Organizers: There’s No Shortcut to Success

A recent article in Shelterforce Magazine reviews “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age,” by Jane F. McAlevey. According to the review, the book is a “superb analysis of what works and what fails in organizing social movements.”

McAlevey is a longtime community organizer with extensive work in the environmental justice movement. Using this experience, she fleshes out 12 case studies, and develops a comprehensive model for how succeed in organizing. As the review notes, McAlevey’s focus is primarily on union work, but her analysis also applies to community organizing and electoral work.

One of McAlevey’s insights is her breakdown of three broad types of change processes:

  • Advocacy: Doesn’t involve ordinary people in any meaningful way. Instead it relies on professional technocrats (lawyers, pollsters, researchers, communication firms, etc.).
  • Mobilizing: Helps bring large numbers of people into the fight, but not usually connected to a deeper analysis of social change
  • Organizing: Organizing, she concludes, places the agency for success with a continually expanding base of ordinary people with the goal of transferring power from “the elite to the majority, from the 1 percent to the 99 percent.”

Read a more extensive review of McAlevey’s book on Shelterforce Magazine