Community organizing in London

Community Organizing, a system of social campaigining, concentrates attention on linking local residents into a political group, identifying their common interests and turning these into the goals of campaigning.

It is most associated with the civil rights movement in the United States, where the work of Saul Alinksy was crucial in giving it shape, both through his direct involvement in campaigning and through books such as Rules for Radicals. More recently, Barack Obama’s involvement gave it greater prominence.

Unlike many USian ideas, this went decades without really taking root in the UK. Perhaps this is a result of it targetting local communities, rather than the free-floating trend-following activist international. Perhaps not.

But now it’s starting to change. Citizens UK are pushing community organizing in London and beyond. They’ve had impressive success in forcing the Living Wage onto the political agenda. There’s even a MA Course at Queen Mary.

For me to judge community organizing based on books and the internet seems entirely alien to its principles. Still, I can’t deny loving some Alinsky’s combination of community-building with tactically-planned attacks on the powers that be. In his words, “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.

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