General Standards for Organizers at the Harriet Tubman Center
It is important to have a clear understanding among all parties about what is expected of the professional community organizer. We have therefore attempted to list some of the criteria by which an organizer should be judged.
I. Leadership Development
Primarily, an organizer’s job is to help people in a community become empowered to participate effectively in critical decisions affecting themselves, their families and their neighborhoods. A community organizer therefore must be judged primarily on the quality and quantity of leadership development in a community organization.
An organizer must have a plan to identify, recruit and develop leadership. It will be expected of an organizer that he or she have a list of current and potential leaders and that the organizer be able to discuss the interest, development and growth of each of the leaders on his or her list.
An organizer will be judged by the number of leaders that they involve in local actions and meetings, and local training programs. A mature organizer should be able to send a minimum of 150 leaders to local trainings per year, to conduct a minimum of one weekend training for a minimum of 25 of his or her leaders and send 15 to national leadership training.
An organizer should never appear as the spokesperson of a neighborhood organization either in the media or at formal negotiating sessions between the organization and public and corporate officials. The organizer’s primary task is to develop leaders to the point where they can conduct negotiations for their organization. Even small violations of this principle place the organizer in a leadership role and therefore violate the process of organizing and the integrity of the organizer. In the initial organizing stages of an organization, an organizer being trained by the Harriet Tubman Center is expected to do 20 one to ones with community leaders and potential leaders each week. After leadership is developed, the organizer is still expected to do a minimum of 3 one with politicians, corporate people and potential new leaders.
II. Institutional Organizing
The Harriet Tubman Center’s methodology is to work with existing churches and other organizations in a community. The organizer must be capable of understanding the self-interest of each individual institution, must be able to talk intelligently and creatively with the pastor or the director of these institutions and their community members about the programs and goals and visions for the institution. The organizer will be judged on the number of such institutions that are actively involved and paying dues to the community organization.
Each dues paying member institution must have a core of leaders that relate to the community organization and who are able to involve members of that institution in campaigns of the community organization. Even though it is a difficult task, this leadership team must be fully aware of and committed to the self-interest of the member organization and simultaneously to the self-interest of the community organization. A mature community organization should be able to recruit 10-50 leaders from its dues paying member organizations for critical events during the year.
III. Power Analysis
An organizer must be attuned to social, political and economic forces acting on a community. The organizer therefore will be judged on the capacity to do a power analysis in a community so that when issues are selected, the organization will be building its base rather than creating division and turmoil in the community.
The organizer must be in relationship with the key political, economic and religious leaders of this or her community. The organizer therefore will be judged on his or her increasing ability to conduct one to ones with such leadership on a week to week basis. Additionally, the organizer will be based on his or her ability to get present leaders in the organization to talk with their peers in the community and bring them into the organization.
IV. Issue Development
An organizer must be able to help the organization’s members select and define those issues leading to actions which will create a positive impact on members of a community, develop new leadership for the organization, draw in new member institutions and further educate exiting leadership.
V. Organizational Development
An organizer is to organize an organization. It is therefore the role of the organizer to see that people and structures are put into place in such a way that they that will create coherence and integrity within an organization. By this we mean that there will be a functioning board of directors, an effective fundraising strategy, issues and organizational committees that tie into the board structure and an annual convention that enables the membership to select its leadership and its programs.
An organization should have a fundraising plan that not only provides long-term financial security for the organization, but also constantly increases the capacity of the organization to support itself more independently with dues, grassroots fundraisers and other special events. It is a fundamental principle of Harriet Tubman Center that community people must have a strategy to pay for the organizing that is being conducted by their organization. An organizer who primarily and constantly relies on foundation grants and is not moving toward self sufficiency for the organization does not comprehend the nature of a self-directed power organization.
One of the primary tools of a community organizer is, effective meetings. The organizer must enable the leadership to hold meetings that are productive, focused and educational for the leadership. Small committee meetings, board meetings and large community meetings must all be evaluated by the organizer with the leadership to ensure that the leadership understands the organizational processes governing their actions.
VII. Personal Development
Community organizers must, as they are attempting to do with leadership, be themselves in a self development program. It is expected that an organizer in Harriet Tubman Center, will, for instance be reading a minimum of one book per month on topics relevant to this profession, be doing weekly reports that are primarily a tool to reflect, and develop an organizational and personal annual development plan.
Finally, organizers must themselves become trainers and therefore must conduct training sessions in their own community at the Harriet Tubman Center training events (and at other national training events) and be judged on their effectiveness by their peers.