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Voices of Community Practitioners: MetaConnects focus group participants talk about what makes a good community organizer

Community-based practitioners are often so busy with making social change happen in communities that there is not a lot of time to reflect on the 'why' and 'how' of the work that they do. MetaConnects has been bringing practitioners together to have these conversations as a way to better understand the key drivers of community-based work, as well as give practitioners a chance to share stories with each other.

In a recent focus group conducted by the MetaConnects team, we spoke with six community practitioners whose expertise covers a variety of fields, including policy, consulting, financial advisory, health and environmental issues, community organizing and advocacy. Each participant works with an organization that aims to build community, enriches the lives of local residents, and works toward social justice with and for historically marginalized communities in Los Angeles and beyond. 

We wanted to hear practitioners' insights on a few key issues related to effective community organizing and the challenges that organizations face.

What makes a good organizer?

  • Practitioners emphasized that organizers require a healthy set of values, including trust and honesty, and that patience, persistence, and presence were key aspects of their work. 
  • Key characteristics of a successful organizer include the ability to think strategically and creatively, and to have a personality and working style that is versatile.
  • The best organizers are those that are able to transfer leadership into the hands of the community members that they serve.
  • One of our focus group participants described an organizer as, "An individual engaged in embodying the will and spirit of their communities." 

What are some of the challenges you face in your work?

  • Given the many messages that residents receive on a daily basis, it can be difficult to communicate messages to the community in ways that resonate.
  • Financial resources are a challenge for organizations across the board.

How do you go about finding out about innovations or new ideas?

  • Participants' drew from a variety of communication resources, including interpersonal and organizational networks, training sessions, participation in Listservs, and online journals. Often, however, research often began with a Google search. 

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