What is Organizing?

Community organizing is how regular Americans can come together to win concrete improvements in their lives and hold our government accountable to its people.

Community organizers work with families who are struggling–because of low wages, poor health coverage, unaffordable housing, and other community problems–so that collectively, we can fix those problems and make our government respond to our day-to-day concerns. Organizers knock on doors, attend community meetings, visit churches and synagogues and mosques, and work with unions and civic groups and block associations to help ordinary people build power and counter the influence of self-interested insiders and highly paid lobbyists at all levels of government.

Regular people, working together, are the lifeblood of American democracy. Community organizing is how we keep that democracy strong, vital and accountable to its people.

36 responses to “What is Organizing?

  1. Keep fighting the good fight!

    The GOP is so out of touch they don’t even know what issues americans face today. 7 homes…$30,000 outfits….$500 shoes!

    Cmon! People are fighting for life in today’s economy!

  2. Well done! At least some of us appreciate the fine work you guys do. After all, no great change has ever been wrought from politicians and lobbyists, but from people. People who care, who organize and who fight for what they believe in.

  3. Outstanding! Thanks for the quick response. As someone who works for a nonpartisan organization that helps organizers do their work, I am happy to see the record set straight.

  4. I don’t do this for a living, I’m currently in grad school, but as an undergraduate, I founded and chaired eating disorder awareness week at my school, so I feel like I did learn a thing or two about grassroots organizing. Anyways, us organizers, should organize some protests at Palin events

  5. I’ll be all the community organizers who put together the republican convention really appreciated those remarks.

  6. Best of luck with this new website. I wonder how the right wing “faith based initiatives” fits in with the GOP’s sudden disdain for community organizing.

  7. Keep up the good work!

  8. The American community is about and always will be about “We the people”; America is not about we the select rich! Community Organizers in small town USA and in large cities are the American Spirit; “I am my brother’s/sister’s keeper.”

    Shame on Bush-McCain for being so far out-of-touch with the middle class Americans. Middle class Americans are all about preserving the American dream and service above self. As a reminder, our troops and veterans all need/depend on community supporters/organizers to improve their quality of life if and when they return from their multiple tours of duty in Iraq. This Bush-McCain elitist view, is about service for self, instead of the American spirit of SERVICE ABOVE SELF

    Must we forget, the original American Community Organizers said “No Taxation without representation.” The original Community Organizers road from town to town through the great state of Pennsylvania organizing and notify that the British are coming. The original Community Organizers gathered at Seneca Falls in 1842 to say enough is enough. The original community organizers, both black and white, stood up against face of tyranny by organizing the Selma bus boycotts. Most recently, Americans are once again standing up and saying “eight is enough!”

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Adams

  9. It is shame that Community organising is looked down . It is shame that GOP does not understand community organising .
    Community organising is not a paid job but a passionate job . The payment that Community organised get is satisfaction that made a change in somebody else life . GOP does not understand .They understand only tax.
    I donot know what this does to the children who see this .What values are we passing on to next generation .
    As community organisers we donot see people as democrats or rupublicans , we only see if they need help .
    We donot want encouragement from GOP but atleast donot insult us.

  10. I am pretty close friends with a couple Community Organizers in my small town – and they do have a lot of responsibilites.

    The way I took Palin’s comments were, if you’re going to compare ‘executive experience’, the closest Obama could come was the time he worked in Chicago, right out of college, but it wasn’t technically ‘executive experience’ – he’s been in the legislative branch the whole time.

    I don’t think she was slamming Community Organizers in general, because I imagine as mayor of the small town of Wasilla (where my wife’s cousin and aunt live), she probably depended a great deal on the work her organizers did… it was a direct shot at Obama and the Dems’ claim of her lack of sufficient experience, when she has more executive experience than he does.

  11. You might want to consider changing the text of what is community organizing. Palin’s negative remark about it was that it has no clear responsibilities relative to the mayor of a town of 9,000. It may be noble, it may be doing great work, but to answer the criticism, you really should focus on what an individual community organizer is held accountable for doing. How is their performance measured and who evaluates their performance? What happens to a community organizer who performs badly? How do you find out if a community organizer from several years ago was good?

