Organizing

Community development relies on policies, resources, and recognition that were won by decades of organizing—and organizing remains essential to face new threats, preserve existing wins, and continue to fight back against the big lie that the way things are is inevitable.

Ai-jen Poo speaking.

Interview with Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-Jen Poo has been organizing with domestic workers for over 15 years, helping in New York to win some of the first statewide labor protections for occupations often exempt from labor laws, and expanding this campaign to a nationwide vision for a strong caregiving workforce and infrastructure for elder care. In 2014 she became a MacArthur Fellow, but this was hardly her first award.

Winning a Land Bank We Can Trust

Lessons from Philadelphia's Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land

Affordable, But for Whom?

How a box of felt pieces helps organizers help New York communities advocate for their real affordable housing needs 

Cross-Community Collaboration on NYC’s Municipal ID Program

Lack of identification hurts many different groups in different ways—from the homeless to immigrants, and they all need to be considered in the fight for an alternative.

Social Innovation and Civic Participation

We have some insight from Sonal Shah, the head of the new White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who is advocating...

Review of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime & Resistance in the Heart Of San Francisco

I learned about the history of the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s maligned neighborhood, through walks in it with my Great Uncle, Milton Hendrick, and listening...
Ralliers gather in Washington, D.C., with a sign that reads "Stop, Don't close public schools."

Don’t Call It a Comeback for Neighborhood Schools

In the face of widespread school choice, some D.C. residents are advocating for an equitable system of neighborhood schools. But what's the chance that will become a reality?

Obama’s the One: Are You Really Surprised?

I’m not. Call me smug, but I’ve been saying since Barack Obama’s 2007 announcement of his candidacy in Springfield, Ill., that he would take the...

What Is ACORN?

By now, most Americans have heard of ACORN. We know them as the national anti-poverty group, which uses community organizing to provide invaluable services...

The Next Stage of the Occupy Movement

Criticized for focusing more on what it is against than what it is for, the Occupy Wall Street movement has now found an organizing...

Smart Choices Result in Balanced, Innovative Budget Proposal

The President’s FY14 budget represents a balanced approach to investment and deficit reduction. It recognizes the unique role that...

Titling Homes as Homes: A Novel Idea

I wrote in June that housing advocates should look to today's manufactured home as a tool to meet affordable...

Subsidizing the Upper Middle Class?

On June 30th, CapitalNewYork.com published an article titled “Defining Affordability Upward,” about Upper West Side Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and her...

CRA Exams Aren’t Cutting It For Communities in Need

In 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and required the federal banking agencies to assess a bank’s record of helping to meet...

OCC Moving Steadily Forward on Fintechs–Is This a Good Thing?

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) appears to be plowing ahead with its proposal to allow...

Moving Toward Solutions in Ferguson

Over the past few weeks, many news accounts have laid bare questionable—and perhaps criminal—police behavior and the subsequent and continuing protests by concerned citizens in and around Ferguson, Mo. On a single day, September 10th, at least three protests happened—one at the state capitol, one outside St. Louis City Hall, and one near Ferguson (a thwarted highway sit-in […]

Sowing Seeds of Change: Q&A with John Atlas

Editors of sat down recently with John Atlas, NHI board president and author of Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Antipoverty Community Organizing Group, to discuss the organization itself, as well as organizing on a national level, tensions between organizing and development, and lessons learned from the downfall of the once-powerful antipoverty organization.

ACORN Under Fire, But Is It Justified?

With less than one month left until Election Day, the Republican Party voter repression machine is at it again and once again, its target...

6 × 6: Call for Nominations!

Shelterforce will turn 36 next year and we’d like you to help us celebrate! Community Developers 36 and Under: Call for Nominees Are you, or someone...

Candidates’ Silence on Housing Issues Elicits Frustration

How do you convince somebody to fix a problem when they are seemingly blind to the overwhelming evidence that the problem even exists? Today,...

Sell the CLT Movement For What It Is: Radical and Superior

This morning I taught what was probably my millionth class on community land trusts—but this one was different. This...

A Boost to Vouchers Would Be a Boost for Kids

More than 5 million people in 2.1 million low-income families use the Housing Choice Voucher program to help pay...

