The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to community organizing; specifically, the knowledge, skill and value base underpinning community organizing, planning, development and change. It will emphasize the myriad roles, goals, and strategies used by community organizers in effecting social change. It will examine the history of organizing as a context of analyzing contemporary issues and organizations in the country and in New York City. Models of community organizing including mass mobilization, social action, grass roots empowerment, leadership development and advocacy, as well as newer community building approaches will assessed for effectiveness in the current conservative climate. Special attention will be paid to issues of gender, class, race and ethnicity and sexual orientation in organizing. Field-related experience is included to expose students to an actual organizing environment.


-to understand the various concepts of community and their application to community organizing;
-to understand the different types of organizing goals, roles and organizing strategies;
-to recognize the value, power and resource differences that impede community organizing and

-to begin to assess the assets (strengths) and deficits (problems) of geographic (neighborhood)
and functional (interest) communities;
-to begin to apply models of organizing to specific social change endeavors;
-to acquire beginning skill in specific organizing tools and techniques such as running meetings
and public speaking, and use of media.
-to acquire ability to critically analyze situations and problem-solve.

-to appreciate the complexity of and competence needed for the organizer role.
-to value citizen, community and client/consumer participation and empowerment.
-to value to struggles and conflicts inherent in organizing for social and economic justice within an
historical context and democratic framework.

This course is being offered as part of an interdisciplinary Hunter College faculty collaboration to explore the feasibility of establishing an undergraduate program in Community Organizing and Development (C.O.D.). Students who successfully complete the requirements will receive 3 credits through a course number in Urban Studies (URBS 403.95), Political Science (317.06), Sociology (225.35) and Community Health Education (400.50). Much of its content, structure and process were suggested through a series of meetings with faculty as well as community organizers outside of Hunter. It has been revised with input from students who took the course in Fall 1995 and 1996, Guest lecturers include members of the faculty and organizers working in NYC. Students will be encouraged to actively participate in and evaluate the course and all its features. Suggestions for improving the course will be welcome. Students will be expected to do a volunteer 20 hours during the semester in a community organizing setting as part of the major class assignment.

Attendance and punctuality at each class session is required. 
Please call in advance if an unexpected or anticipated lateness or absence occurs due to an emergency situation. Because of the participatory nature of the course, credit will be not given to a student with excessive latenesses or absences without prior permission. Extensions on course assignments and receipt of an “Incomplete” grade for the course is assigned at the discretion of the Instructor.

Students will be evaluated on their written work and participation in class (approximately) as follows: Logs (20%); Neighborhood analysis (15%); Meeting analysis (10%); Paper on Organizing Project and related Paper and Presentations (40%); and Classroom participation including discussion, the group recording assignment and small group leadership (15%).


I. Log of Selected Readings
Each week, select one article or chapter in a book to highlight from the readings. In no more than one page include: 1) brief summary; 2) your opinion about it; 3) the most interesting point; 4) a reason why you think it is an important article; 5) its relevancefor community organizing. A total of 12 logs are required including two from outside or non-required readings, No more than 3 chapters from any one book or guide.

At the end of the semester, present in writing an outline or essay on the major themes and learning points from the readings you have done for the course. What do they have in common? Are there any differences in their perspectives? (2-3 pages).

II. Neighborhood Observation and Beginning Assessment
Take a walk around a geographic area in which you live or work. As one of the tools for community assessment, you should use your five senses (and your sixth sense!) to begin to understand that neighborhood. (Guidelines for the observation will be given out in class.) Come prepared to discuss your observations and preliminary analysis. In class, we will compare and contrast experiences. (It would be ideal if two or more students chose the same area to observe independently and then compare observations). Submit in writing a three-four page paper, answering the following questions: What does it look, feel, smell, sound and “taste” like? From your observations, what strengths does the area have? What problems are visible? Is this an area/neighborhood which is stable? in transition? improving? deteriorating? What additional questions are raised from your observations that need further fact-finding and assessment? Most importantly, what are the potential organizing issues that emerge from your preliminary assessment (eg. Need for programs, resources; campaigns to improve something; etc.) You can supplement with photos, drawings, maps, etc.

III. Meeting Analysis.
Attend a meeting of a community organization or some local government meeting (eg. community planning board), civic body or neighborhood organization (eg. block association, tenant association, women’s group) concerned with a neighborhood or issue; preferably an organization which is working to improve conditions, policies or services. Describe the meeting in detail and then analyze it according to written guidelines to be distributed in class. Preferably, the meeting you attend should be connected to your volunteer field experience.

