By Jessica Nowlan-Green,
Center for Young Women’s Development

Picture of Jessica Using my experiences of working at the Center for Young Women’s Development, I put together this list of useful tools for organizing. I realize that there are many tools and strategies used to organize around issues in our communities, and these are just a few.

Useful Hints:

Organizing is working towards something. It is building a movement, having an overall goal. It is for the people by the people.

Planning an action is not the only type of organizing. In fact, an action such as a walk out or a protest is a small piece of a larger picture. An action in itself is a tool for organizing.

You cannot organize someone. As an experienced organizer your role is to assist the people in organizing themselves.



Popular education is education for the people. This is the most important tool for organizing because it enables people to find solutions to their own problems. It is built on the framework that people have the answers. Through constant analysis and critical reflection of lived experiences, we can discover our own problems and begin to make concrete efforts that will effect change.

Popular education equips people to define their own struggles and make their voices heard while bringing ongoing “consciousness-raising” to organizing. Rather than only focusing on one event like a rally, popular education is focused on bringing people together for building a movement.

Knowing the facts is also very important. The more we know the stronger we become. Despite the fact that the school system has not taught us our histories and has falsified facts about past movements and struggles, it is up to us as organizers to un-learn what we have been taught and educate ourselves.

When organizing around a specific issue like California spending more on jails then on school, it is important to have your facts down. If you state a fact, you need to have information to back that up. Do your research and know your stuff. If you are speaking to the media, for example, and you say that California built twenty prisons in 1998 and only one school, that night on the news they might show you saying that and then show a graph with the real facts. Not only does this make you look like you don’t know what you are talking about, it takes the focus off what we are trying to do.

Media is an important asset to organizing. If you will be having an action of some kind, it is good to have media there because they get your message to the general public. You can reach more people, and you get a chance to say what is really going on. Although media can be a good tool for organizing, you need to be prepared to deal with them. Remember that usually they are just trying to get a story and will often times try to twist your words around to make their story more “appealing” to the general public. They often times portray organizers in a negative way and focus on things that go wrong. It is also just as important to get connections with cool people that work in media so that you have allies on your side. Research media. See what the progressive newspapers or magazines are that might portray you in a positive way and make connections with them.

Specific Tasks are key to organizing. When you are planning an action, for example, everyone should have a designated task. Delegation of Tasks is important because one person cannot do everything. When tasks are split up between individuals, we can get stuff done in a more effective way. For instance if someone is in charge of propaganda, they can organize sign-making parties and set up a team to make flyers. This does not mean that they do everything, but, as a contact person, they can report back to the group and oversee this specific area.

Outreach is contacting people. Talking to people on the streets, at schools, community centers, etc. is a good way to let people know what is going on, because not everyone can make it to the meetings or wants to go to the meetings. Some people might not even know what you are doing. Outreach is how to get the word out.

Phone Banking is a way to get in contact with all the people that you have previously worked with or that you have contact with and are down for the cause. By doing this you can get people to come to the meetings and to participate in organizing. This is a good way to get the masses out to an action and to spread the word. It is good to have everyone at every meeting sign in; this way you can make sure you always have everyone’s current information so that you can contact them.

Agitation is a very useful tool. During outreach or other times you can use this to get people pumped (mad and excited) about an issue. When you agitate someone, you are pushing his or her buttons. Agitation can also be used to confront your target.

© 2000 by Individual Authors
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