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The Role of a Community Organizer

S.Rengasamy, Madurai Institute of Social Sciences, Madurai, Tamilnadu, India


Let us be proud of what we are doing

The soul of community organizing is people.

An organizer might be paid or work as a volunteer.
The group could start as part of a master plan hatched in
a smoke filled room or out of a 'spontaneous'
community reaction to a crisis like a toxic waste dump.
Community Organizers might base their work on
house by house meetings or cells of clandestine
conspirators. The ultimate goal could achieve their
collective aspirations. Organizers can differ on
strategy, tactics, even on what seem to be base values.
However, all organizers believe in people, in the ability of regular folks to guide their lives,
Role – Meaning & Definitions
Ø Prescribed or expected behavior associated with a particular position or status in a group or organization.
Ø normal or customary activity of a person in a particular social setting
Ø A role (sometimes spelled rôle as in French) or a social role is a set of connected behaviors, rights and
obligations as conceptualized by actors in a social situation. It is an expected behavior in a given individual
social status and social position. It is vital to both functionalist and interactionist understandings of society.
• role - the actions and activities assigned to or required or expected of a person or group;
• duty - work that you are obliged to perform for moral or legal reasons;
• capacity - a specified function;
• hat - an informal term for a person's role;
• portfolio - the role of the head of a government department;
• second fiddle - a secondary role or function;
Ø A position, or status, within a social structure that is shaped by relatively precise behavioural expectations
(norms). A role has been described as the active component of status. .

to speak for themselves, to learn the world and how to make it better. - Dave Beckwith and
Randy Stoeker

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Just what organizers do can sound like any standard job description - "administration,
planning, policy decision-making, program and leadership development and action
implementation, public relations activities, and service activities." But CO work takes form
within the dynamics of community and struggle, requiring organizers to have an
extraordinary range of competencies.

The organizer must thoroughly understand the characteristics and the power patterns of the
community through extensive interviews and discussions with community members. The
organizer is a listener. The organizer identifies and trains potential leaders. These potential
leaders are not necessarily the titular heads of organizations. Through an extensive listening
process issues or problems of concern to the people are identified. People must be
• Community Organizers build organizations that maximize the power and participation of the
• Community Organizers listen to the people
• Community Organizers are responsible for sharing information and raising questions,
options, alternatives and problems that affect the community.
• Community Organizers identify and develop diverse group of members who agree to serve as
the organization’s public voice in a variety of issues.
• Community Organizers are attuned to the power relationships and political agendas
surrounding an issue ,
• Community Organizers develop sound organizing strategies based on his power analysis.
• Community organizer’s role is to build public relationships,
• Community organizer is to work with people to define problems and issues, and help them
think through the strategies and tactics necessary to act with confidence and win.
• Community Organizers recruit members, assist with fundraising, and integrate fundraising
into every aspect of their organizing work.
• Community Organizers ensure that their members receive a consistently high standard of
appropriate and effective training.
• Community Organizers enable the members to hold meetings that are productive and
• Community Organizers facilitate training and strategy sessions when needed
• Community Organizers build evaluations into all aspects of their work.
• Community Organizers strive to be accountable and hold others accountable in every aspect
of their job .
• Community Organizers always make time for follow-up.
• Community Organizers strive to eflect on and improve their skills on an ongoing basis, and
develop an annual self-development plan
• Community Organizers challenge people to act on behalf of their common interests.
• Community Organizers develop new relationships out of old ones
• Community Organizers work through campaigns.

encouraged to talk about their views of the community and it is important that they realize
that the organizer does not come with a preconceived program. An organizer must also be
able to agitate people to act. "Until the people recognize that it is they who must do
something about their own problems, and that it is only THEY who can be trusted to do the
right thing - and until they realize that only if they organize enough power in their community
that something can be done about these things, nothing will get done."

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Sarah Palin, Vice Presidential candidate of USA made some comments on the experiences of
Barack Obama, Presidential candidate as a community organizer in Chicago, during the election
campaign. She said her stint as a small-town mayor was "sort of like a 'community organizer,'
except that she had some actual responsibilities."Community organizers throughout USA united
together and torn Sarah Palin into bits and pieces. Their reactions were truly inspiring, revealing
the great role played by the community organizers.

