Community Organizing: People Power from the Grassroots offers a short introduction to the principles, rules, and strategies for community organizing. Community organizing covers a broad list of activities from education to advocacy to direct action organizing, which includes engaging those most affected by the proposed changes. The foundation of community organizing is relationship building. Ideally, the entire campaign would be organized around the community organizing effort to ensure that it starts, and remains, based in the community.
One key component of community organizing is ensuring that information is flowing consistently between the core team and the broader community. The best people to do this are those from the same community. Ideally, their work should be compensated. Too often, communities, and particularly communities of color, are asked to execute key activities for free. Plan to equitably compensate those who carry out the critical elements of your campaign.
In the Act on What’s Important webinar, Organizing for Policy Change, Rob English with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) (see Community in Action for more on their story) provides some key ideas and activities to successfully activate your community.
Lead with people, not solutions. This goes back to relationship building. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Find out what is important to people. What do they care about? What is their interest in your issue?
- Talk to people and with people, not at people.
- Meet people where they are. Go to neighborhood meetings. Door knocking is also a very effective way to recruit people to your campaign efforts.
- Build your power base through meetings with community members and leaders who live in the areas you are trying to impact. Be sure to collect their contact information (i.e., email addresses, voting addresses, phone numbers, affiliation/title, etc.) so you can keep them informed of and engaged in your efforts.
Engage people in action. Help them see and imagine what is and what could be. Are you working on better nutrition in schools? Ask the school board to eat a school lunch. Is transportation an issue in your community? Invite elected officials to take the city bus with you. In Baltimore, BUILD was looking for funding for school improvements and invited city council members to experience the challenging classroom conditions that Baltimore City students and teachers faced.
To read more about community organizing, see also Recruit diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors in the Work Together step.