idea, you can involve the community in the design process of the role “if we had another set of hands, what that people would do?”…”how can this evolve into a job description” …and “how we will call that person?”.