A community organizer is someone who works to empower a group of people, such as residents of a specific neighborhood, low-income city residents, people who suffer from a specific illness, or people who work in a particular field. Many community organizers work with low- to moderate-income people and are concerned about social justice issues. Most community organizers want to get a group of people to work together to achieve a common goal, whether that goal is municipal garbage collection, voting rights, or unionization.
The majority of community organizers are members of organizations or churches. Many Quaker churches, for example, have outreach programs that include community organizers. A community organizer works in the office to gather information about the community and to collect data that may be useful, as well as on the streets, talking with residents, organizing meetings, and promoting community empowerment. A community organizer’s goal is to hand over responsibility to members of the community; he or she is only there to get things started.
Community organizers maintain relationships with a variety of organizations. A community organizer working with low-income HIV/AIDS patients, for example, might collaborate with the Department of Public Health and social service agencies to increase access to care and services for those who need it. Because they must represent the views of the community they are supporting to government agencies and other local groups, community organizers are often skilled diplomats.
Community organizing has a long history in many cities, and it is often a key component of civil rights movements. It takes a lot of effort to organize a community. Because not all members of a community are willing to be organized and encouraged to speak for themselves as a group, a lot of field work is required, often door-to-door. Community organizers must mobilize and enthuse a community about a cause while also keeping the community focused.
Being a community organizer does not necessitate any formal education. Most community organizers have studied social justice issues, social services, and sociology, and having a passion for promoting safe, healthy, and happy communities is a plus. Many community organizing organizations provide training, including workbooks and mentoring, for people who want to become community organizers, and many community organizers begin their careers as volunteers in such organizations, learning the ropes before starting their own businesses.
Organizing a community is also not very profitable. Community organizers are often paid very little and rely on grant money and donations to support their work. Seeing a community develop the tools it needs to take control is a rewarding experience for a community organizer.