Community organization

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Community organization covers a series of activities at the community level aimed at bringing about desired improvement in the social well being of individuals, groups and neighborhoods. It is being often used synonymous to community work, community development and community mobilization. It can represent both community-based organizations, operating as civil society non-profits, and also as a function of organizing within communities defined by geographical location, shared work space, and/or shared experience or concerns. Community organizing is a democratic instrument to create sustained social change. Community organization is a process by which a community identifies needs and takes action, and in doing so... develops co-operative attitudes and practices (Murray G. Ross, 1967).

Within community-based organizations, there are many variations in terms of size and organizational structure. Some are formally incorporated, with a written constitution and a board of directors (also known as a committee), while others are much smaller and are more informal. Community organizations often incorporate the processes of community organization, the action that usually comes from these organizations have power to address the issues that affect the individuals in the society and within their social institutions, as well as community development. The recent evolution of community organizations, especially in developing countries, has strengthened the view that these "bottom-up" organizations are more effective addressing local needs than larger charitable organizations.[1] It is not the multiplicity of institutions, interest groups or set of activities which embodies community organization. But the factors like interaction, integration and co-ordination of the existing institutions, interest groups and activities, and evolving new groups and institutions, if necessary to meet the changing conditions and needs of the community.

Community organization is known to lead to greater understanding of community context, and is characterized by community planning, community action and mobilization, the promotion of community change and, ultimately, influence within larger systems.[2] Community organisations are generally not-for-profit and money raised usually goes back into supporting the activities of the organisation.


  • UNITED NATIONS in 1955 considered community organisation as complementary to community development. United Nations assumed that community development is operative in underdeveloped communities and community organisation is operative in areas in where levels of living are relatively high and social services relatively well developed, but in where a greater degree of integration and community initiative is recognised as desirable.
  • MURRAY G. ROSS in 1955 defined community organisation as, A process by which community identifies its needs or objectives, orders (or ranks) these needs or objectives, develops the confidence and will to work at these needs or objectives, finds the resources (internal and/or external) to deal with these needs or objectives takes action in respect to them and in so doing extends and develops co-operative and collaborative attitudes and practices in the community.
  • EDUARD C. LINDEMAN[3] in 1921 defined community organisation as “Community organisation is that phase of social organisation which constitutes a conscious effort on the part of a community to control its affairs democratically and to secure the highest services from its specialists, organisations, agencies and institutions by means of recognised inter relations.”
  • WALTER W. PETTIT[4] in 1925 defined it as “Community organisatin is perhaps best defined as assisting a group of people to recognise their common needs and helping them to meet these needs.”
  • RUSSELL H. KURTZ in 1940 defined it as “Community organisation is a process dealing primarily with program relationships and thus to be distinguished in its social work setting from those other basic processes, casework and group work, which deal with people. Those relationships of agency to agency, of agency to community and of community to agency reach in all directions from any focal point in the social work picture. Community organisation may be thought of as the process by which these relationships are initiated, altered or terminated to meet changing conditions, and it is thus basic to all social work...”.
  • WAYNE MCMILLEN[5] in 1947 defined it as “Community organisation in its generic sense in deliberately directed effort to assist groups in attaining unity of purpose and action. It is practiced, though often without recognition of its character, wherever the objective is to achieve or maintain a pooling of the talents and resources of two or more groups in behalf of either general or specific objectives.”
  • C.F. MCNEIL[6] in 1954 defined it as “Community organisation for social welfare is the process by which the people of community, as individual citizens or as representatives of groups, join together to determine social welfare needs, plan ways of meeting then and mobilise the necessary resource.”
  • KRAMER and SPECHT in 1975 defined “Community organisation refers to various methods of intervention whereby a professional change agent helps a community action system composed of individuals, groups or organisations to engage in planned collective action in order to deal with special problems within the democratic system of values.”

Comparison between related terms[edit]

Community Organization and Community Development are interrelated. To achieve the goals of community development the Community Organization method is used. According to United Nations, community development deals with total development of a developing country that is economic, physical, and social aspects. For achieving total development community organization is used. In community development the aspects like Democratic procedures, Voluntary cooperation, Self help, Development of leadership, Awareness and sensitisation aspects are considered as important. The same aspects are also considered as important by community organization.[7]

History of Community organization[edit]

It is safe to say from the recorded history of mankind,in every period of time there were informal associations of people who always tried to do good to the people in need and protect the rights of the society. The formal organization set up for the welfare of the community is recorded as initiated in England to overcome the acute problem of poverty, which led to beggary. In England, Elizabethan poor law (1601), was set up to provide services to the needy. Then there is London Society of organizing charitable relief and repressing mendicancy and the Origin of the settlement house Movement in England during 1880.

