Community Organizing Toolkit
Community organizing is a broad term used to encompass a variety of methods aimed at “bringing together the talents, resources and skills of people in the community in order to increase their collective power and work for social change (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2002).”
Utilizing community organizing strategies offers numerous potential benefits for ending sexual and domestic violence:
- a focus on root causes
- promotion of social justice
- connection of people and resources
- development of better solutions
- expansion of ownership and responsibility regarding the issues of sexual and domestic violence
- change in community norms
- increased sustainability
- increased victim safety and offender accountability
The primary purposes of this community organizing toolkit are to help:
- support member programs and their community partners in creating a community-wide response to the issues of sexual and domestic violence
- change community norms that support violence against women
- mobilize local communities for social change
While the specific community organizing activities are unique to a local community, the process by which community organizing efforts are planned and implemented is universal; therefore, having a community organizing process framework helps in ensuring successful and comprehensive approaches to community organizing work. The community organizing process framework for this toolkit includes the following steps:
- Set Your Collaborative Group Up for Success
- Come together
- Define your purpose(s)
- Determine how you’ll work together
- Get in the Know By Taking Stock
- Put Together An Informed Plan
- Agitate for Change
- Demonstrate & Celebrate Your Success!
In addition to the tools provided within the context of the above framework, this toolkit also offers universal community organizing concepts critical to each step outlined above, as well as general and even some inspirational resources on community organizing.
How to use this toolkit:
Some of the documents and tools provided in this toolkit are intended to provide greater context in order to help you think through an important component of community organizing. Some of the tools are intended for use with the collaborative group to build-in success, assess community readiness, needs and resources, develop and implement a community organizing strategic plan and do the community organizing work itself. The tools include an explanation of the why and how to use the tools; however, you may have additional questions as you use the toolkit in your community organizing work. Please call KCSDV with any questions that arise.
In addition to the community organizing steps process outlined above, these universal community organizing concepts are critical to the success of each step, from setting the collaborative group up for success to measuring and demonstrating the success your community organizing efforts. This section of the toolkit was created so that you didn’t have to see these tools in every section of the toolkit – that’s how important they are when it comes to successful community organizing work!
“Engaging people in learning new public ideas and practices is nothing short of a journey; there is no easy fix.” –Richard Harwood
“A leader today needs to be one who convenes people, who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in processes where our intelligence can come forth. So these kinds of leaders do not give us the answers, but they help us gather together so that together we can discover the answers.” –Margaret Wheatley
These tools and resources help collaborative group members to identify, develop and enhance leadership skills for both working within the collaborative group and with the larger community.
These tools and resources help the collaborative group to frame and ask the right questions, whether that’s within the collaborative group or in the larger community. Asking the right questions is key to successfully addressing community issues like sexual and domestic violence.
These tools and resources can help the collaborative group to make the case for community organizing.
Community organizing requires collaboration, at least at some level, no matter the local community size. Setting your collaborative group up for success to do community organizing work is a critical foundational element from which the overall success of your local community organizing efforts depends.
When it comes to community organizing, the journey is as important as the end destination. Therefore, jumping right into the community organizing work itself, while very tempting, overlooks the importance of laying the right foundation for that work. The intent of laying a foundation is to establish a performing collaborative group from which to implement community organizing efforts. Many collaborative groups come together with good intentions but don’t take the time to first set themselves up for success. The result is that their good intentions get lost in the struggle to understand why they can’t get on the same page together to get the work done. In other words: Process matters!
If they set themselves up right, all collaborative groups will go through steps before they achieve their end goals of implementing successful community organizing efforts. These steps are not a linear process. Rather, each provides support to and builds upon the others.
Each of these steps does not need to take a great deal of time for a collaborative group to complete – they can be addressed in the same meeting or a few initial meetings so that the group can get to the community organizing work to be accomplished. The steps are:
- Come together
- Define your purpose(s)
- Determine how you’ll work together
These steps help to create an institutional culture that lives beyond the group members themselves, as well as helping to orient new group members that may join the group later down the road.
