A Community Organizing Strategy For “Swimming With Sharks”

During several decades of teaching community organizing to university students, I (Moshe) tried to help them shed their naïveté about power and conflict. I asked them to imagine what it would be like to be swimming with sharks, which they did by reading a humorous essay on the subject. The students quickly realized that “How to Swim with Sharks” works as a tongue-in-cheek introduction to the characters and circumstances we encounter in community organizing.

The shark analogy works because our grassroots organizations are often in conflict with malevolent and unconscionable adversaries. The major stockholders and executives of America’s massively consolidated corporations satisfy their greed for money and power at the expense of others. They consign millions to poverty, oppression, and injustice, and ultimately to injury, sickness, and death. Their institutionalized evil, chronicled in the public record by legislative committees, commissions, courts, journalists, and individual victim-witnesses, has left no way for us to avoid seeing them as death-dealing predators on the public.

When students read the cartoonish characterization of the community organizing arena in which they will be working as organizers after graduation, many ask: How are we supposed to survive and succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of power and conflict? How can we organize
successful grassroots campaigns against such ruthless, sophisticated, and moneyed adversaries?

As it turns out, recently graduated students are not the only ones with these questions. Even veteran organizers may be working without the conviction that they have an effective strategy to countervail the “sharks.” They are aware that, despite a half-century of successful grassroots
organizing campaigns (relying on one-to-one base-building in face-to-face communities), reactionary Republicans control most governorships, state legislatures, and all three branches of the federal government. Their electoral defeats are only temporary knock-downs. Withal, the reactionary forces are successfully implementing retrograde public policies and right-wing judicial appointments, and sabotaging progressive ones. Billionaires, ripping off the population and the planet with impunity, are bankrolling them and their reactionary fellow-travelers with the profits of their global corporations, except when occasionally obstructed by the courts.

Leadership Deficit

The first step in countervailing “sharks” is assessing the strength of community organizing’s leadership, since the development of leaders is the underpinning of virtually all organizing objectives. If an organization or movement is developing dynamic leadership at all levels, its problems diminish in proportion to their numbers, strength, and distribution. But to the extent that a movement has few skilled, strong, and inspiring leaders, nothing it does will enable it to meet its challenges.

Professional organizers know that leadership is the basic building-block—it is both the method and the objective—of all organizing efforts to empower the grassroots, to countervail the power of the “sharks.” Whatever the problem or pressure faced by a community or constituency, its prospects are always better with more and stronger leaders. Sustained, accelerating powerbuilding, whether by solo organizations, coalitions, or federations, requires exceptional leaders.

Unfortunately, inspired and inspiring leaders, capable of leading a grassroots-driven national progressive movement, haven’t been standouts in the alliances and federations mounting statewide and national campaigns. Not long ago, for instance, one faith-based federation promoted a national campaign in response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The federation’s spokesperson for a nationwide “conference
call”—seemingly aimed to unify staff and leadership on campaign objectives—was a top staff director. It’s not difficult to grasp what’s missing in the way of leadership. Where are the leaders who can lead in organizing a consolidated and unified national movement? Where are the leaders with the stature to take on the “sharks,” as did the great leaders of the American revolution, the antislavery movement, the populist movement, the labor movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam anti-war movement? This missing leadership is existentially damaging to progressive grassroots community organizing, because leadership development is community organizing’s long-term strategic counterforce for “swimming with sharks.”

Moreover, in every successful movement, the most dynamic leaders at the top came up through the ranks from the bottom—pushed up from the
grassroots, challenged to lead because of their character, competence, commitment, and charisma. For example, national Nonpartisan League organizers pushed the nomination and election of leaders who were not opportunists, warning members before their first organizing meeting “. . . repeatedly . . . against men who sought office of any sort.” The League’s newspaper reinforced this idea:

Farmers must keep in mind that they cannot expect right service and a square deal at the hands of a man who goes gum-shoeing for political preferment. Farmers do not need in office a man who seeks the glory of political prestige. What we farmers want is a man who knows the farmers’ needs, a man who is engaged in the same business as a regular farmer—not the farmer who farms farmers. Not only so but they want a man who is so adverse to political preferment that he must be drafted into service.

