Congregation-based Community Organizing

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"CBCO" redirects here. For the Orillia rebroadcaster of CBLA-FM, see CBCO-FM.

Community organizing describes a wide variety of efforts to empower residents in a local area to participate in civic life or governmental affairs. Most efforts that claim this label operate in low-income or middle-income areas, and have adopted at least some of the tactics and organizing techniques pioneered by Saul Alinsky and his Industrial Areas Foundation. Other organizations in this tradition include PICO National Network, Gamaliel Foundation, and Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART).

They focus on building political power in the hands of an organization of local residents, and using that power to influence issues the organization defines as important. Congregation-based Community Organizing (CBCO) works through local synagogues, churches, and mosques as the primary institutional sponsors of this work. Common characteristics:

  • Faith-based: They ground their organizing in the values and traditions that come from religious faith (to varying degrees, and sometimes quite powerfully)
  • Broad-based: They are typically interfaith, and many include in their membership schools, unions and a variety of other community-based institutions like neighborhood associations.
  • Locally constituted: They organize in areas that range from large neighborhoods to entire cities. Although linked into the national and region networks discussed above, they emphasize local organizing.
  • Multi-issue: Their purpose is to train local leaders in how to effectively address pressing issues facing their communities, as determined by their leaders.
  • Professionally staffed: CBCO groups hire professionals who recruit and train local leaders which then work with the organizations on a voluntary basis.


  • Chambers, Edward T. and Michael A. Cowan, Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice (New York: Continuum, 2003). ISBN 0-8264-1499-0
  • Jacobsen, Dennis A. 2001. Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
  • Wood, Richard L.[1] and Mark R. Warren. 2002. "A Different Face of Faith-Based Politics: Social Capital and Community Organizing in the Public Arena," International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 22:11/12, 6-54 (Fall 2002).

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