"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Reviews for People Power
People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky brings together in one place many of his most important organizing disciples who implemented Alinsky's ideas on the ground and, in the process, added their own field-tested insights. Through their interviews, articles, speeches and organizational documents, [co-editors Schutz and Miller] reveal why the Alinsky organizing tradition remains relevant in our contemporary world. With their own writing, [they] weave together the various strands in a coherent whole. Sanford Horwitt, author ofLet Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, His Life and Legacy.
People Power...is indispensable for community organizers and all those who seek a more just and democratic society. Its breadth of Alinsky tradition material and editorial commentary are an important part of the discussion we must have in this country if we are to have any real democracy." Bob Moses, former SNCC field secretary, Founder & President, The Algebra Project, co-author of Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project.
Mike Miller has been in the community organizing trenches for fifty years; Aaron Schutz is a professor in the department of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Together they have written and edited People Power, the most definitive rendering of the work of Saul Alinsky, a giant in the theory and practice of community organizing. A must read for anyone who wants to do or teach about how to reach and organize people for collective action. Lillian B. Rubin, author of Worlds of Pain, and Families on the Fault Line.
People Power is a fascinating collection of documents, most of which were passed informally among community organizers and never previously published. It’s an important resource for teachers as well as organizers. Matt Alexander, review in "Good Stuff: Saul Alinsky Lives!," Summer, 2016.
As I read [People Power], I begin to get a glimmer of what we have forgotten...There are timeless but apparently forgotten truths in Alinsky's principles. First, community organizing is about community...Second, community organizing is about leveling the political playing field, and power is always zero sum. Whenever someone gets more power on the political playing field, someone else has to get less. And that means conflict, like it or not. Finally, as Alinsky was fond of saying even after writing Rules for Radicals, the only rule is that there are no rules. Randy Stoecker, professor of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Center for Community and Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Editors Mike Miller and Aaron Schutz with People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky have made an important contribution to the recent writings on community organizing in the United States, in particular the tradition of the Industrial Area Foundation (IAF) founded by Alinsky in Chicago in the late 1930’s...Miller and Schutz have done impeccable research with their own contemporary interviews, document recovery, and bringing together important essays on community organizing from those who did the work over the years...The strength of this book is the quite successful outline of the core values, purpose and methodology of community organizing, and bringing real people with “down to earth" experiences, stories, and analysis to the “theory” of community organizing. Paul Buckwalter, retired Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizer and Episcopal priest. Read the full Review
Through community organizing millions of people in the US and other countries have developed hope and power. I greatly appreciate this collection and its wisdom. At the same time, People's Power highlights how much we need to open up for work, debate, discussion, explorating new approaches and strategies for democratizing change in institutional and professional life. Harry Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College.
Primary texts largely written by and for organizers set this book apart...The pragmatic choice for the astute organizer and student of urban democracy is to read People Power for its examples and its silences. Schutz and Miller contribute an invaluable account of the pitfalls and advantages of tried Alinskyist approaches. When considered in the more expansive context of transgressive struggle, the lessons drawn from these approaches remain apt for winning "non-reformist reforms" of urgent and strategic need. Marnie Brady, review in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, August 23, 2016.
During the 1970s I was an “off the bench” organizer for IAF and similar groups. I was privileged to meet most of those mentioned in this book, including a handful of appointments with Alinsky. But I don’t read People Power with a need to look back in nostalgia. A good story is rather an expansion of the truth in my soul and in the collective soul. Bringing incidents and phrases forth from memory’s recesses, mulling them over, telling and retelling another story, reflecting on the story and then refashioning it and mulling it some more is the way toward greater truth and effective action. People Power is useful in that regard, even if the people in this book are mostly unfamiliar to the reader—especially in that case perhaps. Bill Droel,editor of INITIATIVES, a newsletter about faith and work.
Like the editors, I mourn the fact that there was no melding of New Left and Alinskyan worldviews in the 1960s.The editors have the candor and humility to recognize the barriers Alinsky traditionalists have put in the way of working with young idealists from the New Left or Occupy...Participants in Occupy needed the help of experienced organizers in making the transition from sitting-in at the downtown public square to beginning to construct what the Zapatistas call “un otro mundo,” another world. We still need that help. Staughton Lynd, author of Doing History from the Bottom Up: On E.P. Thompson, Howard Zinn, and Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below.
I have completed reading People Power...it is packed with significant argument. It deepened my own understand of community organizing and showed me that there are more ways of doing it than I realized. I have found that great practitioners often are not able to share well the theory of what they are doing. Mike Miller is a great exception to that. Stephen C. Mott, author of Biblical Ethics and Social Change and A Christian Perspective on Political Thought.