Throughout history, some folks have claimed that, because “the end of the world is coming,” it’s pointless to invest in long-term social-change fundamentals, such as leadership development. No doubt there were such people in North Dakota in 1915 at the beginning of the National Nonpartisan League. Nowadays, we hear apocalyptic predictions that we may permanently lose the Bill of Rights, free and fair elections, democratic government, public education, progress towards justice for all, and much more. Certainly, we are facing constituencies and events
that threaten what we treasure most in our way of life. But organizers, of all people, should not exaggerate the threats. Those who want to destroy the heart of the nation do not necessarily have the wherewithal to do it. We’re not facing anything like the Nazi war machine of World War II or the conditions that contributed to the inevitability of the Civil War, both of which the country managed to survive. So, although in the Trump era we’re responding to the belated offspring of those threats, we should not abandon all our other long-term organizing tasks, including leadership development.

Commitment to intensified grassroots leadership development may be far less exciting than one-shot mobilizations of millions or even thousands in marches and demonstrations that attract nationwide media attention. But experience shows that leadership development ultimately has a greater influence on government lawmaking, policy-making, and agency practices than those mobilizations. Its potential contribution to a future of more progressive government is greater.

“Pushing Up” Extraordinary Leaders

The greatest promise for organizing a consolidated and unified national progressive movement lies in commitment to the ideal of continuous broad-based leadership development within every alliance, coalition, and federation, and within their member-organizations, engaged in the movement. But this is not what we’ve seen to date in progressive grassroots organizing. If this prerequisite seems far-fetched, consider the extent to which corporate America has adopted a unified strategy and set of tactics, including sophisticated training programs for individual companies, to defeat union organizing and undermine existing unions. A national progressive grassroots movement that seeks to countervail corporate power should hardly expect to do less.

What first distinguishes this prerequisite is that the initiatives to nurture leaders must be continuous, which demands far greater commitment than what ordinarily passes for leadership development in the community and faith-based organizing projects with which we’re familiar. Second, such an effort must be broad-based, which is to say, operating with the presupposition that it’s possible to produce not two or three, but a phalanx of extraordinary leaders.

Why aren’t community and faith-based organizing for grassroots empowerment “pushing up” extraordinary leaders in large numbers? We suggest two possible reasons for this failure. Organizing has been “professionalized” in the last half-century. Professional staff, along with
their training-center consultants, have easily dominated grassroots leaders. Understandably, professional organizers believe that if organizing is to build and wield power, the members of their organizations must respect proven principles and practices. So, they often dictate those principles and practices, appointing themselves as the arbiters of their observance and, as a practical matter, acting unrecognized as the top-tier of organizational leadership. Additionally, diminishing financial resources available to community and faith-based organizing projects limit their commitment to conventional leadership development training. Many foundations and religious denominations previously supportive of such organizing have now concluded that they can achieve better results by funding social services. And grant-makers increasingly demand “wins,” seemingly indifferent to the necessity for the “builds” to achieve them, such as leadership development.

A commitment to continuous broad-based leadership development has inevitable implications. It requires that we not treat leadership development as an occasional activity, something we do before campaigns, twice a year at leadership retreats, or even once a month. It requires that we view the moment-to-moment life of our organizations as presenting challenging opportunities for individual leadership development, and that we view all our interactions with members as opportunities to connect them to those challenges.

If we want to understand the impact of transitioning to this continuous approach to leadership development, we will need to reimagine our day-to-day work—not as a series of tasks to accomplish worthwhile objectives, such as asking staff or leaders to carry on fundraising or one-to-one
membership recruiting or preparations for research or accountability actions, etc.—but as a series of challenges that we gauge and pose to individuals.

Committing ourselves to broadly based leadership development will also have implications. No longer will we approach leadership development as a process for identifying and training a handful of individuals to meet immediate organizational needs. On the contrary, we will view virtually every member of our organizations as having the capacity to demonstrate some form of leadership at some point under some circumstances for some purpose, even if only to ensure phone calls before an action or cleanup after a meeting.

We acknowledge that neither we nor anyone else has a simple, quick, or cheap solution to meeting the challenges of continuous broad-based leadership development. The strategic model we’re proposing, however, leads beyond the unattractive choices of either abdicating our professional responsibility to teach the essential principles and practices of organizing, or infantilizing leaders by assuming they can’t answer critical questions as well as we can.

