Community Organizing 101--Instructor’s Syllabus Guide

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Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus GuideCommunity Organizing 101--Instructor’s Syllabus GuidePrepared by Danny HoSang1 for the Community Learning PartnershipOVERVIEWThis syllabus guide is a resource for instructors preparing to teach some version of “CommunityOrganizing2 101”—an introductory course designed to familiarize students with the basic ideas,practices, history and theory of community organizing in the United States. It is equally usefulfor community partners working with faculty in planning classes and experiential learning oncommunity organizing.Different versions of this kind of course have been taught for many years in social work schools,public policy departments, planning departments, sociology departments, community economicdevelopment units and other entities, at both two and four year colleges and in graduateprograms.This guide is designed to be both comprehensive and flexible. It includes detailed resources oncourse books and readings, sample learning units, and examples of course design and structure.It is intended to serve as a resource guide for instructors developing or revising their syllabi.Examples of other course syllabi can be found on both the CLP site ( andthe extensive COMM-ORG archive of syllabi, organized by topic.N.B. Since there are many aspects to good community organizing and social changestrategies, the topics covered in this syllabus guide could easily be covered in greaterdepth by dividing them into two courses on community organizing – one an intro CO 101and the other a more advanced CO 102.1Daniel Martinez HoSang formerly was with the Center for Third World Organizing where he workedextensively with grassroots community and racial justice organizations. He currently is AssociateProfessor and Ethnic Studies Department Head at the University of Oregon.2Different colleges use a variety of titles, depending on the instructor’s preference and the departmentwhich offers it. CLP affiliates use “community organizing”, “social justice leadership”, “communitydevelopment” and other titles to denote what this paper means by “community organizing”.1

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus GuideIn community colleges and universities affiliated with the Community Learning Partnership,courses in community organizing are one key element in an integrated series of courses andopportunities to learn from practical experience. Other courses3 cover at a minimum Cultureand Identity, the Region’s Political Economy and History of Social Change, a Practicum/CapstoneProject and most also include courses on specific change issues, expanding certain sets of skillsand other subjects.All instructors, whether in graduate seminars or introductory courses for first-time collegestudents, need to think about ensuring that the syllabus and course is both accessible andchallenging. For community college facjulty in particular, this often means taking into account abroad range of learning styles, backgrounds and experiences.The CLP site also has several useful resources related to adult education and popular educationin general which may be useful to instructors, including the following: 3Jane Vella. “Creating a Safe Environment for Learning”-- Chapter Five from Learning toListen: Learning to Teach (Vella) on the importance of creating a safe space for learningwhen educating adultsJane Vella. “Learners as Decision Makers: Harnessing the Power of Self ThroughRespect.” Describes ways to engage adult learners in making decisions about the settingand content for their workshops and formal learning experiences.Jane Vella. “Twelve Principles for Effective Adult Learning.” Vella outlines the basics ofher principles for adult education, which draw from Paulo Freire's dialogue approach.Throughout this book, she uses interesting case examples from her work worldwide, in arange of community-based settings.Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Chapter 1Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos. “Training for Trainers: A Guide to Designing InteractiveTrainings Using Popular Education Techniques.” A how-to guide to training design, basedon Freire's dialogue approach to popular education. Includes exercises for workshops ontraining design, as well as worksheets for developing trainings.Names for these courses also vary from one college to another.2

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus GuideCommunity Organizing 101: History & PracticeInstructor’s Syllabus GuideA. COURSE DESCRIPTIONAn effective syllabus typically includes a brief explanation of the goals of the course, the mainquestions that students will engage, and an overview of the readings and class activities. Two tofour short paragraphs are generally sufficient.EXAMPLE: This course focuses broadly on the history of social movements, social change effortsand community organizing, both in U.S. and other countries. The course helps students engageseveral fundamental questions: What is community organizing and how can we trace its originsand development in the US? What key assumptions lie at the center of this approach to social andpolitical change, and what differences and divisions characterize the field? Finally, what docommunity organizers do in their day-to-day work, and how does one become a communityorganizer?The class explores community organizing history, theories and practice, as well as models ofsocial change through a mix of skills-based workshops, guest speakers from local social justicegroups (as available), theoretical readings, and practicum-based work. It is designed forstudents with research interests in community-based organizing, as well as those consideringcareer and leadership opportunities in a variety of nonprofit and social change fields.The readings draw from a variety of political commitments and perspectives and are designed tohelp us all reflect on our own ideas and worldviews within a shared and constructive framework.Across the term, the course pays particular attention to the ways that race, class, gender,sexuality, indigeneity and other forms of difference shape privilege and power. Many of the classsessions incorporate small group activities and other collaborative approaches and activities.The goals of this course are:(1) To familiarize students with the history, development and basic assumptions of communityorganizing(2) To introduce students to some of the basic capacities central to community organizing work,including outreach, listening, building, relationships, issue development, strategy and campaigndevelopment, leadership development and movement building through readings and workshopstyle exercises.3