People Power is for the more experienced organizer with its editors hoping that the book “...will challenge established ways of thinking, provide new ways of understanding old truths, and spark ideas for moving forward into an always uncertain future." [The book] demonstrates the enormous impact that community organizing has had in addressing injustice at every level of society. Suzie S. Weng, review in sagepub.com, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 1, Issue 5, 2015.
This is the pure nectar, Alinskyism as practiced by Saul's most democratic minded disciple, Mike Miller, who lets us inside his head as he builds the Mission Coalition, brick by political brick, and then watches it succumb to federal money, bureaucratic rivalry, and ersatz public participation. Miller, faithful guardian of the flame, has cooked up a rare dish: an honest political memoir. Frank Bardacke, author of Good Liberals and Great Blue Herons: Land, Labor and Politics in the Pajaro Valley and a forthcoming history of the United Farm Workers.
Mike Miller’s fine-grained account of the creation, growth, accomplishments, and eventual decline of the Mission Coalition Organization (MCO) in San Francisco between 1968 and 1971... An Organizer's Tale carefully preserves the real story of a complicated and resoundingly successful, albeit ephemeral, community organizing project. It figures to be an instructive case study for a new generation of organizers. It belongs on the bookshelf next to Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals and Roots for Radicals by Alinsky’s successor Ed Chambers. Eric Brazil, leading journalist and newspaper editor, former reporter for theSan Francisco ExaminerandSan Francisco Chronicle, and was former bureau chief of USA Today in Los Angeles.
This stunning work is a worthy successor to Saul Alinsky's Reveille for Radicals. It is filled with lessons for community organizers, funders, and community and religious leaders. Herman Gallegos, Latino leader and activist, founding Executive Director, National Council of La Raza.
This is an organizer’s story, a rare and unique book that takes us into the heart of urban organizing and is informed by the perspective and sensibility rooted in Mike Miller’s years working at the grassroots for social change North and South. It is a must-read for anyone who wants more than rhetoric. Charlie Cobb, journalist, author of On The Road To Freedom, former SNCC field secretary.
Full of anecdotes and lore about organizing, Miller is one of the key theorists of the community organizing movement…His writings in the early 1970s were widely reproduced and read by a new generation of young organizers who came from Sixties protest efforts. Harry Boyte, author of Community Is Possible: Repairing America’s Roots.
MCO was an important organization during its heyday of 35 to 40 years ago. Many [San Francisco] Archdiocese-related organizations were members…As a newly ordained priest, I remember the excitement and sense of hope that the coalition engendered in the community. That hope empowered many of us to continue to struggle for affordable housing and quality of life issues. Most Reverend William J. Justice, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, The Archdiocese of San Francisco.
The largest urban popular mobilization in San Francisco's recent history took place between 1967 and 1973 in the predominantly Latino Mission District…At the peak of its power, in 1970-71, the MCO probably involved up to 12,000…The MCO was, between 1967 and 1973, one of the most successful examples of an Alinsky-style community movement, showing a remarkable capacity to combine grassroots organization with institutional social reform….[Mike Miller was] an experienced community organizer, trained by Saul Alinsky himself. Manuel Castells, author of The City and the Grassroots.
Although the Redevelopment Agency [San Francisco's urban renewal agency] was able to buy up and knock down many blocks of the Western Addition, it was not able to do so in 1968 in another low-income area it had targeted, a Latino neighborhood to the south of the business district known as the Mission District, long the home to the new immigrants who do the janitorial and other service work for those in the central business district. Instead, the Redevelopment Agency drew back in the face of organized opposition from the Mission Coalition Organization. G. William Domhoff, author of Why San Francisco Is Different: Progressive Activists.
MCO came to encompass more than one hundred churches and block clubs and homeowner, tenant, senior citizen, youth, community social agency, small merchant, and other groups. Their tactics embraced militant marches and demonstrations—rent strikes, sit-ins, and other disruptive actions—mixed with lobbying based on careful research. Chester Hartman, author of City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco.
Mike Miller has captured the wisdom and experience of people who built a powerful organization that improved the quality of life for their families. He reminds us how organizing makes democracy work. John Baumann, S.J., Executive Director, PICO National Network.
This book challenges today’s community organizers to learn from the past. Agree or disagree with its conclusions, but read it! Martha Prescod Noonan, former SNCC field secretary, co-editor of Hands On The Freedom Plow.
