Friday, October 3, 2008

Stop Signs

"As a onetime community organizer trained in the tradition of Saul Alinsky, Obama knows well that you begin with achievable successes. That creates confidence in the possibility of changes, and paves the way for bigger successes."

Robert Kuttner, Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency

This is the old stop sign argument. Everyone wants a stop sign to protect their kids from speeding cars. That's where lot's of community organizing begins, where people are at. Or it could be grafitti on garage doors, delapidated playground equipment, an abandoned building, or garbage pick-up.

The problem, of course, is that people may never get beyond the stop sign, beyond their immediate self interest. But with some luck and good organizing, communities can link up small issues into bigger public campaigns that call for institutional changes of some kind. Along the way, more people come aboard and the overall understanding of community problems is raised.

Community organizers need patience and the ability to weave together small stories into a big community narrative. No small task!

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