    Taking this approach, especially with a lot of particulars and examples, would be an effective answer to those who question the work.

  12. The issue is not that Community Orginizing is bad, it’s that it doesn’t prepare you to be a leader. The idea behind the speeches was that he worked in a Community, then served in the state/US legislature without actually doing anything. He had more responsiblity as a community orginizer then doing anything else, which is the point.

  13. There’s no better evidence that the GOP, Palin and McCain are out of touch with the American people than their disrespecting community organizers. At least they’re admitting that they have no idea what community organizers do and, therefore, don’t have a clue why community organizers are needed and are so important. The time is now to strike back fast and strike back hard against this ignorance. Blessings on everyone in this line of work, from which the rewards come in the form of grateful people that you all have helped get their lives back together.

  14. Thanks for starting this website.
    The RNC Convention has been absolutely disgusting so far.
    Rudy Giuliani a 9/11 profiteer, now multi-millionaire
    Mitt Romney a flip-flopper without values or character, multi-millionaire
    Sarah “she’ll lie straight to your face” Palin, oil company stooge
    THESE are the people that have the nerve to criticize patriots who are helping fellow citizens stay afloat?

    Barack Obama has demonstrated excellence in his every endeavour, author, civil rights attorney, constitutional scholar, community organizer (one of the most successful voter registration drives ever) and now a historic e-enabled campaign that has revolutionized democracy as we know it. He came from nowhere to defeat 7 “experienced” democratic candidates including the Clinton machine through superior strategy, technology & planning. He has been right on every single foregin policy issue in the past 5 years and Bush/McCain have been wrong.
    God save our nation from the neo-facists Palin cult.

  15. Please, put up a paypal button and let us donate to a commercial or media campaign of some sort! I’m pledging $100. If nothing else, raise the money and earmark it for Obama’s campaign to use for such a commercial. See what they say about it…I bet they would be happy to accept it and get one produced right away.

    I already contribute to Obama’s campaign, but I would like to ALSO specifically contribute to some sort of response to these attacks by Palin and Giuliani!

    Funny, didn’t they raise money in St Paul for Gustav….sounds like community organizing to me.

  16. Who will join me in an information pickett line in front of your local McCain office demanding an apology and explaining what we do. The media need to have a photo of our outrage.
    See you at the McCain office Saturday?

  17. What I find interesting is that Palin pretends not to know what a community organizer does. How can a former MAYOR not know that? (For that matter, shame on Guiliani too.) For years I did grassroots organizing on environmental issues and attended countless public hearings. I knew the mayor and the city council members by first name and they knew me. Palin has to know what organizers do, but obviously thinks the rest of us won’t figure it out.

    And since we are digging so far back into Obama’s job history, perhaps someone should ask Palin how being a TV news reporter and a beauty queen prepared her for being VP. Did those jobs involve any “actual responsibilities?”

  18. Thanks for creating this outlet for everyone that is a Proud Community Activist & Supporter! If it wasn’t for us grassroot organizations and community groups things would be much worst off without us.

    They clearly showed how much they care about the American people as a whole.

    I am proud to be a Community Activist and I will continue to do my part. Just in case they forgot in high school we were told it is always good to partake in community services. This was to be added onto our resume to show future employers that not only did we care about our own well beings however we care about everyone in our community and surroundings. In the midst of my guest speakings I make it my business to talk about everyone playing a part in their communities. I encourage young and old to join an organization in their areas to make their community stronger and better. Now what should we tell our children today become selfish and don’t worry about making a difference? Who does the government call on when they lack personnels to cover or assist in a tragedy event? You guessed it VOLUNTEERS and 10 out of 10 they are Community Activists and Supporters.

    We can’t afford another 4 years of Bush leadership. I know that God still has his hands on us all. Allow the McCaint’s and Pal-in’s fall in their own hole they are creating. As the Good Word states everything and everyone will be exposed of their WORKS!

    I commend every man, woman and child that cares about making a difference in their communities. Don’t fret nor become discourage by what they have spoken. Continue to do the great works you’ve set out to do. We will win in the end!

