This program has been designed as a tool for people who want to learn or participate in community organizing. My definition of community organizing is to bring together people and resources from a neighbourhood or community to strengthen bonds and a sense of community for positive change. Community organizing starts from the premise that most of us want the same sense of security and freedoms. From there we can begin working together to achieve this for ourselves and future generations. In order to allow this kind of journey to start and progress there needs to be some sense of initiative and this is where a community organizer comes in.
The purpose and role of community organizers.
Doing a google search on community organizing brings up some interesting articles worth checking out. For me, community organizing is a way to learn more about yourself and your neighbours and the dynamics of people and teamwork and cooperation. I think a true sense of community creates a sense of belonging that not only enhances our individual and collective survivability but also strengthens our mental, emotional and spiritual well being. The benefits of being a community organizer are many, and probably different for everyone. Think back to when you were in High School. Do you remember a certain type of person that always seemed to be organizing the parties, events, and outings? It’s sort of like that but with some other good stuff added to the mix. I sincerely wish everyone who is even mildly interested in the idea of community organizing to learn more and give it a go. In today’s world of individualism with everyone doing their own thing, there is always more room for community organizing to get people in the same physical proximity to come together and help each other make life more fun and interesting.
Community organizers bring people together to find ways to not only enhance their own lives but also ensure that the lives of future generations do not make the same mistakes made by previous generations. Through organizing, the next generations are groomed to take care of the neighborhood and become responsible stewards of the land. A neighborhood and community working together, can start to expand their focus out of individualistic survival into making life in the neighborhood more sociable and more interesting, taking into account the needs of the next generations. For example, public gathering spaces can be created to create social forums for people of all ages to socialize in and further the work of continuous positive change. Communities can develop ways for all generations to live and work together in the same neighbourhoods and develop a sense of culture that can be carried on.
The Values and Strategies for successful community organizing
The Festive Earthen Building Events program has been developed to be consistent with values and strategies from a wide variety of sources that identified what it took to make positive change efforts successful in the past.
In order to ensure it's success, the Festive Earthen Building Events Program is based upon the following:
Values for Successfull Community Organizing
1. Broad diversity and all inclusiveness, bringing as many relevant perspectives into the thinking as possible.
You want to invite everyone from the neighbourhood to participate and be included; everyone regardless of age, nationality, race, religion etc. These are your neighbours /your community and you can all learn from each other, from all your various ties to and experience with the human family. Make sure you are able to cater to everyone’s diverse needs and give them any due respect and avoid anything that may prove to be offensive to them.
2. Vision, caring, and responsibility and not on the basis of anger or fear.
Using fear tactics is unsustainable and eventually people get tired of it. They will much more easily gravitate towards the virtue energy, as will you.
3. To recruit ever more allies and not to identify enemies or attack or embarrass any so called opposition.
This is an expansion of the first point. There are always an infinite supply of potential new allies to the cause and strengthening this aspect. With the commitment and focus on making allies, it will make the work feel better. Someone you might think is an enemy could easily one day become another one of your allies.
4.To propose solutions and not to protest wrongs.
Organizing a Festive Earthen Building Event is about organizing a fun family event for everyone to participate in and create together and share in a process of creative self expression. This is a solution to people feeling a greater desire to be more involved in the community and to strengthen the sense of community. People get tired of protesting wrongs and find more joy in working on solutions. When people come together and experience true teamwork with their neighbours then they will be empowered to find other ways to come up with other solutions to other problems they are faced with.
5. For the common good and not for self interest.
Community organizing works best when there is the common good’s interest at heart. Everyone believes in the common good and will therefore offer their support. This needs to be taken into account when deciding where to have the event and what to build and where. I have found this to be a little tricky in cases. If you build a structure in a purely public space it can fall prey to vandalism from other members of the public who did not participate. Therefore when building on public space it should also be public space that has some inbuilt sense of protection in that it is public but access is mostly limited to the specific neighborhood.
6. For completion and to win, not just be ethically or morally correct.
Although the Festive Earthen Program would one day like to see peace on earth, this is not the goal that we expect to achieve in order to feel a sense of success. The goal is to bring members of the neighborhood/community together, to have a fun, memorable event, build a certain number of bricks which are then used to build a particular structure within a certain timeframe. This way participants can enjoy in the success of completion of the project and have cause for celebration and joy.
7. With a shared commitment to struggle together for positive change. This struggle is threefold: personal, interpersonal and global.
This understands that the journey will not only be easy and without struggle. In signing up for community organizing and making positive changes we understand that there will be obstacles that make the struggle. The struggle is not a masochistic need for pain, it is simply understanding that there will be effort required and sweet pain resulting, sort of like exercise or even gentle stretching.
Strategies for Successful Community Organizing.
It is said that a good organizing strategy is one that matches most of the following criteria. Next to each is how the program relates to each.
1. Result in Real Improvement in People’s Lives If you can see and feel the improvement, then you can be sure that it has actually been won.