These movements had a major impact in the United States of America. In 1880 the Charities organization was set up to put rational order in the area of charity and relief. The first citywide (COS) Charity organization Society was established in the Buffalo in 1877 in United States. Rev. S. H. Gurteen an English priest that had moved to Buffalo, NY in 1873 gave the leadership to this movement and led COS to outreach more than 25 American cities. The American Association for Community Organization was organized in 1918 as the national agency for chests and councils and it later became known as community chests and councils of (CCC) America. The Cincinnati Public Health Federation, established in 1917 was the first independent health council in American City. It is in this period that the American Association of social workers were organized, 1921.

In 1946, at the National conference of social work in Buffalo, the Association of the study of community organization (ASCO) was organized. The main objective was to improve the professional practice of organization for social welfare. In 1955, ASCO merged with six other professional organisations to form the National Association of social workers. Settlement movement in USA, the social settlements which are most often referred to as “settlement houses” are historically significant examples of community organizations, participating in both organizing and development at the neighborhood level. Settlement houses were commonly located in the industrial cities of the East and Midwest during the beginning of the 20th century. They were largely established in working-class neighborhoods by the college educated children of middle class citizens concerned by the substantial social problems that were the results of the increasing industrialization and urbanization of the social settlement movement. [8] History shows that innovative methods of community organizing have risen in response to vast social problems. The social problems at the time of settlement houses included child labor, working class poverty, and housing. Settlement workers thought that by providing education services (English classes) and social services (employment assistance, legal aid, recreational programs, children services) to the poor the income gap between them and the middle class would regress. The majority of funding for services came from charitable resources. The landscape of community organization today, in the US as well as globally, is greatly informed by models and structures of social service administration and funding.

Another development in the history of American community development is occurred in the wake of World War II. Among them of prime importance are American Red Cross and United Service Organizations(USO), they recruited a immense number of population for volunteer services in the wartime. After the World War II focus of community organization fell into rising problems like rehabilitation of the physically and mentally challenged, mental health planning, destitute problems, abandoned aging population, juvenile delinquency...etc.

Historical development of community organization in the U.K is divided into 4 phases by Baldock in 1974.[9]

  1. First Phase (1880-1920): During this period the community work was mainly seen as a method of social work. It was considered as a process of helping the individuals to enhance their social adjustments. It acted as major player to co-ordinate the work of voluntary agencies.
  2. Second phase (1920-1950): This period saw the emergence of new ways of dealing with social issues and problems. The community organization was closely associated with central and state Govt.'s program for urban development. The important development in this period was its association with community association movement.
  3. Third phase (1950 onwards): it emerged as a reaction to the neighborhood idea, which provided an ideological phase for the second phase. It was period were the professional development of social work took place. Understanding the shortcomings in the existing system, it was a period where the social workers sought for a professional identity.
  4. Fourth phase: It is the ongoing period that has marked a significant involvement of the community action. It questioned the very relationship of the community work and social work. It was thus seen as period of radical social movement and we could see the conflicts of community with authority. The association of social workers and the community are deprofessionalized during this period. Thus it was during this period the conflictual strategies that were introduced in the community work.

Current flow of Community organizations[edit]

Typically community organizations fall into the following categories: community-service and action, health, educational, personal growth and improvement, social welfare and self-help for the disadvantaged.[10]

Community-based organizations (CBOs) which operates within the given locality insures the community with sustainable provision of community-service and actions in health, educational, personal growth and improvement, social welfare and self-help for the disadvantaged its sustainability becomes healthier and possible because the community is directly involved in the action or operation wherever and whenever monetary and non-monetary support or contribution is generated. In Canada and elsewhere, amateur sports clubs, school groups, church groups, youth groups and community support groups are all typical examples of community organizations.[11]

In developing countries (like those in Sub-Saharan Africa) community organizations often focus on community strengthening, including HIV/AIDS awareness, human rights (like the Karen Human Rights Group), health clinics, orphan children support, water and sanitation provision, and economic issues.[12] Somewhere else social animators are also concentrating on uncommon issues, like Chengara struggle, Kerala, India and Ghosaldanga Adivasi Seva Sangh which is reported in West Bengal, India.[13]

Models of Community organization[edit]

Janadesh 2007 A social action movement for land rights in India.

Jack Rothman, 1979 has introduced three basic models of community organization.