    Keep up the GREATNESS!

    ” I don’t live nor walk for FAME, howver I live and walk for CHANGE! ” – Tonya E.

  19. For Jerry, Rob Christenson, and anyone else who may feel that the Republicans’ snide comments about community organizing were meant only to defend against Obama’s claim of having executive experience: that may very well be what they were trying to do…the point is that the WAY they did it was degrading and insulting beyond rational belief.

    They could have very easily made the case, in a polite manner, that while community organizing is an important and rewarding occupation, in their opinion they don’t think that the work involved provides proper executive training for the White House; however, they chose instead to go for the typical insulting, snarky remarks that have characterized Republican election campaigns for far too long.

    The most telling part of the whole incident for me was when, at the very instant Guiliani said the words “community organizer”, the entire crowd of RNC attendees burst into audible laughter! That was not scripted for the crowd-that was their natural reaction. If that doesn’t finally give the world the proof they need that the Republican base have some seriously misplaced human values, I don’t know what else they could do.

    The one hopefully positive note from the whole thing is that I could practically feel the earth shaking from the stampede of moderate Republicans and reasonable Independents sprinting in the opposite direction.

  20. In some ways I don’t even want to give credence to the incredible ignorance of these political candidates and their clonies. Yet, after receiving several emails, I respect what I am doing enough to have to respond. I work for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest as a Senior Community Organizer.

    Almost 18 years ago, I became trained in Community Organizing, through the Idustrial Areas Foundation, while I was a United Methodist Pastor in the South Bronx, one of the poorest congressional district. I learned to organize communities to create new affordable homes, create charter schools, organize public housing tenanats and hold our elected officials accountable to the communities agenda.

    Later, I used these skills to help create a Harm Reduction/Needle Exchange program in the South Bronx when the number of Latinos/as infected with HIV/AIDS became alarming.

    After this, I used these same skills to help found the Religious Leaders Against Police Brutality, when under the leadership of Mayor Guliani New York City experienced an epidemic of police murders and civil right violations. (No wonder he might seek repercussion now against organizers).

    It should come as no surprise that we are the target of attack of politicans, since Community Organizers work to make changes, oppose the status quo and hold elected officials accountable (a bit of a thorn for those speaking).

    So, who are we? Professors, students, clergy, lawyers, health professionals, people from all professions. Some of us do it professionally, some as dual employment, and others voluntarily. I personally have been in each of these categories. What do we do? Succinctly, leave an incredible impact in the world we live in.

    If Obama does implement any of the skills he learned as a Community Organizer, he would be an incredible Senator and candidate for presidency. Unfortunately, the goal of elected officials are at clear odds with organizing, so I remain cynical of the work of politicans. On the other hand, one can trust that the goals of community organizers will always lead toward a better condition for communities. Even when we lose (becaue we oppose the interest of those in power) people at least have the lesson of the struggle to take away with them; as they lift their heads up high and recognize that they do count.

  21. It is a sad and disgracefull day in America when the work of people who bring about positive and effective changes are demeaned and belittled. Makes me wonder how will we fair if the republicans go into office again, guess the poor, their communities, and their organisers will be long forgotten, as we are now, God help us all. As a mental health graduate student who looks forward to getting heavily involved in my community, i feel so demotivated by the republicans view of community organising. As far as I am concerned, if those politicians were community organisers, they would be able to empatise with the real needs of people who really want to pull themselves up by, but dont have the least resource to do so. How callous, insensitive, and out of touch can those team of publicans be?

  22. It would be really helpful to pro-community organizer bloggers if you could post a bunch of pictures of community activities that we can use to accompany our posts. A flickr group with a link and shout out about it here might be a way to do this.

  23. Pingback: I’m Digging this… | Not My Mother’s Blog

  24. Oh my gosh.

    –The issue is not that Community Orginizing is bad, it’s that it doesn’t prepare you to be a leader. —

    If you believe that, then you have no idea about the scope of community organizing. It is a crucible for young leaders who learn how to work effectively with people from all works of life and bring them together for a common cause. That’s the guy I want in the White House – the one who knows how to identify available resources, access ones that aren’t available and conceive of solutions that aren’t yet on the table. When we talk about Change – that’s what we mean. Community organizers ROCK.