“Very great change starts from very small conversations, held among people who care.” –Margaret Wheatley
“Most of us at one time or another have been part of a great ‘team’, a group of people who functioned together in an extraordinary way—who trusted one another, who complemented each other’s strengths and compensated for each other’s limitations, who had common goals that were larger than an individual’s goals, and who produced extraordinary results … the team that became great didn’t start off great—it learned how to produce extraordinary results.” –Peter Senge
Coming together helps group members individually, and the group collectively, to answer the questions “Why am I here?,” “What do I have to contribute?” and “How will this benefit me?” Laying this foundation helps group members to identify a sense of commitment to the group and ownership in their group process, and community organizing work and results, which are the keys to retaining engaged and involved group members in the collaborative partnership.
What the group is trying to accomplish in order to answer the key questions above about coming together:
- Identifying who is needed in the collaborative.
- Setting the right meeting environment.
- Understanding elements of successful collaboration.
- Identifying what each group member has to contribute to the collaborative.
- Identifying the benefits of participating in the collaborative.
“Getting people together takes more than getting them in the same room.” –Jim Rowings & Mark Frederic
“Alone we can do little, together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller
This tool provides a process for identifying the right stakeholders to be involved in the collaborative group and when to form collaborative partnerships.
Creating the right meeting environment is helpful when convening a collaborative group. The use of relevant environment themes helps to:
- Establish the right tone for the work to be accomplished in a non-threatening and creative setting;
- Set the stage for helping a group to gather and collectively understand their purpose;
- Serve as a distraction from anxiety as a person enters the room, which is helpful to coming together.
These tools help a collaborative group coming together consider various aspects and elements vital to collaboration.
These tools help each group member and the collaborative partnership as a whole to identify:
- What group members have to contribute to the collaborative.
- The benefits of participating in the collaborative.
Answering the question “What is/are our purpose(s)?” helps a collaborative group identify why they are coming together as a collective, focusing their energies on their agreed upon end goals and, as a result, helping to manage the inevitable chaos that every collaborative group faces to some degree before they can effectively work together. The important thing to remember is that chaos is normal and that it matters not so much that the group is experiencing chaos, as how effectively the group manages the chaos.
What the group is trying to accomplish in order to answer the key question above about purpose(s):
- Defining the collaborative group’s agreed upon end goals.
- Determining the best avenue for community organizing efforts based upon an understanding of the purposes among already established local collaborative groups working to address sexual and domestic violence in the local community.
“Times of stress and difficulty are seasons of opportunity when the seeds of progress are sown.” –Thomas F. Woodlock
“This messy stage doesn’t last forever, although it can feel like that. But if we suppress the messiness at the beginning, it will find us later on, and then it will be disruptive.” –Margaret Wheatley
Our best moments as a society come when we get outside ourselves and accept a common purpose that is larger than projected self-interest.” –Tom Ehrlich
The more we pull together toward a common future, the less it matters what pushed us apart in the past.” –Johnnetta B. Cole
This tool helps the collaborative group define the collaborative group’s agreed up end goals.
This tool helps to provide an understanding of the differences among potentially already-established local collaborative groups working to address sexual and domestic violence in the local community in order to determine the best avenue for community organizing efforts, whether that is through a new or existing collaborative or the establishment of a sub-group of an existing collaborative.
Answering the question “How will we work together?” helps a group build momentum for working together by beginning to determine the means by which to reach their end goals identified during the purpose(s) step and further define group members’ roles based in part upon what they identified during the coming together step.
What the group is trying to accomplish in order to answer the key question above about working together:
- Establishing guiding principles or group norms.
- Developing a collaboration charter or memorandum of understanding.
- Using a process for consensus decision-making.
- Using diagnostic tools to maximize the group’s performance both internally and in the community organizing work to be accomplished.
- Managing conflict.
- Developing internal communication strategies.
- Defining roles and commitments.
“How we decide is as important as what we decide.” –David Chrislip
Establishing a collective, agreed-upon set of group guiding principles or norms helps a group to determine how they will work together to successfully accomplish their community organizing efforts. In addition to these tools, don’t forget to use the “What I Have to Contribute to & How I Benefit from This Collaborative,” “What Does It Mean for Us to Collaborate?” and “Collaboration Benefits” discussion points developed during the “Come Together” Step 1A above when developing guiding principles.
A collaboration agreement or memorandum of understanding (MOU) puts down in writing the group’s guiding principles or norms and how they’ll work successfully together in order to accomplish their community organizing work. In addition to these tools, don’t forget to use the “What I Have to Contribute to & How I Benefit from This Collaborative,” “What Does It Mean for Us to Collaborate?” and “Collaboration Benefits” discussion points developed during the “Come Together” Step 1A above when developing a collaboration agreement or MOU.