Taking Risks & Trusting Leaders

We have seen professional organizing staff in leadership training sessions engaging their members in identifying problems, cutting issues, and in planning and evaluating campaigns, actions, and negotiations. And we have heard organizers making statements about what they defined as the absolute requirements of building grassroots power. Our own community organizing training, for
instance, taught us that we should “make sure”—at virtually all costs—that the members and leaders of our organizations do at least one planning meeting before research and accountability actions. The principles are good, but that organizers don’t trust leaders to adopt them for themselves if asked whether they think they’re useful or necessary, is not good.

When this happens, leadership development is like a one-way street that doesn’t work well with wrong-way drivers. Organizers taking charge, even subtly, amounts to driving in the wrong direction. Instead of making statements about the inflexible ground-rules, organizers ought to be asking members and leaders the same questions the organizers asked themselves to conclude that the rules are indispensable. With this approach, organizers may be taking greater risks that leaders and members will make mistakes, but also that they will grow in capability and creativity, becoming more inspired and more inspiring to others.

Moreover, if organizers put the questions to leaders as a group, there is less risk. There is far less likelihood that one loose-cannon, cool alternator, or know-it-all will lead the group astray. Then, too, we learned many years ago through administering the “NASA Exercise: Survival on the Moon,” that the knowledge and intelligence of the lowest-scoring groups is far greater than the highest-scoring individuals, which has also been our experience as community organizers. Average groups learn and make decisions far better than the brightest individuals.

We’re also proposing that leadership development activity—specifically, the time, resources, energy, and spirit devoted to it—must go much deeper than what we have seen in our experience of faith-based and turf-based organizing. Organizers must build leadership development initiatives into the culture and structure of grassroots organizations such that it plays out in their day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and minute-to-minute activity. Nothing is more important or deserves a higher priority in the internal life of grassroots social action organizations. But how, practically, do we nurture the potential for extraordinary leadership? How do we produce what many might regard as a surplus of competent and committed, inspired and inspiring leaders, both formal and informal? Who, precisely, do we most want to suit-up for leadership, and how do we identify them?

Identifying Potential Leaders

If we survey the public on how they identify individuals as potential leaders, many might say, “I know one when I see one.” (Possibly that limited criterion was operating with maximum effect in the election of Donald Trump.) Others, however, might well help us generate a list of markers of leadership potential. We think that many organizers would subscribe to such a list, possibly even believing that the most promising individuals with leadership potential can produce:

• Inspiring visions
• Successful strategies and tactics
• Better work from leaders and staff
• Effective teams
• Creative processes and solutions
• Improved communication
• Expanding resources (i.e., members and money)

There are always individuals who have knowledge and skills which tell us of their grassroots leadership potential. They often have a following that pays attention to them and follows what they say and do; and they may produce a variety of resources by dint of their relationships, experience, and force of personality. Such individuals appear to have valuable wherewithal, and we may encourage them to take on leadership roles, for they will step up to the demands of leadership in response to professional or personal “rewards” or to threats to themselves, to their loved ones, neighborhoods, communities, and jobs. But relying on the few who possess these qualifications will effectively place a low ceiling on the total number of individuals we consider for leadership development.

Moreover, our experience is that it’s often a mistake to focus initially on knowledge and skills when identifying leadership potential. The incentive to do so may be to get quick results when there’s a high-priority task that’s hanging fire. When we respond to that incentive, we may overlook signs that the individual we have identified as a potential leader has problematic aspects of character and personality, which typically come back to haunt us. Then, too, when we measure leadership potential primarily by the ability to build relationships and produce resources, admittedly important qualities, we often end up with leaders who are facile talkers and occupy positions of prestige in the larger community. A preoccupation with their own careers may very well displace a dedication to the commonweal and to the grassroots empowerment required to achieve it.

With this approach to leadership development, we can burden ourselves with leaders who do not inspire others with a moral vision, who fail to model the spiritual (nonmaterial) satisfactions of taking great risks and making great investments in a long-term struggle, who do not exhibit unquestioned integrity and selflessness in their use of power, and who are unwilling to make the substantial sacrifices necessary to achieve a future of greater righteousness, truth, and justice, freedom, peace, and compassion. No movement for the commonweal can succeed without these moral spiritual leadership qualities.

