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The Big Answer


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Organizing for Social Change: 4th Edition

a book by Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall, and Steve Max

(our site's book review)

Kim Bobo is the founder and director of Interfaith Worker Justice. She was a trainer with the Midwest Academy for ten years and is the author of Wage Theft in America.

Jackie Kendall, Former Executive Director of the Midwest Academy, has worked extensively with senior citizen, student, and citizen action organizations and coalitions at the local, state and national levels.

Steve Max has organized for over four decades in civil right, labor, community organizations and coalitions. He is a lead trainer and the designer of the Academy’s Economic Education Program.

“People power can still trump the power of big money. This book will tell you how to organize that power. ” —Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

“In the hands of young organizers, this book has helped to build strategic campaigns, provide best practices and develop the next generation of leaders.” —Gregory Cendana, President 2009-10 United States Student Association (USSA)

"Organizing for Social Change 4th Edition is required reading for anyone who thinks regular folks (not politicians, officials, or other self-anointed saviors) must be the engine for social change." —Joel Davison Harden, Registrar, Labour College of Canada

Library Journal calls the book "a compendium of powerful tools and information for grass-roots citizens' groups from leaders at the Midwest Academy, which has been training people in direct action organizing for social change since 1973. Efficiently and lucidly organized, the book should be an invaluable manual for individuals seeking to achieve justice and control over their lives through effective social and political group cooperation. There are excellent sections on outside resources . . . "

The Midwest Academy offers week-long trainings, but for those who cannot attend, this book presents the bulk of the materials offered in those trainings alongside examples, tools, templates and practical advice
The Midwest Academy offers week-long trainings, but for those who cannot attend, this book presents the bulk of the materials offered in those trainings alongside examples, tools, templates and practical advice

Organizing for Social Change 4th Edition is a comprehensive manual of essential tools for direct action organizing. It provides clear and concise information on the many skills it takes to make social change: recruitment, tactics, public speaking, using the media and building powerful organizations. Learn to think strategically, act effectively and get results!

Organizing for Social Change 4th Edition has been an invaluable reference source for countless activists and organizers working for social, environmental and economic justice at the local, state, national and international levels. It includes examples of real-life organizations working on labor issues, the environment, energy, health care, immigration, public campaign financing and more.

Whatever the cause, this is the manual which helps organizers ensure that they reach their goals with efficiency and dignity. Use it and organize. If you cannot attend the organization's week-long trainings, Organizing for Social Change 4th Edition presents the bulk of the materials presented in those trainings alongside examples, tools, templates and practical advice in a manner that makes you feel like you've gotten access to the organization's curricular materials.

A protester—the media will see him only if the powers-that-be say so
A protester—the media will see him only if the powers-that-be say so

The Forum Press is the organization responsible for publishing and promoting this valuable tool for grassroots democracy. See The Quickening of America: Rebuilding Our Nation, Remaking Our Lives, and Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite. "In the case of our government setting itself up as the answer (via social engineering) and then proving repeatedly it is anything but the answer (it's the problem), it is the civic and social actions we take for ourselves that actually provide answers. The authors nailed it: grassroots movements and civil actions are where our constructive actions should be focused." (Source: from our review of The Quickening of America: Rebuilding Our Nation, Remaking Our Lives)

Grassroots democracy is a tendency towards designing political processes where as much decision-making authority as practical is shifted to the organization's lowest geographic or social level of organization. Grassroots organizations can have a variety of structures; depending on the type of organization and what the members want. These can be non-structured and non-hierarchical organizations that are run by all members, or by whichever member wishes to do something. (Source: Grassroots democracy)

Local grassroots community action is effective while social engineering via politics is not—people are responsible for their lives, not the government. And, without a bottom-up approach in which social problems are addressed by the citizenry of communities, the society will continue a downward slide into Haves and Have-nots, empowered and disempowered, and more sexism, racism, crime, family problems, etc. "Community organizing" is grassroots democracy. Obama used it effectively in 2008 and 2012 to get the nation's highest office. (If only he had led that effectively!)

The book covers a lot of area: Part I Direct Action Organizing, 2001 Edition Introduction, The Fundamentals of Direct Action Organizing, Choosing an Issue, Developing a Strategy, A Guide to Tactics, Organizing Models: The Underlying Structure of Organizations, Designing Actions, Part II Organizing Skills, Holding Accountability Sessions, Building and Joining Coalitions, Recruiting, Developing Leadership, Planning and Facilitating Meetings, Being a Great Public Speaker, Using the Media, Designing and Leading a Workshop, Working with Community Organization Boards, Working with Religious Organizations, Working With Local Unions, Central Labor Councils and Building and Construction Trades Councils, Building Labor-Community Partnerships, Tactical Investigations, Part III Support for Organization, Grassroots Fundraising, Controlling Your Work: Administrative Systems, Supervision, Financial and Legal Matters, Working for the Long Haul, You Mean You're Not Getting Rich? Economics in the New Millennium.

This book, in summary, provides the foundations of organizing and development work and then describes how activists—through following either a social confrontation model or an economic and social production approach—can respond to economic and social problems.