Anyone interested in knowing what community organizing is would do well to read this book. Mike Miller is a well-known and respected organizer. He spans the experience from the Civil Rights movement to today. With today's interest and focus on community organizing, A Community Organizer’s Tale is timely and important. Arnie Graf, Member, National Executive Team, Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).
When he was fired as a very young man from a job that involved helping public-housing tenants in New York City, Mike Miller was told that he was getting the sack for being "too militant."...Those who fired Miller dubbed him "a little Alinsky," but he had to ask an acquaintance what that epithet meant...Shortly after having been fired, Miller tagged along with a friend to Alinsky's summer home in Carmel..."Alinsky immediately pointed at me and asked Hank, 'What's this guy doing here?' Hank was put off-balance by the question, so I chimed in: 'I was fired for being "a little Alinksy" and wanted to meet the big one.'"...A few years later, Alinsky hired him. Anneli Rufus, from a review in East Bay Express, September 9, 2009.
For more than three decades, Mike Miller has been one of the leading lights of community organizing in the United States. While the results of successful organizing campaigns get media coverage, the backstage hard work – set into a larger social and historical context – rarely do. This book is therefore an important contribution to both academics interested in the topic of grassroots mobilization, and to those “in the experience” who will benefit from vivid and textured accounts of strategies that have worked, and failed. Troy Duster, Director, Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge, NYU. Former President, American Sociological Association. Former Director, Center for the Study of Social Change, University of California.
Community organizing played a major role in the political formation of President Barack Obama. As a young man, he was trained in the Saul Alinsky model of community organizing. Very few people in this country actually understand what it is. Mike Miller is both a practitioner and a theoretician of the art and science of community organizing. He became one of the foremost experts in the Saul Alinsky model... Gregory Galluzzo, Executive Director, Gamaliel Foundation.
Today anyone who mentions the Mission Coalition does so as if remembering the most perfect moment of their life...All over the Mission there are small pockets of MCO survival. And every big event evokes memories of what we could do if it came to it. Mike Miller walks you through this magical time with the conviction that you--the reader--could do it too. Great political action too often evaporates and vanishes. Here is a rare record of unfolding political events and actions analyzed from the perspective of democratic empowerment. Joe & Karen Paff, review in Out of Bounds Magazine, September 4-6, 2009.
This last election showed the country what a community organizer can do. For those who want to understand what it is really like, how to do it and learn from a master, read this book. It is the real thing. He brings clarity, insight and large lessons from the specifics of his experience organizing in the Mission District in San Francisco. This is a classic case study with relevance to the battles we still face today. Thanks, Mike, for writing it. Heather Booth, Founding Director, now President, The Midwest Academy.
To say that A Community Organizer's Taleis excellent is to trivialize it. It is engaging, exciting -- but most of all, its use of the "tale" of the Mission Coalition Organization (MCO) as a vehicle for presenting (and examining) the primary philosophy, principles, strategies and tactics of organizing is a touch of genius! Interweaving strategic community organizing content with a real story makes the content come alive and accessible to any reader concerned about committing him/herself to the organizing task or even to working for justice. I will recommend this as one of the basic books on organizing; it is a tour de force! Rev. Robert C. Linthicum, President Emeritus, Partners in Urban Transformation; former professor, Eastern College.
If you were a minister or priest in Nebraska during the mid 1980s and met Mike Miller during those farm crisis times you were challenged to live your faith’s commitment to social and economic justice by becoming part of a community organizing effort. I appreciate his genius in this work and his book which is full of valuable lessons. Rev. Richard Turner, former Executive Director of Ministry and Assistant to the Bishop of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference (retired).
A Community Organizer's Tale is an excellent "insiders" history of an important transition organization by a skilled and seasoned veteran of that time. Mike Miller and MCO were at the crossroads of civil rights, the war on poverty, and the emerging engagement with community. He loads the book full of insights into organizing and the people who make it happen, while refusing to sand down the rough spots. This is a must-read book--not just for organizers but anyone who wants to understand how to build community and communities in difficult times. Wade Rathke, Chief Organizer, ACORN International.
An absolutely must read for those interested in community and labor organizing. Herb Mills, former Business Agent and Sec-Treas, Local 10, International Longshore & Warehouse Union-ILWU.
Organizer’s Tale takes us on an intimate journey through the world of community organizing. Miller puts the icing on the cake with his argument against “community control. A community organization is meant to be in the crowd with the people shouting, “The emperor has no clothes!” Not parading down the street playing the role of emperor. Shel Trapp, Coordinator (ret), National Training & Information Center, author of Dynamics of Organizing.