IV. Class Recording.
Once during the semester, small groups of students will be asked to take notes on a class session, compare them and together prepare and distribute to the whole class, a summary and synthesis of major themes. This provides an opportunity to improve your observational and analytical skills and to understand how minute-taking is a political and professional (not a clerical) function. The combined document should be duplicated and given to fellow students to serve as a resource for them.

V. Participation in a Community Organizing Project
Select an organization, agency or group with which to volunteer during the semester for a Minimum of 20 hours. A list of possible community organizations will be provided by the instructor. Alternatively, you can locate one on your own with permission of the instructor. The purpose of this assignment is to give you first hand experience observing and participating (to the extent possible) in the organizing work of the group. You will need to negotiate entry and assignment with the organization leaders and/or staff. At the very least, you should have access to meetings, minutes and other materials of the organization, and be able to interview leaders and members. In exchange, the group may ask you to participate in furthering the group’s agenda, hell) them carry out a project or event, and/or provide feedback on your observations to them. This effort can be done individually or with other students.

Students will present their experiences orally in class at the end of the semester. Minimum written expectations are to keep a log of your observations and submit at the end of the semester a paper (4-5 pages), answering the following questions: 1) What model or approach to organizing is being used?; 2) What are both the strengths and limitations of the group’s effort?; 3) What opposition and allies does it have?; 4) What roles do the organizers and leaders play?; 5) What has been accomplished? Were there any disappointments, failures or defeats?; 6) What lessons did you learn? Refer to relevant course readings and class discussion.

Students are not required to purchase any books or journals. All required readings are on reserve in the library. Also samples of past student work are on reserve to serve as models and guides.

Required Texts
Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall, Steve Max. Organizing for Social Change: A Manual for Activists in the 1990s. Washington, D.C. Seven Locks Press, 1991.

Si Kahn Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders Revised Edition, 1991.

G. Speeter. Power: A Repossession Manual. Citizen Involvement and Training Project, 1978

Other Required Readings
City Limits Magazine and the “City” Section of the Sunday Edition of The New York Times.

Recommended Readings
Peter Medoff & Holly Sklar. Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood. Boston: South End Press, 1994 (A Case Study)

R. B. Warren and D. 1. Warren. The Neighborhood Organizer’s Handbook. University of Notre Dame Press, 1977.

R. Shaw. The Activist’s Handbook: A Primer for the 1995 and Beyond. Berkeley, U. of Cal. Press, 1996.

J. Rooney. Organizing the South Bronx. (IAF) Albany State University Press, 1995.

1. Purposes, Goals and History of Community Organizing

  • T. Mizrahi, “Community Organizers: For a Change.” in Mental Health and Social Work Career Directo . First Edition. B.J. Morgan and J. M. Palmisano, Eds. Detroit, 1993, pgs. 131-136.
  • Kahn, Chapter I
  • Rubin and Rubin, Chapter 2 ” Goals of Community Organizing: Lessons from History,” , Community Organizing and Development Second Edition. Columbus Ohio: Merrill Publishing Co.,1992.
  • F. Cox ” A History of community organizing since the Civil War with specific reference to oppresses minorities.” in F.M. Cox, J.L. Erlich, J. Rothman and J.E. Tropman (Eds.) 5th Edition Strateizies of Community Interventions. Itasca Il.: F.E. Peacock, 1994
  • G. Delgado “Roots of the CO Movement.” Beyond the Politcs of Place: New Directions in Community Organizing. ARC, 1994.

II: Defining and Understanding “Community” in Community Organizing: Communities as Places, Spaces, Symbols, Shared Heritage and Sentiments

  • Jane Jacobs Death and Life of Great American Cities Chapter I and 2
  • Warren and Warren, Chapter 2: What’s in a Neighborhood? Chapter 5: Which Neighborhood Are You Talking About? The Neighborhood Organizer’s Handbook
  • R. T. Hester, Jr. “The Sacred Structure in a Small Town: A Return o Manteo, N.C.” Small Town Jan/Feb. 1990 pp 5-21.
  • W. Tolliver. “Community Building: A Black Church Response. HUNTER CSSW ALUMNI UPDATE Spring, 1995.

III: Defining “Organizing” in Community Organizing: Analyzing Models, Types, Auspice and Levels

  • Geographic/Neighborhood
  • Functional/Issue-based
  • Ideological/Value-based
  • Constituency/Identity-based

A. Overview and Alternatives

  • G. Speeter Power: A Repossession Manual: Organizing Strategies for Citizens. Introduction and Chapter 1: Approaches to Organizing: Which one best suits my style?”
  • Barry Checkoway ” Six strategies of Community Change.” DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL 30 (1) January 1995 pp 2-20.
  • Bobo, Kendall and Max. Chapter 6: Organizing Models.

