Links to the best stuff
Community Toolbox ~ a vast resource
Ashoka ~ social entrepreneurs
Green Media Toolshed ~ great media training
The Control Game ~ spot fake involvement
Shelterforce ~ community dev articles
ZNet ~ articles on social change
National Civic League ~ citizen involvement
Civic Practices Network ~ lots of material
Community Development Discussion Listserve
Citizen Toolbox ~ 60 tools from Australia
Benton Foundation ~ media action
Rural Community Toolbox
Links for Building Democracy & Community
Creating Web Action Alerts
Training for Change

Group Structure

Citizens groups should have as little structure as possible. The right amount is just enough to address their goals. In an attempt to become legitimate, many small groups decide they need more structure. Unfortunately, this can lead to spending more time on the needs of the organization than on the reason for getting together.

Networks, Cooperatives, Collectives
Grassroots organizations seem to work better with a flat structure as free as possible of boards, directors, and chairs. Flatness, or the absence of an organizational hierarchy, does not mean the elimination of individual roles or responsibilities. It does mean the end of people with over-riding authority over other people's work. Citizen's groups must avoid the common mistake of involving small numbers of people heavily. They should strive to involve large numbers of people lightly. Flat organizations, which emphasize horizontal connections, seem to be the best bet for involving large numbers of people lightly.

Traditional structure
Traditional organizational structure seems to dry out the grassroots. Nevertheless it continues to be recommended by many citizens umbrella groups in North America. The most successful traditional organizations have: Provincial non-profit societies
Traditional organizations frequently wind up as provincially registered non-profit societies. The advantages of non-profit status are few, beyond less circuitous access to certain sources of funds. On the other hand, non-profit status means having to follow the rules and organizational structure required by the Societies Act. If you wish to become a non-profit regardless, get a copy of Flora MacLeod's Forming and Managing a Non-profit Organization in Canada, published by Self-Council Press.

Committees & Task Forces
Committees and task forces are the main way jobs are shared. They make it possible to get a lot done without anyone getting worn out. Standing committees look after a continuing group function; task forces carry out a specific task, then disband. Both provide members with a way of getting involved in projects that interest them. A large, action-oriented group might have the following standing committees: coordinating, publicity, membership, outreach, newsletter, fundraising, and research. Many people prefer the short-term projects of task forces, to the work of committees. Ideally, members of committees and task forces are made up of people selected by the whole group rather than by people who are self-selected. If the whole group is confident in a task force or committee it should empower the subgroup to make most decisions on its own. To keep everyone working together, committees and task forces should regularly report back to the whole group. For more on the effective distribution of work see Ivan Sheier's book When Everyone's a Volunteer, reviewed in the "Citizen's Library".

If you intend to tackle a large issue you will need allies. Approach other organizations by asking to speak on a matter of community importance at their next executive or general meeting. After you have presented, distribute material outlining your objectives, program and budget. A good way of getting agreement is to ask someone from the group you are approaching to help prepare your presentation. A coalition requires that all participants have a clear set of expectations and get together regularly to develop a friendly working relationship. A coalition works best when established for a specific project, and then allowed to lapse when the project ends. Because coalitions can be tricky you might check out the advice in the latest edition of the Midwest Academy's book Organizing for Social Change.

Community Organizing / Part 1-12
The Citizen's Handbook / Charles Dobson /