A more productive approach when looking for potential leaders is to begin by identifying individuals who exhibit qualities of character and personality. These attributes include:

• Moral and ethical integrity
• Actively working for justice
• Showing backbone and courage
• Expressing compassion
• Serving the needs of both individuals and larger social causes
• Taking every opportunity to involve and learn from others
• Revealing little or no ambition for personal possessions, privileges, position, or power.

This approach to leadership development recognizes that if individuals have the character and personality suitable for leadership, including humility and curiosity, we can help them to become effective leaders through day-today education and training. And this approach, places a far higher ceiling on the total number of individuals we can consider for leadership development.

Pivotal Goal of Leaders

But even this last view of leadership potential, with all its value, has one debilitating deficiency. It does not convey that the pivotal goal of every grassroots leader must be the development of others as leaders. This is the key to achieving depth and breadth of leadership, whether in a local grassroots organization or a grassroots-driven national movement.  A leader’s efforts to develop others as leaders has greater influence on organizational survival and success than any other initiative, because it has these predictable effects:

• It improves virtually all measures of organizational performance, such as launching new projects and campaigns, developing new revenue streams, improving recruiting and training, and reducing administrative and operational costs;
• It lessens organizational vulnerability, whether from external forces, self-inflicted internal causes, or the inevitable loss of experienced leaders; and
• It raises the morale of leaders and staff, which enhances almost all other measures of organizational performance.

Pillars of Leadership Development

Suppose that we have in mind to accomplish the above pivotal goal. How should we proceed?

Experienced organizers know that people rarely come to understand their potential for leadership through talk or intellectual information, but almost always by engaging in action. So, we ought to avoid trying to convince someone to become a leader. Instead we should challenge the individual to do a job that requires leadership. But how do we do that?

Successfully challenging an individual requires individualizing our challenge—that is, that we recognize we’re building a relationship with a unique individual, that we provide direct support to that individual, that we gauge our challenge to that individual, and that we hold that individual accountable with positive mentoring.

Building relationships that foster trust is community organizing’s sine qua non. It requires empathy, genuine interest and ability to understand the feelings and concerns of others, coupled with the ability to communicate that understanding back to them. Such relationships, in turn, support risk-taking, which is the foundation of leadership development. Growth in leadership capability, not only in knowledge and skill but self-confidence and courage to act, occurs when trusted staff or leaders challenge individuals to take on tasks that require them to risk going beyond their previous experience and comfort zone. The relationship of trust implicitly assures them that the job is necessary, worth the risk, and doable; that they have the attributes to do it; and that others are not simply using them as organizational cannon-fodder.

Direct support addresses what people most often fear when asked to lead—failure, burdensome demands, and unending commitment. We make it more likely they’ll take a risk by promising and then arranging support that speaks to their practical, emotional, psychological, and moral-spiritual needs for reassurance. Our offers of support should clearly communicate the specific resources available to those we challenge. The most effective expression of support, however, is that we personally have their backs.

Gauged challenge is based on the resources—experience, skills, emotional wherewithal, learning, etc. of the person we intend to challenge—which of course we should assess before making the challenge. And before making the challenge we also want to help the person understand
the implications of what we’re proposing. The challenge works best when we’re asking rather than telling. We are suggesting in effect that the person consider doing something he or she hasn’t done before. We don’t want to make the challenge so small that it’s not challenging or so large that it’s overwhelming. We want to resist the temptation to talk people into doing what we want them to do, so we always make the challenge in the form of a question—such as, “Would you be willing to _____?”— after which we stop talking and wait for the answer. And we want to consciously propose challenges with a neutral tone of voice, which allows the person to accept or to refuse the challenge without a loss of dignity. We do not take refusals as definitive, however, recognizing that circumstances change and that it’s appropriate and necessary to pose
additional challenges. We’re familiar with the alternatives to this approach. We can steam-roll, manipulate, bamboozle, and shame people into doing what we want them to do. But we don’t think those methods produce the kind of leaders we want.

Accountability mentoring requires that we budget sufficient staff resources to ensure that follow-up to our challenges doesn’t fall through the cracks. We do follow-up whether the individual has met the challenge successfully or not. When the individual has failed to meet the challenge, it’s important that we give credit for commitment and effort, and that we help the person understand what happened and what it means. We avoid causing embarrassment by focusing on what resources the person would want to have for a similar challenge in the future. Then we pose another challenge, which offers an opportunity to reattempt the task and succeed. When an individual has successfully met a challenge, we credit the accomplishment and pose another challenge that builds on the confidence and skill acquired from meeting the first challenge.

