Based on a cross-case analysis of six community organizing sites across the country, we have developed a framework for understanding how strong forms of community organizing work for equity-oriented education reform. The image to the right is a visual representation of this framework. The tree offers an apt metaphor for community organizing, which is at its core a process of growth and development, and one with deep roots in traditions, histories, and local communities. Explore the framework by clicking on various parts of the image.

Organizing, in our view, is more than a set of techniques that bring individuals together behind some cause. Rather, we argue, strong forms of organizing draw from historic traditions, like those of Saul Alinsky or the civil rights movement. They sink deep roots in communities by connecting to people’s shared histories, traditions and identities.  They build upon these nascent connections by creating broader relationships, expanding people’s sense of community and shared fate and building the power to create change in public education. They nevertheless prove adept at responding to local context. Organizing groups grow and develop their reform agendas in response both to deeply held community values and the opportunities and constraints in the larger environment. We emphasize that organizing groups pursue education reform as part of a broader process where parents, young people and other residents of low-income communities develop the power to influence the social and political processes that determine their fate. That is why we call community organizing transformational work.