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International community organising

International community organising: Taking power, making change

Dave Beck
Rod Purcell
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    International community organising
    Book Description:

    As the Arab Spring continues to work through changes, the Occupy Movement is agitating for change and many are looking for alternatives in the face of global financial and political challenges, community organising offers a realistic way forward for many communities: a tried and tested way of improving people’s lives. This book is the first to explore the diverse history of community organising, telling stories of how it developed, its successes and failures, and the lessons that can be applied today. It analyses contemporary examples of practice from the USA, UK, India, South Africa, Cambodia and Australia against both wider theoretical frameworks and their ability to contribute to sustainable social change. It will be useful for a wide range of practitioners, students and researchers engaged in the struggle to develop new ways of doing community.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-978-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of tables, figures and boxes
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. About the authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Community organising has a diverse history going back to the social welfare movements of the 19th century, and it first came to prominence through the work of Saul Alinsky in Chicago in the US in the late 1930s and 1940s. Alinsky wanted to build what he called ‘organisations of organisations’ that would enable poor communities to claim power. In doing so they would have more control over their own lives, bring increased resources and improved services to their community and engage more fully in the democratic process. His book, Rules for radicals, outlining how this process would work, is subtitled...

  6. ONE The roots of community organising
    (pp. 1-18)

    This chapter explores and analyses the roots of community organising as seen in the work of Saul Alinsky. Reference is made to Alinsky’s classic texts,Rules for radicals(1971) andReveille for radicals(1989), as well as commentaries on Saul Alinsky by Nicholas von Hoffman (2010) and Sanford D. Horwitt (1989). The chapter seeks to understand and critique the underlying ideas and practices that informed the development of community organising through the initial development of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), and explores the contribution that Alinsky as an individual made to that process.

    Community organising is a term that describes...

  7. TWO The 21st-century context of community organising
    (pp. 19-44)

    It is now more than a generation since Saul Alinsky developed his model of community organising focused on developing leaders, building organisations and claiming local power. One of the key themes of this book is to ask how far the community organising model has evolved over the years to take on board changing perspectives on development practice. We now accept that we are living in a globalised world and that ultimately our futures are linked together. This is a long way from a world where the focus of development work could be limited to what happened in one ghetto in...

  8. THREE Community organising revisited: the Industrial Areas Foundation model
    (pp. 45-66)

    This chapter builds on the earlier discussion of the principles of community organising and the IAF model. We look at two of the classic Chicago-based community organisations from the early years of Alinsky and the IAF, that of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) and The Woodlawn Organization (TWO). In these two case studies we give a brief overview of the organisations, a summary of their current activity and an analysis of their development and contribution to the current community.

    The nature of community organising is changing, partly as a reflection of different economic and social contexts, but...

  9. FOUR Industrial Areas Foundation in the UK and Australia
    (pp. 67-88)

    In this chapter we look at how the IAF has developed its affiliate programme internationally. In the first part we look at the development of community work in the UK and the slow development of interest in community organising, and how the IAF model has managed to take a foothold. In the second part we consider a case study in Australia, that of the Sydney Alliance.

    Until very recently the UK had not responded positively to the idea of community despite various attempts over the years to introduce the IAF model. There are a number of reasons for this. The...

  10. FIVE The ACORN alternative
    (pp. 89-110)

    ACORN (Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now) was established in 1970 by Wade Rathke, an organiser for the anti-war Students for Democratic Society (SDS), and Gary Delgado. Their objective was to ‘unite welfare recipients with needy working people around issues such as school lunches, unemployment, Vietnam veterans’ rights and emergency room care’ (

    In creating an operational model for ACORN, Rathke was greatly influenced by George Wiley and the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), which focused on four specific goals: adequate income, dignity, justice and democratic participation. These objectives were to be achieved through developing local affiliates, voter registration, local...

  11. SIX Slum Dwellers International and case studies
    (pp. 111-138)

    This chapter explores another stream of community organising practice that we have observed in various parts of the world that is linked to Slum Dwellers International (SDI). Their network currently extends to Asia: Cambodia, India, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand; Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda; and Latin America: Brazil. There are also emerging initiatives in Indonesia: East Timor; Mongolia; Africa: Lesotho, Swaziland, Madagascar, Angola; and Latin America: Colombia (Mitlin, 2008). Although SDI is the central thread that runs through this approach, as we demonstrate, this approach to community organising weaves together numbers of organisations...

  12. SEVEN New models of community organising
    (pp. 139-156)

    In the past few years new community organising networks have been created, the ideas and models of community organising have been widely disseminated, and more fundamental alternatives are being suggested and developed. In this chapter we look at the diversity of practice in the field from an international survey of workers defining themselves as community organisers. We then discuss the work of Gamaliel, a faith-based community organisation in the US. We discuss what could be called the modern manifestation of community organising (or according to some people, its replacement), that of comprehensive community development. Finally, we look at the opposite...

  13. EIGHT Comparing and contrasting current community organising models
    (pp. 157-166)

    This chapter briefly reviews the key features of the three streams of community organising that we have been considering. While we recognise a broad commonality across each, there are also key differences of emphasis that are key to how they operate and what impact they have at a local level and beyond. We go on to outline the key continuums of practice, and consider where each stream would sit and what the implications of that are.

    The key features, developments and innovations of the IAF model can be identified as:

    Being invited into the area by a broad range of...

  14. NINE What community organising does and doesn’t achieve
    (pp. 167-176)

    In this chapter we explore the contribution that community organising makes to improve the lives of people within poor communities. In doing so we consider the analysis of community organising discussed earlier. As this is only a snapshot of community organising activity, however, our conclusions should be seen as tentative and not definitive.

    In attempting to make any judgement of the contribution to social change through community-based activity, the discussion has to deal with questions of process and product. Many people who work in community settings argue that what are important are the products of the work, the tangible gains...

  15. TEN Counter-hegemony, critical thinking and community organising
    (pp. 177-192)

    Our position is that community organising is a practice that is strong in terms of its tactics, identification of local issues and mobilising people for change. We think it is less strong in the development of critical thinking and reflection on the one hand, and citing its practice within broader political thinking and political movements on the other. And so this chapter is an exploration of Antonio Gramsci’s ideas of hegemony and counter-hegemony, and Paulo Freire’s approach to building critical consciousness, which is then used to interrogate the theory and practice of community organising. It provides a critique of community...

  16. Endnote
    (pp. 193-194)
  17. References
    (pp. 195-206)
  18. Index
    (pp. 207-216)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)