In this essay I shall make a critical comparison of different theories and approaches of community organising. By focusing on main aspects of Paulo Freire and Saul Alinsky’s models of community organising I shall discuss how applicable these models are in the UK. By drawing examples from experiences of applying Root Solution Listening Matters (RSLM) and Participatory Action Research (PAR) frameworks in my practice. I shall demonstrate relationships and differences between the two. By addressing key elements of theories of power and conflict I shall highlight the main characteristics of both and use these theories as lenses to view some problems in the communities. By comparing models of community enterprise I shall reflect on future opportunities of a budding community enterprise. Finally by outlining the methods of evaluation I shall reflect on my chosen framework for evaluation of my work.
I have applied a qualitative methodology for this essay to provide a literature review and given examples, where relevant, drawn from my practical experiences of working with communities in Bordesley Green (BG), Birmingham and in overseas.
Paulo Freire, and Saul Alinsky’s approaches:
Paulo Freire, and Saul Alinsky are a few of the pioneers of global grassroots collective movement, which is at the heart of community organising. Their theories are based upon organising communities from the below, who are most deprived, socially isolated and segregated and disempowered due to social, economic and political systems. The essence of Freire’s epic book titled “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1972) is about challenging the state imposed bureaucratic top down “banking education system” that increases dependency and restricts democratic thinking of becoming a free individual. He calls for “liberating education”, a process where an individual understands about oppression, subjugation, etc. He proposes that engaging with “dialogues” and creating a “conscientization” process among educators and students are called participation. This participation from engagement builds respect and community spirit, what he describes as “praxis” that generates social capital and strengthens community cohesion. As Blackburn (200:7) rightly points out that socially constructed obstacles such as deprivation, and poverty are not a continuous phenomena in an individual’s life instead “conscientization” process can empower the individual to break those barriers and build capacity of critical thinking to bring changes forward.
Saul Alinsky, famously known as the father of community organising movement and the author of Rules for Radicals (1971) on the contrary argued that oppression, inequality, injustice, and deprivation are root causes of disempowerment, these may demoralise people, as a result they may feel they are defeated and disfranchised (Thomson 2005:200). To Alinsky, at this point, they must organise themselves, get agitated, rebel...