I am a Community Organizer @ The Role of a Community Organizer

Community organizers have been at the root of any social change. While it can take many forms such
as protests, petitioning, advocating, celebrations, canvassing, educating, registering voters, vigils,
fundraising, marching, church meetings, neighborhood watches, government funded organizations,
non-profits who rely solely on donations and volunteers, letter writing campaigns, feeding those
without food, speaking for those who are not heard, listening to someone share her/his story, and
many other ways, it always is done by working with people in the community. Community organizers
are the first to respond to injustices that unfairly target certain groups of people. They are often from
the community they are advocating for,
providing an authentic voice in an ever-
increasing world of meaningless quips
and political banter. While politicians talk
about their "real responsibility", it is the
community organizers who suffer with
the community when policies fail and
promises are broken.

It was community organizers who first

questioned the rule of England in what
would become the United States. It was
community organizers that developed the
Underground Railroad and demanded
that all be free in this country. It was
community organizers who insisted that
people of color and women have the
right to vote. It was community organizers who advocated against child labor and for adequate public
education. It was community organizers who saw a need to support the disadvantaged in our country
and created social services. It was community organizers who fought for civil rights throughout
history for countless groups. It was community
organizers who demanded that women have a choice While politicians talk about their "real
about their bodies and when they have children. It responsibility", it is the community organizers
was community organizers who spoke out about the who suffer with the community when policies
violence perpetrated on targeted groups. It was fail and promises are broken.
community organizers who protested war after war,
and it was community organizers that advocated for veterens who were forgotten by the country who
asked them to sacrifice all. It was community organizers who believed that everyone has the right to
practice the faith of their
Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch
choice and called upon our
politicians and their failed policies. It is no surprise that, after eight years
government to create a
of failed policies, millions of people have found that by coming together in
separation of church and
their local communities, they can change the course of history.
state. It was community
organizers who protected
and supported when all others turned a blind eye. It was community organizers that fought for every
right you have.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

It will be community organizers that make sure you have your needs met should you not be
financially able to. It will be community organizers that help you raise your voice high so that you are
not forgotten about in our society and
Social role posits the following about social behavior: government. It will be community
1. People spend much of their lives in groups. organizers that work to protect you should
2. Within these groups, people often take distinct you be violently targeted for your identity.
positions. It will be community organizers who
3. Each of these positions can be called a role, with a demand that your vote count. It will be
whole set of functions that are molded by the community organizers who fight for your
expectations of others. right to equal and adequate resources. It
4. Formalized expectations become norms when will be community organizers who demand
enough people feel comfortable in providing that you have healthcare regardless of
punishments and rewards for the expected behavior. whether you can pay or not. It will be
5. Individuals are generally conformists, and insofar as community organizers that insist on your
that is true, they conform to roles. right to age with dignity and proper
6. The anticipation of rewards and punishments inspire support. It will be community organizers
this conformity. who work to ensure that you always have a
Determinants and characteristics of social role choice. It will be community organizers who
Roles may be achieved or ascribed. An achieved role is a protect you from government corruption. It
position that a person assumes voluntarily which will be community organizers who will
reflects personal skills, abilities, and efforts. Roles are demand access to healthy and non-toxic
not forced upon the individual; a choice is involved. An foods and products for you. It will be
ascribed role is a position assigned to individuals or community organizers who will fight for you
groups without regard for merit but because of certain when you cannot. It will be community
traits beyond their control (Stark 2007). Roles are organizers who stand by you when others
forced upon the individual. walk away.
Roles can be semi-permanent ("doctor", "mother",
"child"), or they can be transitory. A well-known It would be easy for me to launch into a
example is the sick role as formulated by Talcott diatribe against the Republicans and
Parsons in the late 1940s. In the transitory "sick role", a promote the agenda of the Democratic
person is exempted from his usual roles, but expected party, but that's not what I want to do
to conform to transitory behavioral standards, such as today. I want to take a moment to reflect
following doctors' orders and trying to recover. on the deep saddness I felt when hearing
government leaders mock the hard work
and history of so many in this country. I think of all those people, both past and present, who never
had a convention in their honor or even heard so much as a thank you from these leaders for doing
the work that should have already been done by the
A community organizer should have:
 an understanding of development
theories and concepts and processes of
community organizing
 good social and community relation
skills to promote social integration in
the community
 an ability to work with other teams of
 the knowledge and skills to enable
communities to access specialized
technical assistance in instances when
this is needed
 sensitivity to the local culture
 gender-sensitivity.

government tasked with protecting us all. It frightens me that current leaders are so out of touch
with the people in this nation that they would revel in their privileged status on television while many

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

that night went to bed worrying about when they will get a job, where tomorrow's meals will come
from, what
to do if they get sick, or how to go on another day in a society that systematically denies them
protection and equal rights. The remarks that night prove to me that there is still so much work to be
done. No matter who wins the election in November, we must all continue to fight for what is
rightfully ours and hold our government to the standards of nothing but excellence. Although we
were mocked and disparaged that night, I know I am a small part of a great history of people who
cared enough to do something when injustice occurred.
I am proud to be a community organizer.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

