in community engagement, Organizing

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Community Voices Heard: Changing People and Public Policy through Low-Income Organizing

in community engagement, Organizing

This is the product of a research project. Community Voices Heard: Changing People and Public Policy through Low-Income Organizing is a case study of grassroots organizing. Based on research directed by Ann Rivera of the New York University Center for Community Research & Action, and funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the piece highlights how a membership organization of low-income individuals can be an effective force for social, economic, and political change.

A team of three researchers collected data spanning ten years of CVH’s history from our beginning in 1994 to 2005, examining three different organizing campaigns: the passage of the Transitional Jobs Program law in NYC, the implementation of the program, and the ongoing improvement and preservation of the program. In-depth interviews were conducted with CVH members, current and former CVH staff, policy researchers and representatives from local labor unions, funding agencies, government agencies and offices, and other grassroots advocacy groups.

The case study helps to demystify what organizing really is, and outlines how CVH used successful strategies to actually change public policy to improve the lives of thousands of low-income people. It identifies and points to some basic tenets that can be useful to other groups undertaking similar work.

Findings from the research uncover some essentials for engaging low-income constituents to participate in public policy processes:

  • Building leaders fosters and sustains long-term political engagement
  • Constant and targeted contact with constituents encourages long-term investment
  • Engaging people in ongoing activity fosters deeper connections
  • Action-focused base building gets people interested in social change

Additionally, the research highlights some of the critical strategies for groups striving to achieve concrete policy change:

  • Constituent participation in policy making strengthens public policy creation
  • Personal knowledge of issues and community-driven research help fill a knowledge gap
  • Membership base-building drives effective and clear media work and winning alliances

via About CVH | Community Voices Heard. CVH Documentation Report.pdf