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Strategic Principles of Consensus Organizing
Can you teach people how to be strategic? It’s a question that trainers and teachers often ask as they approach a new training program or a classroom full of eager faces. Thinking strategically and pragmatically is the hallmark of a good consensus organizer. Consensus organizing is based on several key strategic principles that are the fundamental beliefs and values that guide the implementation of the model and its activities. These principles also express the philosophy and the attitude behind the consensus organizing approach. As consensus organizers begin to enter a community, these principles are at the forefront of their minds as their organizing strategy takes shape. This chapter explains these principles and why they are important to consensus organizing.
Table 3.1 summarizes the five core strategic principles of consensus organizing (Consensus Organizing Institute, n.d.).
Table 3.1 Strategic Principles of Consensus OrganizingStrategic PrincipleKey StrategiesExampleSolutions to local problems should come from affected communities.
- Strategies and objectives are set by the community.
- Incorporate community’s existing social networks.
- Analyze and identify individual self-interests and mutual community interests and build relationships based on those interests.
- Identify trusted, respected, behind-the-scenes leaders.
- Position leaders to take responsibility for effort.
- Build leaders’ skills and confidence to succeed.
A teacher who stays after school hours to help his students with their studies.Self-interest can be harnessed as a motivation for improving the welfare of communities.
- Analyze and identify the interests of members of external power structure (e.g., government, philanthropy, corporate, social service).
- Position them to make genuine contributions aligned with their and the community’s interests.
- Position community leaders to take the lead on projects.
- Use short-term projects to build community’s skills and relationships with power structure to lay the foundation for more comprehensive efforts.
- Understand and gain trust of leaders of the community and power structure.
- Break down stereotypes and misperceptions that community and power structure have of one another.
- Invest the time up front to position leaders of the community and power structure to develop genuine strategic partnerships.