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The Life of a Community Organizer

Updated on May 15, 2012

PUSH March, Chicago 1973

Elder citizens protest inflation, unemployment, and high taxes.
Elder citizens protest inflation, unemployment, and high taxes.

Mohandes Ghandi

Organizer for India (photos public domain)
Organizer for India (photos public domain)

Women's Suffrage (Voting)

Mrs. Stanley McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker (1913).
Mrs. Stanley McCormick and Mrs. Charles Parker (1913).

Background

I think that one of the best ways to become a community organizer is to be born into a family that appreciates and participates in community development and service to mankind. Even if a child is not born into such a family, public and private schools often offer community service projects to whet the child's appetite for service.

By high school in America, most youth are required to perform community service in order to graduate and receive their diplomas and this can be a first step to a career in community service.

An individual on the path to community organization as a career also needs to have an appreciation and commitment to the concept of "community." In this, the group is as important as, or more important than any unique individual in the group, but it is for the good of all members of that group. This does not prevent the group helping any single individual, however. People that do not want to participate or help others in a group cannot likely become success in community organizing.

Some individuals and small nuclear families in the fragmented American society attempt to isolate themselves from others. They do not know their neighbors and never speak to anyone in the local grocery store.

These individuals likely would not become successful community organizers, because interaction and networking is required for such work. If these folks became sudden gregarious, they would likely be met with suspicion. However, such individuals can change and gain trust in a community over time.

Civil Rights

American abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond (18101882)
American abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond (18101882)
Sidney Poitier's at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963.
Sidney Poitier's at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963.

Early Expedience

We more often hear more often these days about children working for community development. Some of these kids organize bake sales to help a sick friend in the hospital to battle cancer via expensive treatment. Others make sandwiches and are able to persuade their parents to take them to the homeless downtown. Others collect blankets for the poor.

In junior and senior high school, some students join the Student Council and help organize their classes for community service projects or to improve the schools in some way. This can be a first step to community organizing and even a political career.

High school and college students often help to register people to vote before elections. This occurs in libraries, at churches, and in local health fairs and other events.

The more experiences a young person can gather along the lines of the above activities, the more he or she will be prepared to become a community organizer.

Among the skills required are

  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Excellent writing skills that include good grammar and spelling and a compelling persuasive style
  • A creditable stage presence and confidence
  • The ability to talk to strangers persuasively
  • Public speaking skills for small to large gatherings
  • Networking abilities
  • A strong support group of like minded friends and family members
  • Strong delegation and follow-up skills

Native American Lands

Iroquois Indian Village at the 2008 New York State Fair.
Iroquois Indian Village at the 2008 New York State Fair.

Qualifications

A community organizer falls into the fields of Human Services and Social Services workers.

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) is not always required at first in these jobs. However, a degree lends to credibility and trust and employers are looking for them, as well as for experience in the field. Unpaid volunteer experience is also counted.
  • Job openings are expected to grow much faster than average from 2009 - 2012.
  • Wages may be low, especially in entry level positions.
  • Postsecondary education is likely necessary for advancement. A professional degree in law may be desirable.

Work Environment

Organizers will work in offices, government buildings, outdoors, in crowds, in healthcare facilities, and elsewhere. They may visit shelters and other programs. Travel is likely to be required. Personal safety may be at risk.

Roots

Community organizing began in the late 19th Century, surrounding women's rights, the plight of the poor, and minority injustices. It took a grass-roots format that involved door-to-door visitations, much like churches' weekly witnessing programs. In fact, many organizing campaigns were based in the faith-based community in churches and synagogues.

The issues of meeting bases remain the same in the 21st Century, with the addition of new issues of aging, literacy, healthcare and others.

Taking on a political bent after 1940 in Chicago, the role of community organizing adopted the Civil Rights Movement since 1960, Welfare Rights and youth organization since that time, and help for Hispanic and other immigrants.

The following sites for higher education can provide appropriate training for becoming a community organizer.

Community organizing is likely rooted in social and political improvement of society. Low wages in the beginning of one's CO career can end in high wages in public office.

Top 15 Grad Schools for Social Work

  1. Washington University in St. Louis
  2. University of Michigan--Ann Arbor
  3. University of Chicago
  4. Columbia University
  5. University of Washington
  6. University of California--Berkeley
  7. University of Texas--Austin
  8. University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill
  9. University of Southern California
  10. Case Western Reserve University
  11. University of California--Los Angeles
  12. SUNY--Albany
  13. University of Wisconsin--Madison
  14. Boston College
  15. University of Pennsylvania

(Determined by US News and World Report in 2009) 

Top 15 Law Schools in America

  • 1 Yale (CT)
  • 2 Harvard (MA)
  • 3 Stanford (CA)
  • 4 Columbia (NY)
  • 5 New York University
  • 6 Univerity of California at Berkeley (Boalt)
  • 6 U of Chicago
  • 8 U of Pennsylvania
  • 9 U of Michigan at Ann Arbor
  • 10 Duke (NC)
  • 10 Northwestern (IL)
  • 10 University of Virginia
  • 13 Cornell (NY)
  • 14 Georgetown University (DC)
  • 15 UCLA
  • 15 U of Texas at Austin

(Top schools for 2009 determined by Top-Law-Schools.Com)

Comments

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    • profile image

      seth claire 7 years ago

      there is no greater heart than that of a volunteer. its great to be happy knowing that the reason for being one is because you made other people happy as well..

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      okingo - Odd that a CBO would approach a struggling single mother for funding. They should approach the city for a Block Grant.

      James A Watkins - Things go wrong in a large way when they go wrong in social serrvices -- Here, CMACAO and its satellites were closed down because they were short of funds and used grant monies to pay for their employees' health insurance premiums instead of the programming it was meant to extend, and other mistakes.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      This article is surely well done. I think community organizing, similar to labor unions, had good intentions in their nascent years. Once Saul Alinsky hatched the idea of using them to eventually over throw our system of government so that Communism could take over by subversion the idea went rotten. We ended up with 1000 ACORNs.

      The history you provided is interesting and thought provoking, as well as finely presented.

    • profile image

      okingo 8 years ago

      Iam a Kenyan. I love giving in to the less fortunate members of the society especiall OVCs but i have limited resources as i am a sinlge mother of three and my income is minimal. I have been approached by a local CBO to assist them in the work they are doing (education and feeding programm for 79 OVCs) but my hands are tied. Please advices me on how i can get a little funds to chip in to their good work they are doing. Already i have one boy i have committed myself to pay school fees for, he is in form one. Catherineokingo@yahoo.com

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your input, Larry!

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Interesting and valuable information for those so inclined to community organizing...

      We haven't any community organizers as such, simply community investors...We don't really need an organization or an individual to tell us how to run our lives...the existing community services answer all questions, without political agendas, that one may require to know... Institutions that have been around for a long time, like churches, schools, pro bono law, city councils, voluntary boards, and service orgs....Community organizing may be needed in the inner cities, where the perpetuation of a mediocrity like ghettos, is the preferred life style, where living off government largess is a generational expectancy, but most folks do just fine making their own decisions, with their own communities and neighbors...

      Well written and well researched Hub. You are amazing with the amount of excellent information you generate so well every week...Thanks, Larry

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks eovery - I'd never seen a write-up about the qualifications before, so had to do some interesting digging. Sounds hard work, but worthwhile.

      neusajasper - Thanks you very much for your insights!

    • neysajasper profile image

      neysajasper 8 years ago

      nice hub,you are right about community organizers because as lifestyle of people becoming modern they are creating gap among themselves. Good keep writing.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Thanks, this is interesting.

      Keep on hubbing!

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