Campaigns and Planning

How to Expand on These 4 Community Organizing Fundamentals

Recently I was preparing a training for a fantastic group of folks at a growing civic association about the core components of community organizing.

I thought it would be fun to highlight a community organizer/organization that really represented each of the 4 main elements I covered, along with expanding on ways the group could really practice these important principles.

I was so energized by creating the training I thought I would share it with all of you! Let me know your thoughts on how you would expand on these fundamentals in the comment section below!


1st Fundamental: Leadership Development

Photo: Ella Baker Center via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo: Ella Baker Center via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Leadership development is about increasing an individual or group’s skills to demonstrate their own abilities.

One of most influential, but little known. initiators of leadership development efforts was Ella Baker. Ella Baker was a hero of the civil rights movement by helping grow the capacity of numerous new leaders (e.g. through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

Potential processes/techniques for you to continue, expand, or adopt


  • Recognize leadership in multiple forms – not everyone is a great speaker, but they can still be a great leader! How can you encourage all organization members to grow?

  • Prepare for leadership rejuvenation – how can you start preparing people to be leaders before an opening arises (e.g. start encouraging someone to think about joining the leadership team before there is an opening)?

  • Expect and push for the best from people – even if someone doesn’t think they can “be a leader” or achieve something, we must never forget to show our dedication and belief in an individual’s ability to be who they wish to be. How can you identify in advance how someone wishes to be “stretched” in their abilities?

  • Develop leaders instead of identifying leaders – In Rinku Sen’s incredible organizing book Stir It Up, she describes that instead of just picking out folks who’ve had the opportunity to express some level of leadership, we need to invest significant resources to build confidence in people who wouldn’t have considered themselves “leaders”

  • Build collective leadership (i.e. many leaders with less hierarchy) – Ella Baker said “Strong people don’t need strong leaders,” which highlights this idea that we should rely on a committed team, not just a few individuals. How can you build a strong team where everyone contributes equally?


2nd Fundamental: Base Building