Alinsky, Saul D. Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Vintage Books, 1971. This primer tells the "have-nots" how they can organize to achieve real political power for the practice of true democracy.

Alinsky, Saul D. Reveille for Radicals. New York: Random House, 1969. Alinsky's work and writing bequeathed an evolved method and style of social change to American communities that will remain an important part of the American political landscape.

Betten, Niel and Michael J. Austin. The Roots of Community Organizing, 1917-1939. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990. An illustration of pioneering community organizers. Today's community organizers and social planners have a tendency to ignore their antecedents and to "reinvent the wheel." Offers an historical analysis of the intellectual and practical roots of community organizing in the United States.

Chambers, Edward T. with Michael A. Cowan. Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice. New York: Continuum, 2003. Presents a distillation of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) philosophy and its approach to community organizing and encourages reflection about public life and ideals.

Fisher, Robert. Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America. Updated Edition. New York: Twayne, 1995. Insightfully traces the history of neighborhood organizing in the U.S., probably with broader sweep and in greater detail than any other. The book has been regarded by many activists, funders and historians as an indispensable resource for those who want to understand community organizing. Fisher's bibliographic essay that is appended to the narrative is in itself worth far more than the cover price of the book.

Gecan, Michael. Going Public. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002. Reflections of a well-traveled community organizer on relationships, power, effective organization and "public cultures." A good conversational read.

Greider, William. Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy. New York: Touchstone, 1993. Greider calls on us to reclaim democracy from the special interests. In discussing his wide ranging views on what has gone wrong with democracy, the author points to community organizing as a route to making government work for the people. Based on an investigation of community organizing groups in Texas affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).

Jacobsen, Dennis A. Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001. A book "written on the run" by a Milwaukee minister deeply and personally involved in community organizing. This book speaks clearly and personally to clergy interested in involving their congregations in community organizing.

Kretzmann, John P. and John L. McKnight. Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. Chicago: ACTA Publications, 1993. For visual learners, many diagrams are provided illustrating capacity building.

Seidl, Fredrick W, (ed) (2006) A Social Justice Approach to Revitalizing Congregational Life: Congregation Based Community Organization. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

Swarts, Heidi. Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-Based Progressive Movements. University of Minnesota Press, 2008. This book compares the processes, strategies, and outcomes of ACORN and and congregation-based community organizing (one PICO affiliate and one Gamaliel affiliate).

Warren, Mark R. and Richard L. Wood. Faith-Based Community Organizing: The State of the Field. Jericho, NY: Interfaith Funders, January 2001. Basic concepts and definitions concisely presented. A must read.

Winkelman, Lee (2001) Faith-Based Community Organizing, Interfaith Funders, Jericho, NY.

Wood, Richard L. Faith In Action: Religion, Race, And Democratic Organizing in America. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 2002.


Many valuable resources are linked from the following sites:

American Prospect

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Aspen Institute Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), produces practical resources and tools for community builders to identify, nurture, and mobilize neighborhood assets.

Center for Community Change: includes Organizing newsletter

COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference On Community Organizing and Development

Community Based Resource Exchange

National Housing Institute and Shelterforce: The Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Building

Neighborhood Funders Group


Baldwin, Alec, Bob Hercules; Bruce Orenstein . The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and his Legacy. Berkeley: U of CA Extension Center for Media & Independent Learning, 1999 or Independent Television Service, 501 York Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. The story of the Industrial Areas Foundation and Alinsky from 1940 to the present.

One Congregation’s Story: ARISE – First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany NY’s experience with their CBCO, produced by the Rev. Samuel Trumbore. CD-ROM (5 mins.). For a free copy write to the Program Coordinator, Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness: It’s guaranteed to inspire!

04/2004: Compiled by Diane Duesterhoeft, First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, COPS Metro, Industrial Areas Foundation

Featured Book

  • Organizing Urban America: Secular and Faith-based Progressive Movements by Rev. Heidi J. Swarts, CBCO Ministers Advisory Council member