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Going Public: An Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
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. Instead of being viewed as a nurturing force, government social services are thus now viewed by some politicians and constituents as inherently substandard to private sector resources. People who need to use government services (welfare...etc) have also become stigmatized as being substandard themselves. This abhorrent catch 22 keeps the United States noticeably behind our European counterparts in developing national healthcare and maintaining numerous other social welfare programs.

Pointing out their still-underutilized potential (and ideological starting point for many now-established bureaucratic agencies) Geacan wants relational culture---non-profits---- to have a bigger role in citizen lives and service delivery. Stressing the benefits of merit, he also believes the ability to reward AND punish appropriate public sector individuals can provide better results for everybody. Individuals with both incentive and room to innovate in their job theoretically develop a greater attachment to the position as opposed to people who are literally being trained in the art of being a paper-pushing drone. In a service position, this difference is critical to effective community organizing.

Focusing on methodology instead of issues, this book is a clear and enjoyable read for both activists and potential activists alike. The best activism always comes from something that participants personally have a stake in. Legitimization of political action will ultimately raise the voter turn out rate and then encourage other forms of political participation through default. THAT America will be a great place to live in.
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on June 2, 2015
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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on June 17, 2013
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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on May 21, 2012
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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on November 4, 2014
I think this is a pretty well done resource for community developers and activists. It's a tricky thing to take your interests and concerns to enlist public support. In that regard I consider it a must read, understanding that you should take from it what fits your situation and culture, best.
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on August 23, 2014
This is an excellent look at community organizing by a very expereinced organizer who uses stories of actual events to illistrate principles and key elements. John, Takoma Park MD
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on January 25, 2015
Shipped as expected, quality nice.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2013
From a storytelling standpoint, the book engages. As a useful tool from which to make change - falls short. A bit too much chest thumping, a la Tarzan.
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