The Roles of the Community Organization Worker

Kenneth L. M. Pray. "En-abler"
Murray G. Ross Guide, Enabler, Expert, and added more tentatively- Social
Professional roles Therapist
Violet Sieder Enabler, Guide, and Expert—but added Educator and
Interpreter, Mediator, Arbitrator, and Manipulator.
Robert MacRae Enabler, Consultant (close to the conception of guide), Adult
Educator, and Promoter.
The report on Defining Enabler, Guide, "Helping groups to take action," and "Initiator
Community Organization of action through education, Demonstration, or other similar
Practice techniques.
Irwin T. Sanders – Analyst, Planner, Organizer for change, and Program
Professio- nal roles in administrator.
Planned change
Roland Warren Enabler or Catalyst, Persuader, and Contestant
Purposive change agent
Charles F. Grosser Enabler, "Broker," Advocate, and Activist.
Working with Urban poor
Alan Connor Educator, Adviser, Advocate, Broker, Initiator, and Stimulator
Desmond M. Connor "Development worker"- Observer, Diagnostician, Strategist,
"Development worker" and Stimulator.
Jack Rothman "Guiding" and "Enabling" roles, ranging from "strongly
directive" to "non-directive."
Roles agreed by different (1) Enabler; (2) Guide, Consultant, or Expert; (3) Educator,
authors Interpreter, or Persuader; (4) Initiator, Stimulator, Strategist;
and (5) Promoter, Advocate, or Contestant.
Enabling means to supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity; make able;
The "broker" role involves putting people in touch with resources.
The roles of community organization workers on various jobs run the whole gamut from
enabler, factfinder, analyst, planner, stimulator, broker, catalyst, interpreter, educator,
conferee, negotiator, liaison worker, mediator, and consultant to organizer, agent, executive
aide, advocate, promoter, strategist, social actionist, militant leader, and occasionally,
perhaps, social statesman.

Skills in Community Organizing

Development education and training Liberating education and popular education
Different phases of the training program Advocacy and networking
Techniques of a Community Organizer
Structuring Situation analysis Problem analysis Role playing and socio-drama
Education and promotion Demonstration Formal study
Use of group dynamics and experiential learning in training Use of an expert/consultation
Roles of Community Organizer
Trainer Facilitator Advocate Researcher Planner Catalyst
Enabler Helper Guide Initiator Broker Consultant

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Orientation or Vision of a Community Organizer

