Organizing for Safety: Transforming Community Activism Into Community Change

in Organizing, Safety

Notes from Organizing for Safety: Transforming Community Activism Into Community Change, by George Loew

Lessons learned

  • Organizing is more effective when it is done in support of a particular goal rather than only in opposition to an existing condition. While anger and frustration motivate temporary involvement, the coalition which forms around specific objectives is more likely to maintain enthusiasm and realize its stated goals. Police officers are problem oriented, and their presence can help keep a partnership focused on real change.
  • Action is important. Including a wide range of collaborators in the problem solving process is critical to identifying a mutually advantageous solution and generating necessary political support, but eventually, the organizer must have the confidence to communicate a vision and lead the partnership towards its objectives. The organizer cannot allow details and uncertainty to prevent forward progress. Police officers, with their action-oriented instincts, seem particularly well-suited to meet this condition.
  • An organizing effort that employs both incentives (carrot) and potential punishment (stick) in its outreach strategy is likely to encourage greater participation.
  • Local change does not occur in a vacuum. Neighborhoods compete for and rely on city, state, and national resources. Developing linkages to and an understanding of trends at these other tiers can help communities expedite the revitalization process by providing direction and capitalizing on broader momentum. The central participation of law enforcement in developing community-based responses offers an effective means to establishing those linkages and gaining that broader perspective.
  • Research helps. Whether compiling crime statistics,investigating ownership status of problem properties, or researching relevant statutes, gathering accurate and thorough data and background information helps identify the real or underlying community problems. It also adds credibility to a grassroots effort in the eyes of those controlling resource allocation. Organizers can use their findings to complement anecdotal evidence in developing a strategic response.

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