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Going Public: An Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action Paperback – May 18, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


“If you want to know how ordinary Americans accomplish extraordinary things—build affordable homes, createeffective schools, win living wages—then the story and the strategy reside in this remarkable book. Going Public is at once pragmatic and profound.” –Samuel G. Freedman

“A treatise on power for those whose goal is to make effective social change… a kind of manual of style for those who want to—at least once, just once—beat the bastards.” —The Village Voice

“A must-read for anyone interested in the promise of a flourishing democracy . . .a lucid colorful drama about the lfie of an organizer, with some important lessons about the future of progressive politics in America.” –The Star-Ledger

“This book celebrates the “ordinary” person who discovers his/her hidden power in a community—as an organizer. As a result, the place and the person come awake and alive. Going Public is one of the most hopeful books I’ve read in years.” –Studs Terkel, author of Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

“More than fifty years ago, the brilliant and outrageous Saul Alinsky wrote the holy scripture of community organizing, Reveille for Radicals, and it became a best-seller in an America determined to translate its highest ideals into concrete deeds. Now Mike Gecan, inheritor of Alinsky’s mantle with the Industrial Areas Foundation, has given this nation a muscular manual for the century ahead. There is nothing ethereal about the moral vision in Going Public. It is a book about doing right and making social change not by playing the pitiable victim but by wielding power against power..” –Samuel G. Freedman, author of Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church

“Gecan’s worldview was shaped by his own early encounters with raw power growing up in Chicago. He saw mobsters shaking down his father, a tavern owner; local Democratic bosses extorting families for hundreds of dollars to get on the list for city jobs that never materialized; blockbusting real estate hustlers destroying once vibrant neighborhoods. Going Public… is a kind of manual of style for those who want to–at least once, just once–beat the bastards.” –The Village Voice

“Trained by Saul Alinsky, whose Rules for Radicals is the original handbook for grass-roots organizing, Gecan…show[s] the incredible power people can have over their own lives and their own government when they stand together in creative ways. He exposes, through anecdotes, the themes of the book: the importance of building meaningful public relationships through individual, formal meetings; the necessity of understanding, and accepting as the rules of the game, the realpolitik of government, no matter how just your own cause is.”–America

“A compact, instructional guide that effectively updates Saul Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals for the 21st century.” –Library Journal

“The inside story of an extraordinary politics you probably didn’t know existed. Read this book and you may begin to believe that human-scale democracy is still possible in America.” –William Greider, author of Who Will Tell the People?: The Betrayal of American Democracy

“This is a classic! Going Public is an engaging, informative, and entertaining book with a message for all who are called on to organize to make a difference, whether in their community or their company. These insights from a consummate organizer are both a ‘how to’ and a ‘why to’ primer for anyone who wants to have an impact.”–Tom Wheeler, author of Take Command: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War

About the Author

Michael Gecan has worked as an organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore for more than twenty-five years. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (May 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076498
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076499
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on October 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Despite America's revolutionary beginnings, we tend to marginalize the radical. From the Greenwich Village freethinkers of the 1920s to the new left of the 1960's to the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990's, progressive organizing's limited regular visibility routinely has been confused with it's actual efficacy. People tend to distrust what they cannot immediately sense happening in the world.

In Going Public, Michael Gecan ( 2002) argues that progressive activism is not a time-specific aberration. Ending injustice and oppression IS everybody's business during every year. Everybody can do something-if they are not already involved within their communities.

Urging readers to "think nationally, act locally" Gecan shows political organizing is really very easy to undertake. Since politics is literally about whom you know and what you each know, relationship processes assume heightened significance in this book. Forgetting all of the glitz and special effects on cable news shows, politics is simply the art of negotiating with others to get what you need. Maintaining good relationships with all levels of government is important to achieving these goals.

Gecan is of course critical of big business for exploiting already vulnerable communities, but he also takes a critical eye to social service bureaucracies more enamored with self-preservation than providing service for humanity. Time and political/economic factors subsequently have caused even the best intentioned structures (some of which were ironically initiated by grassroots radicals!) to calcify into self-serving shells of their original mandates.
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I heard Mike Gecan speak at a conference in the summer of 2014 and was impressed by his resolve and insights. I eventually picked up "Going Public" in 2015 - the book reads a lot like hearing him in person: good narrative, pragmatic, and imbued with a solid commitment to (what he calls) "relational culture."
The 2004 edition of this book, page 32, gets to the heart of the matter: "In a culture of quick encounters and multiple contacts . . . there are fewer and fewer public relationships of depth and quality." Gecan claims that neither technology, wealth, nor charismatic leaders will necessarily change our societies for the better, but regular folks working together leveraging social power via relationships. That's the way it's always been, and it's not changing anytime soon - it's hard work, though. Gecan's book does an excellent job at showing how the nuts and bolts of this crucial work can be done.
Also of worthwhile note is Gecan's refusal to be pigeon-holed politically. As an organizer and worker for social change, he shows that there is great freedom - to work alongside or to critique - while interacting with political partisans. While working for change in communities, there is no compulsion to wholesale endorse political party agendas - this work is local, specific, and truly grass-roots.
Even though this book is more than ten years old, it yet is sharp and timely. Highly recommended.
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By Zakariya Harrison on June 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a good and easy ready. I appreciated the author's intention on informing readers that including those who live in the community is the key to successful community development. Many times leading developers and/or nonprofit orgs have great plans that can tackle systemic hurdles and barriers, but it cannot be effective and longstanding without the voice and hands of the community. Great read!
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This book is an excellent primer for community orgonizing. Gecan lays out the principles of relating, acting, orgonizing, and reflecting pretty well. He has some excellent stories in the relating and acting sections though the orgonizing and reflecting sections are pretty sparse. Overall well worth the read because of the inspiring stories of real success.
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