Can you teach people how to be strategic? It’s a question that trainers and teachers often ask as they approach a new training program or a classroom full of eager faces. Thinking strategically and pragmatically is the hallmark of a good consensus organizer. Consensus organizing is based on several key strategic principles that are the fundamental beliefs and values that guide the implementation of the model and its activities. These principles also express the philosophy and the attitude behind the consensus organizing approach. As consensus organizers begin to enter a community, these principles are at the forefront of their minds as their organizing strategy takes shape. This chapter explains these principles and why they are important to consensus organizing.
Table 3.1 summarizes the five core strategic principles of consensus organizing (Consensus Organizing Institute, n.d.).
Table 3.1 Strategic Principles of Consensus Organizing
|Strategic Principle||Key Strategies||Example|
|Solutions to local problems should come from affected communities.||
||Residents bring recent crime problems to the attention of the local police and ask for assistance in developing a crime watch program. The local police work with residents to develop a neighborhood watch. Relationships are built between residents and the police.|
|Pragmatic leadership is present in communities, though not always recognized.||
||An older woman to whom young mothers turn for parenting help.
A teacher who stays after school hours to help his students with their studies.
|Self-interest can be harnessed as a motivation for improving the welfare of communities.||
||A local foundation director who has $1 million to improve housing in local distressed neighborhoods, but who does not have relationships with community-based organizations located in those neighborhoods.|
|If a project achieves its short-term goals without positioning the participants to make even greater gains in the future, then an opportunity has been missed.||
||A neighborhood cleanup that builds relationships among residents and between residents and the city can lead to new opportunities, such as improved code enforcement and the rehab of dilapidated housing in cleanup area.|
|Building relationships and strategically positioning leaders to make a program work requires time, care, and finesse.||
|Going to churches, agencies, and community organization meetings, and meeting residents one-on-one in their homes. Attending local housing symposiums, city council meetings, and chamber of commerce meetings, as well as meeting one-on-one with members of the external power structure.|