This process and set of tools help a group to brainstorm and set priorities in a variety of ways using a process that builds in group consensus.
These tools help a group to diagnose challenges that they are facing, regardless of whether they are within the group or outside of the group, and that impact the group’s community organizing work. Once a challenge is diagnosed, the group can then work toward solutions rooted in a collective understanding.
These tools help a group to address and resolve conflict by using conflict positively and constructively.
This tool helps a group to consider and develop strategies to optimize internal communication within the group.
The meeting agenda helps to keep the group’s meeting on track and on focus, as well as to track agreements that help to identify group members’ roles and commitments.
Now that you’ve done the important work to set your collaborative group up for success, it’s time to get to the work of community organizing. This tool is a process that first requires that the group take a good look around the local community to wholly understand the issues of sexual and domestic violence from the community’s perspective. Yes, group members each bring an important perspective on these issues to the table, and that is important to capture as part of this step, but it’s also important not to assume that the group has the complete picture or has a full understanding of the community’s perspective on these issues.
Conducting a community readiness and needs and resources assessment through a variety of means (e.g., survey, key informant interviews, focus groups or listening sessions, etc.) will help the collaborative group to get the broader local community picture on sexual and domestic violence that will support the group in developing a comprehensive community organizing plan.
If the mere thought of conducting a community assessment makes you break out in a cold sweat, be assured – these assessments don’t have to be complicated and you’re not alone! You may have local experts that can assist you and you also have KCSDV to use as a resource. Also, keep in mind that the goals you’re trying to accomplish by doing the community assessment are to:
- Get a good sense of what’s going on in and the perspectives of the local community regarding sexual and domestic violence.
- Help make the case for what you want to do.
- Get data to inform strategic planning, which is the next step in this toolkit.
- Use this data to support the strategic plan implementation (i.e., the group’s community organizing work), which is the next step after planning in this toolkit.
- When relevant, you can use this data to help obtain funding for your collaborative group’s community organizing work.
“Learn from the people, plan with the people, begin with what they have, build on what they know. Of the best leaders, when the task is accomplished the people all remark, ‘We have done it ourselves.'” – Lao-Tzu
These assessment tools help a group to determine the level of readiness in the community to address the issues of sexual and domestic violence, which will help to inform community organizing planning efforts.
These assessment tools help a group to identify the important needs and assets or resources within the local community around the issues of sexual and domestic violence, which will help to inform community organizing planning efforts.
You’ve listened to the community to determine their level of readiness to address the issues of sexual and domestic violence in the local community, as well as identified the needs and assets/resources within the local community to address the issues of sexual and domestic violence. Now it’s time to put together a strategic plan that focuses on community organizing efforts to address these issues. The plan should include:
- Identification of a preferred future vision for the local community.
- Strategies to further identify how the preferred future vision, as well as the collaborative group’s vision and mission statements, will be accomplished.
- Measurable outcomes to demonstrate plan implementation success.
- The specific activities and action steps that you’ll engage in to successfully implement the plan and demonstrate measurable outcomes.
- Identifying the resources needed to make the plan a success.
It may also be important to consider other stakeholders to include, in addition to the collaborative group members in the planning process. They might include some of the people that were identified in Step 1A in the stakeholder map but aren’t part of the ongoing core collaborative group, and/or participated in surveys, key informant interviews, focus groups or listening sessions in the last step.
Inviting these people to the planning table will further help to ensure the development of a comprehensive community organizing strategic plan that reflects the local community’s ideas and solutions, which is important, since community problems like sexual and domestic violence require community solutions in order to overcome them.
These people may also be an asset in helping to promote and/or implement the plan, as well as demonstrating the plan’s success and spreading the good word about the collaborative group’s community organizing efforts throughout the local community. All of these are important next steps to be accomplished once the community organizing strategic plan has been developed.
Finally, don’t forget about the importance of setting the right meeting environment during the strategic planning process. The “Creating the Right Meeting Environment” document first introduced in Step 1A above is provided in this step again for your use in helping to plan the strategic planning meeting(s).
