Here are some books that form a good primer on community organising:
Saul Alinsky (1989) Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals Vintage Books: Random House
These reflections on community organising are offered in Alinsky’s characteristic style toward the end of his career. The rules remain a vital source of inspiration and debate amongst activists today.
Saul Alinsky (1989) Reveille for Radicals Vintage Books: Random House
This early book from Alinsky’s pen gives a real sense of the energy and passion he brought to organising. It is an easier read than Rules but perhaps less well thought through. Alive with commitment for justice for the Have-nots.
Ed Chambers (2004) Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action and Justice Continuum
Alinsky’s successor as leader of the Industrial Areas Foundation, Ed Chambers offers an
updated and much transformed account of organising with many of the elements of
IAF organising developed after Alinsky’s time. This is a more sympathetic and
modern understanding of collective power, relationships and the role of institutions
Michael Gecan (2004) Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action Anchor Books
This is a small and well formed introduction to modern community organising in the IAF
Jeffrey Stout (2010) Blessed are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America Princeton University Press
This is a stimulating story-filled account of Stout’s journey across the American south,
meeting the IAF organisers working in cities and shanties. Stout is a professor
of religion at Princeton and so he reflects on these encounters in an
enlightening and effective way that makes this a book of both experience and
Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall and Steve Max (2001) Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists (3rd Edition) – has gone through three editions as the standard organising text on activism
Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos (2007) Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in your Community is a practical guide to organising built on the author’s experience in New York
Lee Staples (2004) Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing – explores the ACORN tradition of organising in some depth but also practically orientated
Meredith Minkler (ed) (2009) Community Organizing and Community Building for Health (2nd Edition) Rutgers University Press
This text book offers a diverse range of papers covering many aspects of community building. Whilst aimed at health professionals, there is a huge amount in this book for
any citizen-facing activist to adapt to their context.
Jim Diers (2004) Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way University of Washington Press
Seattle has managed to sustain a civic culture that combines respect and engagement with campaigners and strong neighbourhood action from the state. Jim Diers here
links community organizing with ABCD insights and offers many stories of
community struggle and success.
Do you have other suggestions of great books on community organising?
I am hoping to develop a list of online organising resources too, so if you know of anything worth recommending, please pass it on. It’ll be great if this becomes a collaborative space.