Better Loans, Better Laws: Showing Communities What “Home” Looks Like

For generations, Americans from across the nation, the demographic spectrum and the income strata have strived for homeownership, working...

Making Community Benefits Agreements Count

CBAs can be extremely difficult to implement and enforce, which is why a detailed agreement in the early stages of the community-developer relationship is so important.

10 Ways to Speak Truth to Powerful Lies

How to engage, inform, and fight back against falsehoods. ...
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.

Learning to Love Sticky Cities

Dispelling stereotypes, the Great Lakes Urban Exchange has set out to unite the Rust Belt, starting with restoration of the Great Lakes region and ending with equitable, sustainable transformation.

Get Your Green On

In general, most efforts to develop “green infrastructure” at the neighborhood level have been volunteer-led, grassroots efforts. City governments don’t tend to take the...

Community-Labor: A Coalition Whose Time Has Come

Ed Gorman of the NCRC board introduced Mark Ayers, president of the building trades department of the AFL-CIO, as “the man who is opening...

What If We Don’t Knock It Down? Re-Imagining Public Housing

The New York City Housing Authority’s  (NYCHA) plan to build mixed income housing on some of its properties has prompted...

Future CDCs Should Be Organizers, Not Developers

October is Filipino History Month. It won’t have its official grand opening before the end of the month, but Larry Itliong Village in Los Angeles’s...

Here’s How HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program Could Be Better

We know that where families live can seriously effect their quality of life. Many predictors of health, education, and financial...

Have We Forgotten How to Fight?

I write from Wisconsin, now in its fifth year of rule by an entrenched right-wing government that the voters...

The Romance and Reality of the New Financial Technology (Fintech) Companies

Technology is enticing. It's fun. It can make life easier. With a click of a button, consumers can purchase...

Renters Are Not The Problem

Alan Mallach concludes his recent commentary on the problem of declining homeownership (Do Urban Neighborhoods Need Homeowners?) with the important reminder that cities and policymakes should not neglect renters. Yet, his argument leading up to this point is a prescription for continuing a century-old approach to housing that structurally advantages homeowners and disadvantages moderate- and […]
housing sign

Housing Advocates—Seize This Moment!

I’ve been working to address housing affordability since the late 1970s. There has never been this much media and public focus on the issue.

Obama Could Take a Cue From This LA Dust-Up

Now it’s on! — woohoo! — between Barack Obama and John McCain, who has already morphed into McNasty. A CBS poll on June 6...

The “Real Threat” of ACORN

We’ve long said here that the right-wing attacks on ACORN are rooted in fear: fear of voter registration, fear of increased wages for working...

My Holiday Wish List

The holiday season is a time when we express our lofty wishes and set new resolutions for personal improvement, but there is nothing lofty...

Budget Reaction Roundup: Social Security Cuts Dominate

Reaction to Obama's proposed FY 2014 is coming in fast and, in some cases, furious. We're seeing mixed feedback...

A Year of Progress….Let’s Not Screw it Up!

There was major action on the home opportunity front this past year, the result of persistent activism by advocates,...

Writing Truth for Power

When Union United, a recently formed coalition of residents, local business owners, labor unions, and community and faith-based organizations in Somerville,...

Flint: Tainted Choices, Tainted Water

Like the water itself, the situation in Flint, Mich., should be crystal clear: elected and appointed officials, at the state and federal levels, have done...

Nonprofits–Yes You Can Advocate. And Now’s The Time

Amidst the chaos of the past couple weeks there has been at least one positive change—a lot more people...
Illustration of muscular hand lifting scales of justice.

Trump Era a Time to Build Power, Not Buildings

This is a time that calls for us to start thinking a little less like an “industry” and more like a movement.

The Unlikely Activists

Wall Street’s criminal recklessness and its impact on millions of people across the country is making activists out of an unlikely selection of people.

Who’s Afraid of ACORN, and Why

Yesterday I posted here on Rooflines to explain the back-story behind the latest round of accusations about ACORN and voter fraud. Today, the McCain-Palin campaign...

In Maryland, Holding Anti-ACORN Activists Accountable

A group of activists are fighting back against the Glenn Becks, Andrew Breitbarts, and the rest of the Fox News propaganda machine who have...

Déjà Vu All Over Again?

