What does a Community Organizer do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A community organizer is someone who works to empower a community of individuals, such as the residents of a specific area, low-income citizens of a city, people who suffer from a particular illness, or individuals who work in a specific field. Many community organizers focus on low to moderate income individuals, and they have an interest in social justice issues. The goal of most community organizers is to get a community to work together to achieve a common desire, whether that desire is something like municipal garbage collection, the right to vote, or unionization.

Community organizers may try to unionize a shop.
Community organizers may try to unionize a shop.

Most community organizers belong to organizations or churches. For example, many Quaker churches have outreach programs which include community organizers. A community organizer works in the office to gather information about the community and to collect data which could be useful, and he or she also works in the streets, talking directly with members of the community, organizing meetings, and promoting community empowerment. Ideally, a community organizer wants to turn responsibility over to members of the community: he or she is just there to get the ball rolling.

Community organizers may work to keep public spaces clean and safe.
Community organizers may work to keep public spaces clean and safe.

Community organizers also network with a wide range of organizations. For example, a community organizer working with low-income HIV/AIDS patients might work with the Department of Public Health and social services agencies to get more care and services to people who need them. Community organizers are often skilled diplomats, as they must represent the views of the community they are supporting to government agencies and other local groups.

Community organizers might run social programs to help disadvantaged children in the area.
Community organizers might run social programs to help disadvantaged children in the area.

Many cities have a long history of community organizing, and community organizing is often a vital part of civil rights movements. Community organizing is hard work. Not all members of a community are open to being organized and encouraged to speak for themselves as a collective, and therefore a great deal of field work, often door-to-door, is involved. Community organizers must get a community mobilized and fired up about a cause and keep the community focused.

Community organizer might focus on programs to benefit homeless individuals.
Community organizer might focus on programs to benefit homeless individuals.

No formal training is required to be a community organizer. Most community organizers come from a background of study in social justice issues, social services, and sociology, and an interest in promoting safe, healthy, happy communities definitely helps. Many organizations which do community organizing offer training which includes workbooks and mentoring for people who want to become community organizers, and many community organizers start out as volunteers in such organizations, getting the lay of the land before they start their own careers.

Community organizers might have a hand in developing different education programs.
Community organizers might have a hand in developing different education programs.

Community organizing is also not terribly profitable. Community organizers rely on income from grant money and donations to support their work, and their pay is often minimal. The reward for a community organizer is watching a community develop the tools it needs to take charge.

Community organizers might run various sports programs for at-risk youth.
Community organizers might run various sports programs for at-risk youth.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon926609

"Most community organizers come from a background of study in social justice issues, social services, and sociology, and an interest in," *socialism*. They forgot that part.

anon323335

No, anon300473, the GOP did not ridicule. Obama was pitting one group against another and continues to do the same thing on a national scale. Romney was trying to help the 47 percent, along with the rest of the country. That comment was taken out of context.

anon300473

So this is the position that the GOP ridicules. Obama was trying to help the poor and Romney/Bain was trying to get him 47 percent more.

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