Community organization and mobilization centers on contacting people. Serious community campaigns begin with contacting people sympathetic to or interested in your campaign. For our purposes we should begin with the idea that the main goal of community mobilization is to create grassroots or bottom up power for regular people. If this is true, knowing who lives in your community and who wants to help make change is important. There are different ways to gather this information and we are going to go over a few of the main ideas and information organizers need to begin a campaign. In this post we will talk briefly and specifically about lists of supporters and how and why these lists are created and used. The methodology of mobilization helps us understand the intentional movement of people. 

Identify supporters and potential allies.

Much of the work we need to do is communicating with others the importance of the work we are undertaking. Take a moment and list out for yourself an initial list of supporters and allies. When you do this it helps create in your mind the directions you can go in and the possibilities of alliances you can create within the community mobilization effort.

Identify other groups and make contact: Everyone has potential allies. Make a list of different organizations who you think maybe yours. Think of groups that may be economically affected by a particular issue. Try to meet with organizational leaders before arranging to address the larger gathering of its members.

Make contacting members simple and easy.

Quick mobilization can be of the utmost urgency. How do you get a hold of people? There are times in every community mobilization program when quick and significant turnout can mean difference between success and failure. Contact lists should be set up with ease of use in mind.


Mailing address

Phone number



How do they want to get involved?

Record the information of everyone you speak with.

Make a record of their contact information and make a note about their level of interest, skills, or concerns. Make information accessible. Contact lists should be structured in such a way you can easily access names and phone number as well as other key information.

New volunteers need to be contacted immediately.

New people should be contacted within 24-48 hours. This is critical to harnessing the energy of new activists. If your new volunteers request additional information get it to them in a similar timeframe. Most people are moved to action through personal contact.

Set guidelines for using the list. 

Access to names and addresses is power. Set some working ground rules for their use. In one community mobilization drive a married couple working on the issue was having problems. As a means of retaliation one of the spouses wrote a letter detailing how their partner was not a good parent because they were using politics to ignore their family. They then mailed this letter to everyone on this list. Needless to say that was the end of that community mobilization movement.

Constantly update your list. Keep it hot. 

Assign someone to systematically maintain and update your list. List can quickly become outdate – don’t wait for a crisis to find out about yours.

Invest resources in maintaining the list.

Computer software that manages email databases is cheap and easy to obtain. Computers come with database software. There are countless ways to maintain your contact list. Check out programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact.

New and unexperienced organizers are often lazy in their mobilization. They think because they have created an email list with hundreds of addresses or a webpage that everyone who needs to know now knows. Ask yourself; do you email everyone? Does everyone you know read all their emails? More importantly and take a moment to consider this. Does everyone who might be interested in what you are doing have email or access to the Internet?

In this day of social media and email there are a million ways to avoid actually talking to another person - a simple phone call might be much more appreciated.

Within each organization are individual members that will serve as contacts or liaisons for your mobilization effort. These individuals are very important. When experienced organizers talk about having good relationships with different organizations what they really mean is they have taken the time to cultivate strong relationships with certain individuals within that organization. Business people call this networking - if it works for them why not us?


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Is it just me, didn't the last guys who did this win? I mean they won big. Sacked the city, ruined the culture, enslaved the women and children. Was this a good idea or what? Thought of by the great Odysseus whose fame reaches down through the ages to our modern time. While it is debatable who ever made this meme this was probably trying to make fun of Mexicans,  I'm not sure they picked the right visual. But it does offer an interesting context to begin to talk about strategy and tactics.

Strategy, writes Gene Sharp, the director and founder of the Albert Einstein Institution alleged mastermind of the non-violent "color revolutions" that swept across Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, and "inspiration for the the Arab Spring" in his book From Dictatorship To Democracy writes "the conception of how to best achieve particular objectives in a conflict ... strategy is concerned with whether, when, and how to fight, as well as how to achieve maximum effectiveness in struggling for certain ends".

Sharp goes on writing, "some individuals and groups, of course, may not see the need for the broad long-term planning of a liberation movement. Instead, they may naively think that if they simply espouse their goals strongly, firmly, and long enough, it will somehow come to pass. Others assume that if they simply live and witness according to their principles and ideals in face of difficulties, they are doing all they can to implement them. The espousal of humane goals and loyalty to ideals are admirable, but are grossly inadequate to end a dictatorship and a to achieve freedom".

Just to be clear. Whether it is deserved or not Gene Sharp is quite a controversial figure. He has been accused by the likes of the late Hugo Chavez, the Government of Iran and others of playing a significant role in the overthrow of governments across the globe considered unfriendly to the United States. Not to shabby for a guy it seems very few people in the United States have heard about. For those of us purporting to engage in the building of a mass movement reading Gene Sharp might not be a bad idea. Presenting what I consider sound advice and as a definite thread in his most wide spread and read publication - Sharp is clear about the need for strategic planning.