Amidst the recent plans of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Bank of America to offload substantial portfolios of foreclosed properties to well-capitalized investors,...
book cover

The Ripple Effect of Thoughtful Planning

In a post on Rooflines on April 18, Shelterforce editor Miriam Axel-Lute wrote that gentrification in Brooklyn is the...

Poetry Slams Conditions of Richmond’s Public Housing

When poetry and investigative reporting combine, the results are fantastic. PBS recently featured a collaboration between the...

Reframing Government’s–And Our Own–Role in Affordable Housing

Last Tuesday Scott Brown and Henry Cisneros, who serve on the executive committee of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation...

Community Organizing: Integrating a Woman’s Approach

“In closed or structured societies, it is the marginal or ‘inferior’ person . . . who often comes to symbolize . . . ‘communitas.’” —Victor Turner

CRA Should be Becoming Less Partisan. Instead, It’s More.

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is a law that requires banks to serve the credit needs, consistent with safety and soundness, of all...

Organizing for Hospital Community Benefits

Community development corporations need to become more educated about hospital community benefits. This is what can be done to get the process started.
An orange tinted bridge over water in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

A Battle for Wards in New Jersey’s Hub City

How an organization of residents crossing age, race, and socioeconomic lines took on an unyielding City Hall known for quelling grass-roots efforts and (almost) overtook the political party machinery.

Three Ways Not to Transform Parks — And One That Can Work

Back when I was a local reporter, I witnessed the unfortunate demise of a beloved neighborhood park in Malden, Massachusetts. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr....

Organizing as a Culture

Organizing is a culture. It’s not a tactic, a speech by a charismatic leader, or a department. “It’s a culture, and it’s what we...

Starting All Over Again: Your New Dance Partners in Congress

A lot is going on at the federal level right now. The sequester that we...

Conservative Defeat Exposed in 10 “Shutdown” Headlines

Conservative icon Grover Norquist famously voiced the right wing’s hopes and dreams for our federal government: “I’m not in...

To Close the Gender Wage Gap, Start Here

It's exciting that President Obama wants to narrow the gender wage gap, as was widely reported. Here's a good...

Social Enterprise Movement Faces Growth and New Challenges

In September, I attended the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) annual conference in Denver, Colorado. At the closing session, Tamra Ryan voiced a key conference...

It’s Time to Talk about Cops

I don't need to revisit the hundreds of police killings around this country over the past few years (not...

Housing Equity’s Future: Moving from Debate to Productive Dialogue

A robust debate erupted on Shelterforce in response to Miriam Axel-Lute’s article, “The Dangerous Rhetoric of Escaping to Opportunity,” with strongly worded opinions flowing from both sides of the mobility and place based debate. As practitioners who were involved in this vigorous conversation and referenced in the article, we had a series of private discussions […]
community of people gathered

Reimagining a Neighborhood, The Way It Ought To Be

The arts have a long history of highlighting social issues and creating public conversation that results in measurable change. As an arts administrator with...

Power of One

With his 20-plus-year campaign for change, Neil Wollman helped move his retirement fund toward socially responsible investing.

Doctor Evil Lives!

Remember in the first Austin Powers movie, when Doctor Evil, recently thawed out from a couple of decades of suspended animation in orbit, gets...

ACORN Turns Up The Volume

In September, when Congress voted to ban federal funds for ACORN, it was clear, if it hadn’t been already, that the organization had emerged...

Fracking, Organizing, and the Good Jobs Message

  This past Monday, I attended a large anti-fracking rally here in Albany, NY, aimed at convincing...

Project Rebuild in the 2014 Budget: Beating An All-But-Dead Horse

I must admit I was surprised to see Project Rebuild resurface in the Obama administration’s 2014 budget proposal. If there...

The Push for Public School

Confusion, ambivalence and anger all seem to accompany many discussions of public education. High stakes testing, positive behavior intervention and...

The False Choice Between Mobility and Community Development

What is it about community development that it constantly seems to be posited in a binary set of choices that...

If It Can Happen in Virginia…

I've been reading Ruth Berta and Amanda Leonard Pohl's book, Building Power, Changing Lives, about Virginia Organizing. It's a...

Three Dangers and an Opportunity

If it seems like we're approaching a domestic policy pivot point, it might be because we are. Since November...
Mural on wall with faces of girls looking into the distance.