When staff concentrate on this model of leadership development—on building relationships, direct support, gauged challenge, and accountability mentoring—the practical effect is to construct the strongest possible footing for all other organizational goals and objectives.

Supportive Organizational Context

This model can only work if the organizational context is healthy and supportive. The presence or absence of several policies and practices can determine the success or failure of the model, including:

• The modeling of competent and trustworthy leadership;
• The presence of material benefits and shared beliefs that encourage individuals to take leadership initiatives;
• The existence of organizational culture that values admitting ignorance and mistakes, and willingness to learn and grow; and
• The commitment to evaluation as a regular part of healthy organizational development.

Our strategic model of leadership development can only remain dynamic if supported by formal organizational structure—for example, through policies implemented in the organization’s bylaws or operating procedures (e.g., rotating leadership roles); and if encouraged by the culture
of the organization—for example, by informally setting and reinforcing expectations about leadership with new members (e.g., recognizing that occasional mistakes are inevitable, but repeating them is not).

The benefits of rotating leadership roles include restricting the growth of incumbency-fiefdoms and excessive power-brokering by “maximum leaders,” and expanding opportunities for many individuals to acquire leadership knowledge and skill. We may rotate leadership roles through the organization’s structure by limiting time-in-office, and by establishing prerequisite leadership experience for any specific position—for example, requiring that eligibility for the presidency includes having served in at least two other officer-positions (e.g., vice president and director of  communications).

The success of our leadership development model also depends on organizational supports for conscientious implementation of the model on a day-to-day basis. For example, it’s essential that staff record daily practice notes that describe in detail their experience and the performance
of members and leaders in relation to leadership development. Each week’s work should begin with a staff meeting, providing an opportunity to discuss upcoming leadership development challenges and to draw on the experience of the entire staff in formulating responses; and each week’s work should end with a staff meeting to review the week’s one-to-one numbers and outcomes, successes and failures, and lessons learned for future practice.

Follow-on evaluations of one-to-ones, meetings, actions, and campaigns are the hallmark of all competent organizing. Our view, however, is that the focus of these evaluations should be leadership development. We should be evaluating the types of opportunities available for leadership development, the extent to which staff and leaders were effective in transforming the opportunities into challenges for individuals, the relative abilities of individuals to meet the challenges, and the effectiveness of follow-up accountability mentoring by staff.

Humor also plays a role. Even in wartime, which has no equal in “seriousness,” humor is not only acceptable but essential. So, we ought not to inadvertently encourage organizational culture that treats humor as undignified or demeaning to the weighty purposes of the organization. People don’t voluntarily commit themselves to organizations that promise nothing more than endless dour and demanding struggle. In a similar vein, voluntary participation in organizational life—even though it serves a higher purpose than the interest or ideology of the individual—must nonetheless be individually fulfilling. People don’t voluntarily commit themselves to organizations exclusively dedicated to meeting larger social needs, entirely ignoring their individual needs.

We do not recognize any defensible rationale for excluding leaders from full participation in setting leadership development objectives. When staff monopolize the process, it has the effect of infantilizing leaders, treating them like children we want to lead around as their minders. In contrast, combining the contributions of leaders and staff promises to produce the most relevant and useful objectives. The most constructive role for professional staff is to know, given the status of the organizing, the strategic and tactical questions requiring answers—not to answer them but to propose them to the appropriate levels of leaders. It’s professionally unbecoming and ironic in several respects when organizers argue or work against full participation of leaders in setting objectives for leadership development.

Organizers should not, but often do, ignore endemic burnout of leaders. Burnout feeds on conflicts within an organization, some of which are inevitable. In personal conflicts between members, the practice of triangulating leaders places them in the middle of exhausting emotional firestorms. Staff contribute to the problem by acquiescing in the misguided notion that it’s the responsibility of leaders to resolve every conflict. However, leaders themselves can short-circuit triangulation. Employing formal policy and informal practice, they may refuse the “fixer” role and instead insist that individuals resolve their personal conflicts by meeting together face-to-face to mediate their differences. This rule in no way precludes requesting a leader to facilitate or simply observe and make an unimpeachable record of such a meeting. Regarding intra-organizational conflicts which are not personal, committees, panels, and boards should discuss their implications and then decide the best course for their resolution; or, when fitting, leaders should apply an existing operating procedure, policy, bylaw, or constitutional article to achieve resolution.

