A lot has been produced about organizing in the past few years: books, case studies, research reports, toolkits, web-based materials, films, and more. As we developed this guide, grantmakers recommended some excellent resources, compiled below. You’ll find print and film resources on organizing in general as well as materials on some of the major branches of organizing in the United States: congregation- or faith-based, education, immigration, and youth organizing. We offer special thanks to Cyrus Driver and the Working Group on Education Organizing, and Maria Mottola and Kevin Ryan of the New York Foundation for their significant contributions to this list.
General Community Organizing Resources
Dave Beckwith and Cristina Lopez
People Power from the Grassroots
Kim Bobo, Steve Max and Jackie
Kendall Organizing for Social Change:
The Midwest Academy Manual for Activists
3rd Edition. Seven Locks Press, 2001
Henry G. Cisneros, editor
Interwoven Destinies: Cities and the Nation
Norton, 1993. Among the 13 accessible essays compiled here is "Reweaving the Fabric: The Iron Rule and the IAF Strategy for Power and Politics" by Ernesto Cortes, one of the premier community organizers in the Industrial Areas Foundation network of organizations. This essay describes the so-called "Iron Rule" of community organizing: Never do for others what they can learn to do for themselves.
COMM-ORG Listserve, "to link academics and activists, and theory and practice, toward the goal of improving community organizing and its related crafts."
The Last Stop Sign
Shelterforce Online, Nov/Dec 1998.
The Importance of Historical Context
Web Module on Organizing
Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Kennedy School for Government, Harvard University.
Going Public: An Inside Story of Disrupting Politics as Usual
Beacon Press, 2004. An inside story of how a city really works and how any organized group of citizens can wield power in seemingly unmovable bureaucracies. Gecan offers unforgettable lessons every American should know: What is the best way to talk to politicians? What resources do all communities need to create change? What kinds of public actions really work? The final chapter on bureaucratic, and market, cultures is particularly useful.
Organizing for Change: Stories of Success
Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos
Tools for Radical Democracy:
How to Organize for Power in Your Community
The Needmor Fund: 50 Years, 50 Stories
Charles M. Payne
I've Got the Light of Freedom:
The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle
University of California Press, 1995
Robert R. Putnam
Better Together: Restoring the American Community
Simon and Schuster, 2003. In response to civic crises and local problems, meet people driven by their vision to succeed by building community, often in innovative ways that may turn out to be appropriate for the twenty-first century: Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley who want paved roads, running water, and decent schools; Harvard clerical workers searching for respect and improved working conditions; Wisconsin schoolchildren organizing to improve safety at a local railroad crossing; and Tupelo merchants joining with farmers to improve their economic status. Chapters 1 and 4 focus especially on community organizing.
Stir It Up:
Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy
Kristin Layng Szakos and Joe Szakos
We Make Change:
Community Organizers Talk About What They Do - And Why
Vanderbilt University Press, 2007
Basics of Organizing:
You Can’t Build A Machine Without Nuts and Bolts
National Training and Information Center, 1986.
Dynamics of Organizing
National Training and Information Center, 1976.
Congregation- or Faith-Based Organizing
See, in particular:
Mark R. Warren and Richard L. Wood
Faith-Based Community Organizing: The State of the Field
Interfaith Funders, 2001.
Mary Beth Rogers
Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics
University of North Texas Press, 1990
Mark R. Warren
Dry Bones Rattling:
Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy
Princeton University Press, 2001. An in-depth treatment of how to rebuild the social capital of America's communities while promoting racially inclusive, democratic participation, this study profiles the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network in Texas and the Southwest and it's role in reviving democratic life in the inner city. It shows how the IAF network helps unlikely collaborators - interfaith leaders from poor communities of color and those from more affluent communities – to build organizations with the power to construct affordable housing, create job-training programs, improve schools, expand public services, and increase neighborhood safety.
Richard L. Wood
Faith in Action:
Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America
University of Chicago Press, 2002. Over the past 15 years, associations throughout the US have organized citizens around issues of equality and social justice, often through local churches, to reshape public policies that neglect the disadvantaged. Wood explores how this faith-based form of community organizing succeeds by comparing two local groups in Oakland, California. He argues that the alternative culture and strategies of these two groups give them radically different access to community ties and social capital.
A. S. Bryk and B. L. Schneider
Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement
Russell Sage Foundation, 2002. Over the course of three years, 12 Chicago elementary schools were studied as they underwent extensive reorganization in response to the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988, which called for greater involvement of parents and community leaders in their neighborhood schools. Drawing on a longitudinal survey and achievement data, as well as in-depth interviews with principals, teachers, parents, and community leaders, the authors develop an account of how effective social relationships - which they term relational trust - serve as a prime resource for school improvement.