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus Guide(3) To expose students to a range of community organizing approaches and issues taken up bysocial justice organizations in the region.(4) To provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their own political development,assumptions and understanding in relationship to the principles of community organizing.B. BOOKSThere are now several books that can give students an overview of the principles and keymethods of community organizing. Most are quite accessible and require no background in thefield, though they presume different levels of literacy levels. Some are written as “how to” guidesfor organizers and focus on nuts-and-bolts skills for organizers and organizing campaigns.Others combine organizing and social change theory with a discussion of practice.An advantage of using a text in addition to a set of readings or other articles is once students areoriented to the author(s) basic point of view and writing style, it can be easier for them toassimilate new information.The list below includes books which (1) provide a basic overview of community organizing in theUS; and (2) are currently available in print as paperbacks. The listed price indicates price in 2012. Joan Minieri & Paul Getsos. Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power inYour Community (Josey-Bass, 2007)-- 25.o An essential resource for grassroots organizers and leaders, students of activismand advocacy, and anyone trying to increase the civic participation of ordinarypeople. Co-authored by former Program Director of the Community LearningPartnership. Links both skill-based trainings and content as well as manyexamples of effective organizing campaigns.Rinku Sen, Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy. (Jossey-Bass,2003). 25o Examines the primary components of community organizing, using case examplesof several initiatives to organize women, including exploring race and gender inorganizing. Worksheets and tools provided.Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. Vintage, NY (1971)-- 11o Classic text outlining the main ideas of pragmatic radicalism authored by a keyfigure in the history of community organizing.Szakos & Szakos, We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do—And Why. (Vanderbilt University Press, 2007) -- 28o Fourteen in-depth profiles tell the life stories of a cross-section of the diversepeople who choose the life of an organizer. Other chapters, focused on issues oforganizing, are tapestries of experience woven from the 81 interviews the authorsconducted. Provides a useful introduction to what organizers do in their dailylives.Michael Jacoby Brown. Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide toCreating Groups That Can Solve Problems and Change the World (Long Haul Press, 2007) 144

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus Guide o A guidebook with stories, personal exercises and lessons learned from directexperience. Provides worksheets, activities and includes an annotatedbibliography.Mark Warren and Karen Mapp. A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as aCatalyst for School Reform (Oxford, 2011)-- 24o Case studies of community organizing throughout the United States to improveand reform public education. Not necessarily an introductory text, but providesexcellent examples and descriptions of contemporary organizing campaigns.Companion website also available.Si Kahn. Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists, and QuietLovers of Justice (Berrett-Koehler, 2008)-- 13o “Organizer and musician Si Kahn regales us with entertaining, funny, sad, dramatic,and inspiring tales of his work in some of the most important progressive strugglesof the past fifty years — the Southern civil rights movement, the Harlan Countycoal miners' strike, the fights to abolish prison privatization and immigrant familydetention.Midwest Academy, Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists(4th Edition—Forum Press, 2010)-- 37o A comprehensive manual produced by the Midwest Academy for grassrootsorganizers working for social, racial, environmental and economic justice at thelocal, state and national levels. Includes skill-based chapters with extensivepractical examples.Larry R. Salomon, Roots of Justice: Stories of Organizing in Communities of Color (JoseyBass, 1998)-- 30.o “These are the stories of people who fought back against exploitation and injustice-and won. From the Zoot Suiters who refused to put up with abuse at the hands ofthe Navy, to the women who organized the welfare rights movement of the 1970s.”Provides useful historic examples of organizing in communities of color in the US.Eric Mann. Playbook for Progressives: 16 Qualities of a Successful Organizer (Beacon Press2011-- 12o “This comprehensive guide articulates pragmatically what is required in the oftenmystifying and rarely explained on-the-ground practice of organizing. Manndistills lessons he learned from over forty years as an organizer, as well as fromother organizers within the civil rights, labor, LGBT, economic justice, andenvironmental movements.” Especially useful for connecting the politicaldimensions of organizing to effective strategy and tactics, especially in relation tothe role of the organizer.Lee Staples. Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing (Praeger, 2004)-- 25o “This how-to manual presents strategies, tactics, methods, and techniques thatcommunity members can use to set their own goals, select issues, campaign forthese issues, recruit members, develop leaders, hold effective meetings, conductresearch, lobby politicians and legislators, and get the word out to the media.”Loretta Pyles. Progressive Community Organizing: A Critical Approach for a GlobalizingWorld (Routledge 2009)-- 42o “This interdisciplinary textbook offers a comprehensive view of the central issuesfacing progressive community organizers who seek to mobilize those negativelyimpacted by local, national, and global social policies and practices. Intended for5

