Organizing: People, Power, Change is a handbook originally adapted from the work of Dr. Marshall Ganz of Harvard University and resources from the Leading Change Network and the New Organizing Institute. Download the full handbook from the box at the bottom of this page.
Hello and welcome!
The following guide aims to support you in developing your capacity for effective community organizing. Our goal is to provide you with an introduction to organizing and encourage you to explore answers to the following questions:
Why am I called to leadership in my community? How will I move others to join me? How will we develop strategy and structure our work together? And how will we achieve our goals?
To start, here’s how we define leadership:
Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.
Here’s how we define organizing:
Organizing is leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want.
And we break down this definition further by describing the five key practices of organizing: telling stories, building relationships, structuring teams, strategizing, and acting. Taken together, these five practices form the basis of the organizing framework laid out in this guide. We’ll refer to the above definitions throughout the guide, and unpack what they mean in depth as we work through the organizing framework. But where does this ‘framework’ come from?
Much of this framework was codified by a fellow called Marshall Ganz. Ganz developed the “Public Narrative” framework (see the Telling Stories section) based on years of organizing in and research on social movements. He cut his teeth as a young organizer in the Civil Rights movement, worked with the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 70s, advised many unions, non-profits, and political organizations for decades, and was a key trainer and organizing strategist behind the U.S. presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012.
It was during these campaigns that Ganz and fellow organizers (note: millions of other organizers) built on community organizing best practices and techniques from past movements and codified an approach to grassroots organizing and training that many credit with winning the 2008 election. Many organizations, including Leading Change Network and New Organizing Institute, spawned or grew out of these successful campaigns, and most of this guide is adapted from their resources.
Many people and organizations paid close attention to what these American organizers were doing, and some were inspired to shift their approach and adapt this framework. Over the last several years, several organizations in Canada (and British Columbia / Coast Salish Territories, in particular) have begun to shift their strategies to focus on community organizing (that is, putting people and relationships at the centre of the work), modelled after Ganz and American campaigns. That’s not to say that local movements or efforts or organizations haven’t been working in this relationship-based way for a long time; they just might not take inspiration from the work of Marshall Ganz or credit themselves as ‘organizers’ in the same way.
Some call this framework the “snowflake model,” others “distributed leadership,” and still others “the Ganz model.” Whatever we choose to call it, we hope to emphasize here that this approach is based in years and years of community organizing – we’re truly ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ employing this organizing framework, today.
In reading this guide, we ask that you keep two things in mind:
- Remember that organizing is above all a practice. We learn to organize by organizing, not (just) by reading about it. This guide is meant to get you started and serve as a resource, but the best way to learn this framework is to get out and do it!
- This organizing framework is just that, a framework, not a formula. Our goal here is to present some concepts and tools that many organizers have found to be effective and, at times, have been instrumental in winning campaigns.
We hope you find it useful.
Shea Sinnott and Peter Gibbs,
Vancouver & Victoria, BC / Coast Salish Territories
- Foreword 4
- Introduction to Organizing 5
- Telling Stories 9
- Building Relationships 15
- Coaching: Enabling Others 21
- Structuring Teams 25
- Strategizing 30
- Acting: Tactics & Timelines 36
- Tying It All Together 41
- Appendix 42
Download the full handbook from the box at the bottom of this page.