Community Involvement Program
Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University
See, in particular:
Kavitha Mediratta, Seema Shah, Sara McAlister
Organized Communities, Stronger Schools:
A Preview of Research Findings
Concha Delgado-Gaitan and Trueba Enrique
The Power of the Community:
Mobilizing for Family and Schooling
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001. Delgado-Gaitan began literacy research in Carpinteria, California, at a time when Mexican immigrant workers had almost no voice in how their children were educated. Regular community gatherings gave birth to a community organization that reached out to everyone in the community, not just other Latino families. In a society that accentuates individualism and independence, these men and women look to their community for leadership, support, and resources for children, developing a fresh approach and workable solutions to the problems that face schools today.
Urban Schools, Public Will:
Making Education Work for All Our Children
Teachers College Press, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2007
Kavitha Mediratta, Norm Fruchter, and Anne Lewis
Organizing for School Reform: How Communities are
Finding Their Voice and Reclaiming their Public Schools
Public Interest Projects
Communities for Public Education Reform:
A Fund for Education Organizing
The Promise of an Inner-City Charter School
Ballantine, 2002. The E.C. Reems Academy, a charter school-in-progress established by the Oakland Community Organization, gave Jonathan Schorr complete access to the students, teachers, and parents. Schorr documents the school’s struggle to increase its effectiveness in teaching children from neighborhoods where success is rare, all the while trying to avoid becoming a self-sabotaging bureaucracy. Through successes and setbacks, Hard Lessons reveals just how difficult it is, even with the best of intentions, to offer a quality education to every child in America.
Immigrant Organizing, Civic Outcomes:
Civic Engagement, Political Activity, National Attachment,
and Identity in Latino Immigrant Communities
Center for the Study of Democracy, 2002
Pursuing Democracy's Promise:
Newcomer Civic Participation in America
Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and Funders’ Committee on Civic Participation. 2004.
Public Interest Projects
Four Freedoms Fund "a national funding collaborative to energize American democracy by supporting and engaging immigrants and refugees."
Immigrant Organizing, Gotham Gazette, April 2006
Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing
Occasional Papers Series and other publications
Pedro Noguera, Shawn Ginwright, and Julio Cammarota
Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America's Youth. Taylor and Francis Group, 2006
Building Hope: Community Development in America
Pratt Center for Community Development, 1994. A unique documentary that takes up the history of community development corporations and their origins in community protest and organizing efforts.
The Killing Floor
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1985. Feature film about the 1919 Chicago race riots. It focuses on African-American migration from the south, their ghettoization in the City of Chicago, efforts of workers in the meatpacking industry there to unionize, and the tensions that led to the riots.
Promises to Keep
Durrin Productions Inc., 1988. The work of Mitch Snyder, a homeless advocate, is the subject of this documentary. It looks at how Snyder, along with the Community for Creative Non-Violence organized during the 1980 in response to federal housing cuts and rising homelessness.
The Times of Harvey Milk
Black Sand Productions, 1996. In its examination of the rise of gay politics in San Francisco, California, this documentary highlights the importance of coalitions and the link between grassroots organizing and electoral politics.
Daley: The Last Boss
Social Media Productions, 1996. Documentary about Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, Illinois - father of the current mayor - and how he ran his urban political machine. It shows what community groups are up against, but it also shows how to build a political/electoral organization that can deliver the goods.
Fenceline: A Company Town Divided
LogTV Ltd., 2002. A documentary on community organizing that takes on environmental justice issues. The film looks at a community called "Diamond" located near a Shell chemical processing plant in Norco, Louisiana. The community struggles to be relocated and eventually 'wins' their request for relocation.
Might Times: The Children's March
HBO Family, 2004. This 20-minute film is about young people organizing in Birmingham, Alabama when the elders were encouraging slowing down civil rights organizing.
David Beats Goliath: How Inglewood Defeated Wal-Mart
LAANE, 2004. A 10-minute documentary, sponsored by the LA Alliance for a New Economy, about a community-labor coalition’s victorious fight to turn back Wal-Mart's efforts to locate a mega-story in Inglewood.
Bread & Roses
Parallax Pictures, 2000. Maya (Pilar Padilla) is appalled at the work conditions and unfair labor practices at her job as a janitor in a downtown Los Angeles office building. She teams up with Sam (Adrian Brody), a labor organizer, in a stirring fight against her ruthless employer. The film is based on the Justice for Janitors campaign among Los Angeles’ immigrant workers. It was a selection of the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
City of Hope
Esperanza Films Inc., 1991. A feature film about urban politics by director John Sayles. It focuses on the tensions between urban redevelopment and community development in a city undergoing gentrification; based on Jersey City or Hoboken, NJ. It has some interesting scenes about organizing and politics.
Hull House: The House that Jane Built
1991. Documentary about the first wave of urban social reform at the turn of the 20th Century, focusing on women reformers in the settlement house movement.
Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.
This takeaway was derived from Funding Community Organizing.