Housing Long Beach utilizes a variety of strategies to arrive at our community victories: in-depth research, policy and legal analysis, political advocacy, and coalition building. But the organizing – the engaging, educating, and mobilizing of community residents – is at the core of what we do.
Community organizing, at its roots, is about helping people find their voice. It is about empowering those closest to the problems to have a say in their futures. As famed community organizer Saul Alinsky wrote, “If people don’t think they have the power to solve their problems, they won’t even think about how to solve them.” HLB believes in training and empowering community residents who are most impacted by issues of poverty to “be the change they wish to see” in Long Beach and beyond.
Our organizing work consists of three major components: community outreach and active listening to identify the issues; research to understand the problem and identify solutions; public action to ensure and enact sustainable solutions. After each step, we evaluate our work to understand what we did well and how we can improve.
In organizing, “Power is in the Relationship.” We teach our resident leaders to build relationships with their neighbors in order to develop the community power needed to make change. Residents meet with their friends and neighbors to hear experiences and testimonies, share about the issues we are working on, and identify new potential community leaders. Through individual one-on-ones, house meetings, community fairs, and leadership building events, residents engage each other in the important community issues that are impacting their families and neighborhoods.
Once the community has identified a problem, HLB seeks to understand the problem and uncover possible solutions through research with allies and experts on the issue. We work alongside resident leaders and partners to identify the needed information to expose the problem, understand the impacts, and determine a solution and pathway forward.
Once resident leaders have identified the solution they want to pursue, and have met with elected officials and civic leaders to discuss the way forward, we hold public actions. Actions are designed to lift up the issue to the wider community and create accountability for those we have asked to implement the solution. Actions can take the form of a march, a prayer vigil, or a community forum where elected officials are invited and asked to state their commitment for the solution identified. Actions are decided upon and led by the residents who are most impacted by the issues.
Threaded throughout our organizing is evaluation. HLB is constantly evolving and improving the way we do our work. As an organization of staff, community leaders and partners, we ask ourselves at each step of the campaign how effectively we are conducting our work and allow this information to shape ourpath forward.