  • Locality development - It is a method of working with community groups. It was earlier used by the settlement houses. Here the important focus is about the process of community building. Leadership development and the education of the participants are the essential elements in the process. It aims at meeting the needs of the target population in a defined area. Eg. Neighborhood development, Road development of a block area...etc.
  • Social planning - Its is a method of working with a large population. The focus is in evaluating welfare needs and existing services in the area and planning a possible blue print for a more efficient delivery of services to the social problems. It is a responsive model to the needs and attitudes of the community. E.g. Housing, Health Insurance, Affordable education...etc.
  • Social Action - It is a strategy used by groups or sub communities or even national organisations that feel that they have inadequate power and resources to meet their needs. So they confront with the power structure using conflict as a method to solve their issues related to inequalities and deprivation. E.g. A structural systems change in social policies that brings disparities between people of different socio-economic condition in social rights like educational policies, employment policies...etc

Principles of Community organization[edit]

Principles are expressions of value judgments. It is the generalized guiding rules for a sound practice. Arthur Dunham in 1958 formulated a statement of 28 principles of community organisation and grouped those under seven headings. They are:

  1. Democracy and social welfare;
  2. Community roots for community programs;
  3. Citizen understanding, support, and participation and professional service;
  4. Co-operation;
  5. Social Welfare Programs;
  6. Adequacy, distribution, and organisation of social welfare services; and
  7. Prevention.

In India, Siddiqui in 1997 worked out a set of principles based on the existing evidence based indigenous community organization practices.

  1. Objective movement
  2. Specific planning
  3. Active peoples participation
  4. Inter-group approach
  5. Democratic functioning
  6. Flexible organisation
  7. Utilisation of available resources
  8. Cultural orientation

Impact of Globalization[edit]

Globalization is fundamentally changing the landscape of work, organizations, and community. Many of the challenges created by globalization involve divestment from local communities and neighborhoods, and a changing landscape of work. Paired with the transition to post-industrialization, both challenges and opportunities for grassroots community organizations are growing. Scholars such as Grace Lee Boggs and Gar Alperovitz are noted for their visionary understandings of community organization in this changing context. At the core of these understandings is the acknowledgement that "communities" exist in the context of local, national, and global influences. These and other scholars emphasize the need to create new social, economic, and political systems through community organization, as a way to rebuild local wealth in this changing landscape. Related concepts include visionary organizing, community wealth projects, employee-owned firms, anchor institutions, and place-based education.[14][15]

In the era of globalization smaller community organizations typically rely on donations (monetary and in-kind) from local community members and sponsorship from local government and businesses. In Canada, for example, slightly over 40% of the community organizations surveyed had revenue under C$30,000. These organizations tend to be relationship-based and people-focused. Across all sizes, Canadian community organizations rely on government funding (49%), earned income (35%), and others through gifts and donations (13%).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Model for Community Change and Improvement". Community Tool Box. Retrieved 2014-02-01. 
  2. ^ "NGOs and the New Democracy". Harvard International Review. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  3. ^ The community, New York, Association Press 1921, pp. 139, 173
  4. ^ National conference of social work, Denver, 1925, Chicago : University of Chicago Press 1925, p. 682.
  5. ^ Community organisation in Social work, S.W.Y.B. 1947, N.Y.R.S. Foundation, 1947, p. 110
  6. ^ Community organisation for social welfare, S.W.Y.B. 1954, Y.N. A.A.S.W. 1954, p. 21
  7. ^ Fink E. Arthur, 1978
  8. ^ "A Way of Thinking about the History of Community Organizing". Trinity College. Retrieved February 2015. 
  9. ^ Baldock, P. (1974) Community Work and Social Work, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London
  10. ^ "Community-Based Organization Descriptions". Texas A&M University. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  11. ^ a b "Cornerstones of Community: Summary of findings from the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations". Statistics Canada. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  12. ^ "UN AIDS and nongovernmental organizations" (PDF). Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. June 1999. 
  13. ^ D+C Development and Cooperation Magazine
  14. ^ "What Then Must We Do". Chelsea Green Publishing. February 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Next American Revolution". University of California Press. February 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cox, F.M. et al (Ed). (1987): Strategies of Community Organization: A book of Readings, 4th ed. Itasca, 12, FE Peacock.
  • J. Phillip Thompson (2005). Seeking Effective Power: Why Mayors Need Community Organizations. Perspectives on Politics, 3, pp 301–308.
  • Jack Rothman (2008). Strategies of Community Intervention. Eddie Bowers Publishing Co.
  • Siddiqui, H.Y. (1997). “Working with Communities”. Hira Publications, New Delhi.
  • Hardcastle, D. & Powers, P. (2011). Community practice: Theories and skills for social workers. Oxford University Press. New York.
  • Murray G. Ross (1955). Community Organization. Harper and Row Publishers. New York.
  • Herbert J. Ruhim and Irene S. Ruhim 2001, Community organising and development, Allyn and Bacon, Massachusetts.
  • Roger Hadlye, Mike Cooper, 1987, A Community social worker’s handbook, Tavistock publication, London.
  • Michael Jacoby Brown (2007). Building Powerful Community Organizations. Long Haul Press.
  • Harper E.B. and Dunham, Arthur (1959), Community Organisation in Action, Association Press, New York.