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus Guideboth undergraduate and graduate students in social work, it aims to articulate thedepth of the subject by introducing students to the philosophical, political, andsociological theories that inform community organizing and advocacy.”OTHER READINGSThe digital library of the CLP site contains a long list of readings appropriate for different typesof community organizing courses, with links to PDF copies of the readings for your reference.The readings cited below can all be found on that site. Please bear in mind that the following fairuse notice applies to all of the referenced readings:FAIR USE NOTICE. These documents contain copyrighted material whose use has not beenspecifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Community Learning Partnership is makingthis material available as part of our mission of enhancing curricular offerings within highereducation around community organizing and community development. We believe that thisconstitutes a fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the USCopyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that gobeyond fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.In addition, the COMM-ORG site maintains a readings webpage, with links to also maintains a resource library, with many popular education and trainingmodules. (Free but website registration required to view some materials).Making the materials available and accessible to students varies greatly by institution. Someinstructors create course packets available for photocopy, others pass out hardcopies in class ormake electronic copies available online.The examples used in this guide draw on a range of different kinds of readings in each week,balancing “how to” topics and trainings with readings on organizing history and theory.C. SAMPLE ASSIGNMENTSIn addition to traditional assignments such as quizzes and exams, CO 101 courses often rely onother assignments to engage students and assess their comprehension of the course materials.For example:1. CAMPAIGN ROLE PLAYS. Early in the term, students can be assigned to a small group of4-5 persons that take on the identity of a community organizing group (either an actualorganizing group from the community/region or a fictional one). From week to week,small groups can be given different scenarios and activities requiring them to implementvarious skills, analyses, and frameworks addressed in the class. For example, during aweek covering grassroots fundraising, small groups can be tasked with creating agrassroots fundraising plan for the organization. Assignments related to campaignplanning, issue identification, research and direct action can be organized on a similarbasis.6

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus Guide2. REFLECTION JOURNAL. Each week, students can be asked to write entries in a personaljournal, reflecting on specific prompting questions in reaction to the assigned readings,class activities, and discussions. The journals can be submitted several times during theterm for comment, or exchanged with others students.3. PRACTICUM/SITE VISITS. If local opportunities and conditions permit, students can beencouraged to visit local community or union organizing groups, either for an educationalvisit or to contribute work to a specific project, such as conducting research or helping toprepare for an event. Students can be asked to maintain journal entries about theseexperiences.4. CAMPAIGN CASE STUDY. Students can be asked to analyze news articles or videosrelated to a specific organizing campaign, and write a case study about the campaign, suchas explaining how the issue was identified, analyzing who makes decisions on the issueand how they might be influenced, writing out a campaign time line or strategy chart, oranswering other questions designed to assess their understanding of organizingvocabulary and concepts.5. INTERVIEWS. Students can be asked to conduct individual interviews of localcommunity organizers or leaders, provided that such requests are cleared in advance bythe instructor with the organization. Ideally, students can volunteer or contribute otherlabor to the organization as well.D. SAMPLE CLASS UNITSThe class sessions below are organized into three sections:A. “Introduction to Social Change and Power” focuses on the political and historicalcontext of community organizing. The readings address organizing history, therelationship of race, class, gender, and sexuality to organizing, and the connectionbetween personal transformation and political transformation.B. “The Building Blocks of Community Organizing” focuses on “nuts and bolts” skillsincluding fundraising, recruitment, actions, and research. The readings draw from variousorganizing manuals and text books, and many of the classroom exercises involve roleplays designed to introduce these skills.C. “Organizing, Political Analysis, and Social Change focuses on the individual andcollective political analysis that guides social change efforts. The classes focus onmovement-building, popular education and training, and career paths into organizing.Depending on instructor preferences as well as the length and organization of the course, asyllabus could incorporate any combination of these units or individual classes. Some of themcould be organized as a second course on Advanced Community Organizing 102.7

Community Organizing 101—Instructor’s Syllabus GuideSECTION A: INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL CHANGE AND POWER.These sessions provide students with a basic overview of a definition of community organizing,its main concepts, and introduce some historical and political context to the study of organizingwithin a college classroom.A1: COURSE INTRODUCTION & THEORIES OF SOCIAL CHANGE.The first week of the course is typically designed to introduce students to the course, theinstructor, and one another. using 1-2 icebreakers during the beginning of class this week—seeone list of suggested icebreakers below. In addition to covering typical course business(syllabus, expectations, etc) instructors might allocate time for an exercise designed to introducestudents to the basic ideas of community organizing, and how it differs from other approachesincluding direct service, advocacy, and electoral politics.One such option is the “Raining Rocks” exercise, which introduces students to variousapproaches to social change, asking them to compare and contrast the relative advantages anddisadvantages of each approach. The recommended reading “Power and Social Change” is a briefoverview of the concept of power as it is used within community organizing, and can be used todebrief the “Raining Rocks” exercise.The film, The Democratic Promise, introduces Alinsky to students in the context of his early workin Chicago through his organizing in Rochester, NY in the late 1960s. The second part profiles acongregation-based organizing project in Brooklyn. The film provides a useful overview of thehistoric emergence of one approach to community organizing.Sample Readings Grassroots Policy Project, “Power and Social Change”—Introduces students to the basicprinciples of community

N.B. Since there are many aspects to good community organizing and social change strategies, the topics covered in this syllabus guide could easily be covered in greater depth by dividing them into two courses on community organizing – one an intro CO 101 and the other a more advanced CO 102.