B. Case Examples

  • N. Freudenberg and Uta Urayoana-Trinidad. “The Role of Community Organizations in AIDS Prevention in Two Latino Communities. (Washington Hts and the South Bronx). HEALTH EDUCATION QUARTERLY 19,1992 pp. 219-232
  • J.C. Pozzo. “Street corner labor.” (on the immigrant workers assn.) City Limits. Jan. 1996 pp.8-9
  • STREETS OF HOPE Chapters 1 and 2
  • R. Epstein. “Lighting the Beacon” (IAF in NYC). CITY LIMITS. March 1995, pgs. 18-24; and “Spiritual Improvement” (on the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement. City Limits. Feb. 1996 pp. 14-19
  • A. Durnois “Organizing a Community Around Health.” SOCIAL POLICY 1,5 Jan. Feb. 1971.
  • T. Mizrahi Madison. “The Struggle for Partnership in Health Service Planning. HEALTH LAW PROJECT LIBRARY BULLETIN. Nov. 1978.
  • CITY LIMITS Special Issue on Community Organizing: The Power to be Heard. August/September 1993. Features articles on ACE in Central Harlem; East Brooklyn Congregations; ACT UP; Community Alliance for the Environment (Hasidic/Latino community coalition); ACORN; Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition; the Umma Group in Flatbush.

IV: Steps in Developing A Community Organizing Campaign Focusing on the External

  • Kahn, Chapters 3 “Organizations;” 4 “Constituencies;” 5 “Issues;” 8 “Strategy;” 10 “Tactics”
  • Bobo, Kendall, and Max, Part 1: Direct Action Organizing (Chapters 2-5;7)
  • G. Speeter, Power: A Repossession Manual. Chapter IV: Taking Action.

V: Steps in Building an Organization: Focusing on the Internal

  • Recruiting and Motivating Membership
  • Cultivating and Developing Leadership
  • Kahn, Chapters 2 ” Leaders,” 6 “Members;” Chapter 18 “Culture” * Bobo, Kendall, and Max chapter 10 and 11
  • G. Speeter, Power: A Repossession Manual Chapter III: How Structure 8Develops Power.
  • S. Burghardt, The Other Side of Organizing “From Leadership Development to Critical Consciousness” Chapter 5

VI: Specialized Skills

A. Gathering and analyzing information: The role of research, and data collection and dissemination as organizing tools

  • Kahn, Chapter 9
  • Bobo, Kendall and Max, Chapter 19
  • Warren and Warren. Chapter 8: Neighborhood Diagnosis
  • Rubin and Rubin Chapter 8-“Information for Mobilization and Social Action.” pgs. 156-186.

B. Organizing and Running Meetings

  • Kahn, Chapter 7 “Meetings”
  • Bobo, Kendall and Max, Chapter 12 “Planning and Facilitating Meetings”
  • E. S. Rainman, R. Lippitt, and J. “Designing Participatory Meetings” from Taking Your Meetin2s Out of the Doldrums. San Diego, University Associates, 1988.

C. Community Relations, Outreach and Publicity

  • Kahn, Chapter 12 “Communication,” 13 “Media;” Chapter 16 “Unions”
  • Bobo, Kendall and Max Chapters 13 ” Being a great public speaker,” Chapter 14: “Using the Media” Chapter 16 “Working with community organization boards, Chapter 17 “religious organizations” and Chpter 18 “Working with unions”

VII: Allies and Adversaries: Cultivating Support and Minimizing Opposition

A. Coalition Building

  • Kahn, Chapter 15.
  • Bobo, Kendall and Max, Chapter 9
  • Rosenthal and Mizrahi ” Advantages of Coalition-building” in Austin and Lowe, Controversial Issues in Communities and Organizations.
  • Mizrahi and Rosenthal, “Managing Dynamic Tensions in Social Change Coalitions” in T. Mizrahi and J. Morrison(Eds.) Community Organization and Social Administration. Haworth Press, 1993.

B. Handling Opposition and Obstacles

  • L. Staples “The Seven D’s of Defense.” in Roots of Power
  • D. Jones. “Not in my Community: The Neighborhood Movement and Institutionalized Racism. SOCIAL POLICY 13 (2) 1979, pp. 44-46.
  • R. Lipsyte “Coping: The NIMBY Wars: View From the Backyard. NY Times Feb.6, 1994; “Coping: NIMBY Wars II: The View From the Other Side. NY Times April 3, 1994.

VIII. Focusing on the Organizer: Thriving For the Long Haul

  • Bobo, Kendall, and Max, Chapter 25
  • C. Hyde. “Conunitment to Social Change: Voices from the Feminist Movement.” JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PRACTICE 1(2)1994 pgs. 45-64.
  • J. Hollender with L. Catling How To Make the World a Better Place: 116 Wgys You Can Make A Difference. W. W. Norton, 1994.