Art in the Face of Gentrification

Four representatives of New York City organizations discuss their employment of art and artists to empower residents in the face of gentrification.

Getting Rid of the Middleman

A Brooklyn organization discovers that helping its constituents form worker cooperatives tackles poverty and social isolation in a way traditional job readiness training can't.

Greetings From Out West

It might have been that brick to the head as a child (long story), but it was October 6 before I realized the second...

ACORN’s Legacy Is Anything But “In Brief”

Tom Robbins, writing for The Village Voice, characterizes ACORN as the kneecapped star outfielder on the World Series opposition to (assumedly) the right wing’s...

Solutions After Sandy: Rebuilding the Right Way

All around America, we've watched the devastation of Hurricane Sandy with a sense of shock and heartbreak. For millions of...

HUD’s New AFFH Rule Could Hurt Low-Income Communities of Color

I believe in promoting opportunity and social/economic equity. And I believe that all of us should have the opportunity...

The Fight for Fair Use of Sandy Recovery Funds Surges On

To say that January was a bad month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be something of an...

Breaking Up the Pipeline to Prison

 President Obama is doing more than speaking out for criminal justice reform, he is taking action.Earlier this week, President...
Residents in Austin, Texas, sit in a micro-unit home.

Flipping the Script

A nonprofit forgoes the typical community meeting for a "living charrette," which leads to greater neighborhood feedback about a proposed 24-acre development in Austin, Texas.

Failing The Equitable Development Test

I wondered whether the Americans who suffered the injustice of our most recent Great Recession haven’t already been not only forgotten but abandoned by the White House and Congress, despite their votes. 
polling place

Housing Advocacy Needs Housing Voters

Methods from a successful organizing campaign from the past can inform the basis of a new electoral constituency around housing.

Taking the Measure of Community

Contesting Community: The Limits and Potential of Local Organizing, by James DeFilippis, Robert Fisher, and Eric Shragge. Rutgers University Press, 2010, 208 pp. $25.95 (paper).

Make Your Voice Heard

What should you do if you’re politically progressive or even if you label yourself a liberal, or a Democrat but are unhappy about the...

“Better Ideas to Help Our Community”

Dolores Swartworth, an at-large member of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, spoke with us at this year’s National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference on the...

CFPB Witch Hunt Could Lose Latino Voters

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking voted on March 19 along party lines (12 Democrats and ten Republicans) to advance Richard Cordray’s bid to...

Booker: Kill the Filibuster, End Watt’s Wait

Cory Booker was just sworn in as a U.S. Senator. His introduction to the lunacy of Senate procedure was...

The Crapo-Johnson Housing Finance Bill Is a Disaster

Less than a decade after we saw a meltdown in the mortgage market that almost sank our financial system,...

At Last, Apprenticeships Will Be for All People

Not surprisingly, last Friday's headlines focused on the announcement that the Obama administration had rejected the proposal to build...

Our Denial and Inaction On the Issue of Lead

How far does the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) denial about leaded drinking water go? This week, I was having...

On Beyond Income: Asset Building and Union Organizing Go Together

I wrote earlier this week about how the current increase in labor organizing among service workers calls for a conscious choice by other nonprofits who work with low-income households to offer our solidarity to those campaigns. Beyond the fact of supporting workers in their struggle for self-determination, there are some other opportunities for cross-pollination there. […]
organize mural

Organizers: There’s No Shortcut to Success

Overcoming the ideology of individualism and corporate power is achieved not through framing or advocacy but through the experience of collective struggle. A review of "No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age" by Jane McAlevey.

Picking Up The Pieces

Hurricane Katrina forced organizing groups to stretch to their limits, but it also showcased their strengths as never before

The Grass-roots Factor

This post started out Thursday thinking about an interesting factoid related to the Obama campaign. But since the big Obama news Friday has been about...

The War on ACORN

The political and media war against ACORN continues. In an article published today on the Web site of Editor & Publisher, the well-known magazine...

Accountability for Countrywide is Good for the Market

The annoucement of the Justice Department's settlement with Countrywide over violations of fair lending laws is a landmark victory that...

Three Ways the President’s Budget Benefits HUD

For low-income families that need affordable rental housing, the news from Washington in recent years has been bleak. Yet, while...