PICO National Network

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PICO National Network provides training and consultation and develops national strategy for its affiliated congregation-based community organizations. As of 2007 PICO had 53 local and regional affiliates, representing 150 cities in 17 states, with 1000 member institutions claiming to represent a million people.[1] It is also involved with organizing and training efforts in six countries of Central America and Rwanda in Africa.[2]


PICO National Network was founded in 1972 by John Baumann, a Jesuit priest, as the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO), headquartered in Oakland, California. In the late 1960s Baumann had worked with community organizing projects in Chicago, where he became familiar with Saul Alinsky’s ideas. During the 1970s PICO worked with five neighborhood-based organizations, recruiting individuals and families. As neighborhoods experienced the economic and social upheavals of that decade, the neighborhood-based model of organizing became less viable as communities fractured. Following a staff retreat in 1984, PICO shifted to a congregation-based model based in part on the experience of COPS, a federation in San Antonio, Texas developed by Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation.[3] As it expanded beyond the West Coast, in 2004 PICO characterized its acronym as standing for People Improving Communities through Organizing. In 2005 it renamed itself PICO National Network, emphasizing the autonomy of its affiliated organizations, and its role developing national strategy, training, and consultation.

The shift to faith-based organizing has emphasized the importance of religious culture to PICO. Its base in northern California meant that PICO could draw on the traditions of a variety of denominations. As Richard Wood writes, this includes “the social Christianity of the historic black churches, the Social Gospel and Christian realist perspectives in moderate and liberal Protestantism, the strongly evangelical but socially responsible orientation of the Church of God in Christ, and the intellectual resources, working-class commitments, and Hispanic cultural ties of Roman Catholicism.”[4] PICO’s vision of faith-based or broad-based organizing sees power flowing from relationships grounded in values, not specific issues.


PICO National Network has a 17-member board of directors that sets policy and oversees administration. Affiliated organizations are incorporated separately, raise their own funds, and employ their own organizers. Affiliates raise over $20 million annually to support their community organizing activities.[5] PICO National Network employs 14 national staff, 15 national consulting staff, 6 staff of PICO California, and 3 staff of PICO Louisiana. After 36 years as executive director, John Baumann retired at the end of December 2008. Scott Reed, on the PICO staff since 1977 and recently the director of organizing, was named the new executive director as of January 2009.[6]

Current program[edit]

PICO objectives are to “increase access to health care, improve public schools, make neighborhoods safer, build affordable housing, redevelop communities, and revitalize democracy.”[7] Since 1996 PICO's California Project has been developing a strategy of consolidating power in metropolitan areas, exploring a state-wide effort to influence public policy on children’s health in the state. Building on the successes of the California Project, PICO's New Voices Campaign, launched in 2004, seeks to help low-income communities have an impact at the national level on such issues as immigration reform, health care, education, and rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.[8][9] In October 2008 PICO announced plans for a mid-November meeting in Washington, DC, in which its affiliates would lobby Congress, the United States Treasury Department, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to help people keep their homes when facing foreclosure.[10] The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter, PICO Update.


PICO conducts six-day national leadership development seminars four times a year, teaching the theory and practice of congregation-based organizing. Each year an additional seminar is presented in Spanish. Local affiliates also provide members and leaders with training on building and sustaining strong organizations, identifying potential leaders through one-on-one relational meetings, researching community issues, developing budgets, and working with public officials.[11]


  1. ^ Whitman, “Beyond Advocacy,” Social Policy (Winter 2006/2007), p. 50.[1]
  2. ^ "PICO International". PICO National Network website. PICO National Network. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  3. ^ Wood, Faith in Action, pp. 291-294.
  4. ^ Wood, Faith in Action, p. 294.
  5. ^ Whitman, “Beyond Advocacy,” Social Policy (Winter 2006/2007), p. 50.
  6. ^ "Fr. John Baumann steps down". PICO National Network website. PICO National Network. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-08. [dead link]
  7. ^ "About PICO". PICO National Network website. PICO National Network. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  8. ^ Wood, "Higher Power," in Transforming the City, pp. 175-188.
  9. ^ "New Voices Campaign". PICO National Network website. PICO National Network. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-22. [dead link]
  10. ^ Carolyn Said (2008-10-28). "Faith-based effort to avert foreclosures". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  11. ^ "About PICO—Leadership Training". PICO National Network website. PICO National Network. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-08-01. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 


  • Whitman, Gordon, “Beyond Advocacy: The History & Vision of the PICO Network," Social Policy, vol. 37, No. 2 (Winter 2006/2007), pp. 50-59.
  • Wood, Richard L., Faith in Action: Religion, Race and Democratic Organizing in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
  • Wood, Richard L., "Higher Power: Strategic Capacity for State and National Organizing," pp. 162-192 in Transforming the City: Community Organizing and the Challenge of Political Change, edited by Marion Orr (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

External links[edit]