Every organizer must possess an orientation and political line which means a perspective that
specifies an analysis of the situation; an assessment of the forces and the classes that are for
and against change; the methods for change; and a concept of the alternative to the current
system. While these necessarily have ideological underpinnings, an organizer may not have a
systematized ideology but may develop
The Role of the Community Organizer one in the process of struggle.
The Community Organizer is a facilitator, animator, Orientation and political line are not the
enabler and catalyst.
As a Facilitator, the CO "provides" a process
sole possession of the members of
which will help the community discuss their political organizations. Every organizer
situation, identify and prioritize issues and must be clear on his political line and
problems, identify solutions and formulate and his orientation to the people.
implement plans to resolve the key issues and
problems. The facilitator’s responsibility is to ensure To further clarify this issue, an
that members of the community communicate and organizer’s work is supported by a
are satisfied with and committed to the
decisions taken.
general orientation which may have
As an Animator, the CO helps the community different expressions in terms of a
discover and use all its self-help potentials for distinct political line. He/she can be
creative and constructive team work. The animator motivated by religious faith – Hindu,
stimulates people to think critically when identifying Christian, Islamic or faith in the power
problems and finding new solutions. He/she and the goodness of the people and their
motivates the people to share their concerns, capacity to transform their reality. Tools
information and opinions, set goals, make decisions
and plan action.
for analysis which are drawn from
As an Enabler, the CO helps initiate a process of Marxism, the social sciences and others
"liberation of initiatives." The enabler helps release are used. He/she is guided by a vision of
the creative initiatives of the people and ensures an attainable future that is basically
that the development agenda evolves as part of the socialist and conforms, not to
process of change and is not imposed. She/he also stereotyped images or to the mechanical
ensures that dependency is reduced through duplication of foreign models, but to the
cooperative action and social education.
Finally, the CO is a Catalyst, who hastens the
actual needs and
process of change. The catalyst is successful when conditions of the people.
the organizing process has been fully internalized
by the people. The community organizer also An organizer should exhaust all open
serves as a model, not only in words but also in and legal means for the attainment of
deeds. A general rule that governs community this vision. However, when the people
organizers: If there is a conflict between decide that the existing system can no
authority (whatever that authority may be)
and the
longer be altered through such means,
people, go with the people an organizer must be open to using other
means, especially the right of self-defense.
Finally, it must be pointed out that behind every ideology, political line and orientation is an
act of faith, a belief in an option or stand. The correctness of a position – while it may seem
to be the absolute truth at one point in time – can really be judged only after a passage of
time. Differences in positions, as well as the shift of an organizer form one position to
another, for as long as it is consciously done, must be viewed from the vantage point of
mutual respect. After all, time will tell which position was correct. What is necessary is
openness to dialogue and an ethical relationship between those who possess
different perspectives.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Skill implies not only knowledge but the ability to put knowledge to practical use; it connotes
competence, ease and precision of execution, dexterity, efficiency and effectiveness and
performance. Skill has been called the "ability to do the right thing at the right time". Skill,
which primarily involves doing rather
than with either knowing or feeling Organizers’ Goals in Assisting Communities.
There are three types of objectives for a community
organizer. These are
- Interpersonal Skills – skills that 1. Task Goals – goals concerned with the
have to do with relationships with identification of objectives and the development of
individuals and groups. This includes the means and resources to carry them out or
conflict management. implement them.
- Analytical skills – skills that have to 2. Process Goals – refer to the enhancement and
do with fact-finding or data-gathering strengthening of the community members,
competence for participation, self-direction and
and interpretation of data or
information for decision-making, 3. Relationship Goals – focus on changing certain
problem-solving and types of social relationships and decision making
conflict handling. patterns in the community.
- Organization Development Skills –
skills that have to do with setting up and sustaining organizations, planning and policy-
making, organizing or determining appropriate organizational structure design, political and
legislative skills, administrative skills, strategy design and implementation and
- Training Skills – skills that have to do with capability building of members of the
community organization, training needs and analysis, formulation of curriculum and training
design, instruction skills and the use of training methodologies and training monitoring and
Skill, when highly developed brings about automatic or nearly automatic responses to

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Understanding Disasters to play the role of Community Organizers during Disasters

A disaster is the tragedy
of a natural or man- man
made hazard (a hazard
is a situation which
poses a level of threat to
life, health, property, or
environment) that
negatively affects
society or environment.
In contemporary
academ - ia, disasters
are seen as the
consequence of
managed risk. These
risks are the product of
hazards and
vulnerability. Hazards
that strike in areas with
low vulnerability are not
considered a disaster, as
is the case in
uninhabited regions.
Developing countries
suffer the greatest costs
when a disaster hits –
more than 95 percent of
all deaths caused by
disasters occur in
developing countries,
and losses due to
natural disasters are 20
times greater (as a
percentage of GDP) in
developing countries
than in industrialized
A disaster
disa can be
defined as any tragic
event that may involve
at least one victim of
circumstance, such as an
Disaster management has four phases; mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery/reconstruction.
Mitigation and preparedness are phases before disasters occur and response and recovery/reconstruction
are phase after disasters. Mitigation means not causing any damages. Preparedness means preparation
something for the time when people take damages. Response means evacuation or rescue soon after
disasters occur. And recovery/reconstruction means rebuilding or improving social and natural
environment than states before disasters.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Understanding Civil Conflicts to play the role of Community Organizers during Conflicts

Civil Conflicts / Wars

James Fearon, a scholar of civil conflicts / wars at Stanford University, states that "a civil
conflicts / war is a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to
take power at the center or in a region, or to change government
Ann Hironaka specifies that in civil conflicts on one side of a
civil conflicts is the state. The intensity at which a civil
disturbance becomes
mes a civil war is contested by academics.
Some political scientists define as civil war as having more than
1000 casualties, while others further specify that at least 100
must come from each side. The Correlates of War, a dataset
widely used by scholars of conflict, classifies civil wars as
having over 1000 war-related
related casualties per year of conflict.
This rate is a small fraction of the millions killed in the Second
Sudanese Civil War and Cambodian Civil War, for example,
but excludes several highly publicized
publ conflicts, such as The
Troubles of Northern Ireland and the struggle of the African
National Congress in Apartheid-era
Apartheid South Africa.

