There are several fundamental strategies available
to community-based organizations for addressing community needs and problems.
The main broad strategies are community organizing, community development, service
delivery and advocacy. These four strategies are not mutually exclusive.
Community organizing is distinguished
as the approach that involves and mobilizes the people that are directly affected
by the problems that groups seek to address. It explicitly seeks to build people
power and the power of an organization that is directed by its constituency.
Usually community organizing is directed toward advocacy, or solving specific
problems, but some groups do organizing mainly to build leadership and develop
the human resources of a community without regard for winning any specific solutions
to community problems.
Development is an approach to change through
which organizations take ownership of physical infrastructure in the community.
Usually development groups work with a variety of partner organizations, agencies
and funders. Examples of development organizations include neighborhood housing
and/or economic development organizations. There are some community-based organizations
whose primary strategy is development that also employ organizing as a critical
component of their work.
Service delivery consists of providing
resources or skills to people. Employment training, food pantries, homeless
shelters and some types of social work are examples of this. As with development
organizations, organizations that provide services sometimes blend in community
organizing components (although organizing is usually secondary to the service
Advocacy is any form of promoting a solution
to a problem, and it can be done without community organizing. Examples of this
type of advocacy include public interest lawsuits, some types of social work,
media advocacy, and one-on-one persuasion. Advocates represent a need to those
in power on behalf of people who are directly affected by a problem.
Within community organizing, there are diverse approaches
and models. Models vary depending upon a number of factors including: who is
being organized, how confrontational or action-oriented a group’s tactics
are, how groups believe social change occurs, the relative emphasis on building
the organization versus winning victories, the organizational decision making
process, the roles of staff and leaders, what kind of power the group is seeking
to build, and external conditions.