Part Two: Contextual Frameworks and Approaches
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PART TWO Over twenty years ago, political scientist Richard Couto (1990) pointed out that “because Americans have so little sense of community, we pay a great deal of attention to it.” He suggested that “our rose-tainted view of community and the processes we describe as empowerment, community development, and community organizing” have led to considerable conceptual confusion. That confusion in turn has enabled both political liberals and conservatives to claim these concepts and to use the term grass roots “as if it were herbal medicine for current public problems and to renew American social health” (144). The past two decades have seen increased attention to community, spurred in part by Robert Putman’s (2000) lamenting of the disappearance of “civic America” with the erosion of “social capital,” or mutual trust, social networks, and norms of reciprocity anchoring people within communities. The contributors to this part attempt to move us beyond the prevailing confusion by offering conceptual frameworks and models within which community, community organizing, and community building can be better understood. Although additional perspectives on these concepts are offered throughout the book, this initial section seeks to lay a foundation for their subsequent exploration. In chapter 3, Meredith Minkler and Nina Wallerstein offer initial definitions of community organizing and community building and underscore the centrality of the notion of empowerment to both of these processes. Introducing a theme that appears throughout much of the book, they suggest that real community organizing Contextual Frameworks and Approaches must begin with a group or community’s identification of its issues and goals, rather than with the goals or concerns of a health department, social service organization, or outside organizer or funder. Following a brief historical overview, Minkler and Wallerstein introduce the best-known typology of community organizing and intervention, developed by Jack Rothman (2008) and evolving into its current form to emphasize three primary modes: community capacity development, social planning and policy, and social advocacy. Alternative and complementary models also are explored, including collaborative empowerment, community building, and both feminist organizing and organizing with and by people of color (Hyde 2005; Gutierrez and Lewis, chapter 12). The heart of this chapter is the discussion of several key concepts in community organizing and community building central to effecting change on the community level. Empowerment and critical consciousness, community capacity and social capital, the principles of participation and “starting where the people are,” and issue selection are each examined briefly, as is the often neglected area of measurement and evaluation in community building and organizing. Although this chapter covers a wide terrain, it necessarily does so “once over lightly,” as a prelude to the more in-depth discussion of many of the issues and topics raised in subsequent chapters. The next two chapters in this part each look in more detail at several of the major approaches to community organizing and community building practice introduced in chapter 3. Marty Martinson and Celina Su begin in chapter 4 by introducing the philosophy and approach of two of the individuals whose contributions to our thinking and practice in these areas have been among the most profound: Saul David Alinsky (1972), the “father” of social action organizing, and adult educator Paulo Freire (1973, 1994), whose “education for critical consciousness” has been seminal for many in the way we think about community practice and transformative change processes. Martinson and Su begin by situating the thinking and actions of these key figures in their personal biographies and go on to lay out Alinsky’s vision and approach using vivid case examples to illuminate its classic and more contemporary applications. In so doing, they also point up the continued substantive role the Alinsky approach plays in both local organizing and the development of broader social movements in the early years of the twenty-first century. CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORKS AND APPROACHES 34 With a few notable exceptions (see Su 2009) textbooks on community organizing seldom give more than passing mention to Freire’s approach and its potential and actual applications in community building and community organizing. Chapter 4 highlights several concrete applications of Freire’s pedagogy and its application in addressing community concerns regarding education in the Bronx, New York, and an innovative social action program with adolescents in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In each of these case studies, an emphasis on equality and mutual respect between group members and facilitators, and the use of problem-posing dialogue and “action based on critical reflection,” Freire’s approach takes traditional community organizing in important...



Subject Headings

  • Health promotion.
  • Community health services -- Citizen participation.
  • Community organization.
  • Community development.
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