Community Organizing provides new insight into an important national challenge how to stimulate the formation of genuinely community-based organizations and effective citizen action in neighborhoods that have not spawned these efforts spontaneously. Since Robert Putnam's identification of the role of social capital in regional governance and economic development, there has been a virtual industry of interest and action created around the implications of his findings for the development of low-income communities. Yet, there remains a paucity of detailed empirical effort testing and refining his ideas. This book attempts to fill this gap.
Community Organizing distills lessons from a national demonstration program that employed a novel approach to community organizing consensus organizing. Consensus organizing enhances social capital, building both stronger internal ties and capacity in low-income communities and fostering new relations (bridges) between residents of low-income communities and larger metropolitan area support communities.
Using evaluation research and detailed comparative study of community development activity in three diverse demonstration sites, Ross Gittell and Avis Vidal identify key elements of building social capital, which strongly affect community development: comprehension of community development, credibility of effort and participants, confidence, competence, and constructive critiques of efforts. Other elements are more relevant to program management and implementation and include communication among participants, congruence of program effort, management of inherent contradiction, and adjusting implementation to reflect local context.
This book describes the limits and promise of building social capital and will be of interest to community development students and professionals.