Thursday, September 4, 2008

What is a "Community Organizer"

In an effort to discover what a community organizer is or does, I ran a few google searches to look for a community organizer position. I wondered when these jobs became popular or started. I wondered what I might have to do and how much I might get paid.

I am sure these position vary widely in both depending on the person or organization you are working for...but here is what I found...just in case you also were wondering.

How about a little Community Organizer History?

This the History from Neighborhood Resource Center .... (I think it is interesting that some people noticed the change in the funding of United Way programs in the 90's and tapped into the "Building Strong Neighborhoods" as one of the new six community solution areas to be funded by United Way Funds!)

In the early 1970's, there were only a few neighborhood organizations in Nashville. By the early 1990's, there were dozens of new neighborhood organizations being formed, with over 250 groups being identified in 2002. But with all of these new organizations, came many questions about just how to get started and how to deal with various problems in the neighborhoods. The Neighborhoods Resource Center (NRC) arose out of the needs of Nashville's neighborhood organizations, the vision of its founders, and the mission and strategic planning of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance, Inc. (NNA). During the early 1990's, when so many new neighborhood organizations were being formed, the NNA was the primary resource and support for these new and evolving groups. As an all-volunteer organization, it was unable to provide the in depth attention and specialized services that the neighborhood movement needed. The NNA needed a sister organization to do just that. In the mid 1990's, the United Way of Middle Tennessee was undergoing a major transition in the way that it was providing funding to Nashville area non-profits. They were moving to an Outcome Based Investment model, centered on six "Community Solution Councils." Interestingly, one of these was entitled Building Strong Neighborhoods - a designation that caught the attention of then Alliance president John Stern. With the support and assistance of the other officers of the NNA, Stern spent considerable time participating in the evolution and definition of the work of that council - usually focusing on the issues of neighborhood self-determination and empowerment. As the Council's work became known, it was obvious that the real interests and needs of existing and future neighborhood organizations needed to be attended to by an organization that was created and managed by neighborhood leaders.

This is an example of a job posting I found...but I also read that anyone could be trained to be a community organizer if you fit this description:

Are you active in a neighborhood association, but want to make it more effective?
Would you like to start a new neighborhood group, but need some advice on how to begin?
Would you like to give more structure to an existing organization, getting more residents involved?
If any of these apply to you, consider signing up for our next Leadership Training Institute!
What is a Leader?
A leader is an ordinary person who takes initiative to solve problems and bring people together for a common purpose. We can all be leaders in our neighborhoods. No prior experience is necessary to participate in this training.
In each training, we cover various topics to help you gain perspective into issues related to your neighborhood and the people who live around you. People are the mortar that holds a neighborhood together.
Topics to be Covered In Training: Organizing residents to obtain more power, Finding key stakeholders in your community, Reasons why people join / leave organizations, Conducting individual meetings, Conducting a neighborhood survey, Planning and executing an effective meeting, and Converting a vague problem into a specific issue

This is a real job description that I found for a current open position:

Job Requirements and Related Experience:
The successful candidate for this position will have demonstrated experience in community mobilization and training. Experience in education is a plus. He or she will also have strong verbal and written communication and organizational skills.The ideal candidate:
Has 2-3 years experience in community organizing, preferably in the City
Demonstrates an understanding of how parents should support and guide their children's education
Is familiar with current educational events and issues
Has a strong knowledge of the community
Has the ability to build relationships with public, private, and charter K-12 schools
Is able to mobilize and work with low-income and low-literacy communities and parents
Displays a proven commitment to education and educational development
Is self-motivated with the ability to work effectively both independently and within a team
Pays close attention to detail
Meets deadlines and follows through on all assigned responsibilities
$15.00 -$22.00 per hour, depending upon credentials and experience. This is a part-time position (approximately 10 - 15 hours per week). This position will require scheduling flexibility around evenings and weekends. We are asking for a commitment of at least one year.

Here are some posted for Nashville:

Neighborhoods Resource Center

East Nashville Community Organizing Program $25,614.00, North Nashville Community Organizing Program $62,445.00, South Nashville Community Organizing Program $62,063.00, West Nashville Community Organizing Program $42,576.00

The Neighborhoods Resource Center was formed to offer organizing assistance to help community groups build membership, identify common goals, and develop strategies to move their groups ahead.
NRC's community development staff provide the motivation, guidance, and technical assistance necessary for Nashville neighborhood organizations to realize community-oriented goals.
Most neighborhoods face common issues, so the lessons learned in one community can be quickly put to use in another.
We currently offer intensive assistance to approximately ten Nashville neighborhoods, and serve as a consultant to many more.

I hope this informs you on the now famous job, "a community organizer".

I think many of us have held unpaid jobs like this in scouts, volunteer fire and rescue departments, schools, churches, sports teams and other volunteer positions. We just never plugged into United Ways funding by organizing it into a position that "build stronger neighborhoods". For over 200 years many moms and pops all over this country have been dedicated, serving community organizers. After all this time...people found a way to volunteer to help their community get stronger...but then again some of us would apply for the paid job...

Some of us enjoy serving our neighborhood and community for the love of God, people, our neighbors, and America. Now don't get me wrong, if God lead a minister or missionary to serve full-time...this person should be compensated...I am just saying that all Christians are ministers and missionaries whether they get paid for it or not. Do you get my point? I have found this search to be very interesting. Hope you have also. If you know more information, please comment about it.

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