Alinsky's People's Organizations

Definition: As shown in the Ledwith book, "Alinsky's People"s Organizations were based on the use of power, action and justice to fight racism, poverty and isolation"(p.85). When organizing a people's movement, they must feel that the organization belongs to them and that the foundation of the organization is based off of their experiences and struggles; it is an organization that is led by the people who are facing the struggle (Alinsky, 1969). Application: Grassroots organizations form in order to promote community justice. These groups collectively organize to address certain neighborhood issues. They use the social capital within their neighborhoods to spread their message and to reach their objectives. Grassroots organizations often accumulate power that they use to eradicate social inequalities within their communities. Adaptation: Developing organizations that are led by people within a struggling community can help bridge these communities based on a common struggle. For example, today across large urban cities in the United States we can see a lot of ethnic divide within the city. Developing organizations with a foundation based on common struggles and inequalities, can help bridge ethnic and racial divides because these organizations can unite people based on a common struggle or goal.


  1. Apply: Alinsky's principles can be very helpful to community development. A successful social change can only take place when individuals are truly invested in the effort. By founding movements on the principles and values of those really effected, community organizations can appeal to more members and channel their passion to make a drastic movement. Community Organizers can work with those facing struggles to help empower them to take ownership and begin to step up as leaders within the community.

    Adapt: This idea can also be used in the profession of higher education, working within student affairs of a university. When working on campuses to address issues or enforce inclusion, it would be ideal to have the efforts driven by students who are negatively affected by those injustices. Whether it is students who pay for their own education leading efforts for better financial aid policies or LGBTQ students working to make the campus more welcoming and comfortable, these university efforts can thrive when the people affected are given leadership roles and ownership over the initiatives.

  2. Stacey Nguyen11/16/10, 7:54 PM

    APPLY: I agree absolutely agree with Judy and Kara, it is essential that people feel that they are driving social movements and are key players in community organizing. Community organizing should be about achieving concrete goals for its members rather than following a particular model or ideology. Organizers should have an open mind and a flexible personality which will aid in engaging community members and encouraging them to participate in promoting their own interests.
    ADAPT: My project on HIV/AIDS reform for the Detroit community is a great example of grassroots organizing and community development. The movement was rooted in the participation of people who were most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the accomplishments made by this group was a result of community engagement, and allowing people to advocate on their own behalf. If I've learned one thing in this class, it is that community organization must be lead by the people and should be about improving their lives according to what they think is important.