Examples of Livelihood Assets, Conflict Shocks and Potential Responses

Physical Farm equipment, seeds, Looting or destruction Increase security,
tools, sewing machines, distribute
vehicles, livestock, houses seeds/tools/livestock,
provide housing support
Natural Agricultural and grazing Burning, displacement, loss Negotiate access, provide
land, water resources, of access to grazing land alternative resources,
food, redistribute land
timber, fish
Human Labor power within a Death, loss of productivity, Emergency education,
household, education, disability; school &workplace employment schemes
skills, closures
vocational training
Financial Wages, access to credit, Collapse of banking system, Micro--
--credit, cash/food for
savings displacement causing work, Peace Markets
Social Kinship structures, religious Displacement, fighting Conflict resolution support;
groups, neighborhoods between groups support to religious, neigh-
borhood & other groups
Political Citizenship, access to Deterioration of state, loss of Constitutional reform,,
political leaders, recourse legal system police/judicial/human rights
to training, election support
a functioning legal system
Based on the 1000 casualties per year criterion, there were 213 civil wars from 1816 to 1997,
104 of which occurred from 1944 to 1997. If one uses the less-stringent
less stringent 1000 casualties total
criterion, there were over 90 civil wars between 1945 and 2007, with 20 ongoing civil wars as
of 2007.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

Understanding health to play the role of Community Organizer

Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting
health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public
and private, communities and individuals." It is concerned with threats to the overall health of
a community based on population health analysis. The population
in question can be as small as a handful of people or as large as
all the inhabitants of several continents. Public health is typically
divided into epidemiology, biostatistics and health services.
Environmental, social, behavioral, and occupational health are
also important subfields.

The focus of public health intervention is to prevent rather than

treat a disease through surveillance of cases and the promotion of
healthy behaviors. In addition to these activities, in many cases
treating a disease may be vital to preventing it in others, such as during an outbreak of an
infectious disease. Hand washing, vaccination programs and distribution of condoms are
examples of public health measures.The goal of public health is to improve lives through the
prevention and treatment of disease.

The United Nations' World Health Organization defines health as "a state of complete
physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Public health functions include: Public health programs

• Health surveillance, monitoring and analysis Today, most governments recognize the
• Investigation of disease outbreaks, epidemics importance of public health programs in
and risk to health
reducing the incidence of disease,
• Establishing, designing and managing health
promotion and disease prevention programs disability, and the effects of aging,
• Enabling and empowering communities to although public health generally
promote health and reduce inequalities receives significantly less government
• Creating and sustaining cross-Government and funding compared with medicine. In
intersectoral partnerships to improve health and recent years, public health programs
reduce inequalities providing vaccinations have made
• Ensuring compliance with regulations and laws
incredible strides in promoting health,
to protect and promote health
• Developing and maintaining a well-educated and including the eradication of smallpox, a
trained, multi-disciplinary public health workforce disease that plagued humanity for
• Ensuring the effective performance of NHS thousands of years.
services to meet goals in improving health,
preventing disease and reducing inequalities An important public health issue facing
• Research, development, evaluation and the world currently is HIV/AIDS.
Antibiotic resistance is another major
• Quality assuring the public health function
concern, leading to the reemergence of
diseases such as Tuberculosis.

Another major public health concern is diabetes. In 2006, according to the World Health
Organization, at least 171 million people worldwide suffered from diabetes. Its incidence is
increasing rapidly, and it is estimated that by the year 2030, this number will double.

S.Rengasamy - Role of a Community Organizer

A controversial aspect of public health is the control of smoking. Many nations have
implemented major initiatives to cut smoking, such as increased taxation and bans on
smoking in some or all public places. Proponents argue by presenting evidence that smoking

Important Historical Figures in Rudolph Virchow

Medicine/Public Health and Argued that many diseases result from “the unequal
Social Justice distribution of civilization’s advantages”
Advocated public provision of medical care for the
• Florence Nightingale
• Margaret Sanger Promoted universal education
• Albert Schweitzer Worked to outlaw child labor
• Charles Dickens Improved water distribution and sewage system
• George Orwell Enhanced food inspection process
• Upton Sinclair Published study of skull volumes to dispute myth of larger
• Anton Chekhov Aryan brains
Passed hygiene standards for public schools
• William Carlos Williams Set new standards of training for nurses
Improved local hospital system

is one of the major killers in all developed countries, and that therefore governments have a
duty to reduce the death rate, both through limiting passive
(second-hand) smoking and by providing fewer
opportunities for smokers to smoke. Opponents say that
this undermines individual freedom and personal
responsibility (often using the phrase nanny state in the
UK), and worry that the state may be emboldened to
remove more and more choice in the name of better
population health overall. However, proponents counter
that inflicting disease on other people via passive smoking
is not a human right, and in fact smokers are still free to smoke in their own homes.