  25. Where is the paypal button for donations? Get the rebuttal ads out ASAP!

    How dare they mock community organizers! We fix the messes unfunded mandates make.

  26. How insulting!!! Disparaging community organizers who work with the people who need it most.

    Thanks to all of you who are doing this!

    Listening to Guiliani (Mr. 911) and Palin made me so mad I donated twice in one day to the Obama campaign and am enlisting to sign up voters.

    Rock on!

  27. “There’s no better evidence that the GOP, Palin and McCain are out of touch with the American people than their disrespecting community organizers.”

    Are any of the “community organizers” you know Republicans? Are any of them conservative? Do any of them dislike liberalism?

    I’m asking sincerely. Because here’s the thing: I know a whole lot of “American people,” and I’d venture that most of them had never HEARD of “community organizing” before now, let alone been able to define it. Yet you seem to think that disrespecting community organizers reveals one to be out of touch.

    So are McCain-Palin TRULY out of touch with the American people because of this? Or do you mean that they’re out of touch with CERTAIN people? And are these certain people apt to have voted Republican? Are they McCain fans who will now decline to vote for him?

    “Community organizer” is a synonym for “activist with leftist tendencies.” Being out of touch with that is not the same as being out of touch with “the American people.”

  28. If this didn’t
    foreshadow what this VP pick would do for Americans- I don’t know what else could.

    Everyone SIGN and give these community
    organizers the respect they deserve!

    Obama needs to do an ad on this.

    GO OBAMA!

  29. As a former community organizer, I suggest that you define the numerous sectors where our skills have been, and are being used.

    It is clear to me that the use of the term “community organizer” by the McCain campaign is a dog whistle against the poor, families in distress, and communities in crisis.

    Let us harken back to the words of JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I answered that call. Barack Obama has also called for community service. This is a patriotic call – so I guess that makes McCain/Palin anti- country.

  30. Thank you all for your positive responses on behalf of community organizers. They are the ones who help the humble, poor and ill served to find their voices in an overwhelming environment when just to survive is a 24/7 occupation for many.
    Those ‘Christians” who try to belittle these good people don’t seem to remember “What you do for the least of my people, you do to me.” That works in two directions – thanks to all who do such dedicated, grueling work that many of our “experienced executives” would not be capable of doing.
    All of them seem to thank their ‘loyal/faithful supporters – those people are also public organizers. Is that their real opinion of the ‘rank and file?’

  31. What an opportunity for raising awareness about community organizing given by the Republican convention! I was married to a community organizer, with a master’s degree in it, in the mid-1960s. First job was with antipoverty program in NOLA, after Hurricane Betsy:folks in 9th Ward, Desire, wanted to work on police brutality and welfare mothers started a credit union. The community took over the jobs from the 2 community organizers and we moved to Denver for l year with AFSC. Community organizers scare the powerful who hope to throw “fog” and keep denying rightful services to people who don’t have money (=clout):from garbage collection, to education, to housing,etc. People who organize and people who vote scare Republicans. You are the heroes.

  32. This blog is a perfect example of why “community organizers” are being mocked. The voting booth holds government accountable to its citizens not noble individuals like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. After reading plenty of the comments I still don’t know what a community organizer does although it seems that many folks feel that if they do any type of volunteer work they qualify for the title.

  33. Bravo! Community organizers enhance democracy!

  34. Thanks for doing this. I am proud of my AmeriCorps service in addition to the years I have spent advocating for violence survivors. I feel saddened and frustrated that Palin and the GOP can’t see the value of that service.

    Glad to see we’re organizing in response!

  35. As a Labor Organizer, who has been in over 50% of our nation it is very sad that the knowledge that we in organizing have about this country and about our citizens will never be fully understood by most in public office. I am very proud of the fact that Obama comes from OUR background!

  36. Keep organizing! Keep mobilizing! Keep fighting for social justice and equality. Community organizing is a rewarding career and if anyone is interested in learning how to get into the field, please email me.

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