Community Organizing and Building Power

Dickinson’s Center for Civic Learning and Action (CCLA) held the fourth and last of its virtual Civic Skills Academy four-sessions on February 25, 2021. The “Community Organizing to Build Power” workshop was led by the Center for Coalfield Justice Executive Director, Veronica Coptis. The goal of the four-part sessions is to provide attending students the necessary skills to be engaged citizens and community organizers/activists. This last workshop focused on learning the basics to organizing to build power in one’s community.

Starting with laying the fundamentals of community organizing, the term was defined as engaging and empowering people with the purpose of increasing the influence of historically underrepresented groups in policy and decision making that effects their lives. We learnt that community organizing can be used as a strategy to both address current problems in communities as well as a longer-term engagement strategy. A key skill in community organizing is learn how to build power. Vernoica Coptis laid out its steps as first identifying who has power in the community? Who are the elected leaders as well as the unofficial leaders of that community that can connect people together? The second step is to then connect people together to be able to influence decision-makers. And the last step is to move our own leaders into power.

The workshop was concluded by doing an exercise to learn who effectively holds power in a community and how to organize different role-players and people to be able to solve for the needs of that community. This exercise ran the participants through the motions of which questions one needs to ask and find the answers to, to effectively understand who has the power in that community, and which people need to be connected to organize and influence decision-making. Overall, the workshop was a great learning opportunity and equipped its attendants with the fundamentals to start thinking more deeply about how to be an effective community leader or organizer who energies their community members.