12 Education, Participation, and Capacity Building in Community Organizing with Women of Color
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12 Education, Participation, and Capacity Building in Community Organizing with Women of Color LORRAINE M. GUTIÉRREZ EDITH A. LEWIS 215 The field of community organizing has only recently begun to address the need for an approach to practice that respects and builds on the special challenges posed by our increasingly diverse society. Although much community organizing has taken place among women and communities of color, for example, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the ways in which race, gender, ethnicity, or social class will affect the organizing effort. This oversight has often prevented organizers from working effectively with women or communities of color (Few et al. 2003; Gutiérrez et al., in press, 2005; McGoldrick and Hardy 2008). By failing to recognize and take into account the many ways in which issues of oppression affect organizing work, organizers can perpetuate the objectification and exploitation of these groups (Abu-Lughod 2002). Organizers whose own racial or ethnic stereotypes distort their view of communities of color, for example, will be ineffective in building leadership or working in partnership (Abram et al. 2005; Few 2007; R. G. Jones 2010; Guadelupe and Lum 2005). In this way, community organizing efforts can perpetuate the very problems they were designed to solve. This chapter begins by examining several recent contributions to our thinking about organizing with women of color, with special attention to the contributions of feminist perspectives on organizing. An empowerment framework stressing education, participation, and capacity building is then developed and used to explore different dimensions of effective community organizing with women of color. Examples of organizing both within and across racial/ethical groups are provided to illustrate many of the points made and offer lessons for social change professionals in their roles as organizers. Multicultural Perspectives on Community Organizing Much of the literature that does exist on multicultural organizing emphasizes the ways in which organizers can develop cultural competence for working in partnership with communities. In particular, this literature has stressed the ways in which organizers can use their own self-awareness to build bridges for work within communities. Organizers are encouraged to take the role of the learner in approaching a community and discovering its problems and strengths (Chávez et al. 2010; Guadelupe and Lum 2005; Gutiérrez et al. 2005). Several scholars, most notably Felix Rivera and John Erlich (1998), have made critical contributions to organizing with communities of color by positing that the appropriate roles for the organizer are best determined by his or her relationship to the community (Midgley 2007; Prigoff 2000; Spencer et al. 2000; Yoshihama and Carr 2003). If the organizer is a member of the community, analysts argue, then the most intimate or primary contact is appropriate. Primary contact would involve immediate and personal grassroots work with the community. In contrast, an organizer who is of a similar ethnic or racial background but not of the community should instead be involved on the secondary level. This level would involve participation as a liaison between the community and the larger society (Dolphyne et al. 2001). The tertiary level of contact would be most appropriate for those who are not members of the group. They can provide valuable contributions to the community through consultation and the sharing of technical knowledge. For example, outside professionals interested in participating in community work with a local African American neighborhood could first establish relationships with key individuals in the community. The professional as organizer’s responsibilities would be those defined by the community, no matter how insignificant these might seem on the surface. Efforts to learn the strengths of the community as they are exemplified in daily learning activities within the community would be a primary activity for the organizer. In this way, the organizer’s willingness to use the ethno-conscious perspective of “noninterference” would be recognized in time by residents, and more opportunities for work with that community might be revealed (Barrios and Egan 2002; Lewis 2009). Bradshaw and colleagues (1994) proposed that a “hybrid model” of organizing that integrates aspects of the Saul Alinsky (1972) approach to social action organizing with relevant perspectives from feminist organizing be used with communities of color. Flexibility, leadership identification and training, the appropriate use of both collaborative and confrontational tactics, and the role of the organizer as a learner and facilitator are among the characteristics of this hybrid model (Stall and Stoecker 2008. Of particular importance in this model are skills for developing cultural competence, which enables the outside organizer...

Subject Headings

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