Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-Based Progressive Movementsby Heidi J. Swarts
Collective action through organized social movements has long expanded American citizens’ rights and liberties. Recently, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has helped win living wage initiatives in more than 130 cities across the country. Likewise, congregation-based groups have established countless health, education, and… See more details below
Collective action through organized social movements has long expanded American citizens’ rights and liberties. Recently, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has helped win living wage initiatives in more than 130 cities across the country. Likewise, congregation-based groups have established countless health, education, and other social programs at city and state levels. Despite modest budgets, these organizationsdifferent in their approach, but at the same time working for social changehave won billions of dollars in redistributive programs.
Looking closely at this phenomenon, Heidi J. Swarts explores activist groups’ cultural, organizational, and political strategies. Focusing on ACORN chapters and church federations in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Jose, California, Swarts demonstrates that congregation-based organizing has developed an innovative cultural strategy, combining democratic deliberation and leadership development to produce a “culture of commitment” among its cross-class, multiracial membership. By contrast, ACORN’s more homogeneous low-income class base has a national structure that allows it to coordinate campaigns quickly, and its seasoned staff excels in tactical innovations. By making these often-invisible grassroots organizers evident, Swarts sheds light on factors that constrain or enable other social movements in the United States.
Heidi J. Swarts is assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments vii
Introduction: Invisible Actors: Community Organizing, Agenda Setting, and American Social Movements xiii
Different Mobilizing Cultures: Congregation-based Organizing and ACORN 1
Religion and Progressive Politics: Congregation-based Community Organizing's Innovative Cultural Strategy 45
Experimenting with National Organizing Campaigns: ACORN's Innovative Political Strategy 71
Organizing Is a Numbers Game: St. Louis ACORN 91
A Seat at the Regional Table: Metropolitan Congregations United for St. Louis 110
La Puebla Unida: ACORN in the Sunbelt 127
The Power Is in the Relationship: San Jose PACT 142
The Results of Organizing 161
American Inequality and the Potential of Community Organizing 177
Excerpts from "PICO Principles" 193
Methodological Appendix 195
Policy Outcomes for Selected National and Local Organizations since 1990 201
Agenda Setting: Selected Proposals Introduced by Four Community Organizations since 1990 227
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