The ultimate purpose of a supportive organizational context is the development of new and stronger individual leaders. So, how do we evaluate whether the people we’re challenging are growing in their capacity for leadership?

Evaluating Growth of Leaders

We can confirm our progress in leadership development by specific milestones, including various degrees of recognition of the following by the individuals we’re challenging to lead:

• The primacy of challenging and supporting new leaders, and not becoming threatened by the contraction of one’s own leadership role, authority, and responsibilities.
• The certainty that all members and leaders of an organization possess expertise and commitment in various proportions, and that effective leaders act to ensure that their organization benefits from all of them.
• The need to identify tasks, define roles to fill them, and challenge individuals to take them.
• The crucial importance of teamwork—building teams and teaching the essentials of participation on teams—to accomplishing organizational tasks.
• The need for both “wins” and “builds” in the organization’s campaigns and other major initiatives.
• The knowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and the importance of active commitment to one’s own professional and personal growth.
• The need for and essential roles of informal leaders, and the willingness to serve as one when helpful.
• The need for and essential role of informal meetings, particularly with small groups and individuals.
• The need to invest one’s resources in strengthening and unifying the organization before considering one’s own professional and personal interests.
• The difference between appropriately keeping confidences (e.g., when someone shares a personal problem or fear of taking on a task for the
organization); versus keeping silent when someone offers to make an unhealthy covert contract (e.g., proposing cooperation with police surveillance of the organization’s members). Of course, leaders should silently honor the former and openly reveal the latter.
• The need for non-threatening ways for members to give candid feedback to leaders. We can’t rely exclusively on individuals speaking up in open meetings to achieve ongoing leadership accountability. Questions and doubts often remain unasked and unexpressed in open settings for fear of giving offense, becoming a pariah, engendering retribution, dividing loyalties, or sounding stupid, ignorant, or naïve. So, it’s critical for leaders to create non-threatening ways for members, other leaders, and staff to question and criticize them.
• The wisdom that there is not one ideal decision-rule for all organizational decisions, such as “popular democratic” decision-making that includes the entire membership or “executive leadership” decision-making that singularly empowers a maximum leader. This recognition depends on understanding the variety of settings in which organizational decisions occur—such as direct staff work with individual members and leaders, supervision of staff, training of leaders and staff, project management, project policy-making, and decisions about the organization’s constitution. The principal criterion to structure decision-making involves balancing the need for decision-speed (by limiting participation) and decision-ownership (by expanding participation).
• The constructive role of democratically established organizational policies, rules, and discipline in contrast to management by ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants, executive decision-making.
• The value of multiplying and carefully considering alternatives in a crisis, in contrast to prematurely grasping ready-made solutions.
• The need for negotiating compromise when there is disagreement, and for modeling graciousness and respect towards others despite disagreements, thereby encouraging a culture that enables constructively surfacing and resolving conflicts.
• The usefulness of carefully qualifying people and opportunities before investing time, energy, material resources, or spirit in them, in contrast to making rash, emotionally driven unproductive investments.
• The necessity to promote reasonable and widely understood expectations regarding appropriate and inappropriate roles of leaders, paid staff, and volunteers.
• The need to model organizational discipline, not only regarding major decisions and actions, but with “basics,” like punctuality and preparedness in all organizational matters.

What are the most critical questions we can ask to assess the leadership performance of staff, leaders, and members, and to assess the outcomes of their initiatives?

The questions are surprisingly uncomplicated:
• How many members, not previously considered leaders, have staff and current leaders identified andchallenged this past year?
• What verifiably new and useful contributions to the organization have those challenged to lead made in the past year?
• How many additional members, as documented by staff, are the newly emerging leaders actively challenging?

The significance of these questions is numerical. If the pivotal role of leaders is to cultivate other leaders, who in turn become committed to identifying and nurturing still more leaders, there is a potentially infinite multiplication of organizational leaders. This is the key to the survival and success of grassroots organizations and movements.