Tactics, according to Sharp are "a limited action, employed to achieve a restricted objective. The choice of tactics is governed by the conception of how best in a restricted phase of conflict to utilize the available means of fighting to implement the strategy ... tactics are always concerned with fighting, whereas strategy includes wider considerations". 

The picture above is an example of a tactic, one used at the end of a siege a failed strategy. What makes this picture tragically humorous is that it serves to point out one of our greatest failing as an indigenous community, we do not have a master strategy for political empowerment - only tactics. Which brings us to the news article below. This story tells how Jack Davis, a self made manufacturing millionaire and DEMOCRAT candidate for Congress in New York's 26th district. To some it may seem like beating a dead horse, but look at what is written below. This guys was a Democrat running for U.S. Congress; a millionaire, self made man, business tycoon the type of man others in our society look up to. Is this guy a crack pot? I mean if this man sat you down at a table and said "I think you can make money, this way" you would take what he has to say very seriously.

Instead Davis says, "I think they'll do it without a civil war. They'll take control of the state government and start voting themselves anything they want."

Isn't that what democracy is all about? Or is it only okay when Indigenous peoples are forced to vote for the only game in town? Imagine the anguish and torment this patriotic old man must have gone through to come to this conclusion. He sees something in Xicanos and other indigenous peoples we do not see in ourselves. He also see through the eyes of a free person. Free to make his own destiny.

We don't get it. But men like Jack Davis and Gene Sharp do. It is all about power and how we go about building power to make change. Gene Sharp knows it is possible for the citizens by their non compliance to topple that government or at the very least create some political elbow room for themselves. Down load the Sharp booklet, read it and implement it. Who knows, maybe there is something to this advice he's been spreading around the rest of the world for the past 25 years.  

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Ask yourself; can you explain why your issue is important? Can you explain your organizing campaign in two minutes or less? Thinking through how you move people to your point of view. This basic declaration of your major issues made to a person or group of people in a mobilization campaign is called THE RAP. Without doubt THE RAP is one of the most important tools in any organizing drive and is a basic building block of any mobilization effort. New organizers often develop a rap without even thinking about it as a necessary step.

They just look it as “what they say to people to get them interested.” The key to success in ANY PROJECT is effectively communicating what you want to accomplish and how you intend on accomplishing those goals. That may seem a simplistic statement but think about how many conversations you have had in your lifetime where the words “what I mean by that was” were used. Since we have already established the political education and mobilization of our targeted community as a primary objective in our organizing practice. Lets proceed from the idea that clear and concise communication is required to make this happen. While it may be obvious to you and members of your organization why the issue (or issues) you are working on are important that doesn’t mean everyone automatically understands the importance.

You have to write it down. What are the main points? What information is vital and what can wait? More importantly what do the people in the community want to know? What are their issues? What are they talking about to each other? It may seem simple but if no one knows what you are doing then how will you ever accomplish the change you desire. Open communication and transparency in your organizing practice are important, especially when working with people on a community level. This keeps the organizing and mobilization efforts you are undertaking with others from becoming isolated from the greater community you are working with. Working in the community is a privilege and a trust.

Communicating with others: Often, the greatest obstacle to successful mobilization is our inability to effectively communicate about the issues facing the community. Intentional change is built on the practice of people understanding each other and how their respective visions of the world work together. If you cannot speak to people in a meaningful way about the change you want that change will never happen.

Use language people can understand: talk to people at a level you and they are both comfortable with. Inexperienced organizers often try to talk to what the perceive as someone else's “level.” This is a mistake. It is arrogant and elitist. What usually ends up happening is talking down to people. Big mistake. Just talk like you normally do.

Communication demands respect for others: Listening to one another creates respect. The dysfunctional relationships (racial, economic, cultural) in society we are organizing against stem from a lack of communication and respect. This is particularly true in gender power dynamics – people are constantly interrupting each other – constant interruption is a sign of disrespect and a sign you aren’t taking the person talking serious.

Listening is a form of communication: When you take the time to really listen to another person it does a couple of things immediately. First, the respect and empathy you feel for others is immediately recognized. The individuals and groups you are assisting will take your willingness to listen as a sign of solidarity and desire to work on the needs of the community from the community's perspective.

Talk to People: Articulating to others the group's goals will help more clearly define the vision for you and for those listening. The more you do it the better you will get at delivering your message, and the more powerful the message will become.

Listen To People: Be open and listen to how others respond to the articulation of your vision. You'll know by their response if they understand and support your vision and goals. Use this feedback to make modifications if required.

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