To make long-lasting change on equity, there’s real power in partnering with people who are most impacted by inequities.
“Community organizing” organizations often work to with people who are most impacted to identify solutions to the problems they identify, and to mobilize social change. Organizing groups tend to focus their work on improving the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health — even if they don’t use those words. It’s likely their work may align with the work that health departments are doing to advance equity.
Who are community organizers?
Community organizers can be different from those working in community-based organizations, which tend to be more service-oriented. Check out these definitions of Community Organizers and Movement Building Organizations.
A core component of community organizing is building the leadership, agency, and power of community members experiencing inequities. If the organization just provides services but does not have an intentional leadership development or power building component to their work, they are not community organizers! Community organizers might also be called “grassroots organizers” or “base-building organizations.”
Why should health departments work with community organizers?
Although some health departments might have limited experience with community organizing groups, community organizers can be excellent partners to engage those most impacted by inequities and to advance social change. Community organizers can bring both relationships to community members and other organizations, as well as a clear vision around leadership development and building power to make long-lasting change.
The following health departments and community organizers have worked together in partnership:
- Alameda County and Causa Justa:Just Cause (CA)
- Kansas City and Communities Creating Opportunity (MO)
- Cook County and the Collaborative for Health Equity (IL)
- Healthy Heartlands – WISDOM (WI and other midwestern states)
How do I find a community organizer in my area?
Use this list of national community organizing groups to find groups in your state/area. Please note that this list is not exhaustive!
- Black Lives Matter
- Caring Across Generations
- Center for Community Change
- Center for Popular Democracy
- Climate Justice Alliance
- Faith in Action (formerly PICO)
- Gamaliel National Network
- Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
- Industrial Areas Foundation
- Jobs with Justice
- Partnerships for Working Families
- People’s Action
- The Right to the City Alliance
- Showing Up for Racial Justice
If you can’t find a local organization from one of these websites, connect with another community organizing group in your state who can help you think about local contacts, or with a national network who might know of others you can connect with.