In 1971 Saul Alinsky wrote a groundbreaking book titled Rules for Radicals, arguably one of the clearest guides to what community organizing is all about. The book is available in print, audio, and digital formats and is well worth reading when you have a chance. For now, we share Alinsky’s list of key elements that all organizers should strive to possess:
Curiosity: Organizers are driven by aching questions in relation to the current way that society is organized and the associated values that are accepted. They are constantly questioning in order to agitate themselves and others to break through certain societal patterns.
Irreverence: While Curiosity asks, “why are things this way?” Irreverence allows the former question to be applied to any and every system in place in today’s world. Dogma is not something organizers should willingly accept; as such they must always challenge whatever is deemed necessary to be challenged out of reverence for the freedom of others who suffer at the hands of exploitation, war, hate, and numerous other ills.
A Free & Open Mind: Organizers must have flexible minds. They must not become rigid bodies that crumble the moment calamity strikes; they must know themselves and have a set of core principles, but they must also understand that even if those core principles are shared, the realization of those principles may differ among individuals. They may even run into slight dissonance with other individuals, but their understanding of relativity allows them to continue doing the needed work for their communities. Organizers are also constantly synthesizing new from the old and reliving in the conflict that exists between ideas knowing that something new and better is bound to come from them.
For more on these Qualities in Alinsky’s own words see Chapter 2 in Rules for Radicals.
Also see The Midwest Academy’s Organizing Manual.
For YAYA Own Organizing Database look into this Google Drive.