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7 Steps to Becoming a Community Organizer

Liz Dwyer | GOOD

HowTo

Say you want to build a community garden. You’ve found the perfect space–but in order for you to plant, it needs to get re-zoned. It’s time to become a Community Organizer.

Matthew Noah Smith, a community organizer turned Yale Philosophy professor who keeps skin in the game by teaching the Si Si Puede Become a Community Organizer course at TradeSchool, offered 7 simple steps…and this sage bit of wisdom “You want to create an organization that is sustainable. It’s important to win the change but even more important to create an organization that will sustain a way of life that makes that change last.”

1) Identify the Issue

2)Identify the Community Impacted by the Issue

3) Invite Those People to a Meeting

4) Present the Idea to the Group (and determine who is interested in moving things forward.)

5) Identify leaders within the group. It might not be the one who talks loudest but the one whom others look to.

And here’s where things get tricky. “A good organizer wants to build an organization that can run itself– basically a good organizer organizes him or herself out of a job. In finding good leaders, you’ll make yourself redundant. (That’s a good thing.)

6) Encourage your leaders to identify short-term goals.

A short term goal might be ‘Take steps to make rezoning happen.’ To execute, you’d form teams to do things like research, visit city officials, or maintain a database. These goals should give team members a sense of ownership around the issue they’re working for.

7) And long term goals, too.

Here the focus is on Building the Organization. Continue to get more people involved. Keep identifying and cultivating new leadership. Keep meeting and making decisions together.

The project of being an organizer is to get people to see themselves as having abilities they didn’t know they had. In the end, you’re accomplishing the rezoning but far more importantly, you are organizing people both to become engaged in their community and to take political power.

When you have all those things in place– the leadership thinking about long term goals, about finding people’s talents– it will be a piece of cake to make the change happen.

And now? You don’t matter anymore as you’ve found people to take the lead!

About the Author:

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