“If you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, they will generate authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization or community.” –David Chrislip & Carl Larson
“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” –Alvin Toffler
These tools provide an overview of the benefits of strategic planning, outline the process for developing a strategic plan, and help a group to define the strategies, measurable outcomes and action steps for the community organizing plan that are based upon the vision and mission statements already developed by the collaborative group in Step 1B above. Strategies further identify how the vision and mission will be accomplished. Measurable outcomes demonstrate the success of plan implementation and action steps identify the specific activities that you’ll engage in to successfully implement the plan and demonstrate measurable outcomes.
These tools help a group developing a community organizing strategic plan identify the preferred future vision for ending sexual and domestic violence in their local community. The purpose here is to gather the strategic planning participants around a collective future vision, some of whom will be the core collaborative group, and some of whom will be additional stakeholders. The purpose is NOT to rewrite the ongoing core collaborative group’s vision and/or mission statements developed in Step 1B above, but rather, to energize the group in preparation for planning.
This tool helps a collaborative group determine who to bring to the table for community organizing planning, as opposed to who to bring into the collaborative group driving the plan, like these tools were used in Step 1A above. Remember to identify people who:
- Represent important sectors from the community in order to reflect the community’s ideas.
- Can be a help to promote or implement the plan once developed.
Creating the right meeting environment is helpful when convening stakeholders for strategic planning. The use of relevant environment themes helps to:
- Establish the right tone for the work to be accomplished in a non-threatening and creative setting.
- Set the stage for helping a group to gather and collectively understand their purpose.
- Serve as a distraction from anxiety as a person enters the room, which is helpful to coming together.
Now that you have the community organizing strategic plan developed, it’s time to take your plan to the streets and make some noise! The goal of this step is to implement the plan developed by putting into action those strategies in the plan through the activities and action steps identified during the planning process. It’s also important for the collaborative group to regularly review plan implementation progress, making any needed course corrections. Cultivating the resources identified during planning to successfully implement the plan is important during this step. Utilizing community organizing “how to” tools can help to implement plan components as well. Evaluating, reporting and celebrating the plan’s implementation successes is the next step in the community organizing process.
“Successful action gives people lessons in their own power.” –Robert Putnam
“Action is the antidote to despair.” –Joan Baez
“A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion.” –Washington Irving
These tools help the collaborative group to successfully implement the community organizing strategic plan developed. Note that the strategic planning worksheets introduced in Step 3 during the planning step are listed here again. It’s because these worksheets become the plan to be implemented at this step.
These tools assist the collaborative group with common community organizing efforts, such as events and activities, impacting policy, and managing effective external communication.
Resource cultivation can help to further the successful implementation of a collaborative group’s strategic plan, developed in Step 3 above, in order to effectively do the community organizing work in the plan. Resources don’t just have to be about more money and more time. Being creative and thinking about resources in a broader sense can sometimes make the difference in whether or not community organizing work can be accomplished. This tool provides ideas for expanding thinking about how a collaborative group defines resources.
As your collaborative group implements your community organizing strategic plan, regularly checking-in on plan progress and evaluating your plan progress and successes through the measurable objectives developed during the planning process in Step 3 above is crucial. It’s also important to get the good news out to the community about plan implementation progress and successes … and … don’t forget to celebrate those successes as a collaborative group! You’ve come a long way and worked passionately and hard to get to this point! Though there aren’t any specific tools for celebrating your success, we know you’ll somehow manage to figure it out!
“You did what you knew how to do and when you knew better you did better.” –Maya Angelou
“The purpose of evaluation is not to fix blame; it is to find out what we have to do next.” –David Mathews
These tools help the collaborative group to consider possibilities for evaluating successful process and measurable outcomes. Note that the strategic planning worksheets introduced in Step 3 during the planning step are listed here again. It’s because these worksheets become the plan to be implemented at this step.
In addition to the community organizing steps outlined above, below are additional general – and even inspirational – community organizing resources and tools for your use.
“The Three Radical Truths of Community Organizing: 1) Heart work is hard work; 2) You have to keep dancing even when you can’t hear the music; and 3) The path that makes you afraid is the path to take.” – FACE
“If we are going to survive we must build communities of caring and connection.” – Cecile Andrews
These documents provide a variety of additional community organizing resources.
KANSAS CRISIS HOTLINE: 888-END-ABUSE | 888-363-2287