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Getting Organized

  • TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS! Identify their needs and interests. Suggest that by working together, you might be able to meet some of those needs! Listening is an important first step. Relationships are the most important element in forming a tenants organization.MEET WITH A CORE GROUP to plan a collective action in response to the tenants concerns. Don’t worry too much about nay-sayers at this early stage. Seek the support of “opinion leaders”—the people that others tenants listen to.\
    • Who owns the property? What other properties do they own?
    • Does a public agency (HUD, USDA,OHFA) oversee the property?
    • Does the city or county have an interest in your health and safety concerns?  Who are the local government officials in the area?
    •  Who in your community can help?  Who can write, draw? Who has Email? Who can type?Who can make copies? Who has a car and time to run errands?
  • SPONSOR AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING. Everyone wants to know what’s going on. An information meeting is a good way to bring people together to discuss their common interests. One funny thing that happens at an informational meeting is that tenants discover that they are all having similar problems or concerns. You will hear: “Until tonite, I thought I was the only one…” At the end of the meeting, discuss taking COLLECTIVE ACTION.
    • You don't need to have 100% cooperation before you act.  What you need is a committed group and a silent majority who won't oppose what you're doing
    • Collective action could include:
      • a petition or sign on letter
      • gathering individual complaint forms,
      • a meeting with the manager
      • anything that tenants can DO as a GROUP.
  • FIND A HELPER. Somewhere in your community there's a person or organization with experience in forming a grassroots organization and/or addressing citizen concerns. Ask for help!
    • An organizing committee will focus on setting up simple bylaws, recruiting leadership, and planning for elections.  Whatever you decide about structure, write it down.  Having written bylaws means that you have agreed on how to work together.  Even if you find you need to change them later, by laws are your agreement among yourselves.
    • Remember that your bylaws should reflect the four principles: meet regularly, operate democratically, inclusive of all the tenants at the property, and independent of management.
    • Work for consensus.  Even tenants who don't participate in the organization should have a voice in how the organization is structured.  If you claim to represent 'the tenants' give everyone a voice in setting up the organization.
  • CHOOSE GOALS. While you’re organizing, your strategy committee will propose the goals for the coming year. Pick five! two goals that are within reach, two that are harder and will take longer, one that’s “impossible” and you might lose, but it’s worth the effort.
  • ELECT and CELEBRATE. Use your tenant organization election as a time to bring people together for a social & spiritual festival of solidarity and participation.