IX: Contemporary Organizing Issues and Models

A. Hybrid and New Organizing Models

  • S. Burghardt, “Community Building” HUNTER UPDATE ALUMNI NEWSLETTER Spring, 1995.
  • J. D. Clapp, “Organizing Inner City Neighborhoods to Reduce Alcohol and Drug Problems. JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PRACTICE, 2 (1)1995 pp 43-60.
  • C. Bradshaw, S. Soifer, and L. Gutierrez. “Toward a Hybrid Model for Effective Organizing in Communities of Color. JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PRACTICE. 1 (1) 1994 pp. 25-41.
  • S. Early & L. Cohen. Jobs with Justice: Building A Broad-based Movement for Workers’ Rights. Social Policy. Winter 1994 pp. 7-17

B. Race, Class and Gender Issues in Organizing

  • G. Delgado, Beyond the Politics of Place: New Directions in Community Organizing in the 1990s. Applied Research Center, 1994.
  • “Race, Cultural Diversity and Organizing. THE NEIGHBORHOOD WORKS June/July 1995. (whole issue)
  • M. Adamson Politics Unusual. Applied Research Center, 1996. (Case studies of progressive organizing to counter the “right” wing.)
  • B. Joseph et al. A Foundation for Feminist Organizing. in Women on the Advance. Education Center for Community Organizing, 1991.
  • L. Gutierrez. “A Feminist Perspective on Organizing with Women of Color. in F.Rivera and J.Ehrlich (Eds). 2nd Edition, Community Organizing in a Diverse Society. Second Edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1995.

Also in Rivera and Ehrlich book are articles on organizing in different ethnic communities including Native Americans, Chicanos, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chinese-American, Japanese American, Filipino-American, Central American, and Southeast Asian.

See also RACEFTLE and THIRD FORCE (published by Center for Third World Organizing) for articles relevant to race and gender.

(Books and Articles relevant to community organizing written by members of the Hunter C.O.D. Collaborative)

S. Burghardt. Organizing for Community Action. Sage Publications. 1982.

S. Burghardt. The Other Side of Organizing Schenkman Publishers, 1983.

Freudenberg, N. (1984) Not in Our Backyard: Community Action for Health and the Environment. Monthly Review Press: New York.

Charles Green and Basil Wilson. The Struggle for Black Empowerment.

Steve Johnston and other Hunter Faculty. A Guide to Sources of Information in New York City Second Edition. 1992.

Paul Kurzman (Eds.) The Mississippi Experience.

Terry Mizrahi. Organizing for Better Community Health: Programs and Strategies for Consumer Health Groups. National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, 1978.

Terry Mizrahi and John Morrison, Eds. Community Organizing and Social Administration: Advances, Trends and Emerging Principles. Haworth Press, 1993.

Jan Poppendeick. “Policy, Advocacy and Justice: A Case for Food Assistance Reform. in D. Gil and E. Gil (Eds.) Toward Social and Economic Justice. Cambridge Mass. Schenkman, 1985, ppf. 101-131.

Jan Poppendeick. Bread Lines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression. Rutgers, 1985.

Ruth Sidel, Women and Children Last.

Ruth Sidel Urban Survival. U. of Nebraska Press.

Ida Susser. Norman Street Oxford University Press, 1982

Ida Susser. “Union Carbide and the Community Surrounding It: A Case in Puerto Rico. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HEALTH SERVICES. 15 (4) 1985 PP 56L-583.

Ida Susser. “Women as Political Actors in Rural Puerto Rico: Continuity and Change.” in F. Rothstein and M. Blim. (Eds.) Anthropology in the Global Factory. Bergen and Garvey, 1992, pp. 206-220.

Community Organizing Skills for Undergraduate C.O.D. Program at Hunter College:

I. Organizing and Planning Skills – able to develop and engage people in groups

capable of organizing and running a meeting
able to represent the organization

II. Interpersonal Skills
able to work with different types of people
able to understand how to motivate and involve people in change
able to observe, listen, and hear

III. Analytical Skills
able to understand the issues, philosophy, and styles of the organization
able to gather and use data and information able to understand different types and models of organizing and advocacy

IV. Administrative Skills
able to keep records
able to communicate verbally and in writing
able to use time productively

V. Political Tactics and Strategies
able to understand and analyze power structures
able to understand and develop relevant tactics
able to understand the impact of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual. orientation on organizing process and outcomes

VI. Personal Characteristics and Professional Values
able to take initiative and self-directed
able to ask for help, support, guidance
able to make responsible decisions
able to demonstrate integrity
able to identify with clients/community/constituency