Organizing is 1/2 Inspiration, 1/2 Personality, 1/2 knowledge and...
see tenant created flyers attached at the bottom of this webpage.

Who is an organizer?
Here's an easy definition: The Organizer is the person who leaves with the sign up list.  What this means is that the organizer is responsible for "the process"...which is another way to say "the organizer owns the process, the members own the product."
  • Owning the process requires that an organizer have some knowledge about how groups work, how consensus can be developed and how to create strategies and tactics to help the group meet its goals.
  • Organizers should be less involved in what goals are set by the members and less interested (but not uninterested) in the details of the issues.
  • Organizers who are setting the agenda are taking over the leader role.  While this may be necessary in a crisis or because leadership lacks experience...the organizer needs to be conscious that she/he is working outside the organizer's duties and should work to "normalize" the situation as quickly as possible.
  • Organizers may be tenants (usually not elected leadership) or they may be "outsiders" who work for an organization or they may be community activists. Examples of each type of organizer abound.
  • Make this analogy is it helps:  Leader are like candidates running for office, the organizer is the campaign manager. 
Organizers only become famous when they become leaders.
Organizers will tell anyone-it's not about me, it's about the people, the issue, the cause...the superstar organizers:  Saul Alinsky, Cesar Chavez, Barak Obama became iconic because of their 2nd jobs, ie. author, union leader, POTUS

Personality:  Organizers need to be comfortable with:
people, not just the idea of "the people"
disorder, because change is messy
power, because that's makes change, not just good ideas or compassion...

saul alinsky

Knowledge:  Organizers need to know how human systems work

  • leadership dynamics
  • group dynamics
  • the change process
  • keys to participation
  • tactics that win victories

 Rules for Organizers (apologies to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals)

1.  Organizing is just one form of collective action to create change.  some others are:
Ask yourself:  is Organizing the best strategy to solve the problem?  Are your constituents ready to invest in an organization...or would a different strategy be more effective?

2. Real people are motivated by short term tangible successes.  Only organizers are motivated by inspiration, empathy and compassion. Don't mistake your "belief" for the real tangible needs of your constituents.

3.  Change is start small.  Because members are motivated by short term and tangible outcomes, create activities that result quickly in tangible victories (both "stuff" and "symbols".)  Members will tolerate longer term efforts as long as short term rewards for participation continue.

4. Finding out what your neighbors like to do is a key step for getting and keeping them involved.  Organizing can be a lot of work, especially if your group is small. Usually people will contribute their talents because it is enjoyable.   (see tenant cartoons below)

5.  Change is hard to build into individual behavior so "make it stick" practices, policies and programs.  Saul Alinsky says:  any tactic that drags on too long is a drag.  Kurt Lewin's change model is based on "Unfreeze the system-move the discussion-Refreeze the victory"
  • create practices (eg. a written maintenance request system with receipts for tenants)
  • create policies (tenants organization's right to use common areas and post notices)
  • create programs (monthly meetings, create/support projects.)
6.  Democracy beats autocracy and charisma in the long run. 
  • work by consensus
  • keep communication flowing freely so potential members don't feel left out
  • keep the doors open, seek to involve the uninvolved over time
  • help your leaders grow into new roles and move up the ladder to make room for up and coming leaders

6.  Relationship, relationship, relationship
  • people know when you are a fake or manipulative
  • you need to know how to talk about baseball, childrearing and aches and pains
  • you need to be reliable and available

Notes & Links




Thanks to Emily, Nancy and David for sharing on this content.

Spencer Wells,
Apr 21, 2013, 7:26 AM