POWER employs a model of organizing often referred to as “Faith-Based Community Organizing” (FBCO) and which is sometimes called “congregation-based” or “broad-based” community organizing. This model is rooted in the practical experience of similar organizations within the Faith in Action Network (formerly PICO) and is grounded in key principles and stories from our major faith traditions.
Faith-Based Community Organizing also draws from the spirit and lessons learned from some of the main historical movements for justice and progress in our nation’s history including the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement and other popular movements for justice. This kind of organizing is also informed by methods of popular education which emphasizes the importance of people’s experiences and stories in the learning process.
This model of organizing is also buoyed by several principles and tenets, including:
Values, Faith & Relationships are Paramount:
The glue that sustains this kind of organizing is the articulation of shared values and the intentional work of relationship building both within congregations, among congregations, between congregations and the wider community, and between people of different backgrounds. Common values and relationship building supersede the specific issue campaigns that the organization might work on at any given time.
Similarly, this kind of organizing brings people together based on faith and values not just issues or anger. As a result, POWER intends to craft and act on a comprehensive vision for Philadelphia and to organize large numbers of people around a policy change agenda for the common good.
Congregations are Critical Civic Institutions:
Faith-based community organizing explicitly seeks to build community power by bringing people together through and building the capacity of, religious congregations (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and others). FBCO views religious congregations as often the only stable civic gathering places in many of our neighborhoods. FBCO does not just “use” congregations as a power base, but purposefully aims to help congregations identify and solve the issues that negatively impact their members and their community.
Faith-Based Community Organizing is “Democracy School”
Faith-based Community Organizing provides opportunities for people to learn how to use the tools of democracy to improve communities. POWER therefore aims to be an organization led by regular people who have learned to successfully use the levers of power to bring resources and political attention to their communities.
This kind of organizing also teaches the art of compromise and negotiation that are essential in a pluralistic society. Organizations that employ FBCO seek common ground with and will hold accountable, public officials regardless of their political party affiliation, in order to bring about needed changes and justice in the communities represented by their congregations.
FBCO seeks to influence public policy from the ground up by starting with local problems faced by families and then doing careful research. Organizations that employ FBCO help clergy and lay leaders to take the time to meet with decision-makers and policy experts to research how things work, why they are broken, and who really has the power to make changes. As a result, participants in FBCO become the experts and are able to articulate and address the root causes of problems facing their communities.
Organizing is Rooted in One-on-One’s:
The essential building block of organizing is relationship building, and relationships are best built through intentional one-on-one, face-to-face conversations. All POWER members are challenged to continually and purposefully listen to the concerns and ideas of their congregants and neighbors through individual one-on-one meetings, house meetings and listening campaigns, to ensure that action and issue campaigns are rooted in the pain and stories of real people, especially those who have traditionally been on the margins of power. Click here to read Dr. Robert Linthicum’s “Relational Power’s Most Radical Action: Individual Meetings!”.
Public Exercise of Power
This model of organizing emphasizes the need to do “public business” in public through large action meetings. Too many policy decisions that affect families and neighborhoods are not made “in the light of day” and are often too heavily influenced by narrowly self-interested groups and/or monied interests. FBCO seeks to bring a broad-based and prophetic “people’s voice” to public decision-making and achieves this by gathering together large numbers of people to hold public officials, and themselves, accountable to make concrete policy changes.