When you see all the people together at the event and building the structure you will be sure that your efforts have been successful. When you see people sitting on your structure or taking photos of it, you will be doubly assured.
2. Give people a sense of their own power. People should come away from the campaign feeling the victory was won by them, not experts or lawyers, or by the mercy of policy makers. This builds confidence to take on larger issues and loyalty by the organization.
As a community organizer for the Festive Earthen Building Event you will start by creating a team. Together as a team you will organize a successful event and project according to your definitions and measurements of success. Your team members will feel empowered by this and the other community members / neighbours will also feel empowered through participating and witnessing the event.
3. Alter the relations of power. Building a strong organization creates a new center of power that changes the way the other side makes decisions, and hopefully give communities greater influences on the changes to be made to improve their lives.
Once you and your team are able to do one event successfully, it will become easier and easier each year to get other organizations, and individuals wanting to contribute and be associated with your success.
4. Be worthwhile. Members should feel they are fighting for something about which they feel good, and which merits the effort.
If the goals of the project and program are to strengthen community, teamwork and create and outlet for fun and creativity then you have a greater chance of success.
5. Be winnable. The problem must not be so large or the solution so remote that the organization is overwhelmed. The members must be able to see from the start that there is a good chance of winning, or at least that there is a good strategy for winning. Ask who else has won an issue and how, and then call on people with experience and ask for advice.
The program aims to create a team that organizes an event where a structure is built. This is winnable. We do not claim to be able to achieve world peace and set ourselves up for defeat or without the opportunity to celebrate our success.
6. Be widely felt. Many people must feel that this is a real need and must agree with the solution. It is not enough that a few people feel strongly about it.
Again, strengthening community and bringing the diverse aspects of the neighborhood together in a fun, creative, all inclusive environment is generally a widely felt need.
7. Be deeply felt. People must not only agree, but feel strongly enough to do something about it. It is not enough that many people agree about the issue and don’t feel strongly.
In todays world, strengthening community and bringing the diverse aspects of the neighborhood together in a fun, creative, all-inclusive environment is generally a need that is also deeply felt by most.
8. Be easy to understand. It is preferable that you don’t have to convince people that a problem exists, that your solution is good, and that they want to help to solve it. In general, a good issue should not require a lengthy and difficult explanation.
It is important to word promotion material accordingly. As above strengthening community and completion of a functional structure are the basic core.
9. Have a clear time frame that works for you. A campaign has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You should have an idea of the approximate dates on which those points will fall. Some time frame factors are internal, that is, set by your organization. Some are external, set by someone else. The timetable for an election is almost totally external.
This program is organizing warm weather or summer time events. The organizing can continue year round. There is the brick making event at least a week before the main building event. Gaining support from others has to be timed appropriately before this. Not too far away and not too late, too soon.
10. Be non-divisive. Avoid issues that divide your present constituency. Don’t pit neighbor against neighbor, old against young, one race against another. Don’t be content to get the traffic or a drug pusher off your block on onto the next block. Look down the road a few years. Who will you eventually need to bring into your organization?
This has already been covered in one of the earlier points. The festive earthen building event is about cooperation, so make sure that everyone is happy with the location of the event.
11. Build leadership. The campaign should have many roles that people can play. Issues campaigns that meet most the criteria also build leadership if they are planned to do so. Train and place people in leadership and decision making capacities to build the strength of your members.
As a community organizer, your team is key. Teamwork is key to leadership. You want to encourage others to do the same as you and take on the role of leader also.
12. Set your organization up for the next campaign. In addition to thinking about future issue directions, consider the skills the group will develop in the campaign and the contacts it will make for the next one.
One Festive Earthen Building event is preparation for the next one. Be sure to collect all contact info possible from participants so that you can contact them early to get involved in organizing next years event.
13. Have a pocketbook angle. Issues that get people money or save people money are usually widely or deeply felt.
The Festive Earthen Building Events program has been designed with a fund raising component so that organizers can ask local businesses to support the event and sponsor it in exchange for being listed in the program. When participants learn how they can make a durable building material from the dirt beneath their feet, they will realize that they are learning a way to save money if they want to apply it.
14. Raise money. This means having some idea of how you will obtain funding sources for your campaign.
The Program is designed to attract the widest appeal from potential sponsors and contributors. Each team will have to find the best way to raise money. See the fund raiser notes in the manual.
15. Be consistent with your values and vision. The issues we choose to work on must reflect our values and our vision for an improved society.
16. Be capacity-focused. The issue you work on must utilize and provide community members to engage themselves using skills and resources that they can bring to the table. Focusing on needs, rather than capacity, trains people to clients and dependants, rather than equal participants and decision makers in creating positive change.
It should be undertood from the top that everyone can help make the program a success, by simply just attending the public event. A community assets inventory is the role of the Assets Manager in the team. This will undoubtedly uncover all kinds of ways that ordinary neighbours can greatly contribute to the success of the program and project/events. Therefore this is a capacity and resources focussed program rather than a needs and problems based program.