Community Organizing vs. Community Building

May 13, 2008 by

I mentioned last week about the conversation my wife and I are a part of with a handful of churches in Northeast Los Angeles discussing issues of poverty, homelessness, education, etc. One of the models we were looking at for engaging our community is developed by an organization called Pico. The model is built around “one-to-one’s” which is exactly what it sounds like–one person conversing with another person. (It’s a little more complex than this so you can watch an overview on their site). Pico points to significant social movements in history (i.e., Civil Rights) and traces their roots not to dynamic personalities but to grassroots community building.

This got me thinking about “community building” vs. “community organizing” and how often church leaders–myself included–tend to go for organizing groups before figuring out what to organize around. It seems so much easier to do a big splash in the community around a trendy cause and hope everybody notices. But what would happen if we let causes surface on their own and let our focus instead be on making sure every voice is heard?

In the Pico model, individuals go to other individuals (neighbors, shopkeepers, government workers, you name it) and do interviews. One-on-one interviews to get to know what’s going on in their world. What are their concerns? What do they want to see change? Would they consider being a part of that change?

I’ll admit, this approach is much slower and it lacks the stimulating immediacy of our give-it-to-me-now mindset, but I think it has some merit.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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2 Responses to “Community Organizing vs. Community Building”

  • Peter Lurvey
    May 13, 2008

    Brad, Brad, Brad -You said “I mentioned last week about the conversation me and my wife are a part of” -it’s “my wife and I”.
    The Mother-as-English-teacher in my head went into overdrive with that one.

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  • Brad Abare
    May 13, 2008

    Thanks Peter. It has been fixed. Not sure how that one slipped through our master editor.

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