Principles for Practice
The Close to Home principles influence every aspect of the approach—becoming both practices and perspectives that shape the work. They are the ultimate guide when you are troubleshooting or problem solving your way through challenging times. Among your team and within the network, they can become a language for reminding each other of what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it.
A Fierce Commitment to Community
We believe that community organizing is most effective when led by community members who live, work, and play in that neighborhood, town, or cultural/identity community. Others involved in the work—including the initiating organizers/organization—participate in the process first and foremost with humility, a spirit of learning, and a commitment to that community. Together, everyone sees the community as greater than the sum of its parts and shares the following qualities of heart and mind:
- Reverence, love, and esteem for the community
- Profound respect for the knowledge and wisdom that exists there
- Belief in the community’s ability to be the author of its own transformation
For All Social Change
We believe in community organizing that practices a rigorous intersectional analysis. The causes of violence are rooted in the intersections of multiple forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and adultism. This critical understanding guides us in taking thoughtful and effective action; in connecting gender justice with racial equity; in developing a shared analysis of the root causes of domestic and sexual violence; and in advancing the transformation of the social, economic, and political systems fueling injustice—all while cultivating the compassion and action we envision.
We believe that it is the propositional nature of creativity—the making something, rather than only breaking something down—that defines the true spirit of this work. When community organizing is truly “creative,” community members come together to envision an alternative, an image of how things might be. Everyone not only speaks out on what must change but also creates and seizes opportunities for stepping into a new way of being. With this approach, community organizing becomes an inspired form of activism, reminding everyone that each moment is an opportunity to ACT—for people’s rights and for the community imagined.
Whole Community Engagement
We believe that the most powerful community organizing engages a cross-section of the community—youth and adults, people of all genders and races—and touches all levels of the Ecological Model:
- Individuals and their internal transformation
- Social networks and the power of family/friends/neighbors
- Local organizations and the public life of neighborhoods
- Societal and governing institutions
With this broad, multi-dimensional involvement, we discover our connections to the problem and identify our roles in creating and implementing solutions.
We believe in community organizing that enables people to develop deep and supportive relationships in which they engage their strongest motivations for social change. Relationships are the glue of this work, connecting people to build power for acting individually and collectively, creating space for telling the truth about our experiences and for compassionately holding each other accountable. When this happens, authentic connection and personal transformation become the engines of social change. We begin to form meaningful relationships that extend across social barriers and even ideological differences, as we rally around a collective vision acting as our full selves.
We believe in community organizing that fosters a spirit of laughter, play, joy, and love. Such a spirit begins and grows quite simply, and profoundly, through the sharing of food, art, stories, and ideas. Upon this foundation, we can live our way into creating a beloved community—honoring each other, offering a sense of belonging, taking risks and being creative, and trying new things. As we practice this new way of being together, we experience change in small moments on an intimate scale that in time extends through our social networks, neighborhood, and community. This sense of community gives us the strength for moving through the struggles, discomfort, and resistance that also live in this work. It makes room for exposing fear, shame, sadness, and conflict without judgment. A beloved community is not always uplifting and easy, but it is real and transformative.
Community Assets and Strengths
We believe in community organizing grounded in community assets and strengths. Engaging from a strengths-based perspective creates opportunities to build on powerful qualities or untapped opportunities within a community—such as cultural norms, public spaces, informal leadership, and community celebrations. Seeking out community assets can also reveal what is not always visible—networks of informal relationships, communication patterns, and the talents and skills community members can bring to the social change process. When community organizing processes work intentionally to identify and utilize strengths, they have greater cultural and social relevance and lead to lasting solutions.
We believe in community organizing based on a spirit of peerness—a recognition that we are all in this together. In a network leadership model there is not a leader and follower per se. The magic is what happens in that relational space—with leadership, creativity, and action emerging from our relationships with each other. In this context, we work together to create opportunities based on what is exciting, energizing, and relevant to our lives and analysis. The options for taking action become vast, with an entire network of expertise to draw from. We roll up our sleeves and create together, engaging intuitively and experimentally as both leaders and learners. What we discover, create, and achieve is shared widely and broadly. Working in this way changes our perspectives and opens our eyes to the opportunities and relationships that immediately surround us and to what can come from joining our power and sharing our strengths.
Patience and Persistence
We believe in community organizing that supports sustained efforts over time, while honoring how emotionally challenging and risky this work can be. Shifting commonly held attitudes and behaviors is a gradual process of change rather than a one-time event—and not just a change we must seek in others but one that we must look for in ourselves. It requires redefining how we use our power, resisting dominant culture habits, and creating time and space for the emotional work that arises when we have the courage to do so. A multi-year investment allows for a phased approach that remains attentive and responsive to emerging needs in the community. It ensures time for everyone to support each other as we move through experiences of learning, building skills, and implementing solutions. Above all, a phased process keeps power in everyone’s hands, as we work together to realize bold transformations for an end to violence.