The process of community organizing is a dynamic one with few rigid guidelines, suggesting that the functions of a community organizer require flexibility, creativity and excellent leadership skills.
Community organization aims to organize, mobilize and educate people to build a sense of community. By doing so, the community gains power or influence over issues concerning their welfare. Strengthening groups at the grassroots level empowers the community to direct their own path to some extent, holding government and private organizations accountable for policies and programs that directly impact the community.
1. Grassroots Organization
Community organization is a valuable strategy at all levels, including at the national, regional and local level. There is strength in numbers, and the community organizer's initial efforts will focus on getting individuals to buy into the collective goals of the group. Unification efforts involve reaching out to individuals and households and getting them to engage with the community. At this stage, the community organizer is focused on building the numbers rather than spreading the message of community welfare.
2. Outreach with an Impact
The need for community organization exists because certain groups have little or no access to goods or services that impact their quality of life. One of the functions of a community organizer is to identify the areas requiring certain social services and initiating outreach programs to address these needs. Outreach programs allow organizers to introduce themselves to the locals in a positive way. It is a strategy that builds trust while ensuring immediate action on pressing needs of the community.
3. Educating and Informing the Collective
A community organizer is an effective communicator. Someone who can listen and empathize with individuals and groups will have the ability to organize and lead no matter the diverse backgrounds of those involved. To bring individuals together on controversial issues that affect the community, it is crucial to make them aware of the truth about the issues as well as the long and short-term impact on their lives. This is one of the bigger challenges of community organizers as effecting change is often a battle against entrenched beliefs and traditional systems.
4. Community Worker
Community organizers work with the people of the community and not for them. This is an important distinction to make because the organizer's advocacy efforts in favor of the community may be mistakenly understood by the group. Community organizers work alongside the group, guiding their efforts through direct or indirect intervention, and the group effects changes through their efforts. The role of community organizer is advisory rather than direct leadership. The organizer develops leaders among the community members, grooming them to become the face and the voice of the community.
Working closely with a community provides the community organizer with an excellent vantage from which to observe local practices, beliefs and interactions. The organizer will be able to document changes as they take place and assess the social and economic impact of certain policies. It is the duty of the organizer to keep accurate records of these observations, generate actionable reports as needed and to forward said reports to the appropriate government and private organizations that may be able to provide solutions to the community's problems.
The community organizer plays an important role in developing, assessing and changing social policy as it relates to specific groups. It is an influential role, and it is one that requires excellent communication skills, a passion for helping others and outstanding persuasive and leadership abilities. The functions of a community organizer prepare the right individuals for bigger and more important roles on a larger scale as evidenced by President Barack Obama who credits his years as community organizer for his passion, fortitude and leadership skills.