Valuable first-hand insights into building an effective community organization, engaging neighborhood residents in shaping their communities, providing power and hope to people conditioned to feel powerless, and the downsides of well-intended government programs. The author's candor and self-reflection are a refreshing contrast to the usual ‘I was there and made a difference’ accounts of urban planners, politicians and community organizers. Robert D. Haas, Board Chairman, former President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., Mayor Joseph Alioto appointee to the Mission Model Cities Program.
Your book on the Mission Coalition Organization is an outstanding piece of writing, exposition and lesson-drawing. Congratulations on your excellent work! Professor S. M. Miller (ret) Senior Fellow, The Commonwealth Institute, Board of Directors member, Poverty & Race Research and Action Council.
In this time of multiple crises facing the world, nothing is more important than powerful grassroots organizing for social and economic justice and democratic participation. Your book is filled with lessons for today's organizers, students, scholars, civic and religious leaders and concerned public. Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez. author of 500 Years of Chicana Women’s History, editor, Letters From Mississippi, former NATION Books & Arts Editor.
A compelling narrative, this is a sympathetic, but tough minded, analytical assessment based on deep experience with community organizing. Joe Sneed, Professor Emeritus, Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines. Principal investigator, Joint Mission Coalition—Stanford University Community Development Study.
A gripping read--an excellent combination of broad political sweep and illuminating detail. For anyone who wants to get their hands on an insider's story of community organizing in the 1960s and 1970s and gain insight into what worked, what didn't, and what from that experience may be useful today, this is an important book. Max Elbaum, author, Revolution in the Air, staff member, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras.
Anyone who has served in elective office, been an inner-city VISTA, social worker, teacher or poverty program worker, or worked in city hall trying to make government more responsive to the needs and interests of “the poor” will learn from this well-told story of how government looks from the outside to those who are trying to change it and make it more responsive. Michael McCone, former Director, San Francisco Model Cities Program, former Executive Director, California Historical Society.
Students of American social history need to learn the wide range of community organizing endeavors during this dynamic period of social expression and change. Mike Miller's tale conveys the daily hard work, personal stories, and organizational tensions that mobilized and united voices in neighborhoods and communities. This important perspective should be widely engaged in today's climate where the historic values of community organizing are breathing new air and being refreshed. Janet E. Furness, Associate Professor of Social Work, Union University.
It's a great story, offering important lessons for all of us who want a more just society. [It] describes what to do and what not to do to create collective power. It also illustrates problems, such as “macho male” organizing culture, that feminism highlighted with its emphasis on organizational dynamics, cooperative leadership models and the importance of including women at all levels of decision-making. Jo Freeman, feminist scholar, activist, political consultant, and author of The Politics of Women’s Liberation, At Berkeley In The Sixties: Education of An Activist.
I found your Organizer's Tale fascinating and extremely useful. You have managed to integrate a wonderfully rich historical description with an insightful organizer's analysis of the dynamics of movement building. It is a great case study for a workshop or course on community organizing, and should be of interest to anyone who cares about social and economic justice in our nation's cities. Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, US Labor Against the War. Labor Studies Instructor, Laney College.
As the [former] executive director of an association of over 250 foundations and philanthropies from all across the United States, I know how valuable this book will be. I know of no other book on community organizing that effectively tells the exciting story of a community organizing process and also explains the political forces at play both in and on the community organization. Spence Limbocker, former Executive Director, Neighborhood Funders Group, former Associate Director, Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
This book will have strong appeal for a broad range of people in both academia and community practice. It will make an excellent second text for both undergraduate and graduate courses in fields such as social work, sociology, urban studies and political science. Once it is published, I plan to use it in my own community organizing course. Lee H. Staples, Clinical Professor, Boston University School of Social Work, author of Roots To Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing.
A Community Organizer's Talebelongs among the top books on community organizing; it is a great contribution to a vital instrument for social justice. As one with a long time commitment to, and study of, community organizing, I was surprised by how many notes I took to record ideas new to me or penetrating ways of expressing older ideas. The book's effectiveness is accomplished by combining community organizing theory and analysis with the story of the community organization for which the author was the lead organizer. Rev. Dr. Stephen Charles Mott, author of A Christian Perspective on Political Thought and Biblical Ethics and Social Change; former member, Board of Ordained Ministry, New England Conference, United Methodist Church.
The formation of a popular front is a continuous issue in organizing and politics. The debate continues. A Community Organizer’s Tale: People and Power in San Francisco is a valuable addition to the narrative of grassroots people’s power. It is a must read for any citizen-organizer determined to build a community for the good of the people. Walter Davis, The Ark, Issue 28, Winter 2011.