Toolkit of GOOD PRACTICES on Citizen Participation!


Community Organizing


Country: Slovakia

Context

Organized community groups attempt to influence government, corporations and institutions, seek to increase direct representation within decision-making bodies, and foster social reforms more in general. When negotiations fail, these organizations quickly seek to inform others outside the organization on the issues being addressed and expose or make pressure on decision-makers through a variety of means, including picketing, boycotting, sit-ins, petitioning, and electoral politics. Organized groups often focus on issues they know will generate controversy and conflict, for this allows them to involve and educate participants, build commitment and establish a reputation based on success cases. Community organizing is predominately focused on more than just resolving specific issues. In fact, specific issues are often vehicles for other organizational agendas as much as they are ends in themselves.

Measure

Community organizing is a process where people who live near each other come together into an organization that acts in their shared interest. Unlike those who promote more consensual community building, community organizers generally assume that social change necessarily involves conflict and social struggle in order to generate collective power for the powerless. Core goals of community organizing are: building power through involving a constituency in identifying problems they share and the desired solutions to those problems, identifying people and structures that can make those solutions possible; moving towards those targets in an effort of negotiation and confrontation and pressure when needed; building an institution that is democratically controlled by the constituency and that can develop the capacity to take on further problems and that embodies the will and the power of that constituency. This can ideally, for example, get community organizing groups a place at the table before important decisions are made. Community organizers work with and develop new local leaders, facilitating coalition and assisting in the creation of campaigns.

Target Group

The main target group is the local community. There is few ways which defined various types of communities:
Grassroots organizing builds community groups from scratch, developing new leadership where none existed and organizing the unorganized. It is a value-based process where people are brought together to act in the interest of their communities and the common good. Networks of community organizations employ this method and support local organizing groups.
Faith base community organizing (FBCO), is a methodology for developing power and relationships throughout a community of institutions.
Broad-based organizations intentionally recruit member institutions and they are both secular and religious.

Methodology

To seek to rectify the problem of power imbalance – build a permanent base of people’s power so that dominant financial and institutional power can be challenged and held accountable for achieving greater social, environmental and economic justice.
Issue of development by the people most affected
Democratic governance
Constant attention to membership building
Leadership grown from the members
Attention to relations
Analysis of community problems and power
Willingness to confront authority
At least one staff organizer
Local fundraising capacity

Stakeholders

Local civic organizations and associations
Local government
Local businesses

Assessment

Achievement concerning the empowerment of citizens:
Identifying, recruiting and training citizens to become more active and effective in their communities
Extensive leadership training programs
Offering assistance on developing strategies on issues and building strong and effective organizations
Providing opportunities for leaders and staff to meet and exchange ideas
Convening groups to work on common issues
Achievement concerning the development of high rise neighborhoods
Diagnoses of the neighborhoods’ environment
Mapping of its development trends
Involvement of citizens into decision-making process
Creation of partnership between citizens, local government and the business sector
Creation of vision and accomplishment of the plans for sustainable development of communities

Impact

Mobilizing volunteers
Crating the mechanism for the group to advocate own their behalf
Willingness to confrontation of some sort
Meeting with corporate or government decision makers to hold them accountable for their actions

Swot

1. Strengths (characteristics of the measure that give it an advantage over others):
Citizens (community) decide what is important for them and how they will deal with it
Community organizing is a direct response to the needs of citizens
Focus on empowerment of citizens and on the ways they can use power
A lot of success stories from many countries
A lot of examples of best practices
Natural building of relations in various communities
 
2. Weaknesses (characteristics that place the measure at a disadvantage relative to others)
Need to have community organizer
Need to consider long-term process of development
Need to engage a lot of citizens from community

3. Opportunities (elements that the measure could exploit to its advantage):
To develop local fundraising
To extend community organizing in high rise neighborhoods as well as in rural areas

4. Threats (elements in the environment that could cause trouble to the measure):
Cultural differences can influence willingness of people to take responsibility and action
Lack of financial support from national or international sources



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