Organizing a community means creating and maintaining a system where people can work together to meet common goals that benefit the community. It’s essential to have a clear purpose and plan when organizing a community and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.
Organizing a community can take on many forms, depending on the needs and goals of the group. Some common examples include:
- Coordinating activities and resources to ensure everyone has what they need to succeed.
- Bridging the gap between the community and external organizations or institutions.
- Facilitating communication among members of the community.
- Mobilizing members of the community to take action on important issues.
Grassroots organizing is a type of community organizing that focuses on mobilizing community members to take action on issues that the community members have agreed are important.
It typically involves building grassroots networks of members passionate about making a difference in their community.
These grassroots networks form broad coalitions of members from different groups who agree that change needs to be made and want to organize together to harness the power necessary to make that change happen.
Grassroots organizers rely heavily on grassroots activism, which organizes people to take direct action on an issue or cause. This can include protests, letter-writing campaigns, and voter mobilization drives.
Grassroots organizing can be a powerful tool for creating change in your community. You’ll hear people mention grassroots organizing when they mean organizing from the “bottom-up” instead of the “top-down.”
At the most basic level, you are involved with grassroots organizing when you:
- Find issues or causes you care about and get involved in the grassroots movement around them to raise awareness within your community.
- Connect with other grassroots groups and local organizations to learn from their experiences and support each other.
- Get involved in local elections and help educate and mobilize voters on critical issues to deepen political participation.
What Does Community Organizing Look Like in Rural Areas?
It looks the same as it does anywhere else! Rural areas may need different methods to organize because folks are generally further from each other geographically than in urban areas. Still, the goals and outcomes are much the same as in other areas.
Saul David Alinsky
No conversation about organizing and community organizing would be complete without discussing Saul David Alinsky.
Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing.
Alinsky lays out his methods of organizing in his book, “Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.” Using his prior experience with successful community organizing, he presents a clear set of truths and rules surrounding community organizing.
Truth #1: Change comes gradually in a slow patient process, not a dramatic revolution.
This process deliberately builds agreement across large groups of people to build their power so that the necessary change can happen. The slow, deliberate process ensures long-lasting relationships built during coalition-building. You need a large group of people to build the power necessary to affect change and the time to do it.
Truth #2: Organizing and building power must happen inside community systems and institutions.
This is why we focus on attending County commissioner’s meetings, School Board meetings, local law enforcement meet-and-greets, etc. We must understand the systems at work and their realities before changing them. To understand those systems, we must be part of them. And yes, participating in public comment counts as part of the system!
Truth #3: An ongoing dialogue between groups of differing opinions is required to achieve social change.
We aren’t looking to “win” a particular issue; we want to create a large coalition of community members who can collaborate and advocate to obtain the resources and power we all need to improve our community.
Community organizing is coming together with others to effect change in your community. It can be done anywhere, and it looks different in every place. In rural areas, organizers may need to use different methods because people are generally further from each other than in urban areas. However, the goals and outcomes of community organizing are the same everywhere.