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Saul David Alinsky
Saul Alinsky invented the role of community organizer in response to the hopelessness of the urban slums of his time and the incapacity of institutions that cared about family well-being to be successful in their mission.
A successful organizer has learned emotionally as well as intellectually to respect the dignity of the people with whom he is working. Thus an effective organizational experience is as much an educational process for the organizer as it is for the people with whom he is working. They both must learn to respect the dignity of the individual, and they both must learn that in the last analysis this is the basic purposse of organization, for participation is the heartbeat of the democratic way of life.
- Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals.
What Organizers Do
Organizing is a craft occasionally approaching an art form. Successful practitioners of the craft take pleasure in doing the day to day work well. The day to day work of an organizer is relational in nature: Individual meetings, small group meetings, actions of all kinds, campaigns, assemblies and ALWAYS money raising. The integrity of this work depends on the independence of the money that pays the organizer. Who pays the piper calls the tune.
Organizing is invariably and intentionally disruptive of existing power relationships. Absent this dimension the work lacks meaning. Individuals uncomfortable with this part of the calling find other vocations better suited to their nature.
The craft analogy is useful because all organizers require mentors, models, and colleagues with whom to digest experience. No exceptions. This is how a craft is learned.
Alinsky himself learned from John L Lewis. Chambers and Harmon learned from Alinsky. Graf, Gecan and Cortes learned from Chambers and Harmon. Stephens learned from Cortes. All went on to invent new forms and formats that built on shared experience. All experienced serious tensions with colleagues that sharpened their own insights and capacities and shaped new accomplishments.