• 2014–2015 Provost's Initiatives

    "Community Organizing 101: People, Power and Change," Professor Jim Scheibel, School of Business 


    Course Description:

    Community Organizing 101 is an introduction for students wanting to develop skills, confidence, and knowledge to become empowered agents of change. Scheibel created the course for students to participate and learn from organizing campaigns happening in the Twin Cities. The course focused on developing people civic agency or collective power, which requires more than “consuming” democracy—it means learning how to help create it. This course focused on how to build organizations through which people can make their “voices” heard, and turn their values into action. This course was designed for undergraduate students interested in community organizing. It was developed with the assistance of Nick Longo at Providence College, Harry Boyte and Dennis Donovan at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and the Leading Change Network. Jim Scheibel participated in the COP (Community of Practice) network lead by Marshall Ganz of Harvard University, who also benefited from the coaching by Art Reyes of Harvard and the Leading Change Network.

    Three central questions were asked: "why do people organize?," "how does organizing work?," and "how do you become a good organizer?". Students were involved in and introduced to several types of organizing projects as part of this course, and learn through reflective practice, or a "praxis." A praxis of organizing helps the students learn how to map power and interests, develop leadership, build relationships, motivate participation, devise strategy and mobilize resources to create organizations and win campaigns. This approach is equally useful for community, issue, electoral, union, and social movement organizing.

     The key activity and practice of organizing was accomplished through the creation of six campaigns created and worked on by the students in teams: addressing violence against women on campus; supporting Black Lives Matter; increasing job opportunities for Hamline students; extending the hours of the grill for athletes; improving transportation on Snelling Avenue; and working with neighborhood youth. The students heard and were inspired by the stories of community organizers and activists.


    •  Acquaint students with the community organizing tradition in America; 
    •  Give students an introduction to organizing skills, such as public speaking, power mapping, collective problem solving, and one to one relational meetings; 
    •  Enable students to examine their own values and commitments in the context of their public narratives; 
    •  Provide an opportunity for students to witness and participate in community organizing activities in the Twin Cities, and/or on campus; and 
    •  Open the door to civic possibilities in their own work and careers.

     A sample of lessons learned as stated by the students are: “going out on limb”, “leaving my comfort zone”, “relationship building”, “shared interests”, “what it takes to be a good leader”, “using anger in a constructive way”, “the difference between organizing and charity”, “not doing for people what they can do for themselves”, “bringing social justice into real life” and “the value of teamwork”.


    One month is a short time to organize and accomplish a step forward. Students suggested and recommended that the next time the course is offered that some students meet before the course begins to suggest some issues for action. A number of this year’s students said they would like to participate in the early work on identifying issues, and offered to be coaches for the next class. As an organizer, I was inspired seeing the students act, affect change and join together to build stronger communities.