Monday, April 13, 2009

Community Organizing Careers

"Once thought of as a destination for lefty radicals committed to living lives of low pay, frustration and bitter burnout, community organizing is now seen by many young people as an exciting career option."

Sara Rimer, "Community Organizing Never Looked So Good, The New York Times, April 12, 2009.

I'm not sure that all that much has changed. Community organizing in the 1970s and 1980s was a career option, perhaps temporary, and it certaintly was exciting. And I suspect organizers of today will experience frustration and maybe even burn out. Community organizing networks since this earlier era have become much smarter about training and supporting organizing staff -- and finding grassroots instituions to build upon -- like religious congregations.

"Mr. Obama managed to glamorize and, most important, explain community organizing. He wrote about meeting with their people in their homes and churches,listening to their stories of failure and of small victory."

Dreams From My Father offers one of the best descriptions of neighborhood-level organizing that I have read. Lots of work, good people, tough issues, and minimum change. No wonder Obama went to law school. Sticking around for the "long haul" as a community organizer is no easy matter.

It's also worth noting that community organizing is not loved by everyone and is not above or disconnected from politics. ACORN has become the favorite attack target for the right. Just read Bill O'Reilly-- and then get the facts.

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