Moshe ben Asher and Khulda bat Sarah are the founders and Co-Directors of Gather the People (www.gatherthepeople.org), which provides resources for congregational and community organizing and development, Moshe has organized for ACORN, Citizens Action League of California, and one of the PICO projects (OCCCO); he was Assistant Director for Organize Training Center; and he teaches sociology and social work at
California State University, Northridge. Khulda has organized for the North County Community Project and the Marin Congregational Organizing Project.


i See Richard J. Johns, “How to Swim with Sharks: A Primer,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 16(4):525- 28 (Summer 1973).
ii Massive corporate consolidation—the formation of Big Energy, Big Tobacco, Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Guns, Big Chem, Big Porn, etc.—has led to market domination by a handful of companies across numerous sectors of the American economy. Regarding the economic impacts, see: “Too much of a good thing,” The Economist (March 26, 2016); and see also: Stacy Mitchell, “The Rise and Fall of the Word ‘Monopoly’ in American Life,” The Atlantic (June 20, 2017), and “Monopoly Power and the Decline of Small Business,” Institute for Local Self-Reliance (August 2016) [https://ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2016/08/MonopolyPower-SmallBusiness.pdf].
iii Robert L. Morlan, Political Prairie Fire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955), pp. 47-48.
iv See Moshe ben Asher and Khulda bat Sarah, “The Blinding Rapture of Mobilization,” Social Policy (Spring 2017).
v See Brian Johns and Ellen Ryan, “Leadership Is Not A Deliverable,” Social Policy (Winter 2013).
vi See Michael Silver [Moshe ben Asher], The Destructiveness of Cool Alternators, in The ISA Model of Community Organization and the Leadership Crisis of La Vecindad Unida/United Neighborhood-ISA (University of California at Los Angeles: MSW thesis, June 1974), pp. 39-40 [http://www.gatherthepeople.org/Downloads/MbA_MSW_THESIS.pdf].
vii Available at https://www.humber.ca/centreforteachingandlearning/assets/files/pdfs/MoonExercise.pdf and https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/166504main_Survival.pdf. We first administered the exercise to individuals in a large group, then to smallgroups comprised of the same individuals, and then we compared individual and group scores.
viii See Moshe ben Asher and Khulda bat Sarah, “Leaders Mentor More Leaders,” National Jewish Post & Opinion (January 31, 2007) [http://www.gatherthepeople.org/Downloads/LEADERS_MENTOR.pdf].
ix See “Relationships are . . . critical to forging the shared understandings, commitments, and collaborative action that constitute a movement” in Marshall Ganz, “Leading Change,” in Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 532. [http://marshallganz.usmblogs.com/files/2012/08/Chapter-19-Leading-Change-Leadership-Organization-and-Social-Movements.pdf].
x See Moshe ben Asher, “Writing Daily Macro Practice Notes: A Primer for Community Organizers and Developers,” paper presented on COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing [https://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers2002/benasher/benashernotes.htm]; and a later version is also available on the Gather the People web site [http://www.gatherthepeople.org/Downloads/MACRO_NOTES.pdf].
xi This requires tracking the number and character of organizers’ leadership-development one-to-ones, the number and character of one-to-ones done by those the organizers are challenging, plus reports from those the organizers are challenging regarding their own one-to-ones, if any. Organizers should dictate such information—the name of the person challenging, the date, the name of the person challenged, the specific challenge, and followup—while driving, waiting, or during other dead time, using a hand-held device, with output later fed directly to Dragon Naturally Speaking software to produce text easily included in a weekly report.
xii See Moshe ben Asher, “Meeting Miscellany,” Organizing (Spring 1995) [http://www.gatherthepeople.org/Downloads/MEETING_MISC.pdf].
xiii According to the Human Rights Watch website: https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/11/15/morocco-abuse-childdomestic-workers Accessed November 2017
xiv U.S Department of Labor: Bureau of International Labor Affairs for Morocco Labor Rights Report, 2004
xv According to Economy of Morocco website: https://fanack.com accessed November 2017
xvi According to Economy of Morocco website: https://fanack.com accessed November 2017
xvii Hector Tobar, Deep, Down, Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 men Buried Alive in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set them Free (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014)
xviii Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 41.
xix Amy Sonnie and James Tracey, Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times (New York: Melville House, 2011).
xx Olga Khazan, Why Are So Many Americans Dying Young? The Atlantic, 13 December 2016.
xxi Charles Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 93.
xxii Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011).


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