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The Community Organizer (CO)

A. The Role of the Community Organizer

The Community Organizer is a facilitator, animator, enabler and catalyst.

As a Facilitator, the CO "provides" a process which will help the community discuss their situation, identify and prioritize issues and problems, identify solutions and formulate and implement plans to resolve the key issues and problems. The facilitator’s responsibility is to ensure that members of the community communicate and are satisfied with and committed to the decisions taken.

As an Animator, the CO helps the community discover and use all its self-help potentials for creative and constructive team work. The animator stimulates people to think critically when identifying problems and finding new solutions. He/she motivates the people to share their concerns, information and opinions, set goals, make decisions and plan action.

As an Enabler, the CO helps initiate a process of "liberation of initiatives." The enabler helps release the creative initiatives of the people and ensures that the development agenda evolves as part of the process of change and is not imposed. She/he also ensures that dependency is reduced through cooperative action and social education.

Finally, the CO is a Catalyst, who hastens the process of change. The catalyst is successful when the organizing process has been fully internalized by the people. The community organizer also serves as a model, not only in words but also in deeds. A general rule that governs community organizers: If there is a conflict between authority (whatever that authority may be) and the people, go with the people (Murphy, 1987).

B. Orientation or Vision of a Community Organizer

Since community organizing takes the side of the people, the issue of one’s ideology, political line or orientation is crucial. Every organizer possesses all three (which are gradations on a continuum of comprehensiveness in terms of time, method analysis and vision). The only difference is in the degree to which an organizer is conscious of these.

Every organizer must possess an orientation and political line which means a perspective that specifies an analysis of the situation; an assessment of the forces and the classes that are for and against change; the methods for change; and a concept of the alternative to the current system. While these necessarily have ideological underpinnings, an organizer may not have a systematized ideology but may develop one in the process of struggle. Orientation and political line are not the sole possession of the members of political organizations. Every organizer must be clear on his political line and his orientation to the people.

To further clarify this issue, an organizer’s work is supported by a general orientation which may have different expressions in terms of a distinct political line. He/she can be motivated by religious faith – Christian, Islamic or faith in the power and the goodness of the people and their capacity to transform their reality. Tools for analysis which are drawn from Marxism, the social sciences and others are used. He/she is guided by a vision of an attainable future that is basically socialist and conforms, not to stereotyped images or to the mechanical duplication of foreign models, but to the actual needs and conditions of the people.

An organizer should exhaust all open and legal means for the attainment of this vision. However, when the people decide that the existing system can no longer be altered through such means, an organizer must be open to using other means, especially the right of self-defense.

Finally, it must be pointed out that behind every ideology, political line and orientation is an act of faith, a belief in an option or stand. The correctness of a position – while it may seem to be the absolute truth at one point in time – can really be judged only after a passage of time. Differences in positions, as well as the shift of an organizer form one position to another, for as long as it is consciously done, must be viewed from the vantage point of mutual respect. After all, time will tell which position was correct. What is necessary is an openness to dialogue and an ethical relationship between those who possess different perspectives (Murphy, 1987).

C. Organizers’ Goals in Assisting Communities

There are three types of objectives for a community organizer. These are

  1. Task Goals – goals concerned with the identification of objectives and the development of the means and resources to carry them out or implement them.
  2. Process Goals – refer to the enhancement and strengthening of the community members, competence for participation, self-direction and cooperation.
  3. Relationship Goals – focus on changing certain types of social relationships and decision making patterns in the community.

D. Skills

Skill implies not only knowledge but the ability to put knowledge to practical use; it connotes competence, ease and precision of execution, dexterity, efficiency and effectiveness and performance. Skill has been called the "ability to do the right thing at the right time". Skill, which primarily involves doing rather than with either knowing or feeling includes:

  1. Interpersonal Skills – skills that have to do with relationships with individuals and groups. This includes conflict management.
  2. Analytical skills – skills that have to do with fact-finding or data-gathering and interpretation of data or information for decision-making, problem-solving and conflict handling.
  3. Organization Development Skills – skills that have to do with setting up and sustaining organizations, planning and policy-making, organizing or determining appropriate organizational structure design, political and legislative skills, administrative skills, strategy design and implementation and communication.
  4. Training Skills – skills that have to do with capability building of members of the community organization, training needs and analysis, formulation of curriculum and training design, instruction skills and the use of training methodologies and training monitoring and evaluation.

Skill, when highly developed brings about automatic or nearly automatic responses to situations


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